Although it is not World Animals Day, I wish to commemorate this otherwise boring day to the various animals that I have shared my life, love, bites, balloons and brother with...we moved into the University quarters in December 1985 and the 20th anniversary of this occasion deserves a commemorative post – here’s to all the other species who shared L4 staff quarters with us!
DAAG #1 - Lucky
We called him Lucky because our auto almost ran over him in Madurai but didn’t. Dad immediately picked him up and we took him home. My brother and Lucky grew up together-it was damn cute to see both of them-running around, curled up in bed, sharing biscuits. Although only a mongrel, Lucky grew up to be a partner in entertainment - some games that us evil boys played were to pin a hairpin on the tail and watch him go round and round.... another was to put a rubber band around his ears and confuse him- that an evil spirit was holding back his years.... Lucky was quite tolerant of all this and never bit any of us...The University quarters was ideal for him - long winding paths with trees, peacocks and every other thingamajig - it was a miracle that Lucky didnt get bitten by a scorpion or a snake during those early years - given that the area was called Nagamalai - every other stone concealed a scorpion and there were hajaar snakes all around. All of us shared and survived brawls, beatings and bones. Lucky grew old and died and is now buried under the biggest of the 5 mango trees around our house. A lot more interesting thigs happened but somehow my memory clouds over -a discussion with bro and mum should set things right.
DAAG#2 - Brownie
Not very imaginatively named but then that was Brownie for you- she had such a sleek brown coat that we couldnt have named her anything else...Brownie was another paavam mongrel brought in by my paavam younger brother. Brownie was a she and was a very loving she....Dad had this thing about discipline - every puppy that entered L4 Staff quarters was taught the importance of discipline from a very early age. And how - beatings without mercy until a tired, exhausted all pissed out Brownie finally extended a paw to SHAKE HANDS. But despite all this, Brownie was a free spirit - every now and then, she would slip her collar and roam around the quarters with us boys chasing us down on cycles and Dad on his Chetak, finally cornering her around some thorny bush...after various curses and screams, Brownie would get thoroughly beaten up and spoken to about the value of DISCIPLINE. Often at night, some of Brownie's suitors would vist her and we would spot them kissing her through the wire fence - Dad took this as seriously as he would someone trying to make out with his daughter and would carefully aim and shoot at the Roadside Romeo Gang with his airgun...not that it hurt them too much-what can 5mm soft lead pellets do against raging hormones...not that it kept them away...one of Brownies dalliances resulted in 4 pups...each one totally different!
Thus were Michael Jackson & Doberman born. It was a bit too difficult to keep up wth 3 dogs esp for a working woman like mom, considering that Dad was going to be on ship 8-9 months of the year. So after about 3 months, Dad as usual took the tough decision (and absolved us of guilt and further caretaking responsibility) of leaving Brownie so that we could take proper care of the pups. I still remember the day we went to leave Brownie about 12 km away from home...she totally trusted us and I was holding her in the backseat of the scooter. Finally we dropped her off and Dad accelerated away...man, did she run....like some greyhound or stallion with ears straightened out, she ran full speed behind us for about 3 kms and finally dropped off...then in the distance, she slowed down ...my eyes were flowing, so everything still seems blurred. Even now.
DAAGS#3/4 - Michael Jackson/ Doberman:
Michael Jackson - Named because he was black and white and also because I thought naming him Michael Jackson was one way to get the better of a singer I never could understand in those days.
Doberman - because if we couldnt buy a pedigree dog, atleast we could name a mongrel that.
Grew up under the same disciplinary clouds and learnt to shake hands at the tender age of 3 months. Although mostly embarrassing, being the only owner of scooter+sidecar had its rare plus points - unlimited no of dogs/ kids/ general mish mash could be bundled together into one shakily cohesive riding mass and put into loud motion. Michael Jackson and Doberman loved fitting into the sidecar and during vacations 3 shouting boys, 1 screaming girl and 2 funny looking dogs could be seen screeching up and down the quiet roads of the University campus.
Dad being very fond of seafood bought lots of crabs and prawns and insisted that MJ & Doberman be fed the vitalizing leftovers - unfortunately MJ developed some infection after eating crab shells and died soon after- he was around 4 years.
Doberman barked on for another year until Dad returned from ship and decided that me and bro should start contributing to the family by starting a rabbit business - and although we strongly insisted that Doberman was gentle enough, Dad somehow felt that she would be a danger to the rabbits - She was Dad's favourite and he still did that- a tough man, my Dad. Amidst many protests and cries, Doberman was taken to be abandoned under the pretext that she was big enough to manage for herself. This time around, I remember refusing to go along and do the abandon act.
Sometime while we were chasing around Doberman & MJ, some squirrels decided to make their home in various lofts in our rooms - given that we lived (and still do) at the base of a hill, there were many trees all around the house - so squirrels had free access to various rooms. It was thus that we found lots and lots of squirrel nests every time we climbed into the lofts/ upper shelves. One nice summer afternoon we heard a thump and lots of squeals - rushing into the hall, we found a fallen squirrel nest. Put together with bits of cloth, coconut fibre and bits of sofa sponge, it seemed like the softest bed in the world. Inside were 3 pink baby squirrels-their eyes weren’t even open yet and they looked miserably unhealthy. Mom, in her usual hustle bustle manner, quickly arranged a shoebox with holes (my mom firmly believes that all living things require a "well ventilated room" to live in). Initially they refused to do anything except squeal a lot...we realized that two of the squirrels were male and one was female...It became quite embarrassing when the female of the species in her hungry quest chanced upon the male organ and started sucking it...ugh, we thought and tried to keep them away from each other - but no one could put up with their high pitched squealing when separated, so we had to ...er...unite them again...as was expected, the boy didn’t survive the onslaught of Evil Eve and died shortly. A week later despite a different diet of milk etc, the female also died - we gave them proper Christian burials with plastic shrouds, deep graves and sufficient mumbo jumbo prayers...am sure there’s a moral in there somewhere ;-) By this time, we had found out that we could feed them by wetting the edge of a wispy cotton saree in milk. Later we graduated to filling up ink feeders with milk. However with two down and one to go, we decided to name the survivor - and we named him Anil Kapur (Anil is the Tamil word for squirrel). Anil Kapur became a stud in the house! Despite various innovative feeding technologies and wildcats around the house, he survived and graduated to idlies, cream cakes and almonds. Imagine a squirrel walking around on tiptoes- for the 1st 4 months, thats how Anil Kapur walked around...on his tiny tiptoes. A severely friendly character, he was extremely portable - fitting into caps, pockets and cloth bags...for quite some time, he was the resident alarm clock - mum, when she wanted us up at 7am, unleashed him and he gradually explored our ears, nibbled at our necks, ran across our backs until we woke up...sometimes when there was a loud noise, he rushed into our palms and cradled their - small heart beating very fast and later slowly peeked out to check if the world was safer yet. Anil Kapur gradually grew up into a full fledged hero and started exploring the wilds behind our house- he occasionally came back for idlis and chocolate, but was last seen flirting with a demure female squirrel in the green dales at the edge of our universe.
FURTHER UPDATES OVER THE WEEKEND ON...
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