Sniffles and congestion had become part of him. There was hardly a time that we found baba free of sniffles. It was infuriating not only for him but also for those who lived with him. He did not feel sick, just sniffly, always. Finally, he saw a physician who diagnosed that he was allergic – to the loves of his life, dogs and cats.
After hearing that, I suggested perhaps he should stop petting the 8 or 9 stray dogs that follow him and jump on him lovingly as soon as he gets out of our apartment complex. My suggestion was ignored and I did not persevere. I knew it was a lost cause.
Since I was very little, this love for animals was ingrained in me by my father. Or perhaps, I inherited his love and understanding for creatures big and small. We did not have a pet in our house while growing up but I was not deprived of puppy or kitty love. Thanks to my father, I had at least 4 or 5 dogs just outside our house, ready to be petted, fed and loved. Thanks to his silent support, I was allowed to not only save, but keep my first kitten, Pushi. She came meowing loudly, floating in waterlogged alley of our neighborhood during monsoon. I jumped in knee high water, grabbed the tiny kitten and brought her to our little verandah. Ma wanted me to give it milk and leave it in a shoe box outside. I, generally a compliant child, rebelled against this cruel decision and my faithful ally in the good fight was my father. We brought the kitten inside, loved her to bits and she returned the favor by not only bringing us dead mice but also gifting us with kittens every birthing season. And we kept them all. Pushi treated us as her personal babysitters, which we were, left her babies with us to do her rounds around her domain and intimidate the neighborhood dogs and cats. She was the indisputable queen of the neighborhood and no one could raise their head in her presence. She kept the stray dogs away from the neighborhood with her vicious hiss. She was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Believe me when I say this, I have seen her in action. At one point in my life, baba and I had seventeen cats coming to eat in our house. Baba made an arrangement with the local fish seller to sell the leftover of fish parts to us to feed our army of cats.
This is a father’s day post to celebrate and appreciate my father which morphed into a blog about his love for animals and this love that he has passed down to me as well as his grandson. There is an aura about both him and Ryan, a certain stillness around animals that exudes calmness. Animals know instinctively that they have found someone who cares. I write this as a tribute to my father because whenever I think of him, I see his faithful posse of four legged creatures following him with their tongue lolling and tail wagging.
On a day that is designated to tell one’s father what they mean to you, I choose to thank mine for giving me the gift of love for animals. Loving animals has taught me kindness and compassion and the love I have received in return has been invaluable.
Lastly, I have a feeling when I wish him Happy Father’s day, the response will be “Hmmm. thank you! Same to you!” Why, you ask? Because he is not used to being wished happy father’s day or happy birthday for that matter. He gets all flustered and does not know how to respond, eliciting a “Arre, thank you bolo! “(say thank you) from my mother!