Jimmy, Jimmy…aaja aaja:As the priest approached mid-way through his sermon, the older ones sat in rapt attention – listening to every one of his words. The young ones in the meanwhile giggled silently and fidgeted in their seats. It was just then that he appeared. Nearly fifty pairs of eyes rivetted to the direction of his appearance.The priest fumbled a little – not having expected the limelight being taken away all so suddenly. He, on the other hand, was non-chalant about this sudden attention. He took his seat near one of his known ones. “ Go…go, I say”, my mother whispered. But she knew he wouldn’t move. It had been his routine to somehow make it to the church every Sunday. And no one or nothing could deter Jimmy – the local stray dog!
Jimmy was not our really, real pet. He was one among the many stray dogs who ‘helped themselves’ into a family. He roamed about carelessly through the entire neighbourhood. But he was one stubborn dog! He would do what he exactly wanted to do. So he took upon himself the ‘duty to see off’ the different odd members of the neighbourhood! So, we had Jimmy accompanying us to our bus-stand, to the local shop, to the laundry and even to the church. To us it was amusement but to the others, who hardly knew him, it was a frightening experience to suddenly discover a dog standing next to them at the bus-stand or taking a seat on the floor beside them in the Chruch.
We were also very convinced that Jimmy must have been a horse in his previous birth. A shrill cry of ‘Jimmmmmy’ from my grandpa and Jimmy would gallop through the entire neighbourhood to reach for his ‘night dinner’ of leftovers. His speed and style of galloping was no less than a majestic horse.
But one night there was no sound of his gallop outside.
“Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy”, we went about calling through the entire locality. The other local doggies accompanied us in our search. But Jimmy was nowhere to be found.My grandpa, who could hardly be called a ‘dog lover’, too got worried. He too went around looking for Jimmy.
And then we found him – just near the heap of sand at the turning of the main road. He was sleeping – never to get up again! He had apparently gone in front of a Mini-Bus.There was no blood, no wound but perhaps an internal injury.
Jimmy was perhaps the only dog with whom my grandpa had developed an uncanny bond of sorts.
Lalu- the lonely: Lalu was a dog to the rest of the world, to herself she was a human. Atleast that is what she thought herself to be! Lalu being a male name shouldn’t actually have been her name but when it came to naming dogs, children always choose the easy names so what could have easily been Lali or Lily, became Lalu to the children. Lalu was the typical royal snobbish. She would hardly venture out of our little nook and her world revolved around us – children. Inspite of our constant ear-pulling or tickling, Lalu would still linger around us – playing games with us in equal mirth. So fond was she of us, that she hardly cared for her own puppies, resulting in their premature death. But Lalu’s death was perhaps the most tragic we had ever come across. It was one foggy morning that we discovered Lalu – shivering and moaning near our gate. Her entire back skin was torn apart by what seemed to be a splash of acid. Her sight sent shivers down our spine. In those days when vets were hard to be found, we were clueless about what we could actually do. Moreover she was in too much pain to let us even touch her. But what was astounding was the fact that inspite of her gashing burns and her deep pain she neither growled at us nor did she let anyone touch her. She let out long sobs of immense pain punctuated by helpless tears. With our own little knowledge we tried to comfort her by pouring medicines and cold water on her burning wound but nothing would comfort her. By nightfall, so immense was her pain that she began grinding hard stones with her bite – turning those into tiny pebbles. Her moans grew to loud wails. Unable to cope up with her pain, she banged her head against every possible object. But – she wouldn’t bite any one of us! Her condition grew pathetic over time. I sobbed with my friends, hid my head under a pillow to escape the sight outside the window and even shut my ears tight to escape the sound of her wails. Her condition grew worse. The elders were equally worried.
On the evening of the second day, someone told us of a woman who was an animal lover and lived in the nearby apartment. The security at the apartment wouldn’t let us in. It was just then that someone pointed to us, “There she comes, talk to her directly”. We ran to her and explained the situation. To our relief, she was actually as kind as she was told to be. She accompanied us to meet Lalu. As she approached Lalu, she looked towards her in genuine grief. The woman bent down and inspected the wound. “Sepsis has already set in”. She sounded worried. “Can we save her still?”, we asked, unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation. “No…I am sorry, we cannot”, she shook her head. “Things would only turn worse”.
Then she turned to us and held our hands, “ Look, what do you all want? That she should suffer?”.
“Noooooo”, we spoke in unison.
“Then you have to let her go”.
“Go?”, we were puzzled.
“We have to ensure that she doesn’t suffer anymore. And the only way is to put her to sleep. And by sleep I mean – to help her die”.
“Nooooooooooo”, we wailed.
“ Otherwise, she will only suffer further…her wails will be too, too pathetic then!”
Our gang of young ones consulted with each other and concluded that we should actually let her die – for her own sake!
Within minutes the lady got an injection procured. Gently stroking her neck, she brought Lalu closer. Then with amazing deftness, she pushed in her injection. Lalu did not protest. There was just a small whimper.
“Bye Lalu, bye…bye…bye…”, we hysteriacally waved at her. With her last bit of life remaining she looked at us. Then she gradually went to sleep. As her breathing became slower and slower we began digging her grave outside our compound gate. The sun had just begun to set….and there was too much silence!
Operation Spotty: Lalu left behind two of her pups – a yellow one and a black and white one. The yellow one was named ‘Tiger’ and the Black and White one was called ‘Spotty’. Having two friends to play with, we had almost forgotten Lalu. But they were both different from each other. While Tiger preferred to stay indoors, Spotty was the outgoing one! He would devour off whatever he would find around and then speed off in seconds. That he was just a puppy and not a dog enough, was beyond his comprehension. And as luck would have it, one fine afternoon there was a screech, followed by a shrill wail. We rushed outside, only to discover Spotty in immense pain. A car had run over his tiny front paw, deeply injuring the left one. Not to let another Lalu story happen, we picked up Spotty and immediately summoned a meeting of the ‘near and dear ones’.
“We must do something. Otherwise he too might end up having sepsis”, the little bigger among us declared.
“Yes, yes, yes”, we endorsed his decision.
We had come to know of a government-run animal care hospital quite near to our house. So we decided to take him there.
“Shall we take some money?”, one of us asked.
“Hmm…not a bad idea. We also need to get permission from the elders”.
It took a bit of coaxing but finally, armed with permission and ten rupee note we headed to the veterinary centre.
The the animal care centre was actually was a dilapitated, old building with a huge grassy, courtyard. As we entered, we noticed a small line of animal owners with their Bovine patients. Oblivious to the happenings around, the animals chewed on the lush green grasses around, letting out a ‘hope-these-weirdos-have-not-come-to-share-our-grass’ kind of look every now and then.
As we hurried inside with a whimpering Spotty, the ones in the queue protested vehemently.
“Emergency, emergency”, we shouted.
An old doctor and his compounder sat in their ‘chamber’ – checking a ‘happy-looking’ goat.
A sudden appearance of five children certainly unsettled him.
“Hey, hey you kids. What do you want?’, the compounder screamed.
“Emergency, emergency”, we emphasised again.
“What emergency?”, the doctor looked puzzled.
“ He has injured his foot and may die anytime soon”, one of us pointed to the puppy.
It was then that he discovered the tightly wrapped puppy.
“Let him finish with me…I mean my animal”, the goat owner protested.
The doctor scribbled his medicines and handed over to the compounder.
“Take medicines from him”, the doctor instructed the goat-owner.
Then he turned to check Spotty. As he looked at the near-torn left front foot of the puppy, Spotty whimpered.
“ This part is gone”, he declared non-chalantly.
“Gone? What do you mean by gone?”
“This part has to be amputed!”, he sounded emotionless.
Gulp! The word amputation sent in waves of fear!
“Do you have a clean razor ?”. The doctor went about his business casually.
“Yeah, a razor. Get a shaving razor from the nearby shop”, he instructed. For even once he did not wonder if it would be possible for five young children to procure razor blade.
But we had to accomplish our mission, so one of us ran and bought a blade from the shop nearby.
It took five and a half minutes for the entire ‘operation’. He was given a ‘post-operative rest period’ of fifteen minutes. Exactly twenty and half minutes later he emerged from the ‘operation theatre’ with a bandage tied to his injured foot.
“Fifteen days of ‘Bed Rest’ and he should be okay”, the doctor pronounced in his professional tone, without once realising how a street doggy can possibly be coaxed to a ‘bed rest’.
Our ‘Opeartion Spotty’ was successful!
Spotty went on to live for many more years as the ‘three-legged one’. Tiger in the meanwhile died as a pup!
Our pet Mij: We had a number of stray dogs as pets and parrots every now and then. The dogs however never stayed with us and the parrots never survived beyond one week. We once adopted two chicks as pets but they did not live beyond a month. So our only, really real pet was Mij. Mij was a German Spitz – a gift from a friend of my father. He came to our house as a three-month old furry bundle of wool. The first few days he slept with us under the blanket. We were overjoyed! We dreamt of days when we would play around with Mij in abundance. But we soon discovered that Mij wasn’t exactly like any other pet dog. For one, he actually hated too much cuddling. He would rather have a corner to himself than suffocating with grown up children! And unlike dogs in general he hated it terribly if people ever tickled or patted him. His jaws would quiver a bit and he would happily expose his fangs if we dared to meddle with him too much. But he was a master of himself and my mother. My mother would be the only one he would listen to! He would eat his food in the same fashion as us. Just like us he would suck the juice out of drumstick and throw away the inedible part; given a boiled egg, he would first eat the yolk and then the white; and like a true Bengali dog he would relish Fish Head! He never ever ate unless and untill my mother would ask him to and he never stole food – except sweets – that too of a particular variety. Once my father had got the same variety of sweets and having given Mij his share, I kept mine on the shelf for the time being. When I was back after ten minutes, the sweet was gone. We looked around high and low, just in case the sweet had fallen somewhere. But it was never to be found. And then we discover – powdered bits of the sweet clinging on to his moustache as he hid himself under the dressing table.
“Did you or not, steal the sweet/”, my mother thundered.
Pop came out his front paw, asking for forgiveness! Now, who could have not forgiven that gesture!
He had earned a nickname for himself as the ‘biting dog’ as he did bite people in abundance. But this had a plus side to it as well. In the six years that he stayed with us, not a single thief ventured to come to the vicinty of our compound, leave alone our house! A mango-thief, unaware of his reputation, had once dared climb on to our mango tree in the early hours of dawn. We would have perhaps remained unaware of his presence had we not heard the helpless cry of the thief. When we reached the courtyard, it was a sight straight from a comedy film. With a growling Mij just below him, a lean man hung precariously from a low branch of the tree. Each time the helpless man dared move a bit, Mij would jump up – his jaws nearly touching the poor-man’s bum! “Please Mashima, please take him away. I swear in the name of my mother, I would never ever dare come again”, the man howled – his eyes popping out in genuine fear! But Mij was not ready to give up so easily. So we had to coax and cajole Mij to tie him up, just to ensure that the thief doesn’t die of fear! However, it was the only incidence with thief we ever had in six years.
One thing which we had understood was that Mij was not like any other ordinary pet. He would never show emotional attachment towards anyone other than my mother but was fiercely protective of us at the same time. When I had returned home after a six month trip outside, he didn’t let anyone of the family members come close to me for one full month. He would follow me wherever I went and would sit on my clothes if I ever took out clothes from the cupboard to go outside. So hyper he became about protecting me that he identified my study book as a possible threat and tore the enormous book to flying bits! When I entered the room I saw his happy face – as if declaring – “Look what I have done! Took on that bastard single handedly and tore him to bits!”.
I do not know if this is a myth or a reality but they say that dogs are often over-sensitive. They cannot accept anyone or thing taking their position. I am not sure if this was the reason or if it was a mere co-incidence but Mij died, exactly a month after my son was born.
After my son’s birth, my attention towards Mij declined . I would often find him staring at me as I cuddled my son. He had not been keeping too well and I thought it was owing to his poor health. There was a certain sadness in his looks.He used to stay upstairs with my brother, while I used to stay downstairs with my son.
Then on 12th of July, things became bad. He had stopped eating altogether. I heard my mother crying and coaxing him to have a little food atleast. My father, brother, grandmother had all rushed to him. Only I sat downstairs, holding my son and crying. I had been advised by doctor not to climb stairs so i felt helpless. But the crying and mourning upstairs was too much. I knew it was his final moments perhaps. I chose to go upstairs. Step by step I climbed up. The mourning grew louder. As I opened the door, I saw Mij with his face turned towards the wall – forcing himself to take his last few breaths. And then he gathered all his strength, he turned his face. Looked towards me. Let out a sigh. And that was it! Our world with Mij came to a stop!
We cremated him in our garden outside with his favourite items and his food plate.
My father turned it into a concrete tomb-like structure.
That was the last pet we ever kept. The pain was too much for us to think of another pet.
Till day my brother cleans his tomb and offers flowers before he goes to sleep every single day.
To us, he was our brother afterall!