An effort to recapitulate and share my ideas,views and thoughts in words...

It was a heavenly morning in my village; Pulappatta. As I brushed my teeth, I saw the sun rays scatter, hitting the methodically arranged rubber trees; perfectly demonstrating the Tyndall effect. I always feel myself more content in my village; free from the irritatingly boisterous city life and of course, the hectic studies. I crossed into oblivion as I mused in the nature around me. Soon, I saw grandfather gathering flowers for the morning rituals. By the time he finished plucking them, I had managed to finish bathing in the pond. Days without my mom, dad and sis have always been monotonous but nevertheless being alone with grandparents always helped me to reflect upon myself.

As I sat occupied with thoughts in the verandah, my eyes set at the gate, I saw a conspicuous red figure emerging through the lush green surroundings. I wondered if it was an oracle, but there was no jingling of bells. As the figure approached our house, his looks made me realize it was a mendicant. He didn’t seem to take notice of me as he ignored our front door and walked towards our accessory door. I moved hastily towards the mendicant, he looked straight into my eyes and exclaimed “Ah, you must be Vaisakh, son of Sasi!” I was shocked; I asked in disbelief “How do you know me?” He didn’t reply, but continued staring at me in amazement and finally offered a wide grin. He quietly settled himself in the door step. I could see him reciting holy verses under his breath. Owing to his untidy beard and mustache, the contours of his face was extremely tough to make out. I tried to recollect this person, but in vain.  Finally he asked me to fetch grandfather. I ran to the pooja room, grandfather had not finished praying.
“Some beggar is at our doors, he called out my name!”  I said frantically

It must be Appu” Grandfather replied. 

Even though I’m seeing him for the first time, I had heard about Appu, the mendicant. He had been associated with our family for generations but it has been years since he had last visited us, probably the reason why I don’t recall him. I remembered granny saying that this mendicant was particularly fond of my dad.  But I still couldn’t fathom how he recognized me, ‘may be because I resembled my father in looks’ I reflected. We soon approached the mendicant; with much effort, he stood up as a token of respect and greeted my grandfather. It’s now that I realized he was terribly old.

I’m not the same any more, I just turned 80!”
The mendicant spoke with a slight humor, embarrassed with his paroxysmal efforts to rise up. I felt sorry for him. He pulled me closer, made me sit beside him and asked me when we returned from Varanasi and as I expected, enquired about the well being of my dad. Like a baby, I replied politely to his questions. His body had a mystic odor. Though he looked as if he hadn’t bathed for months, his body smelled fresh herbs, a smell so captivating that no other deodorant could match. I enjoyed his company. As we talked; he explained to me how much he longed to go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi, which is considered to be the final destination of most yogis and mendicants. I wondered how blessed I was to spend 3 years at this city.

My grandmother soon came with a banana leaf and started serving the specially made items for the mendicant. As he ate, he shared a lot of experiences, from the various temples he had been lucky enough to visit to his own family matters. The innocence with which he spoke, the compassion and benevolence in his eyes made me wonder how men like him with divine virtues could thrive in this devilish world.

The mendicants are devotees of Lord Subramanian. On the 1st Monday of a new Malayalam month, they beg, moving from house to house collecting food grains, money and even clothes. Families having a good liaison with the mendicants, like ours would offer free meals to him. A custom known as “aandi-oottu” involves presenting the mendicants of this clan with food and valuables, prior to their pilgrimage.

I had wished to come to Varanasi when your family was there, now since you have come back, my chances of making it is very feeble” he said, I could feel a regret in his tone, which made my heart weep. Again, wrestling with his own body, he got up, placed his hand on my head and blessed me. Then he gave a handful of the holy “bhasma” to each of us and finally completed the thankful gesture by blowing the white magnificent conch.

I desperately wanted to spend more time talking to this genuine and lovable old man. But then, it was a long walk back for him and I didn’t expect him to have the luxury of being driven in a vehicle. He wished me good luck and again pressed me to convey his regards to my dad, I promised him I would and sincerely wished in my mind he would make it to Varanasi. The ailing mendicant now walked back to the lush green from where he emerged, dragging him along the way.

Today, the mendicant is just a memory, his dream of making it to the holy city, unfulfilled …

I had my first encounter with a dog at the tender age of 9, we had just arrived home after spending a weekend at our ancestral house. The desperation to join my cricketing friends made me run ablaze towards the ground, only to be chased by my neighbor’s unchained Pomeranian. It would have been a very comical scene for a spectator but only I knew the horror I was going through with the fuzzy critter going mad behind me. Lady-luck was not by my side as I tumbled after stamping on a clumsily placed stone and fell chest first. The dog dug his teeth into my knee, rest was all tears. I was also embarrassed. The thought that I would face those needle pricks made me make a meal of the situation. My friends rushed to me, drove the dog away, examined the wound and carried me home for I didn’t have the mental strength to rise up. Soon my dad and uncle took me to the district hospital and I faced the inevitable anti-rabies injections.

This Incident evoked in me an extreme sense of canine phobia, I was sick at the site of dogs, even a dog’s bark would get my heart pounding in my throat and I never dared to go to any of my friend’s houses guarded by dogs.

Years passed by and during one of our routine visits to our ancestral home, I learnt through our house-maid that my neighborhood friend, Pravi had adopted a new dog! That’s the last thing I wanted, a dog in the neighborhood would definitely restrict my freedom. I had my first look at this dog when Pravi came to showcase his pet to our family. Light tan colored common Indian puppy, I examined him closely and was not amused as he was a mediocre type, nothing special and he was a bit shy too. My dad, a big dog-lover immediately became fond of him, thanks to the dog’s looks and mannerisms. The dog was named “Tinu”.

Owing to the very sparse population in and around our area, Tinu had the luxury of being set free. Much to my horror, he even managed to find stray friends. Once Tinu started developing qualities such as loyalty, I found it very hard to co-exist with him patrolling the area just in front of our house, where I and my cousins played cricket. He was soon becoming an obnoxious little animal (at least for me). As my grand mother used to feed him, Tinu extended his loyalty and territory towards our house.

My extreme fear and anxiety to interact with Tinu made my Grand mother make an effort to get Tinu acquainted with me, and so she made the dog come close and sniff me, I was terrorized as he moved his muzzle towards my shin but after his gesture, I felt better,” maybe all dogs aren’t too bad after all” I thought. The very next day, I made a very courageous effort to visit Pravi’s house, hiding my sub-conscious phobia. I opened the gate, there was no sign of Tinu, maybe he was sleeping, I was not aware if he had a kennel, so I tip-toed on to the front door and rung the calling bell. The door opened and to my horror, Tinu leaped towards me, I didn’t have a second thought, my sympathetic system made me run as fast as I could and luckily, I succeeded in reaching home before the dog caught me.

I was shell-shocked. How on earth can a dog who behaved so nicely to me yesterday react in such a manner! Pravi came running behind the dog and asked me if I was all-right. I turned away without a reply. “Hell with the dog” I thought, my dad tried to convince me Tinu had mistaken me for someone else and unsurprisingly, defended the dog. I cursed the dog and I wanted him to be chained.

My wish was not to be granted, Tinu continued to come to our house to take his daily share of eatables, which made me sick. In fact, after the incident, he started becoming more ubiquitous. Soon with every visit, Tinu started becoming a part and parcel of our family. Even though I tried my best to keep away from him, he would cross our cricket pitch when we play or interrupt our games or chase our ball. His favorite hang-out though, was the cemented floor we had outside our kitchen as some one would be happy enough to feed him if he sat there gazing towards the kitchen. Sometime we kids used to feed him with home made crunchies or the traditional “idli” and on rare occasions, leftovers of the meat and bones.

It’s during one of my recent visits that I found Tinu walking with a she-dog. I immediately sensed love in the air; his girl-friend though, was disliked by my family as it had a very bad habit of urinating in our backyard. Soon, she gave birth to Tinu’s 3 cute little puppies.

Recently, I sensed the aging in Tinu as he was not as active as he used to be. Lethargy had crept in him and he spent most of the time lying down. Nevertheless, he was not a mellow; there was not a question about his loyalty. He protected both his master’s house and our house. He barked ferociously and scared almost any stranger who would pass by, be it a post man or the common vagabonds.

Few months back, I went to my village alone to meet my grand parents, I spend a couple of days and had good time out but some thing was missing, some strange feeling of evanescence, I ignored it as I thought maybe it was because my parents were not there. Just prior to my departure, when I was tying my shoe laces I asked grand mother, “Where is Tinu? I didn’t see him this time around” almost instantaneously she replied with a long face “I actually hid from you as you may get sad, Tinu is no more, the dog catchers took him away” I felt so hollow, "so, that was the strange missing in the air" i thought. His face flashed across my mind, It was then I realized I had an attachment towards him, in fact we were all attached, I thought about Pravi and how distort he would be. As my Grandparents were alone most of the time, Tinu was a source of happiness for them and I knew his absence brought a great deal of sorrow in them.

I did not dare to ask more about him or to think where he might be, where ever he is, he will miss our beautiful village and his puppies. I wanted to curse the dog catchers but it’s of no use, Tinu will never return. I fastened my backpack’s clip, bid good bye to my grandparents and started walking, this time, without the fear of Tinu shadowing me, but with a handful of memories of our beloved dog, who will live in our hearts for a long time.


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