Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My family and other animals V

Laika, the first dog to go to space in a Russian spaceship
Chotomama was the real intellectual in the family. He loved books and read a lot. He was member to many libraries and brought home books and magazines he devoured in just a few days.

To me, he read loudly from Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy, starting me on to my own journey with philosophy.

“Do you know who the first dog sent to space was?”

“No, tell me.” I gawked.

Out came a magazine with the picture of a dog on its cover. He read out the name loudly, SPUTNIK
I stared at the picture and heard the natural born Orator, my Chotomama speak:

Laika (whose name means “barker”) was a 3-year-old mongrel stray wandering the streets of Moscow when she was picked up and taken to a secret Soviet space laboratory. Scientists selected strays because they had already learned to adapt to cold and harsh conditions.”

In my mind I had already decided that my next dog would be called Laika. And so she was!

Mud brown, with light brown eyes, Laika was reaped out of the space under our bedroom floor where the neighbourhood dog, Lilly, always delivered her pups. It was always a very silence process and there was no warning before that Lilly would be coming in the night to deliver. When the first light of day, filled our mornings in Shillong, with its golden hue, the whole household was up. The Hour would be 4.30 am, even earlier. By 5 am it was broad day light and Shunu had already washed his face and brushed his teeth and stood by the verandah, coughing, which signaled out to the man servant in the house, to quickly bring in this pure Darjeeling Tea, in bone China cup and dish, with Thin Arrowroot buiscuits. But on days Lilly had done her delivery, he smelt it in the air and rushed to see where she was. And there, under the planks, Lilly would let us all have a glimpse of her babies. Before long, she would bring them out one by one, all in the night or early morning to sun them and the neibourhood kids would join in. With shrill thrills in the air, that time, I could only save one for myself, Laika.

Both Laika and a subscription of the magazine Sputnik, were literally gifts from my most learned mama, my Chotomama.

To read more about Laika in the Russian Space Craft, you must read here:

Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta, in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My family and other animals IV

Shunu was a dog’s man. Yes, read that again – he was a dog’s man. Why else would Zarak take to him and make him his Master, despite the fact that he already had one?

My maternal uncle, whom I called Shunu took long walks in the morning. He usually took his dog with him. At this time, he was alone and at around 7 am, having walked many miles, he landed up at his friend’s house, for tea and biscuits. His friend lived not too far away from ours, rather close to the Jail Road Boys High School, Shillong, where my grandfather was the Headmaster during his working years.

Shunu’s friend had acquired a fluffy little tennis ball, with a tiny black nose and black and brown fur all over him, a little Alsatian puppy called Zarak. No sooner did Shunu sit himself in the sunny courtyard, on a moorah, Zarak jumped on his lap and began to bounce around as if he had met a long lost friend. Shunu spoke very little but he made some sounds, which the little pup understood and perking his ears in disbelief, looked every now and then to make sure he had heard right. Indeed, Shunu was only making it known to the pup that he must now stop jumping up and down, slipping once or twice and falling off the lap, yelping and crying and then back again on Shunu’s lap, over and over again! Zarak couldn’t care. He listened to no one, and his Master brought out the ruler pretending to threaten him, but Zarak grabbed the ruler and began to chew it! After some time, when the little tennis ball’s energy seemed to have subsided, did Shunu get to quench his thirst with a cuppa.

Zarak, grew fast and when he was three months old, he was already huge. The relationship between man and dog had already been established and one day, we found Zarak had come home, all by himself! How did he do that? He followed Shunu’s scent from his first Master’s house to ours. Within moments, our cook was sent to inform Zarak’s family that he had come to ours. The distraught family sighed in relief, but not even an elephant could take Zarak back to his own home. He refused to go. His Master, cajoled, pulled him by his chain, but Zarak could not be moved.

So Zarak became our dog too. There was no saying how long he would stay with us and when he would return to his Master. Shunu was his second Master and when he had had his fill in this house, he would go to the other. Sometimes he stayed for months, sometimes only a few days. He was divided in his loyalties and so, when he was with us, he I guess did not at all think of his first Master.

They suited each other perfectly, Shunu and Zarak. Shunu was Zarak’s Man! Royal Bengal Tigers!

Yesterday I saw the video of the man who had fallen into the white tiger’s den in Delhi, India and was mauled by the tiger. Zarak looked so much like the tiger. He was ferocious too. People were so afraid to come to our home, because, he would grab then by their ankle, if he was not tied up. Sometimes, he broke thick chains to pounce at visitors.

BEWARE OF DOGS, was not what we ever wrote on our wall or gate though. Although, in later years whenever, I thought about it, I said, we ought to have written:


Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta, in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My family and other animals III

Just because he is cute does not mean Bagha was not a naughty boy!

Bagha was an individual by his own right. I remember he vanished for days and went to live with his lady, when she was in heat, over the hill on the other side of our house.

Just one fine day, he would take off and not return for days. While I cried endlessly, the entire family joined in a chorus calling out to him – Bagha! Come home! But there was no sight of him.

It was only once that he showed up at the top of the hill, while we called like people gone mad and wagged his tail. I was sure he was going to come down, but he actually didn’t! Having had a good view of all of us, he just went back to the house on top, whose roof is all we could see.

“Maybe you can take a half-day off at work,” we suggested to our cook, who worked in a government office and lived with us, “he is in that house, which can be approached easily from your Office.”

The cook agreed to go, but only after his work was over at 4pm.

We waited anxiously thinking that Bagha would return with him. We imagined that he would be very happy to see the cook and come with him, immediately.

He didn’t. The cook could not find him in the house. Nor could he find any other dog there. He returned without a smile on his face.  And just as he returned and we all weighed heavily with grief, we heard Bagha barking on the top of the hill, once again!

“Come home!” we wailed in unison, but he was his own man. He did what he wanted, at his time.
Then one day, he returned and was well received! There was joy and celebration in the house and he got a big bone to chew.

Shortly after that he was at his worse again. Chicken were being killed with jealousy. Really, we were desperate!

Then, the taxi driver gave us an idea. Two days later, Bagha was locked in the back-hold of the car and taken many kilometers away and left there. He would find his home there it was presumed by the elders of the family.

The stunned silence in the house was palpable. Nobody talked to each other during those days. People avoided each other’s eyes and they looked away when they spoke to each other. There was a shroud that covered the house we called our home. And the silence went on and on, its sound deafening as it were. Then one night, I woke to the sound of a whimper.

“Bagha is back!” I screamed. It was night and everyone was sleeping, but we all woke up and opened the door to find out if it was true. Indeed, it was!

And the morning rose next day with happy faces, laughter and joy. People chatted meaninglessly. The cloud which hung over our house had passed. Bagha had returned in the middle of the night, all the way from Upper Shillong, trailing back with the smell of the taxi in his nostril!

The strongest instinct in a dog is his sense of smell. He can smell his Master miles away from him. He may recognize you while he is standing 20 feet away from you, just because of the smell, he recognizes to be yours. He cannot see, over three feet away in front of him.

The return of Bagha also made me realize what I had gone through. It was my first experience of nights of light sleep. I had never known it before.

Giving away your pet or just leaving him in unknown territory can be life threatening for him. He may survive or he may perish. We as owners need to understand that the well-bred dog on the street is one that has survived the torture of the street, when its owner sent him out or began to disown it.
There is absolutely no reason to send a pet on the street, unless we as owners are ready to take to the streets ourselves. 

Indeed, they jolly well can survive on the streets and in the open, if we as humans did not desire to put them in a cage, we call our home.

Animals are born free!

Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers

Photo credit: Unknown, via email share.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My family and other animals Part II

My tears for Tiger had dried up fast, licked away by Bagha’s frequent ‘kisses’. Clumsily I would pick him up only to be smothered with kisses all over my face. In an effort to save my face, I would drop him on the floor and a sharp yelp would denote a hurt little puppy. No sooner though, he would forget his hurt leg and jump behind me wherever I went.

Again, in traditional houses like ours, dogs were not allowed inside the house. They had their own kennel. Bagha and I sat on the steps leading down from the main house, with him brushing hard against my side to engage in talks that only children and dogs do.

“Tomorrow is my birthday, Mamoni said. You must have heard the many things I wanted for my birthday.”

He wagged his tail and stretched his neck to kiss me.

“I am getting a new dress and you a new collar around your neck. Shunu is getting one from Barabazar. It is brown in colour Mamoni said, because, you are shining black.”

Indeed, Bagha was jet black with a wet black nose. Despite the many warnings, including instilling the fear of being sent away to boarding school for kissing his nose, I would always, always kiss his soft black nose, hiding away from elders in the house.

Bagha grew very fast and in a matter of two months, he was a strong big dog who turned out to be possessive and jealous of anyone else who took the attention away from him. Such as the chicken.

We had over fifty white leghorns in our house which lived inside a very large hen pen. Around 9.30 every morning, my mama would go place food in their feeding long dish. You should have seen them at that time. The whole hen pen was full of birds flying and landing up on my mama’s shoulders and head. There was so much sound with all of them calling out at one and the same time that the pandemonium could be heard from the streets way above our house.

Bagha was forever alert at these times. He monitored them from far and in the afternoon when they were let out of the pen to roam around to pick up worms and such things, he chased them endlessly. While the hen and cock scraped the ground with their feet to look for worms, Bagha prepared for the prowl. Slowly and stealthily he approached them like a tiger on his bait and as soon as he was close enough, the hen was alarmed and he began the chase. Mostly, he got one of them by the throat! But he never ate them, he just left them on the floor, his anger and jealousy avenged.

The next day was a day of tomb-like silence in the house, when my angry mama bit his teeth planning for the punishment to be doled out to Bagha.

At last, when I was away at school, my mama did the worst thing any man can do to an animal. It was an act that proved that man is worse than dog, because when dog kill he does it from his natural instinct to prepare for his meal; when man kills an animal, he does it to prove that he is the Lord of the human jungle, which is bereft of all love, loyalty and fellow-feeling.

The day, Bagha was shot dead by my mama’s rifle, Bagha could not rush back to attack my mama – he had been tied to the pomegranate tree by the side of the ‘toilet’ in our traditional home in Shillong.

Bagha died but the guilt of killing his own pet never left my mama, not even after he took sannyas and lived for twenty-five years at the Ramakrishna Mission at Luxa, Banaras, till he died.

I was told by those who were at his bed-side when he was passing on, that he craved to say something, nobody could understand because he was delirious and I wondered if it was a confession he was making to someone.

I also wondered if Bagha was at his bedside, like a true and loyal friend, come to take his Master home?

I would never know, because, I was not there to hear His Mater’s Voice at his dying hour.

Stories from childhood in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers

Picture credit: http://cdn.cutestpaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Cute-Black-Dogs-l.jpg

Friday, September 19, 2014

My family and other animals Part I

The first time, I remember, I had a pet was when I was a little girl, in my hometown in Shillong, Meghalaya, India.

It was a little puppy called Tiger. He had a shining black nose and a coat that was brown. He hung around with me wherever I went.

When I sat for lunch, he sat outside the kitchen and dining room, waiting eagerly for me to throw him food from my plate. Actually, Tiger got his food first on a plate near his sleeping house – his kennel. But as soon as he saw me at the table, he would leave his and rush towards me.

In our traditional home in Shillong, the kitchen was away from the rest of the other rooms. It had its attached room, which we used as a dining room.

Tiger and I shared a number of stories together. Of course, I was the talker and he the listener whose tail wagged incessantly in approval of what I said.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I would say, “but there are some cookies you and I can share, as soon as there is no one to see us, taking some.”

He wagged and smiled. Have you ever seen dogs smiling? They do if you are watchful.  The point of this cookie stealing was that he and I had already been given our share in the morning, which is one each.

The strict rules that governed our sweet tooth, was often flaunted by him and I together, when we stole from the cookie jar.

My God, I remember the excitement. While he whimpered, I tiptoed to the jar and picked up the cookies. My heart beat rapidly and I can truly say that the little heart inside both of us, had a very good exercise when we did that naughty thing!

Tiger knew everything about me. I told him all. After all, there was no one I could talk to, but him. He was my friend and my sibling so to say. I slept thinking about him and woke up thinking of him. Even before I saw my mother, I wanted to see Tiger.

So why did he vanish one day, without telling me? When I woke up and did not find him, I began to cry. It was a cold winter day in Shillong and my mama said, tomorrow he would return.

Tiger never did, but sure enough, Bagha, a black puppy did. I threw all my emotions into Bagha. He was not really Tiger, but why did he fill me up, just like Tiger did?

I know what it feels to have a full heart.

Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta, in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers.

Picture credit: st2.india.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/untitled-11.jpg

BETEL, BANYAN, BASIL & BAMBOO: The Greatest Love Songs ever...

BETEL, BANYAN, BASIL & BAMBOO: The Greatest Love Songs ever...: I pay homage to the greatest, quirkiest and most moving love songs ever written or sung... gives me the chance to create my own playlist and...

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Wreck - dangerous dreams!

A recurring dream around one person, ails deep sleep in Ms Polly’s mind. The last time she had it, she was stretching herself over her partner to kiss someone on the other side of the bed. She had two things going in her life at that time – an overwhelming desire for the one she dreamed about and on the other hand the dawn to a new beginning was peeping out of a night of troubled sleep. When she read the dream, she was sure that it meant that she was on the verge of a new life. And indeed, it did happen, although, she was dabbed as a coward for not having the guts to actually take the bull by the horn and go, get the woman of her fatal passion.

The dream has now reoccurred again and although there are additional characters, the protagonists of the dream remain the same.

The dream reads like this. Ms Polly has returned home after a long journey. With her is a couple, one of whom she is burning her midnight sleep for. Once out of the station, they are unable to get a taxi to go further. While Ms Polly’s ‘subject of desire’, Ms Eros and Ms Polly rest in a room with another woman, Ms Eros’ partner has gone to look for a taxi. Finding themselves together, the two women pass vibrations that begin in the head and rock the muladhar chakra till a volcano erupts!

Ms Polly can hold it no longer. She strips her body from the upper half and begins to close in on Ms Eros, who is receptive but not responsive. While Ms Polly has at least let her defense down, at least by half, Ms Eros has not ventured forth to do the same. Soon however, they know they must move on, as Ms Eros’s partner has arrived with the taxi.

The two step down from the room and there, as they wait for the taxi, Ms Eros and Ms Polly engage in erotic mouth to mouth kissing this time initiated by Ms Eros herself. Indeed, the time is short, there is tension in the air as both know they must say good bye very soon, but the taste of Ms Eros’s soft, swollen lips leave a taste for more on Ms Polly’s. The taxi arrives; Ms Eros slips in with her partner and is gone.

Recurring dreams may be indicative of many things, but one can’t deny, it is certain that the dream is trying to show the dreamer two realities, or more. One, where there is smoke, there is fire. Second, there is unfulfilled desire that needs to be looked at closely. Thirdly, in both cases, of Ms Polly and Ms Eros, while the flirtation is real, each is settled in a traditional ‘partnered’ preference and therefore neither is ready to rock the boat. Fourth, had both been single, un-partnered, or at least Ms Polly the dreamer, not been in a settled relationship, would she be having such dreams in the first place?

A settled life is patriarchal in nature and yet, this is exactly how we like to see ourselves. Unless we are brave to be single – and mingle!

The question I am putting to myself – and you - is, are partnerships really worth it then? Is the human spirit free to be, and mingle around with many? Is there more to dreams than what we are willing to concede?  Is it worth allowing the boat to sink and find a new shore?

Most of all must Ms Polly stop intellectualizing and take the jump?  

Read also: See not, hear not, do not!