Word of caution: Don't go all moralistic. This is a coming out diary
I must have been all of three or something when I started to come out of the closet. During my grandmother and my ritualistic evening prayers, when she would often urge me, "Parul, ask God to give you a brother/sister (I was and am the only, not very pampered child, of my parents. Why? I will tell you in my subsequent blogs), I shut my eyes, put my hands together and blurted, 'God, give me a doggy'. Horror, amazement and many drawing room stories followed.
And despite her repeated attempts to get me to ask God for a sibling, I would only eventually end up asking for a dog, or sometimes (after a marathon of Tom & Jerry cartoons), for a cat. She gave up.
With no one to call my own yet, I would run and rush to any I would see - on the road and friends' homes. The army langar (the place where the jawans have food) and which was a hangout of the dogs in Dalhousie (a beautiful, very cold hill station in Himachal Pradesh my father was posted in), would be my favourite spot in the cantonment. Often, people would line up outside his office to complain my feeding and petting the 'rastawalle' dogs. He being the jolly good fellow, who was 'live and let live' itself, would ignore.
And all the while the daughter would be thinking of ways to have more and more animals in her life. Dalhousie, some 20 and more years back, had dense forests and people were discouraged from venturing out of their homes for fear of cheetah and bear attacks (that were very common).
My fascination with animals being so. While the other children would be busy with games of their own, I would sit and listen to the "attack" stories being discussed by the uncles and aunties in the army parties for hours. Only because I would get to hear of the bear and the cheetah. And would only break down in parts where some officer's dog was taken by the cheetah. The army doctor posted there (a very sought after bachelor then and a great family friend and very much married now) became a favourite of mine. For his constant standing up for the animals. "But why do people come out of their houses so late when they have been warned? Where will these guys (guys being the animals go?" I would often her him say. Considering he was sewing up most people who were attacked by the bears, he was a person after my heart. I felt a certain fellowship with him.
And any home getting a new pet was sure to get a visit by me. All of six, in my little frocks and boots, I would gear up to welcome the doggie. Tagging along would be an orderly carrying a basket full of dog goodies and my baby sweaters that my mother would prepare. And when it was time for the family to move on to another place, I would sit in their home for hours, never exchanging even a few nicetites with them, but holding onto the pup, like my life would end without it.
I think it was then that my parents realised that I was a bit of an anomaly. Though, my mother "was worse", says my aunt.
Next: How I got "my first" pet and then my parents stopped pampering me.
Keep it to a five-part series
From HT Brunch, April 29
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