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by Kiran Jhamb
(Nagpur, Maharashtra, India)

It was still early morning - sevenish. The traffic noise and dust had yet to establish their kingdom for the day. The air was relatively fresh; the sun was just giving light - no heat. It was pleasant. I came out of our building to go to my place of work. Three or four children were already standing there waiting for their autos to go to their schools. My son was also among them.

An almost hysterical child’s wailing drew my attention. It was a sight worth seeing. A little puppy drawn by this group of children had come to enquire. One little girl had taken fright and was running about as if the very devil was at her heel! It was a truly comic scene. The girl’s fear was absolutely out of proportion to the size of the small puppy. We all tried to quieten her. Her auto driver, who had by then arrived, picked up the puppy and deposited it some distance away and installed the girl in the auto and drove away. Now the puppy came to say ‘hello’ to my son and me. It was yapping its head off, wagging its tail, gamboling. It seemed very happy - the morning, the fresh air had made it drunk with happiness. The sheer animal high spirits - it was so full of life - it brought a smile to my lips. To be alive! To be young! And look at us humans - so full of worries - having almost forgotten the pleasure of being alive.

The mother in me thought of using this occasion to help my son overcome the fear he, too, shows of dogs. I pointed out that the puppy was in a playful mood and each of his barks meant, “Play with me, play with me”. I threw a stone. The puppy ran in that direction and then came back looking at me expectantly. My son’s auto came and I waved him off.

The puppy had attached
itself to me, sniffing my feet, looking soulfully at me and all the time letting out its baby barks (read baby talk). It tried to follow me. I didn’t want it to follow me because its mother must be in the vicinity somewhere, and I thought like a human will look for it. I stamped my foot to frighten it away from the road.

I crossed the road and was on my way. The young of each species is lovely to look at, it brings out one’s protective instinct as well. At that moment for the first time, I truly appreciated why Chaucer had described one of his characters (I forget whom) as ‘frisking like a young donkey’ in his Canterbury Tales. At the time I had read the comparison, years ago I was not much impressed. Perhaps maturity brings a mellowing when you realize each creature has a right to inhabit its rightful place on the earth.

Suddenly a dirty street dog happened to come before me. I almost stopped in my tracks when the realist in me pointed out, “Look this is what that lovely puppy is going to turn into." I was disgusted by the dog and by the idea but acknowledged the probability.

At night, while dining my son talked about the incident of the puppy to his sister and father. “Ma, what was the puppy saying? ‘Play with me, play with me!’ Wasn’t it? Let us hope it comes tomorrow morning also.” My husband said that it would not come the next day because he too had been watching us from the balcony of our flat and hardly had we turned the corner of the street when a speeding truck had crushed the puppy that was still merrily running here and there, too young to be street/road-smart.

What conclusion would you like to draw from this incident? I leave that to you - that life is transient? Happiness is fleeting? Or that truck drivers are callous and a menace?

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