Our ancestral home was also the residence of a dog, a cat and some pigeons apart from our pet parrot Mitthu.
The dog was very fond of the buffaloes and hence he was found mostly sitting beside them during day and outside their shed (byre/ outhouse) in night. Having a canine near cattle was also assuring to grandmother that no harmful animal or visiting snake would cause any trouble to our two buffaloes and a cow.
Moti, that’s what his name was, mostly was obedient except for the time he used to ply his wit to surprise the cat which was another self-invited member of the family. She liked to sit under guava tree or on the attic in veranda if not in the North-Western room of the house which served as kitchen and storage for food and grains, milk and other supplies.
The cat was afraid of Moti but knew no fear other than that. She knew that inside the house she was invincible for Moti never would cross the door to come inside house and people would only mock to shoo her away most of the time, so she would pounce in her own way annoying ladies of the house. They would shush her and she will not blink an eye; they will throw broom or other handy things to scare her and she will jump from one place to sit at another. She didn’t fear anything until someone chases her away practically.
Moti didn’t like the cat at all due to their natural rivalry and mostly due to the fact that she could help herself with whatever she wanted to eat from home while Moti was dependent on us. So he wouldn’t leave any chance to chase her down to the veranda’s threshold until latter jumps inside house and disappeared. Moti never crossed that threshold to go inside to continue the race. He would stand there for minutes and then lick his ears and legs and shake careless flies from the body and start jump-walking towards the courtyard like he was the king of the palace prodding the red carpet. We didn’t mind him being around and in return of his voluntary service we would give him food thrice a day. He gradually became a non-announced pet.
He was a white stray dog who started coming to us while he was only a pup and we fed him out of sympathy and for our own amusement of watching a ‘tiny’ dog eat meticulously and admire his little movements of paws, jaws and eyes when he ate or played with the food. Sometimes he would sit straight and eat calmly and some others he liked to drag the chapati to the shade of Momjhilli tree and tear it to bits before eating some of it and wasting most part. It was my aunt who named him Moti. He had black patch towards the lower-back portion of his body and also on his tail.
Moti eventually grew into not-so-attractive street dog and ran away from the comfort of homemade food and jute-bag sleeping place to adventures of jungle nearby and fields towards the northern side of the village. Probably he went busy into marking territory for I had heard every dog has to mark one’s, once they are adults. Moti stayed ‘abroad’ for quite a sometime until one-day grandfather found him scratching his ear violently near our tube-well beside fodder’s field.
Grandfather was a man of golden heart. He brought him home and sat down on a Machiya (a small cot like furniture made of wood and woven with jute-made-threads) beside Moti and plucked away bugs from his ears. Then he gave him cooked rice and roti to eat. Probably this was the moment that turned Moti away from everything else earthly and he followed grandfather like an obedient child from that day till the day he died.
One very peculiar incident happened one of those days which sow a seed deep into my heart – of the sensitivity towards animals. This probably is my inheritance too which has passed from grandfather to dad and from him to me. We love animals no matter how dirty, bugged or crippled one is. We found peace in helping them overcome their problems and inconveniences.
However good I am at sensing their feelings now, on that one fateful day I did something very terrible that shook me to core.
During the season of winters, we were playing outside the cattle’s byre beside the Bel tree, when our uncle called us children to help him pick twigs and wood for fire and other sundries we used them for. We were most enthusiastic to go into woods as it was adventurous there, at least during the day time. We have heard scary stories about night behind those tree lines, inside the mango, black plum, blackberry and bamboo ridden forest but day time was fun as we used to go with elders to pick Mangoes, BlackBerrys, Black Plum, Mahua, Karvan, Amla, Imli, Chilbil and herbs. I went to the place where everyone was picking twigs and freshly chopped firewood but instead of picking the same I found myself picking Badhar and Kaitha. Both as delicious inside as bad they looked from outside. While other picked the wood I picked those wild fruits and along with that a long chopped out stick-thin part of a young bamboo tree was also discovered by me. It was green, fleshy and tender enough to be bend in arcs – a perfect material to make a bow. So I made one. Next all I needed was an arrow and I could hunt everything down inside that jungle in front of our home. I found a very arrow-looking material – a thin stick in the husk of the wheat. Practice began and I was compared with great people in no time. Proud and conscious of the recognition I roamed and strolled in and around house showcasing my talent with bow and arrow.
This could have ended here but a strong desire to do something mischievous took me outside the veranda and I, in anticipation of shooting arrow near the Mitthu’s cage and scare him, took aim of beside standing Moti’s left eye from a distance of several feet and swoosh! Arrow hit Moti’s left eye. He ran madly agonized and bewildered. I was scolded and my bow and arrow were brought down to pieces in no time but I was not thinking about them but Moti.
People looked at me with a strange looks and mostly remain devoid of any emotions for days until one evening Moti showed up again with one black and other light greyish eye – the left one. I felt something twisting inside my heart and it seemed some veins gave up; limbs didn’t seem to move and a feeling blocked my throat with a big ball of tears. I know now, it was guilt mixed with pity. I had learnt my lesson with someone else paying a heavy price for it. Moti grew less cheerful than earlier and would rather sleep than chasing the cat or playing around livestock. His grief sowed the seeds of sensitivity towards animals deep in my heart which I carry to this date and are an indifferent part of my life and practices.
Moti stayed with us for many years after I left our ancestral home. He died in a summer due to an incurable disease, away from our home, from all of us. In the jungle, below a blackberry tree.