It’s common for cat and dog carcasses to float around in flood waters. But in Mumbai’s worst floods, a pup which lost its mom found a man who wanted a home.
During the floods of 2005, I was stranded at CST railway station for two nights. The many people around me were busy worrying about their family members, and were looking for ways to contact them. I sat silently after answering only one call from my niece, Manasi. By then, I had been living alone for over 20 years, starting from my teenage days. I had always celebrated my loneliness, until then. I thought about my lonely life, with nothing else to do, with no work at hand and no friends to call. It took me twenty years and two days to understand the meaning of true loneliness.
Tea with a new friend
I set off home to Vashi after the trains started running. On the way, I visited a friend who was unreachable as the phone services were still down. Before I headed to her house, I stopped for a cup of tea, and what do I see next? A cute puppy jumping on the water puddles, blissfully unaware of the destruction that very same water brought. After staring at it for a long time, I knew it belonged to me. He shared my tea in a saucer. I also bought a pouch of milk for it.
The tea vendor told me that the puppy lost its mother, during the floods. He was adopted by a boy who worked at one of the stores, but had to immediately abandon him since his master was unhappy with it. The pup landed back on the streets. I put him in a plastic cover and took him along to visit my friend.
Towels and toothbrushes
The pup stayed with me but I was still non-committal about adopting him. I was hoping to drop him off with someone else. The pup would sit on my arm, and seemed to know that I needed him as much as he needed me.
Until then, I never cared for a pup or ever spent time with baby, so I needed advice on raising it. I called a friend of mine called Sharadha who was an expert on dogs. She had adopted a street dog too. As soon as she heard that I brought home a pup, she came home with a towel and a tooth brush; and gave me a brief lesson in pet care. She taught me about dog signals, toilet training them, vaccinations and the food to be fed.
While I was busy caring I also noticed something unique about him. He slept calmly when I played the Ninth symphony of Mozart. But, once the player reached fourth stanza, he would suddenly wake up to stare at the speaker. I named him Mozart .
‘A big responsibility’
Just a few months back, I had considered adopting a dog, and when I spoke to a friend about it, she said “It’s a big responsibility.” That deterred me from considering it. That was however before, a pup sat on me and now it wasn’t as scary as it sounded.
Since I lived alone and had no family to support, I lived a libertine life where I never held a formal job, would only freelance as a reporter to Marathi magazines and assist foreign writers find stories. I pursued my passion of collecting and selling rare books, which was fruitful monetarily but I went through long periods of financial drought as well. I barely ever saved even when I earned large sums in spurts.
After the first few vet visits, vaccinations and purchasing dog food, I realized that now it’s time to be financially responsible. My outlook towards my home changed too. Since I am a book collector, I would store over a thousand books at home and it became a storehouse more than a home. I barely ever cooked or kept food at home. After Mozart, food came home as he loved to eat chicken.
Anger and loneliness
After years of living alone, I also got used to coming home to someone, and come home on time. If I would be held up somewhere, Mozart would take his anger out on my books, by chewing on the bindings and tearing papers. Whenever, I would be late I know I would be going home to damage. When I sleep late, he would stand on my chest and lick around my ears, which became a daily routine. To make sure that he would be fed and taken care of, I found a family close home that would babysit him when I would travel out of town.
I never chained Mozart, so he runs around the building and visit the many people who live around and made friends. Some of his favourites were call center executives who would come home late, and live as paying guests in the building. Probably due to my own night owl nature, he too would love going for walks late in the night. He had many volunteers who would walk in the nights. I never know how popular he was until a kid in the building once referred to me as ‘Mozart cha baba’ or Mozart’s daddy. He gave me an identity, something I thought I would have in my life.
We are a bunch of hardcore news junkies who also happen to be pet parents. Our world revolves around our kids and that’s how we know!