Our nuclear family of four became a unit of five on 4th August 2006, with Aryan’s arrival. I went to meet his ‘Blackship’ at the railway station. He came with an escort comfortably ensconced in his little throne (basket to the ignoramuses). I removed the lid of the basket to find a bundle – black (from the top of his nose to the tip of his tail, he was all black – no shades of grey – fifty or otherwise), frisky and fat staring up at me with unconcealed curiosity. I patted him and was rewarded with a hint of a wag.
On reaching home, I released him from the basket. He was greeted with squeals of delight courtesy my daughter Ankita, son Aniket and their mother Madhavi. Aryan looked at them and decided he liked their vocal performance. His not so little tail got into the act. Immediately a bowl of milk was brought for his consumption. He started lapping up the milk and with each lap his tail moved faster. Less than a dozen laps later the bowl looked as if it had been cleaned, dried and dusted. He looked up expectantly at his ma who obliged. The ‘laps’ and ‘wags’ continued till the last drop of milk. Aryan looked around and then quickly circled the living room where, in one corner, an audience of four was watching his each move. He completed his circumambulation and then in one swift movement almost dived right in front of us – his forelegs spread out in front and hind legs stretched out at the back, like a devotee prostrating before the Lord himself. Next moment his eyes closed and a gentle snore filtered across the room. It took us a few seconds and then we burst out laughing.
Aryan grew at an alarming rate. Every morning when we got up we felt he had grown a couple of inches. He had a healthy appetite and there was practically nothing he wouldn’t chew and eat, including the furniture.
After a few months the inevitable question was raised. What about his training? I managed to get a trainer who promised he would teach him all the tricks needed to make him a ‘a gentleman’s perfect gentleman’. The training hardly lasted a few sessions only. When Ankita saw the trainer hitting (disciplining) Aryan, she threw a fit and that was the end of the training.
A year later I found that Aryan did not need any mentoring. He had succeeding in imparting ‘Obedience Training’ to all of us. When he took us for a walk he decided when to stop, when to start, which street and which road to take.
At that point we found that every time he felt the urge to lick he would come with something held in his mouth, a shoe or a newspaper or Aniket’s shirt. We realised that this was to prevent his teeth hurting us and/or his saliva soaking us. I went and brought him a small cushion on which the face of Spiderman was embroidered. After that whenever he was ready for a lickathon he would grab the Spiderman with relish and launch himself on the suspecting or unsuspecting victim. Since he was also an expert in the art of delegation he wouldn’t go searching for it. We had to do it for him and then point it out to him. He would then charge and grab it with a look of utter triumph as if he had reinvented the wheel.
He was a master communicator. He had a different bark for every occasion. There was a ‘I want to go out’ bark, a ‘I am stranded outside, you dodos’ bark. ‘Someone’s come, go out and see’ bark, ‘I am famished, it is almost ten minutes since my last snack,’ bark etc. etc. He had developed cajoling and coaxing to an ultimate art. When he wanted food he would begin with placing a gentle paw on my thigh and looking expectantly at me. The next stage would be pawing me at intervals of six seconds: thus making his intent clear to the meanest intelligence. If even this act of persuasion did not yield the desired result he would place his huge chin on my thigh and look up at me with that melting look in his eyes. Forget about Ramen the Rambo, even Attila the Hun wouldn’t be able to bear this assault unleashed by the pair of brown eyes.
He was a creature who loved comforts. At night he would sleep between Ankita and Aniket. In the morning we would find that he would be occupying most of the bed while his siblings would be on either side, ‘pillow-less’ but ‘Aryan-full’. In summers we never had to wonder in which room the A/C was running. The minute the A/C was switched on he would make a beeline for the room and plonk right in front of the machine. He had also mastered the craft of finding the cosiest spot and the most comfortable position to get into for the purpose of his daily quota of ‘4 billion winks’.
He loved going on rides and ‘ghoomi ghoomi’ to him was the ultimate thrill. He would sit in the corner of the car seat like the ‘monarch of all he surveyed’ and looked down at the lesser mortals (street dogs on the way) with a benign and a slightly condescending eye.
But if there one single quality that would define him, it would be his gentle nature. A more kind and temperate creature it will be hard to find. In fact I would tell everyone that he was born on 2nd October: He was so much like the Father of the Nation in his temperament. He was huge – close to 50 kg. At night he looked really scary with his black shape and glittering eyes. But at heart and in demeanour he was a baa lamb. Aniket would jump on him, ride him, push him, pummel him and do everything that could be construed as short of murder. Aryan would continue wagging his thick tail, bestowing warm and wet licks.
When he took us for a walk, sometimes he was accosted by a clutch of over grown pups who would yell and scream. Aryan would simply wag his tail in a rather avuncular fashion and walk away.
He fell ill six months ago. The verdict was viral hepatitis. He was put on saline and was on the brink of oblivion but he survived. He then suffered a severe skin infection but overcame that too. Two weeks ago his liver started showing signs of serious damage.
Last two days he suffered like hell. But there was not even a hint of whisper of a whimper from him. Only his eyes: those liquid brown pools were full of agony. It was almost as if he was imploring, begging and beseeching us to go in for euthanasia. At 11.35 on 4th Feb he breathed his last. He died with grace, with dignity, internalizing every pain, absorbing every hurt.
24 hours and no sleep later I feel his silhouette in every inch of space: mental, physical and emotional. His bowl, his bones and chew sticks, the sofas, the bed, the chairs, his towel, shampoo and soap, the ‘huge nooks’ were he slept curled up in summer, the pathway where he lay sprawled sun-bathing in winter, the spot in the veranda where he sat waiting for the car to enter the drive way, the store room where he hid from the crackers during Diwali…..
If Aryan’s departure hit me hard, it completely shattered Madhavi. She was his ma in the truest sense of the word. Right from giving him his feed to bathing him, to keeping track of his vaccination to attending to his smallest need: she did everything and more. Over the last two weeks, as Aryan’s health deteriorated, she had to feed him with her hand, pop pills into his mouth, administer injections and coax and cajole him to follow at least a semblance of his daily routine. For more than two months Madhavi was living his life, her every moment being dictated by his needs. I really can’t explain what the connect was – all I know is that it was sublime.
Aryan will always remain with us: in our hearts and minds and souls. I can’t find words to thank him for giving us myriad moments of pristine joy, unconditional love and a treasure trove of endearing memories.
To us Aryan, you were never a dog. To us you will always be God – God of beautiful things.