To be adopted by a canine! What a lovely thing it was. Many years after the hoity-toity Madame Pussaa had adopted us and departed from our lives (sad story, don’t want to go into it just now!), we were adopted by a canine from the street.
There were always a group of them hanging around in the street – self-appointed sentinels who warned us that someone who was not familiar to them, was afoot on the streets. They would howl and bark.
Among these was a female dog, un-named, who had a litter of four or five. One survived.
Street dogs were called (summoned) with, “k’ro-k’ro-k’ro” … And no matter who called, they would ALL respond, expecting to be fed. This survivor puppy was a boisterous fellow, as most puppies are.
I was witness to another phenomenon in all this. The evolution of a proper noun. K’ro was a generic name for street dogs. The female doggie and one of her surviving progeny (a boy) started hanging out at our house – there was shelter to be had underthe outside staircase. Amma used to feed both mother and son. Mother died in a tragic vehicular accident. The son lived with us. He never entered our house, staying under the staircase or chillaxing on the front doorstep. Gradually, he got his own name. The common noun K’ro became Kiraa, his name, in less than a year.
Somewhere in the archives, there used to be the only picture of Kiraa with my nephew holding on to his (Kiraa’s) ear. And Kiraa portraying considerable tolerance of his ear being bent (literally).
Kiraa was our pet and yet he was also a street dog. I would get on my bike to go somewhere, and he would follow me to the end of the street and then turn back. Then, Brother # 2 (B2) got married. Sister-in-law worked at a factory where employees were given a delicious V B Bakery bun with raisins in it. Every day. She used to bring it home and give it to me because I liked eating it. One day, she shared it with Kiraa on her way. Soon, Kiraa would sit at the corner of the street waiting for her at the exact time of her arrival and walk behind her, silently expecting a bun. Poor S-i-l had to resort to inveigling another bun from a colleague to feed both dog and me!
He would sleep on the stone step in front of the house. B1 would bring his bicycle and find Kiraa directly in the path. “Hey, Dattaatreya, get up and move!”, he’d say, and Kiraa would promptly move.
Sometime in the 1980s, Kiraa died of some unspecified causes. That is to say, I don’t know the cause of his death. Alas.
Kiraa had become a part of our lives. A portion of any left-over, non-pungent food was given to Kiraa. There were quite a few households in the street that he could rely on for his daily buffets.
Whenever I got on a bicycle or went walking, he would follow me to the end of the road and then get back to his program.
He was the closest I ever got to having a pet dog. I still remember him very vividly. I don’t recall ever seeing him angry or aggressive with anyone.
Appa had a very wicked sense of humor. The rear-most room of the house we lived in was pompously called the “lumber room.” How this came about, I cannot remember. That is where we kept the two bicycles and one Suvega moped. This left very little passage way to the rear door.
Karmayogi Mangamma wanted a space to sleep and she asked if she could sleep in that narrow passage near the rear door in the Lumber Room. Appa and amma readily agreed. And so it came to pass that that was Mangamma’s śayana-grha.
Amma had this overwhelming fear that the last of the progeny coming into the house at night would not have bolted the doors properly. Around midnight, she would, very QUIETLY, check the bolts on the front door and then go to check the back door. At the back door she had to make do with turning the light on and squinting at the bolts because mangamma was in the way. There was not an inch to spare on either side of her.
Whenever I woke up during this vigilance manoeuvres, I would clear my throat loudly, just to irritate amma. Standard response from her, “Hey! Why are you neighing like a horse? Shut up and go back to sleep!”
Appa had a more wicked way of teasing her. “Look here”, he’d say, “There is no danger of any burglar coming in through the back door. If he does come in, in the darkness, he won’t see Mangamma. He will step on her, trip and fall down. In her alarm, she will bite his ankle. Since she has never brushed her teeth, he will instantly die of poisoning. Once it is daylight, we can call the police and have the body cleared.”
Despite herself, amma would giggle at this picture. Appa would further re-assure her, “Even IF the burglar is able to make it past Mangamma, he will take a look around, feel sorry for us, leave ten rupees and go away quietly.”
Mind you, none of this ever stopped amma from fretting about the bolts of the doors.
Upstairs, on the 1st floor lived a family. During the years we shared the building, I witnessed the many, many travails they went through. I suddenly remembered them, actually the lady of the household, Smt Radha Bai, because I just cracked free a slight crick in my neck.
Smt Radha Bai’s life was, to all appearances, just one long litany of woes. Economic woes among them. She had a special knack that was much in demand and word of her talent spread by word of mouth, the best advertisement there could be.
If you had a sprain anywhere, you went to her and asked for her help. She would ask you where the sprain was, if it wasn’t obvious. You showed her. She would go into her kitchen, come out with a teaspoon or so of ordinary cooking oil and gently, very gently massage the location of the sprain. Always gentle, always up to down, always away from the body. You would rarely feel anything more than a minor, temporary pain while she massaged it. Then, she would take an iron key – it had to be made of iron, for some reason – or spatula or some such and just barely touching the sprain point, and again up to down, and away from the body. All the while, she would mumble some mantra or the other inaudibly; you could see her lips move. This whole process never took more than three or four minutes.
What’s the magic number?
Three, of course.
Three courses of this treatment and you would be good as new.
With all the woes that weighed her down, she never took a single paisa for providing this service. “God has given me this ability to do what I can for other people. No taking anything for it.”
For this, I always remember her.