|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