My Bosom Pal
My Bosom Pal7 mins 275 7 mins 275
I was watching Between the scenes presented by Trevor Noah on Facebook, one of my favorite video shows. Trevor interacts with the audience and shares from his life experiences... When a member from the audience casually asked Trevor, “Hey! How's your dog Fufi?" I listened and absorbed as he traveled down memory lane about his years with Fufi and Pantha, the two dogs he owned as a kid. Before I knew it, my mind started showing me images of my own pet dog.
He used to pay a visit to our house daily. He was slightly old, untamed, a black street dog who used to come to our house in the evening, and patiently wait for an hour sitting in front of our gate to enjoy the cuddling and patting from both my brother, Saurabh and me. Kuttu Pandey, as we had named him out of sheer love, knew for sure he would get not only his portion of food but also love along with it from this house. The last time I had seen Kuttu was when I was in class four.
Kuttu had come to our home with a small female dog brown in colour and pretty young. It was his daughter, whom we immediately christened “Julie Fernandes”. Three days later, we came to know Kuttu had passed away due to old age. In his place, Julie started coming to our house daily. It was as if Kuttu had told Julie that his time was done and that she should come to our house, where she would be taken care of. In my heart, I also felt he did it so that we would not feel so lonely after his departure.
When winter turned to spring Julie gave birth to a bunch of puppies, all of them very cute and tiny. Both Saurabh and I were delighted to see them and wanted to play with them immediately but our mother told us not to do so as it would hurt the puppies. Two weeks later we found roadside kids just picking up the puppies and walking away with them. Every time that happened, Julie would come rushing to our gate with tears in her eyes and bark pleadingly, as if imploring us to do something and not let strangers just walk away with her puppies. But there was little we could do. Even if we objected, they would ask us if the pups belonged to us, and we would have to say no. That is when we decided to adopt one of them. We randomly chose one of the many sweet brownish puppies and named him “Mani”. Of course, it was easy to persuade mamma, but the task of making my father agree to it was left to mamma which she successfully managed.
The advantage of living in a bungalow in the Steel township – Durgapur, was that it consisted of a huge well-maintained garden consisting of a litchi tree, two mango trees, papaya trees and rows of flowers surrounding a lush green lawn from all four sides. The big lawn was the place where Mani and myself spent endless time playing with each other. Raising him up, right from the stage of a puppy was like raising a newborn baby. Mamma made sure Mani did not get cut off from his family while staying in our house. I was given the charge of looking after Mani and letting him out when he whined at night to play with Julie. Dogs tend to be very active at night. It was a treat to watch both of them play during the night. Chasing each other on the lawn, sometimes Mani chewing Julie's ears, Julie teaching Mani how to fight and defend himself. I was so lucky to see all this, as I sat on the veranda quietly watching them play. Often, I would simply let him go out and go to sleep myself. When he felt like coming in he would scratch on the door and who else but I would wake up to let him in.
As much as I loved Mani, Mani loved me back. He would come to my side of the bed and softly talk to me in his own language when he wanted to go out, to wake me up, and to accompany me to my school bus stop. He used to be right there waiting for me when the school bus dropped me home. I have not been able to figure out how he knew when I would return. One should have seen Mani when mamma bathed him. His eyes used to plead, "Please, mamma don’t give me a bath I enjoy rolling in the mud."
Four years flew away when one early morning, I had my first epileptic fit. I had just woken up and walked up to the TV room when the convulsion started. I fell down hurting my head, which started bleeding profusely. Mani immediately started barking, ran towards the kitchen, crossing both the dining room and the larder. Mamma was busy cooking. He tugged at her saree and brought her to the TV room. Mani sat by my side throughout the day with a sad face. Dogs, they can say so much through their eyes. After seeing my first fit Mani tried to follow me to each and every place I went. This was his level of concern for my safety. Many a time his devotion made me wonder if Kuttu had come back in the form of Mani. The difference was, this time he was younger and naughtier, giving us the chance to raise him up as a puppy.
One fine day Mani came home with a female dog and stood in front of my mother, as if he was telling her, "Look at my girlfriend, Mamma, How do you find her to be ?” Mani’s girlfriend was just a replica of him lookswise but pretty much smarter than him. When we called out for Mani she would run up to us imitating Mani and many a time we would end up giving her the food which had been prepared for Mani. Then we would find Mani coming from behind along with Julie. Finally, we found a way to differentiate between the two of them, thanks to a white mark on his girlfriend’s head.
16th November 1993. When other houses were celebrating Diwali, decked in lights, unfortunately, my home was enveloped by darkness as God had called my father to look after his Steel Plant rather than the Durgapur Steel Plant. Suddenly everything had changed not only for me but for my whole family, which means Mani too. I was due to appear for my class 10 Board examinations so we were given 6 more months to stay in Durgapur. We were then supposed to shift to my uncle’s place in Delhi.
Mani used to show his sadness at the loss of my father by staying tucked away in a corner of the house. Many a time he would simply wail standing in front of the veranda. Whenever a guest paid a visit to our house to offer his condolence, Mani would silently sit at the entrance of the drawing-room with a sad look on his face and tears in his eyes. The guests often remarked, “Aapke kutte ke bhav batate hain ki woh kitna dukhi hai”. (Your dog’s actions reveal how sad he is).
The D-day came when we were going to finally pack-up and bid goodbye to Durgapur, leaving behind a truckload of memories. But one of the most difficult things which I was facing was leaving behind my bosom pal – Mani. There was no chance of him going with us. The prominent reasons being, we couldn't afford to take him with us to Delhi and separating him from Julie would be incorrect. Julie, like a true mother, had come to understand this and would often cajole Mani by playing with him, trying to make Mani understand that whatever was happening was inevitable.
My last memory of “Manna pyara, sabka nyara” (Mani the sweetie pie, everyone’s favorite) as I used to chant since we adopted Mani was of him sitting in the corner of my bedroom. I caressed him several times and got up calling out to him, to come outside, but he did not budge from his place. He was communicating his broken-heartedness through his eyes. We both left each other with a heavy heart and silent tears streaming down our faces.