What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)

I'm an ardent animal lover. Animals have been a huge part of my life. As a little child all creatures fascinated me. The crows, the pigeons, the sparrows and even the squirrels scuttling about had my eyes go wild in gleeful excitement. If we passed the temple, I had to feed the cows. I had to ride the horse every evening. When we went to the park, I wanted to ride the elephants, the camels - I'd probably ride every creature I could.

I was lucky to be born in an animal loving family. My genial and obliging grandfather even had encouraged a crow to stop by every morning and caw obnoxiously for his daily biscuit as my grandfather had his cup of filter coffee at his desk, nose buried in a newspaper. My grandmother came from Udipi. They had raised cattle, poultry and mules in their yard. That stopped when my great grandfather got older. But he always had a dog and a litter of cats romping the yards. And here and there amidst our relatives we have canine pied pipers who will spoil the neighborhood dogs with treats and be followed home by armies of them every evening.

It is no wonder that as a kid I was a pied piper or dog whisperer of sorts myself. Puppies were my favorite playmates ever. Human children make good friends for kids, but they are nothing compared to puppies. And boy did I have a knack for finding puppies to play with much to the chagrin of my family. I've crawled into gutters, rolled in the dirt in tight spaces to find where a new litter had been birthed.

People would often warn me not to play with puppies, especially when the mama was around. They said bitches are very protective and would attack human threats. I was sternly warned to at least keep away from pups till their eyes opened and they romped about. Such advice is pointless to six year olds. The mama dogs grudgingly welcomed me when my childish curiosity found her latest secret birthing place. Instead of nips and bites, I received friendly licks. They looked upon me with maternal affection as I too became part of her pack as her pups grew up. I wish I could have taken each and every one of these pups home with me. Unfortunately, that was not feasible. Sadly, majority would either die or simply vanish from my life forever. But I was still lucky to have many beasts that became a substantial part of my life.

I don't know why I never wrote much or documented the lives of my beasts. They would have made excellent subjects for the times when I've suffered writers block. Recently, I made a new friend Zoya and read a book she wrote about her life amidst dogs and I was inspired to pay some sort of humble tribute to my furry friends. Besides, I recently lost another baby. So this is apt way to say goodbye, a remembrance for all my friends.

Pickoo

Pickoo was the first pet in our family. She came into the family well before I did. My aunt brought her home one day. From the story that I am told, Pickoo had two other siblings Chickoo and Bickoo. Unfortunately, their mama was run over by a truck and they had no one to care for them anymore. My teenage aunt brought home Pickoo, while her friends took home the others. Pickoo was my aunt's pet, but she was grandpas favorite.

They say you can't train cats, but somehow my grandfather had managed to train a cat. I remember him sitting in the hall and loudly saying "Pickoo come here" and slapping his legs. Pickoo would immediately go and sit on his lap for a lengthy pampering session. But that was not all, the real miracle was her toilet training. We don't have litter boxes in India. Most cats are indoor/outdoor cats who would wander outside to do their business. However, Pickoo was one scaredy cat and petrified of the outside world. So my grandfather had her toilet trained. She learned to do her business by the drain in the bathroom and as soon as she had done so she would meow loudly, signaling to us that we had to go wash it down the drain. Later when we moved to Vashi, she learned to do her business in the potty - making our jobs easier. All we had to do was flush. She was the smartest darned cat I've ever known.

She was also a guard dog of sorts. Perhaps she thought she was a dog. She would be very possessive about items in the house. It was prudent for people not to open drawers or peruse through our things if no family member was around to supervise. For if someone did so, she would instantly go into attack cat mode. 

She was a finicky eater though. She only ate raw fish, and that too of one particular kind - Raja Rani. Sometimes during monsoon it would be impossible to find, but my grandpa and dad would go scouring all fish markets in town for it - or else she would go hungry. On several occasions upon not finding her food, we would try feeding her a similar fish - but Pickoo would know it wasn't the real McCoy. As a cat she also loved milk and cream, but her most favorite treat in the whole wide world was fresh grated coconut.

When I was a little kid growing up, Pickoo was my first and best friend. I would crawl around and follow her all day. When everyone worked in the kitchen we would crawl in for our favorite pastime. We'd both sit in our own large giant steel bowls and have the grown ups spin us in it. Although, I think Pickoo considered me more of a pesky pest rather than friend. If I followed her too long or too close, she would turn around and smack me on the face. Let me tell you there is nothing better to teach your child discipline than a stern mama cat. Later she would discipline Socks our dog in a similar fashion. Even when he was a fully grown stocky dog and she was old and frail, Socks was a timid baby around Pickoo.

In her early life Pickoo was grandpa's favorite, but later on she became my baby. She would curl up on my lap while I sat on my desk to do my homework. Especially, in the last few months of her life, she spent as much time with me as possible. My mom says she knew she would be going soon and she wanted to spend time with her baby. In many ways, I was like her little overgrown kitten.

She lived a fruitful healthy life to the ripe old age of nineteen before she succumbed to mouth cancer. I remember discovering the brown lumps under chin. I had freaked that Socks may have scratched her, but it turned out to be something worse. She passed away a few months before her 20th birthday. I can never remember dates. I don't even remember when my grandpa died, but I remember the date  Pickoo passed away. It was December 11th. I was in my seventh grade scholarship class after school, and had a bad feeling all the time. I literally ran home when I was done, and knew what had happened before mom could tell me.

Pickoo left us with some great memories. My grandma and dad narrate this hilarious tale of Pickoo playing with her fish and tossing it up to the prayer stand where the idols are kept, and then everyone had to sneakily get it out of there before my great grandmother opened her eyes and saw the holy shrine all desecrated and impure. My favorite moments are when she smacked Socks and he would run crying out of the room or how she would always come when I made my bed and get tucked in as a lump on my bed.

Chibud

When I was in third grade and walking to school, I saw the funniest looking dog ever. He was a short stocky pit bull-mongrel type you find on the streets in Bombay. He had a tightly curled tail, funny misshapen ears and eyes as large as flying saucers. Despite his ugly appearance, I found him adorable and befriended him. He soon would frequently show up when I walked to school. My best friend at the time and walk to school buddy Rohan thought we should call him Owleye for his big giant eyes. Before I knew it, the mutt had found out where I lived and settled in front of our doorstep.

He was an endearing dog and would win over everybody in our neighborhood. My parents started feeding him scraps. So did our neighbor. Soon he had a permanent bowl in front of our two doorsteps. It was our neighbor who christened him with the name that stuck - Chibud. Chibud is a fruit that is horrifyingly ugly to look at, but tender and sweet. Thats what this dog was like, and the name stuck.

For a stray dog Chibud lived a fabulous life. He had the scraps from our house and the neighbors, usually it was milk and rice or milk and chappatis. He received curd rice with tadka from the Telugu family upstairs. Lele uncle on the third floor had a Pomeranian. Whenever he took his Pom for a walk in the evening he would feed both his dog and Chibud biscuits. There was a young lady Pinky who would feed him a whole Cadbury's bar every evening. Whoever said dogs cannot eat chocolate? Then we had a Bengali family who gave him fish curry every time they made some. Whoever said dogs should not be given fish? The Muslims at the other end occasionally fed him Biryani and goat curry. Then there was the hotel, where they fed all the dogs leftovers at night.

Chibud was a stray and never officially became our pet. It would have even been cruel to try and domesticate him. But eventually dad had him neutered and tagged, because it was the responsible thing to do. We also took him to the vet and had him get shots. If he got to smelly, we'd give him a bath.

Even though Chibud was never an official pet dog, he is the pet dog every owner dreams of. Barring his ugly face, he was a magnificent muscular beast and exceptionally intelligent. He would walk me to school and be there waiting to walk back home when school let out. Whenever we went shopping or ran errands, he would obediently follow us if he was around. He would patiently wait outside stores for us. He knew his boundaries, where he would be let in and where he had to keep out. If only I could find a dog that heeled and stayed as obediently.

He was also a splendid guard dog. When no one was at home, no stranger was allowed to touch our door, not even friends or neighbors. We could forget to lock the door for all we cared. Chibud would rip apart anyone who dared breaking in. And you didn't want to be one taking on Chibud. For all his lovey dovey adorability, he was a powerful dog. He was the bully and alpha dog of the town. He's gotten into scrapes with gangs of neighborhood dogs and emerged unscathed. My dad would always say, instead of paying for guards and gorkhas - everyone should adopt a stray. Only a dog can be trusted with everything you have.

Being with Chibud also taught me a valuable lesson Cesar Milan like lesson about understanding dogs. As much as we love our pets and give them human traits and treatment, they are a different species. As awesome and cute it is to get a dog that does tricks, the more important thing is to establish yourself as a good pack leader and build a bond of respect. He taught me to be an assertive pack leader and that is why as a kid I could give a cold stare, raise a palm and calm down gangs of dogs and even breakup fights. That is why despite him not being a pet dog, he was the most obedient, well trained dog I ever knew. I attribute that to the fact that he was a not a pet. He got more opportunity to be a dog than household dogs.

Chibud had a good long life. He was pampered with special treats by everyone and lived like a king. His life long quest was to catch a BEST bus. No matter how hard he chased them, how loudly he barked them down, or how close he got to nipping one in a bit - he never did catch that big bus he wanted. He apparently died peacefully after we came to the states. My one real desire is that all strays get the love and caring they deserve, just like Chibud did.

To be continued.....

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