5 years !

Magic is five years.

magic

I am sorry to say that this guy is a complete freak. I don’t like comparisons and i am not comparing him with any other dogs. However to my eye all other dogs seem normal whereas Magic seems like a freak dog. How many dogs does one notice doing “Trancing”. Yes, Magic is a “Trancer”, he has some favourite shrubs under which he can stand still for a good 5 to 10mts, feeling the leaves of the shrubs /small trees on his body or on top of his head. I know almost all the dogs in our neighbourhood and i can say Magic is the only Trancer. It’s as if he goes into a meditative state for those few minutes, other dogs sometimes come close to us thinking he is doing a pee or something and they like to check it it out, but then they they find him “Trancing” and they wait & wait to find out what he is doing and they end up looking completely puzzled.

He is high maintenance, also apart from me there there are only a couple of people who can walk with him. I don’t think anyone has kept a watch on me & my movements the way Magic does. Its almost like we breathe together or our heart beats are one. Physically he is in his prime, he is strong  like a horse and does not have an inch of fat on him. Almost every other day random people stop by and ask us about him & take pictures. Recently when we were out before dawn for our walk a police patrol jeep pulled up next to us and all the the cops had their heads out of the windows and their eyes popping out.

One of them asked  me…. What breed are these ?

I said these are Karawani’s  (aka: Caravan Hounds)

From which country are they from ?

I thought i would give them a lesson in history…….The famed Silk Route traversed the ancient civilisations of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Egypt, and onwards to Greece and Rome. Traders, who dealt in gold, silks, precious stones and spices, moved in caravans or in groups consisting of more than a hundred oxen carts, camels, horses, tents, and their own security contingents. They also had their own dogs accompanying them; these were usually hunting dogs or the Arabian and Afghan Hounds.

The inter-breeding of these produced ‘Karavani Hounds’, literally meaning “hounds accompanying traders’ caravans”, and later came to be known as ‘Caravan Hounds’.So, we see that the hound of the desert, now called Caravan Hound, had already made its way into the Indian sub-continent with these traders.

The fabled riches and magnificence of India soon attracted marauders from across the Hindu Kush. The Greeks, Persians, Turks and Moguls, at different times, invaded India. These invading armies were always accompanied by their hounds for reconnaissance and sighting of the enemy. They took as much pride in grooming their dogs as they did their horses. The Maratha Sardars, too, loved the hounds and trained them in mountain warfare.

In fact, these dogs were constant companions to Shivaji, and so, they were even buried next to his samadhi at Raighad Fort in Maharashtra. That is the reason these hounds came to be known as ‘Maratha Hounds’ as well.

With the advent of the British there was a decline in interest in these hounds,
because the British brought with them their own exotic breeds to India. It was Shrimant Rajesaheb Malojirao Ghorpade of Mudhol [1884-1937] who took up the challenge of reviving this breed. He noticed that local tribes around Mudhol, on the Deccan Plateau in North,
Karnataka, and surrounding areas nurtured these dogs and trained them for game hunting. He devised a programme of selective inbreeding and restored the hounds to their once royal glory.

In the early 1900s, the nobility in England loved hunting for sport and used Grey Hounds, a different breed, for the purpose. Raja Malojirao Ghorpade, on a visit to England, presented King George V a pair of hounds from his kennels in Mudhol. The king was delighted; he
christened them ‘Mudhol Hounds’.

So you see….i continued they belong very much here to our land, you may not find them in the city, however in the villages in Kolhapur, Satara, Sholapur, Latur there will be some of the best specimens of this breed

They looked as if they didn’t believe what i just said.

Magic is indeed a fabulous advert for Caravan Hounds. He has become an expert in communicating with us, the changing expressions and looks he gives us, the sounds he make to convey his needs, the nibbles he gives us in sharing his joy, the cuddles and a quick massage that he demands, he just adores partner and both our two boys like anything and his tail is like a whip when he showers us with his love and affection. The only disappointment i have for him is that he has not been able to satisfy his hormonal  urges, which he finds very frustrating.

Otherwise he is a gem, or shall i compare him to a diamond, because in having a diamond which is always brushing past beside me, means i do have to endure a lot cuts from the sharp edges… (read: there is no time for myself)

magic

Peace & Love

Ajay

Before we moved to Pune, we were in Delhi and Magic with his insane charisma had managed to get really nice people into our lives, who have now become our lifelong friends.

One of them was Ajay.

Whenever we had to go out of town, Ajay was always ready to look after Magic. Ajay also had a lovely dog….. She was one of Magic’s bestie named Loca. As a story this is interesting as well as extremely sad.

We met him only about 4 years back when Partner was walking Magic and they bumped into Loca. If there was any dog in this world who could make Magic run for his money, it was Loca. Unfazed by all his snipes and growls and to see it all as part of the game… they were just amazing together.

 

It was just the case where all the physics, chemistry & biology was just right. Their brilliant chemistry brought Ajay and his partner closer to us. They also became part of of our lives.

After we moved to Pune suddenly i realised  there can never be another Ajay. There is no one whom i know who would even offer or dare to keep Magic even for a day. I can’t imagine what i will do when i might have an emergency.

Apart from being a beautiful person & for being a friend of Magic, Ajay is (was) special in our lives.

ajay

One day he was killed and Ajay is no more with us.

bye brother… you are deeply missed & i hope to see you soon on the other side

Peace & love

rain fury

July, August & September are the most difficult months of the year to be a human companion to high-energy dogs. Due to the rains our normal schedule gets really disrupted.

In our very strange case/situation  where we live for a few days in the city and a few days in the farm I cannot take them with me to the farm with me due to the following reasons: 1) If we go to the farm there is no guarantee that we can come back, land slides are a real possibility anytime. 2) Due to strong winds and the rains, there will not be electricity for months together, so there is no way one can store the doggie “protein”. 3) Our vehicle will be parked 2 kms from the farm, in a 3000 mm rainfall area, imagine walking with two sight hounds, negotiating the rains, the slippery narrow walking tracks & aggressive native dogs to deal with. 4) Imagine the mess in our house when they run out and come running back in to sit on to the furniture.

On the other hand Magic & Mia have been coping with all this very well. When it is raining outside they are not interested, they are happy to be cuddled up inside the comforts of their blankets.

mia

Or if there is a bit of sunlight for a few minutes they venture out to the balcony to catch the warmth.

magic

The other issue is vis-a-vis food & tummy. When to give them food and more importantly to see that they do their toilet jobs everyday and not get constipated or do not nor get any stomach infections. Keeping their feet clean has been a challenge and also even if they stink a bit, there is no question of giving them a bath in this weather.

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Since Magic is a physical & intellectual freak, its a challenge to keep him mentally stimulated and exercised. Mia, on the other hand is just a normal dog, like all of us normal people. Due to the rains we cannot do our pre-dawn walk, we can only go when there is a bit of sun, so that one gets an idea of the weather, the cloud cover and estimate the chances of a downpour & makes sure there is some shelter nearby, where one can quickly run for cover. Through our walks through the lanes and by-lanes in our residence during the last few months i’ve had some interesting encounters with other dog walkers in the area:

  1. The one’s who want you off the road, from 500 mtrs away they start waving to you to go over to the other side… if you are so put off by our sight, then why don’t you yourself go the other side ?
  2. Women walking with Rottweiler’s and struggling to hold the dog when the Rottweiler and Magic gets into a barking bout… its scary… not the Rottweiler ‘though, its the women !!
  3. A guy with a Great dane & he is in his own world while talking on the phone and the Great dane has zeroed in on Magic & the guy is oblivious of the danger which can unfold. I have had to shout at him in full marathi explicits to catch his attention and warn him to be careful .
  4. People who leave their pugs off leash and says to us, there is nothing to worry & at that very instant the Pug comes charging at us… Magic would rip apart the pug into 32 pieces in a second  !
  5. Another guy always keeps his Golden Retriever off leash and is talking on the phone and he has no idea that we are approaching… well, less said the better.
  6. Because of the puddles & muck we have to be a bit on the road, Drivers, instead of slowing down or waiting for a second, they would honk at us & flash head lights at us, and yell at us to get off the road…. middle finger up for them straight away.
  7. Once a Spaniel came charging at us, Magic & Mia could have inflicted some serious damage. In trying to prevent that from happening, i almost tripped over the spaniel. The person from whose house the spaniel came running out, confronts me You kicked my dog, i said no i was only trying to save it. There were many witnesses to that incident. I walked off saying Up yours..
  8. A guy with a German Shepherd,  both Magic’s and the German Shepherd’s eyes are locked in. I am trying to quickly move on, the guy with the German Shepherd is standing and allowing the German Shepherd to bark & growl, so i request him to walk on.Then he tells me : You don’t like other dogs ?  Wtf
  9.  Then there is a five star dog walker, a feisty Lhasa apso and a man, they come in a fancy car. the moment he sees us coming he runs back inside his car with the apso, then comes out again after we pass…. Wtf
  10. Then there a person with a Beagle, every morning they just drive him around in their car, instead of walking & exercising the Beagle. While they pass us, the Beagle with almost his whole body outside the car window keeps barking at us. Why can’t they roll up the window when they see us ? The end result being through out our walk Magic will have a go at every red car !!
  11. Do they bite ? its an usual question posed to me on a daily basis. My answer as always been Human beings bite more than dogs. I always get the most quizzical look ever… What do you mean they ask. I reply … just look around & see the inequality, this is how human beings bite each other, its worse than a dog bite. They walk away.
  12. Most of the street dogs are friends with Magic & Mia, there a few of them which literally jumps on him and he tolerates it all very quietly.
  13. There are some dogs which actually will be barking & growling at us and sometimes even makes a charge towards us, but Magic & Mia remains very quiet.

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We do live in a society which is really cruel. What can one say about someone who throws a dog down from a terrace. The dog : Bhadra survived, here is a poem for him, written by Maryam Ala Amjadi

Look!
The white hands of the clock are crooked from stealing time
and the counting eyes of the keyholes can now fully mouth
the empty echo of slogans back to the windowed will of the walls
who could not believe the mind of their own ears
that in the violent tongue of human beings
“a dog’s life” merely means
unearthing the wretched bones of the bloody questions
that were long sown and thrown:
Just who owns the human body? Who do the humans own?

Objects of affection and subjects of warmth
Living ‘things’ that break and breathe
In this Love-forsaken world, they are rare
those who know the difference between

“belonging to”
and ‘belonging with’

Peace, love, Khudā Hāfiz.

keep walking

The best part of our walk in the morning is we get to know our neighbourhood so well. I am pretty sure i know much more of our neighbourhood than people who have been staying here for decades.

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Now that Magic has become much calmer our walks have also become really enjoyable. The other day i went to sleep at 2.30 am & was up & ready for my morning  date with M & M at 4.45 am. I really look forward to it. This is one of the hottest months of the year and the temperature during the mid-day is hovering around 40 deg C. Without doubts dawn is the best part of the day, its such a relief to have a quick shower & get out of our cemented apartments & feel the cool breeze on one’s face.

All the Security Guards in the apartment blocks which we cross will be fast asleep, most of the street dogs will be also asleep, the friendly one’s when they hear our foot steps do lift up their heads to see who is coming & when they know its us, they wag their tail & go back to sleep. The one’s who snarl at us, do try to get aggressive. Just because they come charging at us doesn’t mean they are bad dogs, i try to befriend them. Sometimes it does work, otherwise i whisper to Magic to ignore & we walk on.

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Some mornings we come across gangs of Water Buffalo’s emerging from the dark, there is no way one can befriend them ! Best option is to quickly run for cover, jump over the meridian & go to the other side of the road. The thing about Buffalo’s is that if one starts running, then the whole gang starts to run, imagine the pandemonium i will have with Magic & Mia !

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Then we encounter a pack of stray pigs & if there are piglets then the mother piggy is sure to give us the charge…. again, the best option is to jump over the meridian & cross over to the other side of the road. We go past some affluent high rises with CCTV’s installed all over their walls & notice boards outside saying dogs shouldn’t poo here & if anyone is caught in the act will be fined etc, etc. Being an anti-social I feel very happy when M & M decide to poo right below these notice boards. The residents of this particular apartment block has a history of throwing out mountains of rubbish into an open area across the road. One can see old mattresses, old toilet commodes strewn in the open area opposite these blocks. The pigs are constantly rummaging at it, eating rotten stale food, the buffalo’s are swallowing the plastic bags & dying, cab drivers are defecating, rag pickers have already started their day searching through the rubbish in the hope to find some unbroken beer bottles.

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Then we reach a bridge, where the cool breeze makes one feel good. Some cab drivers would slow down seeing us & ask for directions, young people speeding away back to the comforts of their home after their eight hour night shifts, homeless people sleeping on the pavements, right under huge hoardings which are advertising  luxury apartments, some people gather in the mosque near the river for the early morning namaz. Earlier they were not happy to see Magic & Mia walking through their midst, now they are all our friends & we exchange Salaam Malaikums to each other. Usually on a Sunday morning the bridge is a popular spot for young people to come and chill & have a last smoke before they go back home after a night long party. Magic & Mia are usually the cynosure of eyes, with everyone wanting to know about them etc, etc.

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At the bridge when the sun is rising it is really beautiful, there will be a few selfie addicts clicking themselves…. i  cross them yearning for a “selfie free world”. The bridge unfortunately is a place where people throw out a lot of garbage, when i see them i think of the houses of a couple of friends which have absolutely nothing to throw away.Wet garbage is recycled into compost & very little dry garbage from their plastic free kitchens. Below the bridge one can see a few Coots swimming in the polluted water, Pond Herons & Painted Storks Standing still hoping to catch some fish….if there is any. The bridge is also a nice place to put on a nice song to listen depending on my mood it can be Niel Young, J.J.Cale, Mark Knopfler, Indian Ocean or Kishore Kumar…..

Then as we cross the bridge we come across some of the popular restaurants in Pune. None of these restaurants have water supply & the ubiquitous noisy water tankers would have started their rounds in supplying the priced H2O. On a weekend the side walks will be strewn with broken beer & alcohol bottles. Its really a heart in the mouth moments, scares the shit off me to imagine M or M having a bleeding paw. Sometimes i feel i should also walk barefoot like Magic & Mia and experience this horrible act by us humans.

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By now, early morning joggers, runners & cyclists will be out, so with the athletes who train in Army Sports Institute. The army personnel based in the Southern Command will also be out on the run in their full kit (its really heavy)….. their bosses will be observing them in the comfort of their jeeps. I shout out in my mind to the bosses…. hey you rascal, get out of your jeep & run with your men, that’s how you earn respect & discipline !

By now, it is time to turn back home, the people who wash cars will be heading to their different apartment blocks, the tea vendors would be setting up shop, news paper vendors will be busy inserting the various adverting fliers into the daily newspaper.  Near our house we have an open ground…. its time for Magic & Mia to do a bit of their concorde style take off & antelope style running… then we head home. As we enter home the first thing Magic & Mia does is to go & lick on the sleeping faces of partner & our son. By then their food will be ready & time for a hearty meal !

Peace, love, Khuda Hafiz

life goes on….

isn’t it ?

& patience is the key.

So, finally after 4 years Magic did find a perfect soul mate.….(literally to ‘mate’). If all goes well & if nature smiles at us we will be having some exceptional Caravan Hound pups. Unlike last time where there were so many uncomfortable ‘ifs & buts’ involved.

This time it was absolutely minimum fuss & more importantly whatever had to happen, did happen so very naturally. Mating games were indeed a joy to watch. Both Magic & Masti were like Gazelle’s, running with each other, jumping on each other, communicating with each other, chasing each other as if there was no tomorrow. From first sight, from the first minute when Masti met Magic, it was like lightning had struck. Witnessing such happiness & such gay abandon is surely a once in a life time experience. During those 3 – 4 days when Masti was brought to us by her human companions i just took a back seat  in some corner & it was a thrill  to watch those brilliant moments & the Gazelle like runs…. i  really didn’t bother with taking any good snaps, just took a few token pics.

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A friend was asking me: Yay… maan,  you are going to be a proud grandparent ? That got me smiling. Another friend said…. Wow,  finally we will have Magic’s lineage here in Pune, this is so important. That also got a smile one my face. Another person known to me asks: What is the cost of the pups ? I waved him off aka Vito Corleone style and told him in my world view nothing is for sale & i am not part of the Quickr & Olyx  generation where everything, including one’s soul is put for sale…. he was bemused.

After Masti left, life was back to usual.

The fact is Magic & Mia has always brought a smile on our faces…. however grim the situation is in real life…..

Peace & love

 

learning with our Caravan hounds…

Living with sight hounds has one interesting sop. You end up developing an additional sense: a sort of long-range peripheral vision.

zeroing in

Earlier i used to think i need to see/sense/spot any trouble before Magic & Mia….. obviously its an exercise bound to fail. They are born with the long range peripheral vision, whereas i am a century behind them in these skills.

Now i learned that its much easier to keep an eye on them…. the moment their gait changes, the moment the head is still, tilted forward & kept low, the moment when their eyes have zeroed in on something, the moment their brows furrow, the moment the tail is straight & the tip is up……. one can sense it, watch out, trouble in store !!

Anything shifting in those bushes over there, a shadow moving on the far side of the road, a cat sitting on the wall, an Alsatian is coming our way & the most dreadful is when snack-sized dogs come our way !

mia zeroing in

Now there is something else which i have imbibed from Magic & Mia.

Dogs don’t regret the past or ruminate about the future. They just live here, now, in this moment, doing whatever they are doing, responding to whatever is happening around them.

Whereas how much time do we spend in the past or the future? How much ‘now time’ do we waste by going over what happened yesterday, last week, last month, last year, or by worrying about what might happen tomorrow? When we do this, we lose some of the precious moments that are happening now because we’re really just in our heads most of the time.

In life every plus comes with a minus. There are also a few things which i’ve lost out also because of sharing my life with Magic & Mia. One: is the fact that i can never play the Bamboo flute (bansuri) ever, flute music was always so very close to me, i used to play for almost 4 hours a day before M & M came into our lives. Now they don’t let me play for even a minute. There is something in the wave-length of the the bamboo flute which disturbs/ bothers them very much, so regretfully i’ve entirely stopped playing the flute……it hurts. Secondly: Mornings & evenings i cannot even dream of stepping out of the house without them, especially when one wants to spend a evening out doing nothing….. JUST IMPOSSIBLE. Before M & M came into our lives i used to be a martial art addict, now there is no way i can even think of going to the dojo for practice & expressing myself, because dojo timings are always clashing with my time with M & M. Thirdly: there is simply no chance of me travelling any where, since we do not have any support system here to look after Magic & Mia when we are away. Funnily enough, its another matter that friends when they are travelling, feel most comfortable to leave their dogs with us & they trust us absolutely to look after their dogs. However when we have to go out of town there isn’t a soul forthcoming. Fourthly.…and most importantly professionally as a farmer, there have been times where i have had to leave everything during very critical times at the farm to look after either M or M due to some injury or other. Why mull over all this, when M & M have taught me to live only in the present moment…. isn’t it ?

Peace, love & gracias

canines & their human companions

There is an uncanny resemblance…… isn’t it ?

While walking with Magic & Mia we come across innumerable number of canines & their human companions. ‘Though sadly very few dogs are actually walked by their human companions, they are walked by their house help, driver’s, watchmen or dog walker’s. Just by observing the dog one can understand a thing or two of their human companions. Actually when we see them with their human companions one can see so many interesting facets. Lets put 70% to the breed characteristics & the remaining 30% to the persona of the human companion which is reflected on the behaviour of the dog.

Feisty dog means there is a feisty person in charge of the dog, insecure dog means there is an insecure person in charge of the dog, a well-behaved dog also means there is a calm & secure human influence working behind the scene.

What is interesting for me is not just these similarities in behaviour, when one observes closely one sees so many similarities in the gait & even in the looks…. it’s really true & very surreal to state the least. A person with a Shiatzu or Apso looks so much alike their dog, a person with a Rottweiler again shows that resemblance, a person with Labrador also shows the same, same with a Beagle, same with a lady who walks a Spaniel…. they look so alike so on & so forth. Believe me, friends who have adopted rescue dogs also show such uncanny resemblances.

I’ve friends who are so similar (i am not taking their names) A & L, S & Y, A & Z, A & K, P & M, M & C.

Now coming back to our two rascals whose personalities do they reflect ?

10 am

Yesterday while we were having a meal we were talking about this and both partner & son were extra, extra quick to claim Mia reflects their personalities & they were even more quicker to say that everything about Magic is a reflection of me. Mia is an angel & Magic is a devil, so the devil is quickly passed on to me. They continued to strengthen their arguments by saying i am the one who has a bad temper…. so Magic is also like me with his aggression with other dogs, they say i take foolish risks in life, Magic also does the same heading straight into the battlefield without batting an eyelid.

Magic wants to kill all male dogs in his sight & claim all the female dogs to himself…. surely that behaviour didn’t come from me, for me friends are friends, their gender is irrelevant to me. People accuse me of speaking too softly, whereas Magic is loud. Magic because of his aggressive charges with the intention to maul & kill Pugs, Shiatzu’s, Apso’s, Beagle’s, Dachshunds, Minpins has become a very unpopular dog in the area where we live in, i am also a co-accused with Magic in two cases charged under Indian Penal Code 302 (read: murder) with him…. so along with him i am also an outcast in the neighbourhood & no one would want to have anything to do with us. May be when we are away on the farm the neighbourhood must be heaving a sigh of relief…. hush, peace.

In the farm also the same story continues…. anything which runs: dogs, goats, cattle, humans, children has to be chased down. Recently one person confessed to me that he had pee’d in his pants when Magic went up to him, there have been instances where people on two-wheelers have stopped their bikes & got down to the side to let us go through. Even if i wanted to live life quietly on the farm… it’s not possible because of Magic. His “one bark” echoes from the valley making our presence felt. That is part of his breed characteristics, which any way i will not destroy.

Coming back to our topic of similarities between people & their canines we see a pack of Minpins next door. Those dogs are never taken out of the four walls of their house, they have to be kept separate, they bay for each other’s blood. Now how would i interpret the humans in charge of these dogs ? Mind you; they are nice & warm people & they are also one of the kingpins in looking after abandoned dogs & cats in our area, but still why do they never even take their dogs out? I would say deep inbuilt insecurity & coupled with wanting to control everything.

With Mia i have no issues, she can be 200 mtrs away from me & one single whistle is enough for her to come back to me like a tracer bullet, i feel secure with her. With Magic, there isn’t any insecurity, our bonds are deep, just too deep. wherever he goes & wanders he will come back, however i do fear that in that few minutes he can do some serious damage. Its true, i’ve seen it with my own eyes, it isn’t pretty, its embarrassing, it hurts & one feels the pain that he causes to other people. However our lives are so intertwined, sometimes i feel neither of us will be able to out-live each other.

He is bloody unique, he is a freak, his IQ levels are two generations ahead of us, he is strong as a horse, he is a wanderer, he loves all of us as if there is no tomorrow, he is an eternal romantic, he is really the Saadat Hasan Manto among canines. The dogs which have shared that relationship with him: the Usain Bolt like sprints & enduring the snipes & tumbles like Loca & Yuma will remember him ever for life. Even the humans who know his affection: his whip tail wag, the body arched bum shake (aka Shakira), the licks & the cuddles will know that he isn’t a dog what people make him out to be.

full concentration

I guess its the same with me…. ‘am not the person who people make me out to be.

peace, love & thanks to the striking similarities

Our rock star turns three

Mia is three years old.

I must say she is a magnificent Caravan hound, very relaxed, low in maintenance, listens to us, not fussy about food, has a sense of calm about her, doesn’t get too affected if any of us has to go away for a few days, doesn’t get into unnecessary fights with other dogs, she is surely an expert hunter & has loads of patience in standing still like a feline & waiting for the “prey” to come out in the open, she is fantastic company for us and it goes without saying that she is a guard dog par excellence.

mia alert

Happy birthday Mia & look forward to many more years of your company.

peace & love

from a friend who lost her companion

A very moving tribute from a friend who had also experienced the same sense of loss 12 years back with another companion.

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October 13, 2015

Dear friends (and not-so-friends!) of Scrabble,

This is to let you know that Scrabble has crossed over to the other side and another journey. It happened this morning after a 3 day bout of short, shallow breathing, a slow withdrawal, and what seemed like a quiet shutdown. He stopped eating for the last 24 hours. He was very present and peaceful all the while – coming on walks at his own pace till the end, climbing stairs to the terrace to be with me while I made phone calls even an hour before he left, wanting to be very close and have people around. The end came swiftly when he collapsed at my feet in the car just as we set off for town to see the vet (we had not even crossed the farm gate), and I held and stroked him till his heart eventually stopped beating. Four days ago, he was running around and was his usual self, even trotting up the wooden ladder to the attic to hunt for rats, despite what was a long standing lung and probably heart condition. So I am grateful that finally this was the way it happened. He would have been 12 in December.

Scrabble’s life was defined and driven by self-generated high octane drama; loud and obstinate arguments, opinions, complaints and demands; a one-neuron unpredictability and ferocity; endless antics; vivid conversations; and a total involvement and interest in everyone and everything (including his food) with his inimitable way of expressing himself.

So it seems surreal to have been with this other side of him the last few days – the gentle grace with which he accepted what was happening and how his instinct and intuition helped him handle his own inevitable mortality even as he grew feebler. The only thing he seemed to want was to be with us (Chandri my farm help, the two interns Whitney and Aliesje with whom he developed an extraordinary bond over the last two weeks, and me) and he got plenty of that.

Over the years Scrabble gave us generous doses of companionship, comfort, an unflinching devotion and love, laughter, tears, tension and some frustration all of which scrabbled together in a special brew that was life giving and life saving. Many of you have your own Scrabble stories I am sure, especially those who cared for him and Chitty the last couple of years. Chandri says no one locally should know what happened so potential intruders stay away. So Scrabble the Phantom will now roam Huthina Betta! I am curious to see how long this ruse will last and how effectively. It is true that he protected the place zealously and was a big reason why I have been able to live here on my own this long.

It’s hard to believe he’s gone – death brings with it such a sensorial finality that I have been unable to transcend yet. Scrabble now lies between two Jackfruit trees beside the path up and down which he would charge, chasing monkeys with Chitty.

Of course, there had to be a Scrabblesque element at the end too. The last few days have been fraught, trying to get help for Scrabble’s condition and simultaneously keep a camp I am in charge of for 15 persons going (thankfully the presence of friends Lalitha and Suma, along with the interns helped tremendously). I was at my wits end wondering how I would lead a 4 day field trip starting today, leaving him in this condition. I felt torn and miserable since all I wanted was to attend to him and stay close. He slipped away at 9 am, was at his final resting place a little after, I then spent a few hours on my own collecting myself together in the best manner possible, and then rejoined the group. There is some comfort knowing he does not need me anymore and is finally at ease.

Heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of you who have been part of Scrabble’s life and times at Huthina Betta. I will probably write some of you individual notes, but Sajan, I must mention you here. It was magical how the Dhrupad music you sent of the Gundecha brothers recently, calmed him down when he reacted to the noise of fire crackers that he had a big issue with. I have never seen anything like this before.

So, Scrabbly my dearest rascal, good bye for now and be on your way. You were impossible at times, but it was also impossible not to be joined with you at the paw. The ache is raw and deep, and I see you everywhere. But I know that this will morph into something more sublime and celebratory in time to come. Madhulika, hes all yours now, wherever the two of you are.

With warm wishes to you all and please don’t stop visiting Huthina Betta just because our most colourful character is not around anymore!