By Shobha Diwakar
He was as sick, as sick, as one could be. He had been so for quite some time now. The silent years of pain and suffering grew tiresome over the years. His vacant eyes peeped outside the window to perceive a distant figure which none of the others ever saw. The receding visions dragged him out of his dreamy world in which he lay unconcerned about his near and dear ones. He was so reticent he seemed to have drifted into a world quite unknown to his immediate family.
Most of the time he lay drowsy in the later years of his life; he needed someone to nurse him; someone to feed him; someone to wake him up to reality and the immediate surroundings from which he appeared to have drifted away. When he woke up, he raised his head probing here and there in an abstract manner as if searching for someone but never uttering a word. If someone asked him what he was looking for all that he did was to shake his head in denial and no one could gather anything from him.
Yes, he was in pain…a severe pain that no one could fathom… but it was just like him never to complain about anything that bothered him. You had to guess what was going on in his mind with endless questions hammering your head. His silence grew over him like a creeper that entangled him and all those around him with no escape. It was sad to witness an otherwise active person to lie helpless depending on others to take care of him. He detested it but he had no choice. A very, very personally strong man had ruthlessly fallen into an unfavorable situation, which had compelled him to live like a recluse.
This happened long back. It was one fine morn when Raj, as usual had left home around 6.30 am to enjoy his daily morning walk. The sky was clear blue and the silken golden rays of the sun were desperately trying to overpower the otherwise clear blue sky upon which ‘he’ wished to chariot away. Full of energy Raj felt he could walk away his weary hours for another kilometer or so, hence decided to ignore his friends’ advice to return home. Probably his adamant spirit of dauntless years of independence compelled him to ignore the counseling, and so he trudged along his way
Sometimes fate intervenes, and adverse situations are preordained. Viraj, his son was also on a walking spree. Seeing Raj, his father, striding ahead for a second long morning walk he cornered him and pleaded him to return home since it was getting late and he had already walked more than he did every day. However, when have fathers’ learned to take advice from their offspring? Viraj was greeted with a capital no and there the matter ended. He knew once his father decided upon anything, it was futile to coax him; his word was final. No one could argue; no one could pursuade him to change his mind, so Viraj returned home leaving his father to enjoy another lengthy walk all by himself. By now, all his well- wishers had receded into the comfort of their own homes, while the solitary walker trudged his way along the beaten path armed with his walking companion …, his precious small walking stick, which he always carried. It gave him confidence to protect himself in case some cow, buffalo, or a dog happened to ‘greet’ him on the way!
Morning walkers were always cautious about the fear of ‘meeting’ animals that charged at you spontaneously without any prior signs of their doing so. They took you unawares, and dragged and floored you at their whim and fancy then trumpeted away gallantly leaving you sprawled in the middle of the road with a fractured hip, knee, hand or leg or even a fractured skull with no one being the wiser as those that possessed these miscreants were always tucked away safely in their own premises pretending innocence.
In India, there is no law for those who keep domestic animals. They can freely walk them anywhere they please. They are let loose so they may dirty your doorsteps, your gate, your environment and pollute them everyday leaving you gaping foolishly at the mess, which can lie unabashedly until eternity because the appointed municipality ‘cleaners’ will never clean the mess. Social consciousness and social responsibilities are a forgotten dream. Anyway, coming back to the point, Raj was not ignorant of these social pests. Lost in his own dreamy world of the beauteous morning, he was shaken up when a filthy rich politically muscled businessman’s HUGE black Alsatian rushed towards him and jumped up his chest giving him no time to gather himself, and there he lay in a heap of misery in the middle of the road with a fractured femur. He looked here, he looked there at all angles but there was not a single person he be held until a solitary biker happened to pass that way and seeing an aged, lonely man lying helpless on the road in desperate need of help, stopped by to inquire about his condition. Here was a God sent messiah.
This messiah offered to carry him home on his bike but that was not possible, as Raj could not move. The boy then wished him to call home and inform someone about his condition and his whereabouts. This was also not possible because Raj hated carrying a mobile and whenever advised about its benefits rejected the offer. Finally, the Good Samaritan fished out his own mobile, requested for his home number and dialed, discreetly avoiding any queries and giving the message that Raj was sick because of high BP and wished to be taken home since he could not sit on the bike. By now, some others had gathered around while the rich man’s dog miraculously vanished from the spot along with the caretaker. Someone whispered that these people chained their ferocious dogs at home but let them loose on the road… yet no one complained for reasons best understood.
Viraj had just returned home saying dad was enjoying another treasured walk all by himself; when the phone rang he turned back, flicked the keys from its hold and drove away before his mother could even question him about his sudden U turn. He returned after what seemed an anxious hour of wild hammerings only to stride out of the car all alone. ‘Where’s your father?’ His mother questioned. Viraj pacing up and down said ‘he’s in the car.’ She rushed out but could not see him in the companion seat. She yelled back, ‘where is he?’ Pat came his reply, ‘he’s in the back seat.’ She opened the door to find him staring helplessly at the ceiling of the car in deep agonizing pain yet not uttering a groan.
The problem was how to bring him out of the car. Half a dozen people had managed to lift him into the car but here there was no one here until the mother requested a few neighbors for help and then managed to pick him up and put him in the bed with great care. The damage was done. Raj was hospitalized and operated upon after a few days when his BP and Sugar levels became normal and of course when he had come out of the disastrous shock. His fracture was fixed with a ‘rod, nuts and bolts,’ courtesy, the HUGE Black Alsatian of the BIG RICH MAN, who never had the courtesy to either inquire about the ‘disaster’ or acknowledge the accident caused by his dog.
Days passed by in the hope that the owners would come and at least visit the family and offer apologies but, the puffed up snobs never came. In fact, when some friends of the family barged into their homes to complain about the same, they shamelessly denied that their overprotected dog had committed this accident. Since there were no eye -witnesses at the time this accident happened except their own dog and its attendant, the matter ended.
The gruesome tiring years dragged on endlessly. Every time Raj made an attempt to use the walker and take a few steps, he fell head over heels, unable to lift himself up until two or three helping hands put him back on his feet. The trump card was, ‘I will not walk,’ and there the matter ended while he confined himself to bed having lost his confidence. That morning walk ruined his life forever for he never again wished to stand up dreading to topple the moment he did so. The once bright and sturdy Raj who enjoyed strolling out in the wee hours of the morning to greet the first rays of the sun and feel the soft tingling cool breeze that softened one’s spirit with its dainty fragrance, confined himself ruefully into the four corners of his room from which he rarely emerged. Finally, one day he left for his heavenly abode in a tragic condition, unable to walk, unable to sit up, unable to enjoy the cool morning breeze anymore.
The question is why is there no law to punish people who keep animals as pets or for business purposes, but let them loose on the roads as stray animals?
This story is based on a true incident
About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical.