Life & Style

Svetlana’s happy goats

The hills of Poonjar are resonating with the bleats of goats. Russian Svetlana Kamertcel’s herd frisk in the rolling mountains from where the sprightly Meenachil springs. A terrain very different from the urban life of Moscow, where she grew up, it is a land of high winds, evening mist and waterfalls that rush down rocky mountains. Here tea grows on gentle slopes and rubber on the flats. It is a panorama Svetlana loves. She came to Kerala five years ago through marriage with Jose Rajan, whose tea, rubber and spice plantations are located amid this beautiful landscape. Svetlana spends her “days and nights” tending her goats, feeding, caressing and playing with them.

Placed in a world diametrically apart from what she was familiar with she began to slowly acclimatise herself with the way of life here. It was easy,she says, as people are friendly. Besides, the Indian way of life always attracted her. Three years ago, her husband gifted her a pair of goats as pets, knowing her love for animals.These brought her immense joy and motivated her to do bigger things in the remote area. Today, raised and nurtured in the farm, the goats have multiplied to a substantial 60. Svetlana has expanded into retailing goat’s milk and cheese, which she supplies to resorts around and to a few special clients.

“I have not faced any difficulty in settling down in Kerala. I was always interested in Indian philosophy and the life principles followed here. After my husband presented the goats, my hobby took a different form; it met practical implementation. I like animals so I could easily develop a goat farm,”says Svetlana who after securing a degree in Civil Aviation from Riga in Russia, came to New Delhi and pursued a course in Management.

When the tea and rubber industry faced reversals, her husband changed track and ventured into growing commercial wood. She simultaneously took to serious goat farming, adding different breeds -Jamnapari, Sannen, Malabari- to the flock. Visits to the government veterinary hospital became routine and doctors helped her at every point when the goats needed care. She formed a network of friends

As the goats prospered Svetlana began retailing goat milk to those who required it for health and medicinal purposes. She then forayed into making goat cheese.

“Goat milk has benefits. It has less lactose and hence is less allergic. It is particularly used to reduce inflammation in rheumatic arthritis,” she says adding that soft goat cheese has many takers locally.

Her love for animals is deep and spiritual. Each of her goats has a name, Russian and Indian. So Pushpa, George, Tommy, Lalita and Polina are frisking angels, “pure and sattvic” and hence not meant for meat.

A vegetarian, she follows an organic way of living and is learning aspects of Ayurveda, Yoga, Sanskrit and astrology.

Next on her expansion plans is to increase the herd to 150 and to move into making hard cheese. “ My husband’s vacant tea factory is ideal for making hard cheese, as that requires space and machines,” she says and is currently working on the idea.

Based on her many interests that have grown locally, Svetlana started along with a partner Ayurglobers, a travel company that brings travellers, mainly Russians, on a visit to South India, mostly Kerala.

“Now I have experience of living and travelling in Kerala and have made good connections with people in the industry. I design their trips and am group leader,” she says.

According to her it is the natural life science of Ayurveda, special to Kerala, that tourists want to explore, but many areas in tourism need to be improved like roads and services.

Meanwhile Svetlana’s farm has become the cynosure of all eyes and people frequent it out of curiosity and love. Her friends are now helping her become fluent in Malayalam and go beyond familiar words like pashu (cow) and aadu (goat).

“Goats are like angels. I don’t know why they are not worshipped like the cow is. They deserve to be worshipped,” says Svetlana who is looking forward to reading Vaikom Mohammed Basheers’s novel Pathuammayude adhu, Pathuamma Goats, after learning about the story of Pathuamma and her goats.

BOX:

Making goat fromage

Leave goat milk in the fridge for 24 hours to ripen. Heat it to 35 degrees, checking the temperature using special cheese making thermometer. Add herbal rennet, which Svetlana makes from nettle decoction, to make it a pure vegetarian cheese. With addition of rennet the milk curdles into solid curds. Remove the clumps and drain the whey. Add salt to the soft cheese.

For non veg cheese Svetlana uses rennet, bought online.

Factoid:

Pathumma’s goat

In Vaikom Muhammed Basheer’s Pathummayude Aadu’ the goat is a metaphor for the all-consuming hunger of a family living in poverty. Belonging to Pathumma the goat has a voracious appetite. It eats anything and everything,and once Basheer’s lunch along with the banana leaf on which the lunch is served. It even eats some of his novels and other books. And once tries to eat his blanket!


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Printable version | Aug 27, 2022 12:55:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/russian-svetlana-kamertcels-goat-farm-in-poonjar/article22728396.ece