The weekend was well spent – circus on Saturday, followed by pitchers of beer at our favorite watering hole. No big cats at the circus this time. Sunday, however was spent part at laundry, part church and part hangover, in that order.
Now, this is one part of living in a flat in a busy city that I detest. Pets were a strict no-no. Well, until you were completely, totally responsible for them. Completeness is never complete without totality of what you are completely responsible for, you see. So, the day letter-writing was taught at school, a devious plan started taking shape in my brain.
It took six laboriously written letters to convince grandpa, and especially my parents, that I was serious about having The Pet(s). Each letter was painstakingly edited for spelling mistakes; re-written if necessary. Rounded cursive writing and a cute innocent face took their toll. With each letter, I could see the resolve on The Parents’ faces dissolving into a kind of satisfaction that their son had actually started appreciating the importance of studies. Well, in third grade, this was an accomplishment. I guess the academic rat-race deserves a separate post, because the recognition for this feat was short lived.
What I had in mind was a hare, not a rabbit.Or rather hares. Energetic creatures and not cute vegetables with cuter twitching noses. But the latter are what I had waiting for me. After an hour-long taxi ride from the train station on a balmy Kerala summer day, we reached the ancestral home, where I stared disappointedly at two heads nibbling at fresh-cut grass in a cardboard box with an open side. And then, out of the dark corners of the box, arrived four more heads with pink twitching noses. It was a twitching orchestra. Okay, enough of twitching.
My emotional blackmail plan had misfired. In my last letter to grandpa, I had named the rabbits. The same evening, the Twitchers had come home in the old cardboard box where they had stayed for 2 months(?) and multiplied. And what was left of the offspring had now formed the orchestra.
Fast forward. End of summer vacations. Hazy details. Delhi.
Mr and Mrs Twitcher stayed in the new cardboard box and never as much as went more than a foot away from the box. And, as in the case of all rabbits, every weekend meant a new cardboard box, without which my room would have smelt no better than a poultry farm. The kids were a bunch of oddballs – Kid 1 never stayed in the open and preferred dark interiors of the underside of the cot in the master bedroom. Kid 2 was the quickest(and the liveliest) one. Kid 3 followed Kid 1 everywhere. Kid 4 never made it alive through the train journey through the hot, sun-baked North India. Respect.
One fine morning, before the birds woke up or the neighborhood chowkidar had completed his rounds, I woke up with an irrepressible urge to take a leak. Too ashamed to pee with the door open and the mounting urge to, I slammed the door shut. And again. To myself, ”Goddamn cricket ball! You never find them when you need them. I could have gotten batting first, if I could have found you in time”.
Slam hard and bolt. Relief.
Later that morning, I was roused from sleep by The Anxious Mother. The water closet was a gory scene. Quick examination dispelled her fears. Her son was fine. Kid 1 – respect.
Three days later, with the perfect scores on a test paper in hand, I marched home. Only to find the one little furball missing from the penthouse. Agony took over. Not so soon, please! The cutest one of them all. From then on, I have always hated crows and kites. He was too tiny to even stand up to the balcony grill. Kid 3 – deep respect. No dinner that day.
By this time, my daily exercise of cutting fresh grass from the playground in front of the house had considerably reduced. Grass collected one day lasted almost an entire week. In spite of the loss of his/her siblings , Kid 2 was undeterred mischief. Hated to be caught by its long pink rabbit ears and stared at by cooing girl faces. No fee was charged from the viewers, though. The best part of the day was spent chasing him around the house. He hopped with all his might for ten straight hops and he would take a break to pant. He was getting better at this and I had started doubting Mrs Twitcher’s virtues. Was this a hare?
One Sunday morning, as I sat enjoying the crisp morning paper in the cool morning air on the balcony floor, you-know-who hopped in and started nibbling at the grass near The Mother’s mini-garden. I usually collected a sizeable bundle and stored it in the balcony. Mother said, there could be ticks and insects in them, so. Kid 2 earned a name. And we (Sis and I) started calling him Joe. His balcony visits became frequent and his stamina increased. Poor Mr. Twitcher, he should have known better. Monsoons had started, and clogged the drains in front of the school. A sign hung in front of the gate – “School closed today!” Yippee!
I ran home ecstatically from the bus stop to find Dad shaving, Mom in the kitchen, Sis in school (Yay! One up!) and Joe sitting near the tepoy in the drawing room. Since there was no football game that morning before the assembly prayers, the un-channelized energy found a means to vent itself. A chase began, mighty Joe ran. I mean literally. He flew. Around and around the four rooms, through the balcony and through the grill. Dumb rabbit (or hare). He didn’t realize the end of balcony perimeters. A faint flop. And the mangy Pomeranian was all that I heard and saw. Joe – deep, deep respect.Since then, Pomeranians and I have never got along well. There was this puppy Pomeranian at the creche which tried to snap at my kid sister and felt the heavy end of my tiny cricket bat. Hence proved, Pomeranians are idiotic whimsical creatures. I felt a lot better about the way Kid 3 ended, though. He would have followed Joe out of the balcony without a doubt. If Kid 3 had been a dog he would have been a loveable, foolish, always excited Labrador called Marley, and I would have loved him.
With enough gore in and around the house and their strong confidence in my pet rearing skills, my parents sent Mr and Mrs Twitcher away to my cousins’ place. Three weeks of the Twitching Orchestra came to an abrupt whimpering end.
That’s it. Those were all the animals I had in my life. The big cats at the circus and sometimes in the zoo and The Twitchers. Oh, and Roff and Afra, the loveable Labs at another friends place. Well, I think it can be said that I’m a modest animal lover.