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Madhurima Vidyarthi

  • Writer's pictureMadhurima Vidyarthi

Tiger Comes Home

Updated: May 30, 2023

We brought Tiger home when he was just a month old - a tiny black ball of fur with blinking green eyes. It was not so much his advent that was remarkable as the events that led up to his homecoming. He came as a birthday present for my little brother who was three-and-a-half at the time and had been insistent in his demands for a pet. If no "poothy" was available, he wanted a "dawd" and that was final. Less active creatures like birds and fishes held no attraction for him. They had to be kept in cages and bowls, you could not play with them, and, most important, you could not take them to bed with you.

These and other arguments were so forcefully put forth that an emergency council was convened forthwith and a much-spirited argument ensued. I wonder if you have ever been present at a family council - especially in a large family like ours? Every member has an opinion, all of which must not only be heard but also argued point by point till the fur starts to fly. The dispute over "poothy" and "dawd" thus raged fast and furious till the canine species won by the sheer lung power of its supporters.

The rival faction effectively silenced, retired like its champion to sulk and lick its wound in peace. Much elated by this response, my brother promptly shifted gears from "Want a pet" to "Dawd NOW!", his voice none the worse for its exercise. He certainly knew when to change the tone, that child - I had no doubt of his success as a leader of unions in the distant future.

So an expedition to the pet shop was planned. As is the rule in families of inappropriate size, everyone wanted to go. And as is also the rule in such cases, harassed fathers and uncles tried to please everyone by handpicking a few and consoling the rest.

So much for the preliminaries. The real action started when we reached the pet shop. The children entered it nearly breathless with anticipation, much with the air of being ushered into Ali Baba's treasure cave. Their eyes grew rounder and rounder as they took in the wonders of the shop - songbirds of every description, squealing white mice, rabbits in their hatches nibbling at the lettuce leaves and aquariums filled to spilling point with fishes that glinted mysteriously in the blue light. Of one accord, the junior half of the expedition scattered. My brother remained true to his priorities, however, and marched straight up to the counter as befitted the dauntless leader of the expedition. "I want a DAWD", he announced firmly, lest the sight of his cousins gaping at fluffy rabbits and gobbling goldfishes convey a lesser impression. We were duly ushered into the puppy section at the back. I took a deep breath - the room was one variegated mass of squealing, wriggling, whining puppy flesh. Everyone seemed to be chasing, biting, or nibbling or being chased, bitten or nibbled in turn.

We looked at each other - this was not going to be easy. The pet shop man had begun to lift up puppies one by one, his selling pitch at full flow. Pedigrees, parents, lines, awards - not much was left out, but my brother seemed unimpressed. He stood looking about him with an air of one waiting for something to happen. The junior half had regrouped by now - their energies directed to the job at hand. Puppies were being picked up and put down at random; at one corner a fight had started - the selection of a spaniel over a daschund being objectionable to many.

Already, factions were beginning to form. A free for all after the familiar domestic pattern seemed to be in the offing; I saw my father glance apprehensively at the pet shop man when suddenly the question was decided. "This one," said my brother stooping to pick up a wriggling black Labrador pup, "this BACK one." (My brother meant BLACK.) The little one had crept over unnoticed and pushed his wet nose into my brother's palm. There was a chorus of dismay from the remaining junior half - the puppy was a skinny fellow, not half as attractive as the other candidates. Its black coat was flecked with some yellow over its rump, giving it a strangely feline appearance. But my brother couldn't care less - an appealing glance from those liquid eyes, a little lick and a tentative wag from an almost non-existent tail and the conquest was complete.

The dauntless leader was complete in his capitulation and firm in his choice. He stood unshaken while his cousins begged and pleaded with him to change his mind, fielding the most convincing arguments about other, better and more attractive breeds. "Shut up," he said briefly to the world at large, "it's MY dawd." And after that, as no one had any more to say, we bore Tiget home in triumph.

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