That one, Extra Day
That one, Extra Day12 mins 20.1K 12 mins 20.1K
It was mid December, 2009. Ayera came home during the semester break at her college. She had left her abode of 18 years for the first time, to pursue Engineering. By this time, she had already been living her hostel life to the fullest. The first experience of living outside home, getting an entire hostel room to yourself, yet surrounded by hundreds of your age; the first taste of freedom, of finding a family outside your blood relations amongst your wingmates and batchmates…..it was all very magical. She no more felt that homesick any more, as she used to, during her initial days at hostel. As Ayera climbed the stairs at her home, with her luggage, Tupsi came out.
Whenever Ayera used to return from anywhere…be it an hour long outing or a few days’ trip, Tupsi would always start barking even before Ayera would perhaps reach the final turn for the lane, that led to her home. She would wag her tail, bark with excitement as Ayera climbed the stairs, and would keep rotating in joy before standing upright on her hind legs and scratch Ayera’s arms gently with her paws. Tupsi had been brought in fourteen years ago, by Ayera’s parents, as a companion for their five year old daughter. She was a white Pomeranian with beautiful blue eyes, which according to many, appeared like they had been drawn carefully with pencil.
Very quickly, with her anti-violent nature, Tupsi had won the hearts of everyone in the family. She was a pretty inclusive pup as well. She would always come and sit among everyone whenever there were guests, as if to join in the chat. Ayera was the only person Tupsi, perhaps, saw as a competitor. Although Tupsi had claimed all of Ayera’s dolls and toys for herself, she was still insecure of this elder sister of hers....especially with that one doll in white dress and golden hair tied in an orange ribbon……although poor Ayera had given it away to Tupsi despite the doll being a favourite of her own !
Tupsi used to always hide that doll from Ayera. But when she was bored, she would bring that doll out and tease Ayera to play with her. Over years, the doll even lost one of its arms, and her dress was soiled but Tupsi wouldn’t let go of it.
As Ayera kept climbing the stairs dragging her bags, she noticed Tupsi, walking slowly towards the gate, with her tail moving in a fashion that seemed to be a slow wag, with her head shaking right to left slowly, just like that of an aged grandmother. She couldn’t stand on her hind legs this time to welcome Ayera. Instead she reached the gate and sat down quietly, sniffing Ayera’s feet.
“Come in Ayera,” welcomed her Mom, who had been arranging dishes for the dinner,” Thank God the train was on time. Or it would have been real late!”
“Yeah, Mom…” said Ayera as she arranged her luggage in the room.
“Tupsi went up to the gate for you,” Ayera’s mother smiled,” You know she has perhaps gotten up from her bed in weeks for the first time today !”
“Really, Mom?” asked Ayera, as she walked up to Tupsi, who was still sitting near the gate, and patted her head,” I never thought it would be this bad already. Even in last semester break she was better when I came home.”
“You tend to notice changes more easily when you come back after long gaps, Ayera,” her mother said, “ and Tupsi is at the prime of her life. Lot of changes would happen quicker now.”
“You’re right , Mom,” said Ayera as she walked up to her mother and hugged her from behind, resting her head on her mother's shoulder in a melancholic way.
After their dinner, Ayera’s Dad fixed Tupsi’s bed which comprised of two thick, cosy blankets, and a bed sheet covering them, which Ayera’s mother used to wash and change every 2-3 days. “Tupsi lies on the bed most of the time these days….I don’t want my daughter to lie in unwashed sheets”, she had explained, “she deserves the best of comforts”. Ayera carried Tupsi in her arms and laid her on the bed in a position in which she could eat her dinner directly from a plate that Mom had kept by the bed.
For the next two days, Ayera stayed near Tupsi for most of the time. They had kept the doll right by Tupsi’s bed. Ayera tried to pull it away. But Tupsi wouldn’t show any sign of jealousy these days. “You haven’t grown old, dearie……you’ve grown UP ,” Ayera smiled , as she ran her fingers through Tupsi’s fur.
A few days later, Ayera and her parents had to go for a three day trip.
“We will ask the maid to stay by Tupsi all day,” said Ayera’s mother, “ she usually comes with her daughter and stays to take care of Tupsi whenever we go on any tour”
The maid had been with the family for over ten years, and was one of those primary fans of Tupsi. She used to be more than happy to be able to take care of her.
“Don’t worry Madam, I’ll take care…..if any emergency happens, I’ll give you a call,” she assured Ayera’s mother.
Anyways Ayera’s parents had reduced their number of trips ever since Tupsi had started showing signs of aging. This was one short trip that they wanted to take to this close getaway called Shantiniketan.
December 25, 2009. There was a grand celebration at Shantiniketan which involved rich cultural performances, which also marked the end of a three day long international level fair.
Returning to the holiday home, Ayera’s mother called up he maid.
“Hello Madam ! I thought of calling you…but now its better..” the maid answered.
“What happened? “ asked a concerned Mom.
“Nothing, Madam….Tupsi didn’t look very well some time back. “ the maid answered.
“What happened to her? “ asked a now anxious mother,"last two days she was fine whenever I checked with you.”
“Yes ! Yes…but today, for the first time, she tried to get up from the bed and move around. But she couldn’t. Then she kept weeping…so we picked her up and put her back on bed, “ explained the maid.” We have given her food. I sat there with her for quite a long time.She is sleeping now. Don’t worry.”
“Okay dear..thank you. Anyways we are returning tomorrow” Mom said .
By December 26 noon, they all were back home.
Tupsi’s hind part seemed to have gone into partial paralysis.
“This is a common thing that happens to them at this age,” said the vet who had been called to check with Tupsi. He had been treating Tupsi ever since she had gotten her first stomach-upset after swallowing a rubber band as a one month old pup.
“Well, ahem..” he resumed, after trying to prevent his own voice from shaking with a hint of sobbing, “Tupsi might not be able to lift her neck to eat, in a few days. I’m writing you this liquid diet. You will have to feed her this with a pipe. Call me then, I’ll show you how.”
That day, Ayera’s Mom, along with the help of the maid, changed Tupsi’s bedsheet into a clean, fresh, soft one. Ayera’s Dad cleaned the puddles of poop and urine , and provided a fresh mug of water.
Being tired from the trip already, Ayera’s parents went off to bed. Ayera decided to stay in the room in which Tupsi was lying. Tupsi wasn’t sleeping that day. She was wide awake, as if trying to capture a detailed view of everything around the room. Ayera too was lying on her bed, reading a book, checking on Tupsi time to time. She checked the clock. It was 2 am already, but she couldn’t sleep. Putting a page mark on her book, Ayera got up and came and sat beside Tupsi. Tupsi’s eyes were now looking straight at Ayera. She brushed her palm softly on Tupsi’s head, as she noticed a slight tinge of some thing like tear seeping out of Tupsi’s eys. Ayera wiped it off with her finger and kissed Tupsi’s forehead, “You’re amazing Tupsi, “ she whispered, “You have been an amazing little sister of mine. And look…now you are so much more wise , patient and senior to me already ! You grew up faster than I did, Tupsi. I have to learn from you.”, whispered Ayera, while Tupsi still looked at her, now possibly feeling sleepy. She tried moving her tail twice but had to give up as there was no strength. “Goodnight my matured baby,” Ayera kissed Tupsi’s shiny black nose. Adjusting Tupsi’s blanket, Ayera got up and went to bed.
“Ayera, get up,” her mother nudged her gently next morning.”I know it’s a bit early…but get up.”
“Yeah Mom, I’m getting up…” said Ayera in a sleepy voice , still trying to get back into her blanket, “you see I went to bed really late last night…much after you guys fell asleep….I was talking to Tupsi….”
“Tupsi is gone.” Her Mom said, calmly
Ayera sat up as if in a shock. “what do you mean? “
“Yes, dear, we just checked.” Her mother said, pointing her eyes towards Tupsi who was still lying on the blankets, apparently sleeping peacefully.
Ayera got off her bed and walked up to her. She sat down and touched Tupsi. She had started getting stiff. Her eyes were slightly opened. “When ? How did you know?” Ayera asked in a daze.
“Your father got up some time back. He checked in the room to change Tupsi’s water. He realized with one glance she had perhaps already breathed her last, in sleep”, Ayera’s mother said , with a strange calmness,” It must have happened sometime not too long ago…in the dawn. Her ears aren’t stiff yet”
The vet came, confirmed Tupsi’s death. “You go with your father. You know him, right? He will show how strong he is, but I know what’s going on in his heart.”
“Yes Mom,…of course !” Ayera said, as she changed into fresh clothes . Ayera’s father had gone to get a cycle-rickshaw to take them to the burning ghat. The rickshaw puller who he got was also a part time meat seller who used to keep aside fresh pieces of mutton for Tupsi.
“Who, babu? The same dog for whom you used to take meat from my shop?” he asked, as he kept wiping his tears while pedalling the rickshaw.
Ayera and her parents wrapped Tupsi secured and snug in her blankets, covering it with the last bedsheet which still had the fresh fragrance from the wash. As her dad got onto the rickshaw Ayera ran back to get the doll, Tupsi’s mug and dinner plate. Taking all of these, they sat on the rickshaw, heading towards the burning ghat situated beside the Ganga, as it’s considered a holy place for the deceased among the Hindus. Ayera tried to keep her Dad engaged in conversation,
“We will burry her , right Dad?” she asked.
“Oh yes, we will get some one there to help us with that,” he answered, trying to sound calm.
“Yes yes, we will..” Ayera agreed, “they will burry these too, right ? If I ask?”
“The toys? Yes, they should ! I don’t see why”, he assured.
“Hmm….its good, you know…..she would have suffered if she stayed alive beyond this.” Ayera said, trying to look away.
“Absolutely, my dear. Fourteen years is a very very long time for them. I’m glad she was able to move around at least till her last few days!” he said.
As they reached the venue, Ayera’s father went up to the river side to look for some one who would aid in burying Tupsi. Ayera stayed back guarding Tupsi. Suddenly she saw a bunch of stray dogs came running towards the rickshaw. Ayera first got alarmed, trying to shoo them away, as she was perplexed with their intention. Then, to her surprise, she noticed, they gather around the rickshaw, sniffing around the blanket, and gave out low-volumed mourns. After a few minutes, they became quiet, and some of them went back, while a couple of dogs just sat quietly the rickshaw, as if still mourning the death of some one from their family.
In a few minutes, Ayera’s Dad came back with a labourer who had agreed to help with the work. Him and Ayera lifted the bundle of blanket and sheet having Tupsi inside, and followed the man as he led to a spot right beside the river. Ayera also Tupsi’s belongings in one hand. Having dug the earth, as the man took the bundle in his arm, Ayera’s Dad exclaimed, as if in a natural fatherly instinct, “ careful , buddy…she is my little one !”
Ayera placed the doll and the mug and plate on the cover, and went a few steps behind her Dad. He kept inspecting if the man was doing the burial properly. Ayera took this opportunity, and knowing for sure her father wouldn’t look back soon, she burst into tears. It was only then that she realized how much she needed this release. Ayera also knew that she only had a few minutes to cry her heart out, without making a sound, before her father turned back. She didn’t want her father to see her cry….because that would break him even more. Ayera wanted to be the strong one to support her father morally, who was right now witnessing the burial of some one he considered to be his younger daughter. If Ayera herself broke down now, who would support her father mentally? Ayera was sure her mother was already weeping back at home. And she knew pretty well how fathers anyways considered themselves to be the pillar of a family, and would never expose their soft corners, but would always uplift everyone..even while hiding the way everything within them would be possibly crumbling down. In such a situation, Ayera didn’t want to be yet another one her father would have to uplift during his own grievance. She wanted to be the one who could rather be helping her father go through it. Suddenly, Ayera realized how much she had grown up just in these days, and specially over those few minutes!
“ You are amazing Tupsi,” Ayera thought, as she saw the man putting soil back on the hole, “Its not like you just grew up yourself. You have helped me mature as well ! You were there all those years when I needed you as a companion. And you chose to leave only after making sure I have grown up, and have made other companions away from home.”
“Dad? You okay? “ Ayera asked, as they rode on the rickshaw to reach home.
“Yes yes..I’m fine…..lets go home and see how your mother is doing.” He replied.
“Dad…I still feel lucky I at least got to see Tupsi. What if she had gone when I was in college?” Ayera suddenly realized.
“Yeah ! That’s remarkable indeed. Also, she waited till we came back from the trip.”he added.
“Yes Dad,” Ayera said, as she contemplated.
“Tupsi has taught me willpower, Dad. I think she dragged herself on for just that one , extra day …just to see us all before leaving. I think she even tried to bid me farewell with her tail as I was talking to her last night.”, Ayera fondly recollected, as their rickshaw took that final turn for the lane, leading to her home.