Monday, August 4, 2008

Crumbling Cookie

There was a time when two cookies were there every night on top of my mailbox. This created a lot of curiosity and confusion among my neighbours. As a matter of fact one of them, albeit a young one, mustered enough courage and asked me who sends me these nocturnal biscuits! He had not been able to take any more of the variety of speculations that were going around – whether it was a prank, whether it was symbolic, religious, whether it was a new form of terrorism, and so on and so forth. I realized it was time that ended all the hypotheses and told him plainly that it was I who was the deliverer as well as receiver.

I am not crazy. Nor am I insane. Not even slightly on the edge. At that point of time we had a thriving friend circle. I was living in my old neighbourhood. About ten of us used to hang around a little sitting place next to the football field at night. It was a post-dinner meeting for me. I take my dinner at 9:30. I was punctually at my adda at 10. It was the best of times for all of us. Still young, still students, the world were full of possibilities. None of us were married, some of us were going through courtships, some through broken hearts, and others waiting for someone to make or break their respective hearts.

There were many dogs in the neighbourhood. Stray ones – as you find all over India. This particular species (Roadasians – “dogs which roam the roads of Asia”) is very friendly, most of the time harmless, all bark practically no bite. Until one goes mad, but that holds true for Homo sapiens also. Every season these dogs would embarrassingly breed. One such dog had its litter of six puppies just next to our building. They were all taken care of by most of our neighbours. Among the six one was run over by a car. Two died of diseases. One died of malnutrition. Another one went away in search of fortune to some far-away locality.

One was left. This one became everyone’s favourite. He had several names. My mother called him Y because he had a Y shaped design on his head. We used to call him Bhootoo (bhoot is the Bengali word for ‘ghost’, bhootoo is the affectionate version: though I sincerely doubt if a real bhoot would inspire any affection at all). Bhootoo was a singularly stupid dog. When walking he would bump into people. As a puppy he used to think that pallu ends (however do you describe an aanchal in the language of England?) of Saris and dupattas were designed for him to grab with his mouth and swing around, causing quite a bit of havoc I must add.

My friendship with him started the day I found him sitting in a garden on top of a very small flower-tub. He was just a couple of months old then, all alone, his brothers and sisters all gone, his mother (the bitch!) busy with another dog. I gestured and he scampered towards me, still wobbly and still very enthusiastic. The way he stretched his neck to look at my face turned me into an aficionado. Then every time he saw me he would follow me to a certain invisible fence, over which dangers lurked for him I suppose. From that point he would keep looking at me with a curious expression on his face. I don’t know what it meant. Then began the cookie episode. Bhootoo was well fed. The ground-floor residents of our apartment building once had their own dog, and they loved all canines. So young Bhootoo ate better than many Indians. But what my sister and I decided was that he was not getting enough dessert. Chocolates are deadly for dogs, ice-cream too problematic, so we settled on cookies. At the beginning we took it from our own home. That came under parental scrutiny, so we began buying the stuff especially for him.

My sister is scared stiff whenever, wherever a canine is concerned. She felt kindly to Bhootoo, but her love was only from a distance. Feeding the cookies was my job. I had no objections. The only problem was that everyday I would have to push the cookies into his mouth, because he was too dumb to find the pieces on the ground. The other problem was when I went down at 10 o’clock Bhootoo was nowhere to be seen. This was the time of his dinner. And dogs are very jealous of their food – so I am told. Bhootoo made it a habit to take his food elsewhere. Somewhere beyond the ken of other dogs. And I could not carry the cookies to the adda. Simply because they would be eaten. It did not matter that they were for a dog, they were delicious, ones I myself liked. So human need being greater than the dogly, the cookies would be devoured without wastage of temporal space.

So I ended up with the solution of keeping the cookies on top of the letterbox. Ants could not reach them, humans would not touch them, no other animal could think of such a place. When I returned from my adda I would give them to my four-legged friend. So I believe my case for my sanity is sound.

Bhootoo died when I was in UK. He had met with an accident. Some car had gone over his left-hind-leg. He was taken to a hospital, treated, medicated and everything. But he never did heal. I was not there when he died. The people who used to feed him, and take care of him, gave me this tragic news. There have been many litters since, many dogs, a few of them still swing from pallu ends, but we have not had another one like Bhootoo. I am no longer there. I guess some other kid will have some other stray yet pet dog who will give him/her as much love.

3 comments:

riM said...

Reminds me of one of my such outdoor pets "Molu".

reading this post just brought back memories of the poor dog that used to sit at our doorstep for 8 years before one day disappearing once and for all.

buzzoff said...

i almost feel like agreeing to correct ur damn papers after this...

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Well that's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess....

This post reminds me of Lalu Bhulu, the dog that graced the doorstep of my first post-marriage home in Kaikhali. In the pre-blog era, I had written about him in a venerable newspaper, which is now almost as dead as the much-mourned Lalu-Bhulu.

 
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