I am worried about Kaalu and not for the first time. She was born in the park adjacent to my flat. One of the nine puppies, scrawniest and a late learner, slow in everything - from crawling to fending for her own rights! But she was the only one who survived, became notorious for her mischief and grew into an imp of a mongrel. Her excessive fondness for my pet, Mr. Snow Boot, has always been a continuous source of stress to me.
This October, she steps into adolescence - one year old. But her body is not well developed. She still survives on milk. She has not attained “mental maturity” as the vets would say. She is still very much a child and she is pregnant!
I used to find her lethargically prostrated in the middle of the lane. Even on whistling and calling out her name, she would not respond and just watch me listlessly with a tinge of sadness swimming in those dark eyes! The progressively bulging belly spilled the beans.
She could guess that there was something wrong with her but knew not what.
When I come back home, in the evenings, from work, she sprints up, hugs me with her forelimbs and wails mournfully. Words are useless. Who requires the alphabets to fathom her plaintive cries? There is universality in womanhood, a kinship, a bonding, transcending species and genera which automatically lends speech to her undecipherable language, her clarion call.
I know she is hungry, always hungry, very, very hungry!
I run my hand across her back, her protruding belly, the sheen of her coat, now lusterless with dirt, mud and waste. I box her ears playfully. Her skin shows here and there – translucent pink epidermis in between jet black bush of fir. She has lost clumps of hair and urgently needs veterinary care. Nutrients, vitamins, minerals and above all food, sumptuous, luscious diet!
Maa is furious with me! The milk pan is half empty! Just two loaves sulk in the Bread Basket! She gives me an accusatory look. What do I do maa? Kaalu reminds me of all those innumerable “second sex” of this hapless country, who willingly or unwillingly, give in to the whims and fancies of hungry eyes and prodding hands in the dark silhouettes of nights or even during sunny morns and sultry noons. And thereafter carry the indelible imprints in their wombs – sometimes a nightmare, sometimes a shattered dream, infrequently a rosy remembrance of a soft dawn or a demure dusk but that is so rare, almost an oddity!!!
My sister protests! Kaalu is a threat to her sterile threshold. I keep silent. Will I be able to make her understand that when I caress Kaalu I reach out to millions like her, in human garb, languishing in the remotest of remote corners of this land - villages, districts, towns, cities, backwaters and even metros too! Mutely counting days while valiantly wading through thousand chores, traveling in overcrowded transports, bringing work load back home and sometimes making both ends meet, stretching themselves beyond the realms of permissible or legitimate ease.
Perhaps she will empathize, if once she hears placing her ears in the air. The breeze will carry wisps of whispered prayers. But I have never shared my thoughts with her. So, she continues to grumble and I make it a point to feed the overgrown pup, twice a day… at least.
But this morning was a surprise. I woke a little late and found my mother in the kitchen warming the milk and mashing the bread. “For whom?” I ask. “For your daughter,” she says, suppressing a smile. “Your sister brought in the bread and yesterday’s left over milk.” I was amazed. “But maa…..”I hesitated. She was brusque, “Before you go in for your bath, give her this. She is waiting outside.” She looked up.
The sun rays were streaming in from the open kitchen window. Maa stood there with her back towards the light. But did I see a glisten in her eyes? A twinkle and a flash of a smile lining the lashes! I have never told them in so many words. But I know they know, my mother and my sister, because there is a silver stream of oneness coursing through these malleable souls; a subcutaneous bond of universal empathy born out of similarity of fate? Perhaps a pathological familiarity which may at times border on contempt, at times other, on a more fraternal fellowship, withstanding the test of time, navigating through ages of rough weather and invincible chains, sometimes a deluge and at times a restraint, a refrain, the sparkling ribbon meanders through zillions of tumultuous currents restlessly simmering in the underbelly of apparently pacific, non-challant waves, cutting across species, genera and numerous other taxonomical researches and gains. It does not take time to dawn. The tale of repression and resilience is epoch long!