Friday, December 18, 2020

Hearbeat at your Feet

There are two kinds of people. Those who stay away from pets.  And those who think life is meaningless without four legs and a happy tail. I belong to the former. So far. Who knows what tomorrow holds? Hell, we don’t even know if 2021 will behave better than 2020. Or if Salman will ever get married.

I don’t mean to exaggerate but petting a dog was my biggest lockdown achievement - second only to meditating for thirty seconds. It was not always like this. Let me flashback to my childhood when I could cuddle a pet without the mental image of getting mauled and getting my bum injected.

 We used to live in a sprawling railway bungalow where spending a leisurely afternoon meant scaling guava trees and biting the raw ones before parrots did.  It was a childhood that entailed chasing butterflies and picking dead ones to preserve in your Enid Blyton. It meant letting a lady-bird crawl on your hand as you whispered ‘pass-fail’ to watch the insect fly away on ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. It was also about plucking a spring onion shoot and blowing air in the hollow stem to make a farting sound. And giggle dementedly.

One afternoon while counting the snails, I chanced upon a fluffy kitten in the bushes. Promptly, I knew where my cup of Rooh Afza laced milk belonged. I picked it up and named her ‘Juhi’ only to realize that ‘Juhi’ was Tom and not Molly. As months passed, the cat grew bigger, greedier and angrier. Needless to say, it was a ‘wild cat’ and not a friendly kitten.  Soon the cute meows turned into loud yowls and high pitched cat fights. There were days when we shoo-ed him away, but he jumped in the ‘angan’ with lifeless birds hanging from his mouth. The more we distanced ourselves, the more dead rats and birds landed in our house. That was the end of my pet affair. Ending simultaneously with my Kumar Gaurav infatuation.

Decades passed, I got married and my son began pestering me to get a dog. “If you can’t get me a baby brother or sister, get me a dog”, he pleaded. It was always a steely ‘no’ that brooked no discussion. There is an adage that if you are forced to stay away from something as a child, it is the first thing you do as an adult. So this year my son fulfilled his dream of adopting a dog.

Sometimes it is the pet that picks you and not the other way round. My kids met an abandoned pup whose parents had died in a car accident and they chose to adopt him. Yes, very filmy and very Nirupa Roy-ish. They named him Ozzy, despite the house-help calling him Ooji, Awji and Rozy.

The first time I saw Ozzy, he was less than a month old and very sick.  He opened his doleful eyes and curled up with a mild tail wag. I think he smiled a bit with his tail. The incredible softness and the serene eyes made me pet him minus the fear of a swollen bum. My children nursed him to health by taking him to the vet for almost a month for antibiotic injections. There were days when Ozzy was just a loud mouth at one end no sense of responsibility at the other. There were days when it was like feeding a mouth that bites you (ok nibbles, he was teething). All the while, I remained a distant observer.

Today, after six months of several chewed laptop cables and plants, the little chap has brightened up the work from home aka ‘work with pressure cooker whistles’ life of my kids. Ozzy is a blessing when it comes to physical fitness, patience, unconditional love and Insta stories. When my kids arrive at home, the wagging tail is happy for the entire city of Gurgaon.

 Wait. Don’t get me wrong. This does not mean I’ve become a pet lover. I still don’t get what song the doggo sings that my kids understand. My heart continues to lurch in my throat when he jumps on me. I can’t bring myself to hold or cuddle him. I still don’t understand how wet doggo kisses make people emotional.

 And yet, I remain a distant lover. Seeing Ozzy’s picture first thing in the morning brightens my day. When my friends ask, “How is the furball story going? I say, “Thoda sa pyaar hua hai, thoda hai baaki.”





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