Born in a dinghy little alleyway between the “Moti” apartment’s side wall and it’s compound wall, amidst a pile of discarded glass and trash and scrap paper and all, on one of the coldest days the town had seen that winter, the survival of this tiny ball of fur amidst a litter of five, was a miracle. And so, the gully kids, from all across the houses and flats of Indradeep society, in the aftermath of covid, one after the other, came to visit it, cuddle it, pamper it and “save” it from the nasty bikers and the nastier cold.
Covid had been a difficult time for the fun loving, careless, social, very social and “happy go lucky” Kathiavadi dwellers of the society. After a very bleak and unsure Dhuleti of March 2020, this celebrations loving people hadn’t come together, except for cursory Navratri and Diwali nights, on their respective “dhabas” or terraces. In small groups, wearing masks and carrying the burden of some sick or dead relative in their hearts.
So with Lucky’s birth and the fall in the Covid cases in town, the celebratory gene, kicked in big time. Children of all ages, started talking to each other once again. Dusty cycles, stowed away in forgotten closets, were taken out and the deflated tyres were pumped back. Stray rubber balls and plastic balls and bats and stumps came out of hiding. Children, who had never before interacted, found a common love in the pup and started their childish banters.
And where was I all this time you ask? I was watching it all, from my grimy grilled window right above the holy ground of this miracle.
We, Kathiavadis, have a lot and I mean a lot of good qualities. But keeping it down and keeping it simple, now that, we didn’t believe in. Had Modi not been the one to ask for a lockdown, I am pretty sure, we would have been back on the streets, maskless, shopping, eating, frolicking, like nothing was the matter. But well, you can’t say no to Mr. Modi. And so here we were. Repressed urges of enjoying three big and two small festivals, cooped up frustration of no escape from barely known spouses, nagging in-laws and “super high all the time” kids, in tiny 1 and 2 BHKs, wanting a reason to get out and not feel guilty.
And the pup gave everyone that reason. The children, the house wives, the uncles and the dada-dadis. Though this time, the children decided to take the lead and turn the tables on being ordered around.
Our windows are not sound proofed. Our houses are just an inch away from being wall to wall. We don’t believe in parking spaces or gyms or gardens. If you look at our street views on google, you will see dilapidated, greying, grilled and squeezed in housing. But drab that we are on the outside, we have the collective spirit of a two year old on steroids, on the inside.
And so, I, who prefer the quiet of nights to work, was now, waking up to screams and shouts and updates about the pup every single afternoon.
I wouldn’t say it wasn’t endearing. I wouldn’t deny that the noise was actually uplifting. That children’s laughter and stories and banter that seeped through a sturdy glass pane and two layers of pillows covering my ears, wasn’t happy. I would. But my sleep deprived brain managed to un-asterisk a few curses here and there. But whatever, I deviate.
So, one fine day, I was hauling my scooter out of the gate and I saw these children, trying hard to keep a very enthusiastic pup off the road. They would pick it up, carry it inside the gates and get back to playing. And within seconds, this bundle of energy would slither through the gates and start trotting between busy legs and a very bouncy ball. And the kids would do it agan and so would the pup.
I also did my bit of saviour duty and carried it in a couple of times. And I asked the kids why they wouldn’t let it play with them. They said “But didi,”…”Arre didi nai, auntie”…”Bhalle, Auntie”….”The bikers will run it over. They don’t see him on the road. Yesterday only this uncle braked just an inch away from lucky. He’s tiny and so we have to protect him”
Surprisingly, the pup’s mom, who had also become the gully’s ward and was lovingly called Bhuri, didn’t bat an eyelid as the kids lifted her pup and carried it around. In fact, she couldn’t be bothered less.
“So what do you call it?”….
“Why Lucky?” ….. “Because aunite….um….didi….it survived when all it’s siblings died.”
The next day, I took out a huge thick carton, a few pieces of old and torn warm clothes and few news papers, down.
The kids, all surrounded me and message spread that Lucky was getting a new home. They took everything from my hands and within minutes created a nice warm snuggly dog house in the warmest patch of Moti apartment’s barren compound.
“Come didi, we will show you where they sleep now”, and as if revealing a very deep secret, the youngest kids held my hand and led me to the tiny space in the apartment’s walls where Lucky was born. They had found a broken pipe, covered it with a cylindrical painted box on the inside and layered it with whatever rags their moms would give. And there Lucky was lying, snuggled into it’s mom’s curled up tummy.
The place was strewn with old plastic boxes in which neighbours from all around would bring food, milk, rotla and dahi, pedigree, water, any and every thing they could think of to make the mom-pup healthy and warm in those relentless winters.
Every evening, I would carry down milk and the kids would bring Lucky to play with me. They would tell me stories in their childlike drawl…”You know didi….” “Yesterday evening no didi….” “Lucky is so funny no didi….”
And just like that, Lucky became the star of the gully.
Within a few weeks, we noticed it was scratching itself a lot.
And so, we, the adults, found the local animal helpline number and called and pestered them to come check Lucky. They finally did. And sprayed Lucky and it’s mom with some powder. But by now, Lucky had become fat and weirdly lumpy.
The ambulance folks gave some advice to the kids. No more food for Lucky. No milk.
“But doctor, Lucky’s mom doesn’t feed it only. She is very selfish.”
The doctor, seeing so much affection and the sparkling eyes of the kids, lost his general non-chalance that comes with free service and explained. “Lucky does not have the digestive capacity to take all this food. Feed it’s mom.”
And so, from the next day, the children became Lucky’s gatekeepers. Any one who came and kept food was tutored about the doctor’s instructions. The kids would hold up Lucky, cuddle it and distract it while Bhuri ate the food. They would strictly advice any adults who brought in left overs to be very careful. And so, with time, Lucky lost it’s new found lethargy and the lump in it’s tummy.
The children wouldn’t tire. With schools closed and classes shut down, the children played with Lucky day and night. They would be kind enough to respect it’s sleeping hours. Would not let anyone disturb it. Made sure it was placed in sunlight during daytime.
Sometimes, in the nights, Lucky would wail and shriek for it’s mom, who usually went out for dog fights. I learnt that dogs are highly territorial and they would bark their necks out if any other dog tried to venture into their zone. And so, Lucky would be scared at nights and would scamper around, making heartbreaking sounds. Kids would line up in their balconies at 2am and 3am to pacify Lucky with their voices and throw biscuits. Anything, everything. Almost like a caring parent of a new-born.
Lucky managed to make a niche in the hearts of the cruelest of the elders. The ones who wouldn’t return a ball if it entered their balcony or who would curse with their cane gesturing, if the children’s occasional cricket ball broke their glass.
And just like that, weeks passed. Lucky became taller, grew a few teeth and made chewing newspapers and chappals it’s new hobby. In fact, Lucky found a temporary home in the house of Komal ben, Dhairya and Vishwa. Whenever it was too cold or when it felt sick, it would enter the house and find it’s favourite mat and lay there, observing the house hold. Never messing it up or snatching food. Almost like a fourth member of the family.
One night, Lucky, like a spoilt brat, playfully, ran behind a cycle and managed to get it’s paw inside the wheel. And it squealed like it had never before. Blood dripping. The kids all ran to help and word spread that Lucky was hurt. It’s leg was bandaged, it was given several treats and that night, it got to live indoors. Hourly updates went through the gully about Lucky’s recovery.
“Lucky stopped crying”…
”Lucky drank some water”…..
”Lucky is limping now”…..
”Yay…Lucky is walking again”….
And then, soon after, just like that, without any warnings, without any reason, Lucky started puking. It stopped eating. Within a day, it lost all it’s energy and a lot of weight. No one knew what was happening. The children kept crying, comforting each other.
“It’s Lucky, it survived four siblings and a bad winter.”…
“Nothing will happen to it now. Nothing can happen.”
“After all, Lucky che….”
But we the elders, we had seen this before. A large percentage of street pups die. And no one knows why.
But we couldn’t let the new found spirit be broken. And so we called the ambulance again. And the same team came. They placed Lucky on their operating table and pushed injections into it as the elders held it down. It squirmed and squealed. The doctor said Lucky had something called Parvo. It was a virus that killed a lot of dogs and it was spread dog to dog. That evening, every single household googled Parvo and squeezed the heck out of Wikipedia.
Sick and worsening, Lucky stank. Like really stank. Being a stray, it didn’t get as many baths but it was always clean. This time, the excretions and the puking made it stink like nothing we knew. It would be soiled in it’s own vomited blood and urine. But the kids still didn’t leave it’s side. They petted it and fed it as per the doctor’s instructions. Someone brought ORS. Someone else brought a syringe. They would hold it down, sick and spiritless, and push liquids inside it’s tiny mouth, one tiny vial at a time.
The little soul was so considerate, that it would often try to escape from the circle of the loving kids, just to puke. To do it away from those caring eyes.
They brought out it’s favourite ball and made sure it found a soft place to sleep. Once Lucky squeezed inside an old grilled storage. They found the owner and got the keys and brought it out. The next day, a search party went out in the morning to find it sleeping under the tire of a parked car, two gullys away.
Surprisingly, Lucky’s mom had absconded. And it was at the mercy of the people. People said she did that because she didn’t want to catch the virus.
A day went by and Lucky’s health kept deteriorating. The ambulance was called again the next day. The medicines didn’t help.
Finally, that evening, seeing the tears in the children’s eyes and their disappointment, a couple of us elders, took out our scooters, made a few phone calls, found a vet who would treat Lucky, got a bucket to carry it in and set out with the two most caring kids, Dhairya and Vishwa.
On the way, Lucky, who had never been on a vehicle, tried to escape and Vishwa kept comforting it with her voice and her petting. At the vets, the kids held Lucky down as once again, large needles made into the tiny paws.
That night, Lucky seemed better. It slept through the night and did not puke. The doctors had given a very bleak prognosis but the kids hoped and loved and cared. And believe me when I say, caring wasn’t easy. Lucky’s skin could literally be pulled off it’s body and it stank and was adamant and sad and in pain. But the kids did not give up.
It survived that night and there was rejoicing. The ambulance came again next day and the doctor was positive.
That evening, Lucky’s mom returned. It stopped puking completely. It came to Komalben’s house to drink water and go back to it’s home. That night, there was a spring in its step. Like before. Everyone slept with a smile on their face. “Lucky will survive.” They said.
And then, the next morning, word got around. Lucky was no more.
Later the other night night, Lucky had gone out of it’s cardboard home, back to it’s pipe, where it was born and had lay there.
Komalben, had found the body, rigid and cold and made sure that the children didn’t see it that way. She wanted them to remember Lucky as a happy pup. And so she got the municipality to carry the body before the kids woke up.
And as word spread around, there were tears and tiny shoulders drooping down. With smiles in between tears, stories and anecdotes of Lucky floated through my window. The usual visitors came from the neighbouring gullys to check on Lucky and were informed of it’s demise.
The next day, the children continued to play, continued to cycle, continued to throw balls and break windows.
The shroud of the covid depression was lifted. Children who never spoke to each other were best buddies now. Caste and economic lines that are drawn very strictly were broken as kids comforted each other.
And the shouts continued and the laughter and the banter.
And just like that….
Lucky went as suddenly as it came.
Lucky lived a short life. A happy life. A life more meaningful than many.