In our childhood nothing was more painful to us than the departure of our two elder sisters to their husband’s places. We used to be very happy whenever they arrived at our home for a temporary stay. But the days would run fast and the time of their departure used to come painfully early. We would be so much depressed at their departure that it took quite a long time for us to get back to our normal life. The fact was - we could never accept that they had become part and parcel of a different family!
Other than the departure of our two elder sisters, the most painful events faced by us were on account of death of animals belonging to our family. We used to lose quite a number of cows and calves to the wild tigers that visited our village frequently. Each such occasion used to be a mourning period for us. The effect lasted for quite a long period. I also distinctly remember an occasion when a parrot reared by my eldest brother escaped from its cage.
My brother had found this pretty green bird on a tree in our arecanut plantation. He brought it home and got a special cage built for it by a carpenter in our village. It was a beautiful young bird, which became a part of our family within a short time. My brother taught it some mannerisms and to shout some names including his own name as Ramu. All of us started addressing the bird as Ramu only. The name stuck to it. It started demonstrating its prowess in front of the visitors to our home. Its cage became a centre of attraction. We thought it had become a permanent member of our family. Indeed it was – for more than a year.
One particular morning my brother was cleaning the cage as usual. He had kept the cage open and for a few seconds his attention was diverted somewhere else. That was it. He realised suddenly that the cage had become empty. The bird had utilized the opportunity and had disappeared into the sky within seconds! My brother could not believe that his pet bird could fly away in his very presence. He started shouting, “Ramu! Ramu!” at the top of his voice. All of us also joined him in the chorus, but the pet appeared to have left us for good.
All of a sudden my brother got some idea. We had a tall guava tree in front of our house. He moved close to the tree and again shouted the bird’s name. And Lo! He heard the bird shout back “Ramu! Ramu!” All of us were thrilled and ran to the tree. We could see our pet sitting in one of the branches among the green leaves. Now it was a question of getting it back to the cage. My brother started climbing the tree. But it was not a simple job. The bird was sitting on one of the thin and delicate branches and my brother was unable to stretch his hand up to it. Besides, there was the possibility of the bird flying away anytime. Hence he had to come down empty handed.
Now it was the question of convincing the bird that we wanted it to stay with us by getting back to the cage. We thought we could emotionally blackmail it for the purpose. We went on begging it to come back.
It seems the cute green pet was placed in a dilemma. It had two options before it. The first option was to get back to the (human) family that loved it so much. But it meant its lifetime stay in a cage at the cost of its freedom. The other option was to join its own community, enjoy total freedom and keep flying in the open skies forever! It chose the second option and flew away leaving all of us behind totally stunned!
For several days we were hoping against hope that the parrot would come back and reoccupy its cage. We kept the cage open for the purpose! But alas! The pretty green bird had left us for good. It never came back. My brother was so much attached to it that it took a quite a long time for him and our entire family to reconcile that the parrot was no more a part of our family.
Another departure from our home that hurt us was that of a young dog. We had a pair of dogs at our home. The senior one was quite a matured and principled dog. It led a systematic life and was quite meticulous in following certain rituals. It was particular about not becoming a burden to the family! It would eat only rice and nothing else. It would take rest and sleep at only certain locations at our home. The most interesting of its rituals was, however, doing a Pradakshina (going round three times) before lying down for rest every time!
It appears that this dog was keeping a close watch on all the happenings at our home. At least that was the impression it was giving to all of us! It was quite aware that there was absolutely no chance of any thief landing at our house during day or night. The reason was simple. We had no valuables at our home including any petty cash! Hence it had no watchdog duty to perform and was naturally left with only watching the daily affairs at our home!
This elderly dog was quite attached to the other young dog. But it never interfered in its affairs! It allowed the young one to create all sorts of nuisances! The latter became quite naughty and attracted the attention of everybody. One fine morning we had two visitors at our home. The elderly gentleman was called Gadikere Manjappaiah. He owned lands in our village, but had migrated to another village called Kesve near Koppa. He had a distinct Sardar Patel like personality. He used to carry a green Gandhi Shawl and a walking stick that had a handle covered with silver metal. He was basically an adventurer who could face any situation single handedly. We had the opportunity to hear his adventures in his new location at Gadikere. The storytelling went on till late in the night.
The younger person was the nephew of our father – affectionately called Ganesh Bhava by all of us. He had a smiling face and would never visit a house empty-handed. His face displayed a typical benevolence not seen any more in the present generation. As usual he had come with a consignment of biscuits, toffees and peppermints for all of us. Ganesh Bhava had a genuine need for a watchdog. The reason was simple again! His house was located in an isolated place called Karigerasi. Unlike our family, Ganesh Bhava had property and valuables at home including cash! We knew he was quite rich!
We came to know that our father had agreed to handover our young dog to Ganesh Bhava. Ganesh Bhava used to support our father financially on several occasions and father thought this young dog would protect his wealth for the mutual benefit of both the families! A very thoughtful gesture indeed I should say! But the departure of the young dog was going to be quite painful to us. Nevertheless the two gentlemen left the place in the morning taking the dog along with them. That was the last time we saw the young dog - called affectionately as Tommy.
The senior dog was not actually aware that its young brother had left it for good. It was expecting Tommy to get back after some time. When Tommy did not turn up even by night, it grew suspicious and started behaving in a miserable manner. Obviously it was not happy with my father’s decision to make it part with its young brother. But that was it. It was left with sharing the pain of departure of the young dog with all of us.
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Currently we have a pet dog at our home called Milo. We are all quite attached to it. It has been a part of our life for more than seven years now. Milo has been cornering all our attention and affection so far. Perhaps it never thought that there would come a day when it would have a competitor at home! But it did happen and that was about three months back. My second son brought home a new member – a one-month old kitten! It has been since named Lizzy (Toppu).
It happened like this. My son was visiting a hotel near his office for lunch when he found two young cats playing at a nearby construction site. The scene he witnessed was quite unbelievable. The cats were playing with a dog - their known enemy! It was something like what the venerable Shankaracharya had witnessed on his first visit to Sringeri - a snake offering shade to a frog! My son immediately thought he could carry one of them home. It could give company to our Milo! The construction workers present there had no objection for his adoption of one of the cats. That was how the new member arrived at our home.
Lizzy became a part of our family within no time of her arrival. She had an advantage over Milo. She was small and stayed inside the house unlike Milo who spends most of its daytime inside the Kennel. She could sit on everybody’s lap and share the beds of family members at night. She covered every nook and corner of the house. She was always up to something naughty unless when she was in sleep.
We have a small garden at home which suited Lizzy well. She would sit in the garden and watch for insects including butterflies. She had this hunting skill by birth. She would wait patiently in a vantage position and jump on the prey at the right time. Slowly her area of operation spread to the gardens of our neighbouring houses also. She had made it a point to avoid going near the kennel of Milo. Milo had a hunch that another pet had arrived at our house offering him a competition. But he being a German Shephard maintained his royal dignified silence! Lizzy would invariably get back into our house after her hunting. She would also occasionally go on a roundabout journey in her command area. But she had made it a point to return home after a reasonable time. All of us got attached to her sentimentally.
The other day my daughter-in-law fell ill and was admitted to a hospital. We had to visit the hospital late in the night. Just before our departure, Lizzy slipped out to our neighbouring garden. All our efforts to get her back came unstuck. We had no other alternative than to leave her out while we were leaving for the hospital. In the meanwhile we had kept our dog Milo in our garage after its dinner.
We returned home three hours later. We expected Lizzy to be at home by that time through the backdoor, which we had kept open. But to our shock and surprise she was not to be seen anywhere. In the normal course, she would always welcome us with her “Mew Mew” whenever we came back. There was total silence and the house appeared empty without our beloved Lizzy. We felt miserable. We searched everywhere in our garden and the terrace. But she was simply not to be found. Our anxiety slowly turned into a nightmare. We knew she never delayed returning home for more than one hour during her outings.
We went to the bed totally depressed. We woke up many times in the night and checked to find whether she had come back. But there was no trace of her. I even dreamt once that she had come back. I also felt many times that I heard her “Mew Mew” inside the house somewhere. But they were all like false alarms. It appeared to us that she had left us for good.
We woke up in the early morning. But we had no mood to go through our early morning routines. In the normal course Lizzy used to give us company in all our morning activities. But alas! She was no more with us. We thought we had to accept the fact that she had left us for good.
We had not allowed our dog Milo to move inside the compound in the night to enable Lizzy to come back. Milo had been kept locked in the garage as mentioned by me earlier. I went to take him out of the garage and unlocked the door for the purpose. Just as Milo was coming out, I looked up around the garage. I could not believe what I saw! I shouted at my wife to come out and see what I was seeing. She came out running. We had covered the parapet wall above the garage with a grill. Our beloved Lizzy was sitting there silently! She had spent the whole night sitting there!
Apparently she had landed there inside the grill after her visit to the neighbouring garden. But she had found Milo in the garage and there was no way she could get back to the house without attracting his attention. She was mortally afraid of him and thought it fit to keep silent through the whole night! She could in no way attract our attention sitting there in the night.
It was celebration time for our family. Our dear Lizzy was back with us once again! Our nightmare had indeed come to an end.
A V Krishnamurthy
25th September 2011