I had promised @Femme Fatale that someday I'd write about my canine friends. Since then I've tried to write, but couldn't find for myself the proper state of mind in which such a tale could be told.
Today I think I can try to tell about it.
I've had many a canine friends in my childhood. There are so many tales of love and companionship revolving around them. But today I'll speak about Andrei only.
He was a mongrel puppy who first came to our house with his mother and his siblings on an early summer morning in that distant past. That year there was some renovation work going on in our house. A part of the high wall around our courtyard was taken down, opening a passage for the street dogs of our locality.
Who knows when Andrei's mother had started coming through this passage into our courtyard! She had found it a safe haven for her puppies and used to dump them there for the day. The puppies used to play with us and together we would make all kinds of mischiefs.
The eldest one of the litter was a male one. He was raven black with a white mark on his forehead. He became attached to me and my siblings and cousins started referring to him as my dog. Naturally, I had the privilege of naming him and I named him Andrei, after a character from the Russian story I had been reading then.
Seven months flew by; seven months of play and mischief; of his coming to see me off every morning when I went to school; of his waiting for me every evening at the corner of the street through which I returned home from school.
Then they started falling ill. There was an attack of some infectious disease and not much could be done. One by one, his siblings went down. Andrei was the eldest and the healthiest. So I held on to the faint hope that he might survive.
My hope proved to be false. Andrei, too, fell ill. He would lay asleep at some shady corner of our courtyard all day long and would hardly eat and play.
My dad agreed to take him to the vet when he could take a day off. But we didn't know that we had already run out of time.
It was a holiday. The day before Andrei was too weak to stir from his resting place In the courtyard. In the morning I came there and sat crosslegged on the cemented courtyard with a story book. As I sat there Andrei slowly came and sat by my side, pressing his small warm body to my lap. He lay there silent, his front legs stretched forward, his head resting on his front paws. Soon he fell asleep.
He didn't wake up ever. The morning rolled into noon and the sun stared hard at my book. I couldn't read anymore, but I couldn't get up anyway. Andrei was sleeping close by me. How could I stir him and get up?
Then my mom came to call me for bath and lunch. Her voice broke my trance.
Slowly, I got up. I gazed at his sleeping face. I could feel it in my bones that he wouldn't respond to my calls anymore. Not ever.
I didn't cry then and there. Rather, I went inside the house silently.
My father came and picked him up. He was going to float his body in the river that ran close by our house.
The river was a sacred one. They said if you floated an animal's carcass there, it would be liberated from the influence of bad karma and would be born as a higher life form in its next life.
I would never see him again! Watching my dad taking his small lifeless body away unhinged something in my heart and the pent up sorrow forced its way out through my tears. I cried my heart out. Not just that day, but also the mornings and evenings long after when I went to school and came back from school and there was no black dog with a white mark on his forehead waiting for me in the corner of the street.
Everything passes through time and becomes a part of memory and the memories are what make our life.
What are we but a handful of faded memories?