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We would sleep in our street’s walking path along with the rest of the neighbors on warm days. The series of beds arranged in our street would block the passage to walk from one end to another, so we usually wouldn’t go out during the bedtime. There was a major benefit in sleeping out – always fresh air to breath unlike now, and we could stare at the sky and talk about the moving clouds in the moonlight. We would count minutes to see how long it would take for the moonshine to return when a thick cloud covered it and made it partially dark. Another frequent activity we would do was to try to find the brightest stars next to the moon and argue among us about those stars which moved away from the moon on next day. We would not require an electric fan as there would be a gentle breeze throughout the evening. We were not even aware of the air-conditioners and would use a hand fan instead when a day was hot. I wonder how the life could have been if no one ever invented such an expensive home appliance which became a necessity in current middle class family life in India.
There would be bhajans performed by a group of men at Ramalayam – a temple of lord Rama – on every alternative evening. They would sing in high pitched voices which could be audible up to the outskirts of the village on a silent night. They were not professional singers but they would sing those bhajans with a passion and great enjoyment as they perform as a group of devotees. We would guess, while we were lying in bed and still awake, the next song they would sing as they follow a sequential order or sometimes we would hum the words after them in an order we heard and memorized. I would wake up in the morning in a thin blanket given as a cover by my mother though I wouldn’t remember her act.
On such a beautiful fall morning, I woke up to the noise of the rushing birds in search of their own food before sunrise. I also heard a weak and shaky voice under my bed. I could immediately recognize it and looked down to discover a brown and white patched healthy pup. He was all curled up and shivering in the slightly cold morning weather. I took him carefully in my hands to comfort him, kept him covered in a towel and placed him on a small wooden seat to made him feel warm. He appeared lost and doomed. Probably some of our local children might had brought him and left in the corner of the street. Each time I ran my fingers through his tender and soft fur he would respond with a sigh while he wagged his tail constantly. I ran to my mother to ask her permission to keep him with us permanently. She knew how much I would love to own a pet and agreed without a question to my request. She asked me to be sure I give him timely meals, keep him clean and healthy, and train him to learn good behavior. All those suggestions made me feel responsible for him. I sat next to him on my knees to serve him a cup of milk, and watched him with a fond look while he emptied the cup in a minute.
Later that day, I handed over his lunch and asked my neighbor to look after him as we all had to rush out with our daily schedule. I took a coin from my pocket savings to buy him a red color satin ribbon to tie around his neck. In addition, on my way to school, I told my sister about my plans to groom him as a loyal and lovable dog. She recommended to me a few names to choose one for him. However, I disagreed with all of her suggestions as I was too proud to accept one from her. Instead, I wanted to choose a name on my own by the next day. In a leisure break, I described my new found companion to my friends with a lot of enthusiasm. They were jealous of me as if I had won a prize. In brief, I was overwhelmed with an unexpected ownership of such a beautiful canine.
The classes, for the most part, I neither followed nor were of interest to me that day. As soon as the school was dispersed I hurried home to see my pup’s first day survival in my absence and to fondle him. He left the chewing toy rope and came in a quick run as he saw me home. He made a cheerful bark at me wagging his little tail as if he wanted to tell me to pet him the way I did before leaving him that morning. Despite the hunger I usually felt once I return from school, I fed him before I had my meal. I pampered him throughout the evening, fed him with a little food in intervals, let him climb on my lap to play with my pencil, made a cloth bed for him in the corner even though he showed little interest in sleeping there. He settled in his bed late in the evening while we were all ready to sleep, yet he barked now and then at a noise in the street which made me feel positive about him when he grows big. I was worried as my sister warned me that she would name my puppy herself by the morning if I didn’t decide on a name. I slipped into a deep sleep thinking of a name which sounded better than what she proposed.
The next morning, I stayed in my bed for longer than usual to make plans for my dog, whereas my sister sat on the other bed staring at me tenderly. She woke me up as she wanted to tell me news. I listened to her in disbelief and searched around in the hope that she might be mistaken. She told me that the pup’s mother came searching for him; they were reunited and apparently he too missed his mother as he happily went away. I was sad, cried for sometime and desolated for the missing pup though there was no one to blame. I cursed the mother dog for separating him from me. I kept the ribbon safely in my secret collection box as I hoped he may return sometime. I would search around for him each time I went out in the streets. I did not expect and didn’t want to accept his sudden departure. After all, he was a beautiful pup.
Despite all of the differences we had during our childhood, such as naming my pup or other tiffs, my sister and I were close friends among all four of us and grew up as the best siblings to support each other in all situations. Nevertheless, my wish to pet a dog has remained as a strong desire until today. I remind myself, whenever I come across a dog in my way, the name I chose for my pup. Unfortunately, I never called him his name though. I ask the owner for the dog’s name to see about how he responds when I call him as I pet him. I often sit on a bench in the park to watch the playful, kid-friendly, cuddly dogs as the owner pets them. It gives me an immense pleasure watching dogs play in the park or beach. Thus, I continue as a dog lover.
Next Episode: A Letter To My Grandpa