Thursday, June 30, 2005

Happy Hunting Grounds

January 19th, 1987 - June 30th, 2005

Mowgli died today. Or was it yesterday? Or earlier?

After a week of suffering, he
finally joined his friends in the big kennel in the sky this morning.
I for one, am relieved - with every day that he suffered, my parents seemed to suffer more. I sense that my father has aged 7 years in 7 days, and my ever stoic mother too, though not obvious.

It's ironic that having known Mowgs for 9 years, I decided to write about him and Tequila very recently. Perhaps a premonition.

What do I really say about him? That everyone who knew him loved him? That
strangers assured my mother and me that "he doesn't bite"! That his unique adaptable nature made his transition from large Bungalows with lawns to an apartment easy? That his ability to love people beyond class and creed made him friends everywhere? That his good natured, self fulfilled persona made him an enviable soul? That the truth is , he is irreplaceable.

He was the quintessential baby. Probably the son my father never had. And my
mother's little kid who never left the house. My father spent more money on biscuits for Mowgli than he did on fish! (If you know him, this is big deal).

Mowgli had his day, and life all
figured out. He spent the morning eating his and Tequila's breakfast. He waited for my mother to get him his first biscuit and then waited eagerly for her to leave for school. Then, his "alone time" with my father started - and he spent the rest of the morning, under my father's large wooden table, eating innumerable biscuits. He partook some of my father's break fast. He loved buttered toast. This dog ate everything. Karela, Bhindi,Pumpkin, everything. Chocolate occupied a special place in his heart though.

He then slothed till lunch. In the days when my grand mother lived with us, he used to wrestle for her soft velvet quilt, and spent his morning siesta on the quilt. She didn't necessarily like her quilt being snatched, but his temperament was such, instead it led her to indulgently rechristen him "Magendranath Chattopadhaya", "maga" for short.

Around late afternoon he knew it was time for my mother to come home from school. He would lazily raise himself, and stretch (a bit like a feline ancestor he may have had), and drag himself to the dining table. While my mother ate lunch, he drooled. And he drooled. At times he sat at the table, (a habit I had got him into) and attempted to lick plates of goodies.

He then snuggled under her feet while she completed the
daily crossword. Eagerly waiting for an evening biscuit.

When I lived at home he used to wait for me to come back from work. For a while I thought it was something to do with him being a loving hound. Then discovered it was to do with the cookies I may eat once I came home. Once the cookie ritual was done, he and I rubbed faces and our noses together; prompting my mother to warn me that I could get a skin infection. Well, it didn't quite work that way, and instead, who knows? Perhaps the secret of my shiny face was drool!

Then came dinner. Much drool later, it was time to go to bed. And try as
you might, there was no dragging Mowgs away from my father's bed. Even before my father yelled "Mogaaaaah", he was usually on the bed already, marking his little hot spot. And if you tried dragging him away, you'd discover no bribes worked, not even chocolate chip cookies. All you'd find is that he had turned into a Mogasaurus that could growl, and who knows, even bite!

On cold winter nights my mother dragged him close to her to warm herself,
and later complained she hadn't slept well because he dragged her covers. Harrumph. The truth was - I think she loved him more than she's ever loved anyone. I mean who doesn’t love a live hot water bottle with little baby grunts?

If you think all was adorable about this little doggie, it probably was not. Ask my sister. For my sister - it was complete sibling rivalry, replete with episodes of drool covered scrunchie chewing on his part, and her retaliating with annoying puffs of breath near his ears "Mowgli, phoo phoo" which he hated! One exceptionally long summer that he spent cooped up in a guesthouse with my parents, sister and Tequi, he drove her nuts. He chewed her shoes till they had to be discarded. Drooled all over her glasses till tears of rage blinded her. Chewed her lustrous locks while she slept. It was she who named him Mowgli, shortened to Mowgs.

Or ask Tequila. It was love -hate. This black and tan star of the Chatterji Household has over shadowed her since he
arrived. He ate her meals, and got many more biscuits out of the patriarch. He made annoying mouse like sounds, and bothered her every now and then. Much as she resented him, try attacking Mowgs, or even sniffing him, Teqs would be at your neck in no time. No one messed with him, not while she was around.

My other grandmother, Meme, was a kind and gentle soul who loved all living beings and was loved by all. However, when she visited, Mowgli’s drools, his hound like smell drove Meme to sleep on the other side of the bed, far away from him. But Mowgs was persistent. His attitude was "Love me, love me, say that you love me”. And loved he was. If ever he was sick, Meme would pray for his well being, all odours not withstanding.

U & A, the evil sons in law, were more than happy to have my mother prevent Mowgs from sleeping on their beds when they visited. They cracked silly jokes about giving him a "swift kick" below his tail, and A imitated the sounds Mowgs would make if he went flying in the air " yeeeeoooouuuuwwww", with U cracking up. But once when Mowgs broke his leg, U called everyday to check on his progress! And for the last week or so, has sat patiently listening to ramblings about Mowgs, and assured me the big kennel in the sky is a fun place to be.

D. thinks they might have chocolate chip cookies there. And my friend P says that it’s full of lots of bones, biscuits and balls. In fact she said our Grand Ma's are chucking balls, and our doggies are having a blast.

But back in Calcutta there's something new. The sudden shortage of chairs has ended. There's one empty chair in the study. A bridge I will have to cross when I come to it.

Bye Mowgs.Moga.Magga.Mogadishu.BabyGonu.Mowgli. We will miss you.

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