On 4th February Aryan, our all black Labrador, our God of beautiful things, bid us a final adieu. He left us shattered, his memories stalking us everywhere. There was only one way out – to resurrect him in a new avatar. Eleven days after his departure he returned in a fresh incarnation. I got an all black Lab pup and named him – what else – Aryan!
Well, Aryan Junior or AJ who hails from Amritsar, came to Rourkela after a harrowing four day train journey. He was brought home in a little basket by his present courier and future mentor. I picked him up rather daintily – he was about as big as his mamma’s left wrist and possibly lighter. I placed him on the sofa and he announced his arrival by peeing on it. The lion’s call it the sublime act of marking territory.
He was immediately put on the floor. I expected him to be overwhelmed by the surroundings: new place, new people – a wannabe mentor, an over eager mamma and a highly enthu papa. But AJ was as frisky as a tiger cub in his very own cave. There was a 5 kg packet of ‘Nutripet’ on the floor and our Attila the (little) Hun made a dash and began tugging at it with his entire ‘mite’. He struggled with the packet for a few moments, moved it a couple of inches and then dived to the next edible ‘thing’ – his mamma’s legs and happily sank his teeth into them. Mamma, being a picture of patience with maternal instincts sloshing all over, picked him up and cuddled him. She was instantly rewarded with a few more bites on her chin, nose, cheeks and ears.
Finally after he was introduced to his food he sampled thrice the normal diet and fell asleep. I went to office while Madhavi (mamma) stayed back for some ‘puppy sitting’.
When I returned in the evening I was in for a shock. The tolerant, patient mamma looked like she had been returned after participating in a dharna against female infanticide and dowry deaths. The maternal instinct which had been so liberally sloshing all over had been reduced to a mere trickle. The house which normally looked rather neat and tidy ‘with a place for everything and everything in its place’ appeared as if it had been struck by a mini-tsunami. Fragments of paper, pieces of cloth, half eaten crumbs, upturned bowls, cushions on the floor and the maidservant’s daughter on the table – it was certainly not a house which would bring the ‘Inside-Outside’ correspondents in droves.
“Ramen, this guy is too much. He knows only one way to communicate all his feelings – with his teeth. He is biting everything in sight and most of all my flesh.”
“Take it easy Madhu, he’ll be okay in a few days.”
I have made many optimistic predictions in my life but no prophecy of mine went as completely off beam as this one.
AJ went from worse to worst. He would begin his day by biting into flesh and end it by biting off whatever got in his way. He was rather eclectic in his taste but lethal in his intent. His teeth and paws always seemed to be on an overdrive.
Everything we thought would be within his reach was now removed. And the phrase ‘keep it out of Aryan’s reach’ began acquiring a new meaning every day. He seemed to be growing by the hour and what seemed beyond his grasp the night before was well within his reach the morning after. His marauding teeth punched a neat little hole in my pocket in the very first week and the aperture only seems to be growing bigger.
If he was wacky when dry he went absolutely wild when wet. At the slightest opportunity he would slip into the bathroom or the tank in the garden, get thoroughly wet and then charge at everything and everyone in sight. And if anyone tried stopping him AJ would launch a frontal attack and send him or her scurrying for cover.
One late evening when the power was off and the moon had taken a short sabbatical, we suddenly found Aryan had disappeared. In the darkness looking for a dark knight in a shining black coat, can be quite a challenge. We kept shouting his name and with each call getting unanswered mamma’s panic increased. Had he gone out through the hedge to explore the world? This one possibility would throw up a dozen other recipes for disaster. Finally we heard a faint sound and tracking it like, what else, a lab, we found him inside the lily pond in our garden.
Let me introduce you to Aryan’s latest sanctuary. It is small in size, rather quaint in shape and because it houses lilies and hyacinths and other creatures of ‘aqua planet’ it stinks like the dickens. It has been nurtured by Madhavi with the kind of care and concern which, had they been bestowed on me, would probably have made me willing to run the Mumbai marathon twice a year.
“Poor fellow, must have fallen inside,” Madhavi declared and rushed to her lil’ dahling’s rescue.
“Bull manure! He must have jumped inside on purpose,” I retorted and got a look which was as dirty as Aryan’s state during his tryst with the pond.
For once I was proved to be right. Next day after lunch as I stepped into the garden I saw a sight I’ll never forget. Aryan was happily sitting in the pond looking as innocent as a babe in the woods. This time around Madhavi went berserk. As I happily went about clicking snaps she cut loose in all the four languages she is perfect in.
AJ had ingenious ways of scaring your backside off. One night I heard the slightest of sounds and woke up to find a pair of black eyes gazing at me barely inches from my face. I jumped up and switched on the lamp to find my wife’s baa lamb standing on two legs like a baby T-Rex. He wanted to go out and relieve himself and almost made me do the same.
His fetish for the abnormal could also be found in his selection of ‘toys’. A ball, a bone, a cube etc never seemed to hold his attention for long. His repertoire included my ‘brand new’ spectacles, a half eaten shoe, a badly munched remote, a piece of cloth which in happier times had been a part of his pillow, a slice of a slipper, a part of a comb, the most vital component of a mobile charger and the ubiquitous half bitten, half chewed stick.
I sometimes wonder how two labs, both black, can be so utterly different. Aryan Senior was such a gentle and kind creature. 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. And Aryan Junior seems exactly the opposite – more like the Fuehrer and like Hitler believes completely in Aryan supremacy!