It was a time when life meant simple joys and fun. Introduced newly to the big bad world, it was a time when I had just joined college. Ever wary to make new freinds, i was always on my guard to give anybody an access to my private life. It had always been a strict: ‘Trespassers will be shot’ for anyone who dared coming anywhere close to my private den.
She must have been something, if I had decided to take her for my friend. It was Salma, a gawky looking, average IQed girl, with hairy arms, which was hard to miss. She was not a girl who welcomed strangers with a warm hug either. What was unmissable was the fact that, even she was just as or more wary about unknown people as I was. This- I liked.
We bonded quickly, unusually quickly. I am still kind of surprised about how soon we became best friends. We enjoyed our times together at college. We had our share of misunderstandings, weird times together and other stuffs that normal college goers are supposed to experience. She used to come over to my place and we used to experiment with our culinary skills. Somehow, she used to like the noodles I prepared. It still surprises me now, cos I can never get my husband to say the same. Be it about my noodles or any other dish for that matter. Anyways, let’s cut to flash back again, when things are supposed to be visualised in either black & white or sepia. I have always belonged to the technicolor era, so i suppose that makes me eligible for flash backs to be in the same color too. This choice, i leave it to you.
It was during one of those careless & carefree walks back from college (which was always half or quarter attended), when we stumbled upon an ill and a feeble looking pup. Being an animal lover from the time I can recollect, i knew i could not afford to ignore it. I looked around, making sure that we weren’t in for any surprise attack from its mother.I petted the little one on its head, as Salma looked on, unaffected by the whole scene. The tiny one was so taken in to me, that it decided it was best to follow me. I tried to lure it away, so it would remain in the place where it belonged. But it was as determined as ever. Since we weren’t far from my home either, i decided not to send the pup away too. This pup, Dinky, as christened by another ‘dog lover’ aunty in our gully (I wasn’t very happy over the choice of name, ‘cos i felt it could have been something better, more funkier), decided to make our street, it’s abode. Not that anyone complained about it. She, in fact, was everybody’s darling, a sweetheart with the kids especially. She was like this foster mother to all the kids in our street. Her warmth actually made the temperature in our street go up a few degrees. Jokes aside, but that was how she was. A real treat to be around with.
Both Salma & myself became very close to Dinky. Salma who always very intimidated and wary around dogs, soon found herself shedding all her inhibitions. She learnt how to pet her, call her and treat her. Salma, I knew, had now taken her first step towards understanding bliss.
Dinky used follow us around, no matter where we went. She was like the little lamb that Mary had. Only, here, there were two Marys. Time flew past, like lightening on a typical rainy day. Dinky grew from a tiny, helpless pup to a good looking teenager, i mean, whatever that age is, according to ‘Dog age’. Many dogs from our neighboring streets found themselves hopelessly in love with our little miss sunshine. She paid no attention to all her longing suitors as she followed us around, much to their disappointment of course!
Dinky was there by us no matter what time in the day it was. She patiently waited by us as we waited for our bus to drop us off at our college. We never paused to acknowledge her for keeping us company, as we were too engrossed in chatting with each other on all the silly stuffs about college and the rumors that do round in it. There were times when we were at an all time low in our personal lives, and we found solace in Dinky. She was there to listen, to understand, to comfort.
Salma was heart broken when her boyfriend cheated on her. She narrated how she felt bout it to me, and Dinky who sitting with us then, seemed to understand all that Salma was telling. Dinky, who used to constantly & sometimes forcibly, make us play around with her, by letting out short ‘fun yelps’ and performing some kind of ceremonial ‘let’s play’ dance in front us; that day preferred to keep calm, as if in pain ‘cos her loved ones were in too. Fun was surely the last thing on her mind, or rather did not even feature in her mind that day. Salma subconsciously decided to sit on the floor in order to make herself more comfortable, while going on bout her painful experience in love. Dinky who was on the floor feigning slumber as she heard us, walked up from her place to Salma, and licked her hand. She looked at her for one long moment as if to say ‘ I understand how you’re feeling honey’ and then put her head into Salma’s lap and let it remain there. Salma did indeed feel comforted by Dinky’s loving gesture. She quoted again, what was already quoted by I don’t know who- ‘ the more i understand men, the more i love my dogs’ One look from her chocolate brown eyes, and it was enough to make things appear better. Her eyes used to communicate stuffs that were beyond our comprehension then. She was our pillar of strength. She was our best friend. She understood, loved and cared for us like nobody ever could. Under her love & care, Salma’s broken heart was nursed back to the best of its health. There were no scars of any breakage or damage anywhere to her heart.
All the three of us shared a very warm bond. Dinky saw us grow from happy -go- lucky teenagers to marriable women. It was Salma to get married first. No sooner did she get married, she flew away to UAE. Her visits to India were very minimal. She now has a family of her own and a kid about who’s welfare she’s always engrossed & pre occupied about. We exchange occasional pleasantries online. Our phone calls over which our dads once used to fret & worry over, thinking they might have to sell off their assets to pay the telephone bills, are now limited to a call per few months or half yearly. It was my turn next to get married. And my marriage meant moving out of my street, to make my husband’s home my new abode. And moving out from my parent’s home meant, moving away from my beloveds and in this list featured Dinky too. Moving away from my parents & sis dint hurt me much, as they knew & understood that this was the way of the world. They knew I’d be far, in terms of distance, but not really ‘far’ from them…
But Dinky wouldn’t know where I’d gone, why she got to see so little of me suddenly or sometimes even very occasionally. Her troubled mind began troubling her body too. She was not a young adult that she was anymore, she was nearing the call of the dust. It pained me that I was not there for her, by her, when she needed me the most. When her health was not as good as it used be, when she was down on her energy levels, when she found it difficult to stand up on her age-worn legs. I could see the depression & sadness in her eyes, the pain in her eyes caused by this sudden separation, distance between us.
But, life had to go on and it went on for all three of us.
Whenever, I visited my mom’s place, I could easily see her health in deterioration. I could see her ears and eyes were failing her. There was a time when she’d know I was close to home, even though I was many streets away from home. But now, it took her several minutes to realise I had come visiting, that i was only a few footsteps away from her. It pained me when i would call out to her & she would not hear me. I could see her continue to gaze into nothing even as i called out to her, I could see that her hearing was now failing her, her senses were now gradually deserting her… Still, after she’d realise it was me, her reception would be as warm as it always used to be. It only used to be a little more passionate than before, for she would vent out all the unshown love for me, that was suppressed inside her for a long time.
That day, ranks in the list of my top most saddening days. I had visited my mom’s place. We chatted for a long time and it was a happy ‘chat together’ time that we had. I was about to leave from there when I received a call from that dog loving aunty who had christened Dinky. As I was about to leave, I decided to take that call later. My mom, curious as ever, wanted to know who’s call I had just avoided. When she learnt who the caller was, it reminded her to inform me about something. Something that would tremble the ground beneath my feet, something that would send my head reeling at an unknown/unheard of speed. She told me that Dinky had passed away a fortninght ago… Now I knew, why my street had felt colder than usual. It was because, the warmth in it was gone. Gone forever.
After hearing to that news, I didn’t know how I reached my hubby’s car that was waiting by the corner of my street. I had difficulty in seeing clearly. I realised my eyes were filled with tears. I could not think of anything but for Dinky, her adorable face, her eyes that spoke ten thousand words & all of them decipherable! her unending happy tail wags on seeing me; her warm, wet licks that made you feel so wanted, so loved, so cared for; her angry, protective growls & snarls when she noticed any stranger approach me (i.e stranger to her)… These now, were only memories. Memories, that charred your heart, memories that stabbed your charred heart… She was gone. She was alone, when she left for her heavenly journey. Her friends who were the center of her universe, were not with her when she died. She died a lonely death. An irony. The one who never made us feel lonely even for a second, died all alone, with no one to comfort her troubled thoughts. I’d bet my heart & soul, that I would have been the last thought in her mind before her heart froze… I turned around to look at the street I was walking away from, the memories I was walking away from. I could see Dinky in my mind, in her hey days, galloping her way to reach me as fast as she could, as if she was participating in an Olympic sprint that would fetch her multiple golds if she won… She did win. She won the race, the race to my heart, she won my heart. She’d be in there forever, her memories locked up and its keys thrown off into outer space. She had made me feel special, made my life worth living, she was my confidential diary. Now she had left us all, to find peace. I can never repay in this life, for all that she was to me. My heart ached as I boarded my husband’s waiting car. He looked at me, concerned, for my face had clearly given away what my heart felt… I told him the reason for my sadness. After much failed attempts at comforting me, he said I was being too emotional & sentimental, that I was tooo attached to one dog. I did not feel bad for what he said, because I knew nobody could understand a dog’s love, unless they experienced it first hand. If not, then, to them, a dog is just an animal that bares its canine teeth at the drop of a hat or an animal that has no control over its wagging tail!
That night, I dreamt of Dinky. In my dream, it was a starry night & she sat besides me. She was that young, bubbly Dinky, nudging me with her nose to play with her, she pushed me down to the ground with her weight & licked my face warm…When I quickly woke up from my dream, I actually felt my cheeks wet and warm!! I don’t know if was the hot & humid Asian weather or Dinky. You know what I’d prefer to believe. If you don’t, then go get yourself a dog, or preferably adopt one of those tiny, button eyed pups that you easily find on the streets. You’d not only be saving their lives from prospective road accidents but, you’d also be saving your own soul too…
‘If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went…’
Keep a secret: Salma doesn’t know that Dinky passed away. I’ve saved her a heart ache, I’ve kept this to myself. She’d find it hard to digest this fact, as she already owes her one big one for repairing her broken heart once before…
(Dinky, Jimmy, Drumpy, Kolanji & other darlings: This one was for you all…)
Photo courtesy: Achala Paani