The best thing that happened in the year 2012 was the arrival of Kishmish in our lives. Since then, as the saying goes life has never been the same again. Kishmish is now eight and a half months old and like all Labradors wants nothing more from life than eat, bathe, sleep and make merry. Satish, the trainer, finds her unmanageable though he does not say so in so many words. “Madamji, yeh bahut jaldi thak jaati hai” is all that which comes as a polite feed-back. No, she is not lazy or under-nourished. Plain naughty and disobedient, she is just not into discipline or training. Ugghhh! That’s too boring. Give me a free hand to make mischief and play pranks and I am game for it anytime.
We have always had pets except a certain phase of life when having one was considered a luxury. Kishmish’s predecessor Mr. Snow Boot was a pure Desi whom my nephew had picked up from Nature’s kennel – the first Indian stray mongrel that we ever sheltered, inspired by Maneka Gandhi and my B-I-L’s firm belief that the homeless should be supported. Snow grew up into a temperamental, anxiety prone, eternally-suspicious-of-strangers, ill-tempered yet adorable hulk of a brat on whom we showered our love unconditionally. He too loved us in his own way. Peculiarly house bound he hated loitering outside. According to our vet, Snow’s strange ways and unfriendly nature rooted to his early infancy whence he might not have been treated well by his vagabond counterparts. Snow left us all of a sudden (at the age of ten) in May 2011 as I slithered into the throes of depression after nursing him night and day for a week or so in vain. A year later, my sister, in one of her whimsical moods, brought Kishmish home to get back the laughter in my eyes. One may ask why wait a whole year long! Well that was to pay respect to Snow’s memories. We still remember him fondly and I often rebuke Kishmish giving Snow’s examples of what a stickler for time and self-disciplined he was. Needless to say, all these priceless preaching fall on deaf ears.
Kishmish’s official name, that is the one on her Vet Card, is Rinky. It’s her raisin-like eyes which got her the name Kishmish. But each one in the family has a name for her of their respective choice. My youngest nephew calls her Phoebe. B-I-L wanted to name her Lara Croft but we have somehow managed to dissuade him from doing so. Maa sometimes lovingly calls her Julie (Junior) after the female Dachshund that she brought up a good five decades back. But the best one that describes her is Ms. Marley. Take a cue from that classic “Marley & Me” and you know why. Going by the books, Labradors are the gentlest of breeds and the best for small as well as large families especially with children. However, lack of exercise tends to bore them and boredom leads to plain destructiveness. So, regular walks are a must.
Snow had very unusual timings for walks – between four and five in the wee hours of morn. For Kishmish any time is outing time. Habits die hard. And five in the morning, therefore, seems the naturally right time to me for a stroll and am trying hard to rub that on Kishmish.
A service lane runs along side the block with premeditated twists and turns. At five it is free of human footfalls, but way back home, the rituals of the day initiated with all its mundane regularity, are glimpsed without fail.These desultory walks have become special because they have made me aware of little-little things which I would not have bothered to notice had I been left to myself. As Kishmish sniffs the life out of dusts and debris, fallen leaves and broken twigs take on a new meaning. The ordinary assumes the forms of extra ordinary and finding astonishing secrets in sights, hitherto overlooked, a great adventure beyond compare. I have got back into my childhood pass-time of standing and staring, the left-overs of life attractive to attention and dirty residuals a world of mystery which my friend loves to scrabble through while I gaze on endlessly. The other day we found a well-sized square-ish rock with jagged edges tightly wrapped in a torn, once-upon-a-time-white-now-a-dirty-grey gunjee. Now who would think of doing that? It made me wonder…The innumerable holes in the discarded baniyaan a peek into a past which could have had its own reasons and mysteries but now lost in time lies unnoticed by a curved pavement hidden from prying eyes.
The lane takes a turn by a tree with thick foliage stooping low on the face of the Earth. A shady nook where we sit for a while as Kishmish robustly investigates the grounds. The road passing by is a busy one and never bereft of traffic whatever time of the day it be. I let the world whizz by counting moments of sudden peace and silence so rare in the crazy fare of scurrying feet and never ending chores. It’s our kind of ‘slowing down’ not bothered whether it’s too late or a waste to sit by aimlessly. Aimlessness, an invaluable preoccupation, if only be allowed or accommodated in the fast-scrolling sequences of other more important and pressing urgencies!!!Just a few feet ahead is the unremarkable shop of a chaiwallah who does “Ram-Ram” to me and I greet him in return. Our day is never complete without meeting and greeting each other. It’s a simple stall standing erect on two bamboos holding a shade of dried leaves, discarded jute sheets, tears off used yards of tarpauline callously thrown upon each other with two longish, rectangular wooden slabs on a few flat stones for seats on either side. The wall against which the chaiwallah reclines in-between making and serving tea belongs to an MCD school. It is in there that all the menial labourers of the Corporation fill in their attendance before moving on for their respective duties. In the early winters, I see them relishing a cup each of steaming tea with some suji biscuits or matthis before dispersing for work.
It is here that one day I found a strange visitor sitting a few feet away from the stall – a disheveled figure in tattered clothes – tangled hair, dark skinned, uncared visage, worn and bare feet. She had made a small fire of twigs and leaves, probably way back into the night, now almost spent and thus inadequate, around which she squatted. The mercury had dipped to a record low. The woman curled up to the dying embers in a vain bid to keep herself warm. Nobody spoke to her neither she, in turn, would or could speak to anyone and only replied in nods or just remained silent when a group of female labourers passing by stopped and asked her something. One of them opened her batua (purse) and handed some change to the chaiwallah telling him to give her a cup of tea with some matthis. The chaiwallah nodded assent and got busy with the preparations. The group passed by chatting. They were all road sweepers with hearts of gold! They showed the sort of kindness which well-to-dos seldom showed. Why did I not think of what they promptly did – a gesture of empathy? I didn’t carry money was a lame excuse. It did not click me to do something for her was unpardonable. Marooned in the islands of our own making, perhaps, as we move ahead in life that is what we leave behind foremost – fellow feeling.
My regular walks have made me a known face to these menial workers. Some of them smile at me or pat Kishmish before walking on with their trundling trawlers. Some just take us for granted. Kishmish always shows great interest in these trawlies and who knows one day she may get a joy ride in one of them. In our silent march into dawn the chaiwallah and his punctual clients are oases of populace lending a down-to-earth comfort and value to life which my neon-lit cabin and white-collar job fail to do. The simplicity of existence suffuses me with a feeling of oneness, warmth and security and something to behold with a sense of endorsement! My sympathy to hard hands-on labour as an assertion of life is antipathetic to my present profession. Someday I must try out past life regression to find out the answer why?
Bittoo and Brown, oh yes, they are real, follow us at a respectful pace and distance. Brown, herself a possessive mother of half a dozen puppies, has taken to caring and being protective towards Kishmish on her own, which is as much heart-warming as gratitude invoking, especially, when the wayward brutes make it a point to intimidate her. Brown has a knack of hunting for rodents scooping out tunnels in the soft soil beds lining the paved streets while we take rest after the walk. Earlier, we had made the park, adjacent to my flat, our jogging joint. But B & B and their growing pack of broods have messed the place all up and turned it into a dump yard. The reason why we have declined their hospitality and taken to the roads instead.
On our way, we do meet a few peevish walkers like this one who are yet to make friends with Kishmish. But I am still hopeful . Lately, the chaiwallah has adopted a bitch who is not too happy to find Kishmish around. She is in the family way so we have graciously excused her snappish ways and mood swings.
And then there is Iaago, the handsome dude of the block, a healthy hunk of a golden Labrador, who shows definite curiosity to “know” Kishmish more, an inclination observable by the way he interestedly sniffs Kishmish long and hard while his master tugs at his body belt with an embarrassed “Ab bas! Bas kar yaar!” The silent Sardarjee with his indifferent Pomeranian who refuses to react to Kishmish’s “who are you” barks except once when he snubbed her off with an irritated ‘Wuff”! Bruzo, the macho Lab, walks with a swagger. As a matter of fact, the master and the beast both pound the earth with similar gait and exude an unmistakable air of chauvinistic impatience!! The two have crossed our path once or twice. Kishmish finds Bruzo the Beast a bit overbearing which provokes contemptuous grunts like,” Oh! Yeh to darti hai!” and other such similar lines of haughty scoff and shrug! Master, I muse, give some time and see who fears whom. The treatise will not be complete if I not tell you all about the stoic sage who graces our neighbourhood – the saintly Tyson, a grizzly bear of a black Lab, who endures Kishmish’s overwhelming onslaughts with unwavering equanimity and a forgivingness of a higher order which can put humans to shame. His handler quips, “Yeh to sant hai. Kisise kuchh nahin kahta.” But I am quite sure the veil sports a chink. The deep frown that mars his smooth forehead and the speck of gleam in those pious eyes which befalls Kishmish like the halo of a hermit and the innumerable turning arounds and looking backs while parting ways invariably reminds me of the “Palat…” scene from DDLJ!!!!:) 🙂 🙂 🙂
We are all marchers of dawn!!! And life goes on sometimes in and sometimes out of pace. But there are these few moments standing still in the whirlwind of motion and grinding haste giving us that cherished siesta which fills us with the zest and zeal to walk through the tornado with inner calm and serenity. Come walk with me for a while and see for yourself…
Postscript: A minor accident has put a stop to these walks. I am hopeful that I will be able to pick up the threads soon. Yet the post is in present tense to reinforce the treasure trove of gathered memories which remains with me like fragrance of fresh flowers, invigorating and tranquilizing at the same time, filling me up with a deep desire to recuperate fast and embrace a routine which makes life immensely more enjoyable and meaningful.
Till then…Patience !!!!! 🙂