Tuesday, September 20, 2011

creatures

I have never had a pet. Having always lived in an apartment, with my mother firmly (and correctly) believing that one cannot have pets unless one has the space and time to really, really take care of them, I grew up in a relatively animal-less atmosphere. My brother once had fish, but I don't remember much except the live worms we fed them once in a while as a special treat, which both disgusted and delighted me.

A large chunk of my interaction with animals has involved friends' pets. The earliest dogs in my memory are Thumbelina, Tommy (of course) and Daisy, who lived on my floor. Daisy was a beautiful golden retriever and I spent many happy hours with her trying to teach her to fetch a ball while I servilely brought it to her myself each time. Thumbelina was a somewhat unpredictably cranky dog - one large lump of fur outside his house - and possessed an alarmingly loud bark. Tommy was a quiet, white indoors dog who lurked among the sofas and waited to nip unsuspecting visitors' feet (or so I thought).

When we moved to a new apartment, I quickly made friends with the neighbours' dogs - Caesar and Sandy. Sandy showed little interest in anything. Caesar was a real friendly German shepherd. Had no problems fetching things except yellow flowers that we plucked from trees and threw at a distance. He'd sniff them suspiciously and return empty-mouthed. I had no idea why we wanted him to fetch flowers, but we did, and must've appeared real cartoons to him. I've made a fool of myself in front of many dogs, notably Beauty, a gorgeous black mix-of-Irish-setter-and-something-else that I believed I was training to sit down and stand while I demonstrated slowly and pronouncedly the two activities over and over again before him, providing a good two hours of entertainment.

Cows hold a special place in my heart. My brother and I spent most of our holidays in Baroda, where cows abound. Every day, various cows would present themselves at the doorstep, refusing to budge till we fed them something (preferably rice and daal/sambar, they were way too cool to just eat plain rice :p). At some point, my cousins and I adopted a street cow and went to visit it everyday. In Vellore, I discovered a few cows just opposite college, to whom I took a special liking. There was one brown calf, with enormous dark circles around its eyes, which stood dolefully under a tree and refused to let anyone come close. This one I named Somu (Insomniac, originally) and spoke to her pleasantly from a distance during my walks. Another one I was rather fond of was a large ox with large red horns that I named Red Bull and didn't attempt to go near. A few other calves that I loved dearly were all named Kutty.

I was obsessed with cetaceans at one point of time, which led to my friendship with an Australian artist who studied and drew whales.He had a huge farm near Brisbane where they reared several cows, goats and horses. He even had an aviary, an exotic variety of frogs that lurked about the house and a couple of iguanas so I had a constant stream of stories coming in from him about what the creatures were up to (including some wonderful pictures of new-born foals and mating toads).

G always reminded me of Enid Blyton's Philip Mannering, with a curious ability to attract all sorts of animals. The guinea pigs, which I christened Peek and Boo, I knew for the longest time. I don't think I can ever forget the excited, high-pitched, kwee kwee kwee! when they smelt/saw cucumbers and clambered over each other wildly to get to the food. He also acquired Mojo the baby brown rabbit, a delicate bundle of innocence, who gamboled about the house and died the most tragic death. Among the pets he had were a number of dogs/pups, cats, fish (Tipsy, who couldn't swim straight, Ringo (after my favourite Beatle), Pearl (a black guppy)) and Toto the turtle. I loved naming everyone's pets. I gifted a pair of fish to a friend in college, who said they were 'as pink and pomegranate', which I misheard, hence the names Pom and Janet (Pom and Jan).

A few months ago, I dreamt of zebras. I don't know if this had anything to do with having seen too many pictures of Masai Mara (though actually there is no such thing as too many pictures of MM), where everyone seems to be flocking to nowadays, or following too much Kalyan Varma, but I dreamt of zebras. The dream kept disturbing me and I felt this inexplicable urge to quickly go find a zebra somewhere - I couldn't even remember the last time I'd seen one. Thankfully, shortly after, I got to see one at the Bannerghatta Sanctuary. And then recently, I realised to my own disbelief and appall that I have never seen a bear. The Nehru Zoo beckons!

I think most of us who live in cities have very limited access to animals in general. I wonder if someday I'd be lucky enough to develop a closer relationship with them.

Until then, there's Gerald Durrell.

1 comment:

Pshycolitian said...

beautiful post Ramya... Liked it a lot... its very true people living in the cities hardly have any interaction with animals... I too much like you have never had a pet and did not have the good fortune of having neighbors with pets but always wanted one and loved them.

Your post made me realize one thing. I have had this opinion about Zoos, I believed its the most selfish and cruel human tendency to lock up majestic animals into tight spaces. I still hold this notion however if not for these zoos most of us would have never had the chance to see any of these animals up close.. May be we should thank zoos for that one thing at least.