I was 5 when I fell for a pup. I was 6 when I thought of getting one. I was 7 when I requested parents to adopt one, I was politely refused. As the humble and obedient soul I was, I stayed patient for a couple of weeks. When the urge to pat and feed the puppy couldn’t stay within, I dragged my cute and sulky face back to them. “Are you sure you definitely don’t want a pup? Please re-think, I really really want one and I promise that this would be my last wish on earth”. Guess what? I got a hug instead. Hug and still no pup, bleh!
The school re-opened after the summer break and so did my gate to gossip. A friend from the group came running over-enthusiastically as her father gifted her a Labrador Retriever and that was the best thing to happen to her, she exclaimed! It irked me no end. I was fuming. I looked down and murmured, “I’m amazed! Really? Wrong address? Why? She didn’t even want one, then how come? Now, let me do the thinking and please do not interfere”. The conversation with God lasted about 10 mins. My mind started working overtime and was overloaded with plans of my own. Putting a happy face across, I couldn’t help but think about the skinny and unbothered black dog which roamed day and night in my lane. People from the society would often feed him milk and bread. He would pee on the electricity poles as if that was its birthright (which in a way was). He would bark non-stop at trespassers but would wag its tail without fail whenever I waved at him. There was undoubtedly a connect.
The same afternoon I took ‘skinny‘ home and trust me, to confront my mother was not the easiest of the things. Instead of pushing the door myself, that day I rang the bell hoping to see some unexpected guests. As the fate would have, never happened. My mother, who could stay calm even if there was a fire in her room, reacted when came out.
What happened? – nothing (stepped in).
Do you want to feed him? – no (put the bag down).
Is the dog thirsty? – no (patting the dog).
Do you want to bathe him? – no-no-no-no-no, Ma, its mine. Skinny will stay with us now.
Who skinny? – the dog, this dog, here (and kept stroking it).
She became quiet.
My mother waited for my father to return from the office. Now, the kind of person that he is, he agreeably joined my gang and forgot for a few minutes that the mother had him on a secret mission. They now looked pretty cool with the pup idea and I couldn’t be any happier.
Two days later, I was told to give away Skinny to my cousins. I was shattered. I felt this unimaginable pain deep inside me which I thought no body could understand.
My father sat me down the same evening. My tears won’t stop. he said he was sorry.
He asked how I felt? – very bad (still weeping).
Can I get you something to make you feel better? – nothing.
Can you think of anything which can replace Skinny? – none.
This really is hurting, yeah? – yes (wiping the tears).
So you miss it really badly, huh? – I do.
Can we get you another dog? – no, I only want Skinny, just Skinny, can you get him back?
I can but I don’t want to, because I would like you to meet a couple of new friends tomorrow morning. But I already have friends, I want my pup. Darling, I wish I could, but I really want you to meet those new friends. Papa is requesting you for this small favor. I’ll get really happy if you agree. If you want Skinny to be extremely happy and very healthy, please stop crying and wait for the morning. I agreed. He slept with me that night.
The following morning, my father was already up when I woke up. He held my hand and walked me out the first thing.
Meet your new friends he said. – I don’t see anyone here (hoping for Skinny to show up).
Really? – yes, can you?
Yes, I can see 9 friends. – but I can only see 9 pots.
And? – and plants, buds, flowers, leaves, rain drops.
Sweetie, go ahead and say hi to your new friends, please. These small little plants in the pots are your new buddies for life. They have promised me to be with you forever. They will never say bye to you. They will follow you wherever you go. You will never have to give them away to your cousins or anybody. They will never hurt you back even if you hurt them by mistake. Yes, they are your partners for life. They are the best gift I can ever give you, the most precious ones. You will always feel safe with them even if papa is not around. They will be your protectors. They are yours. You will share your life with them. Your stories, dreams, aspirations, sorrows, anything. They love music just like you do and people say they grow faster if they have music around them. And you know what the best part is, they have this superpower to make you smile, all the time. The conviction in his eyes was unbelievable. I locked his words in my heart and followed his directions. As I took a step closer, one of them waved at me, the leaves smiled, the flowers turned at me and asked me to hug, the other started dancing with sheer joy, I was elated! They were ready to enter my home and my life. My partners for life, my buddies for life. And they still are. They always will be.
After a couple of years, I eventually understood why Skinny was taken away from me. My parents knew me well, they had a feeling that I will never be able to get through a situation where I had to say bye to my pet. If I could bond with non living things so intensely and get emotionally attached to them, I guess they had a fair idea about how I could feel about a living being (I had done some unusual things earlier, so!). I don’t mean that plants have no life, they absolutely do, just like us. I have cried a couple of times when I have lost one. Even when someone has pluck the leaves or tore off the petal just for fun. My strength goes some levels down when I see them getting hurt. To the point that I myself have never plucked one, I pick up what I get from the soil. But the charm is that you save a seed and grow another one, you can buy an identical one from the market whenever you want. You can keep the same type or as many as you want. They come, they somehow just manage to come to you. They call for you. They find you no matter where in the world are you. You get signs, just like when you are in love. While walking, while driving, while talking to someone, at a friend’s place, on FaceBook, on TV, reading a book, it happens. When it now comes to pets, there is an invisible wall which stops me from getting too close to any animal or bird. It can be tormenting if I had to stay away from one of my own. Any pet lover can vouch for it. For instance, an extremely close friend of mine, who loves her dog to death and has almost mothered him (I will kill myself before calling him ‘it’, see that’s the effect I’m talking here and guess what? I’ve never had a chance to meet him, and yet the emotional connection) got a little disturbed when I asked her about her dog’s age. And I again felt miserable.
In retrospect, the answer to all the questions my father asked me after we handed over Skinny to my cousins, is Yes! How beautiful is that?
In fact I thought of introducing all of you to my current buddies. Ready? Here you go.
Ms. Orange Hibiscus, from my living room balcony.
Ms. Yellow Hibiscus, from my living room balcony.
Ms. Orange-Red Periwinkle, from my living room balcony.
Ms. White Jasmine, from my bedroom balcony.
Ms. Red Hibiscus, from my bedroom balcony.
When I shifted my base to Mumbai after marriage, my first buy were two indoor palm plants. I still remember entering my husband’s bachelor pad and being happy in a way as I had a lot of space for my buddies. I couldn’t care less about the kitchen or grocery or furniture or plumbing. My palms gave me oxygen and that’s all I needed and wanted. I feel claustrophobic if I don’t see them around. I talk to them, sing to them, sing with them, share everything with them even today. Give them a chance if you haven’t already.
It’s 4am and my gardener will ring the door bell in exactly 7 hours. His appointment was never planned and it’s completely coincidental that he’s coming for service the same day as this post. I’ll say it again, the connection!
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