I don’t know why I began calling him Bhutto, after that famous India hater Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Those of you who are interested in the recent history of India and Pakistan will remember that he was Pakistan’s able representative in the UN and later became the country’s prime minister and later was hanged by the military. He excelled in debates and was an effective counter to our own Krishna Menon in prolonged and effectively boring speeches. In one of these speeches he called us Indian Dogs! And this infamous or famous statement must have made me call him Bhutto when he first adopted me as his friend and my home as his. Had I known what a wonderful being he turned out to be, I certainly wouldn’t have called him by this name. But call I did and the name stuck. After all what is in a name, the person is important. So it proved.
Bhutto was a stray dog and must have been a two year old when he came into our home. He was of indeterminate pedigree and as mongrels go, a good looker. He never got fully domesticated and would visit us when his mood took him to do so. He was essentially a street urchin and the street in front of my home was his territory. He never was short of food as he had many friends like me who fed him. But I felt he had a special liking for me.
Deepavali is a noisy festival with nonstop sound of crackers bursting. These days were dreadful days and he took refuge in our home. He would neither eat nor drink and my dislike for the use of crackers as a method of celebration, be it a festival or a wedding goes back to those days when I saw him in absolute dread. He would not leave the house for a few days after and only did so when there was no more of this noise.
Being a street urchin it was not possible to really get him to a Vet to get him immunized but I did try once and he jumped out of the car and ran away. But strangely, when he fractured his leg and was hopping on three legs, I with the help another dog lover friend of mine managed to take him and this time he gave no trouble at all! But the Vet told me that there is no point in attending to him as he would not allow the leg to mend and the cast he is going to put will not stay as he would tear it apart. He felt Bhutto’s days are numbered as he would not survive as a lame dog in the streets. He reluctantly applied the cast and I couldn’t believe that a dog could be so cooperative when the procedure was being done! Even the Vet was surprised. I kept him home for a few hours till the cast dried and after wards let him go.
Next day he came back with yards of plaster of paris smeared bandage trailing his lame leg. He had tried his best to chew the nuisance off and wanted my help to get rid of the remaining. This I did and put a bit of crepe bandage instead. Even this did not remain long. He hopped about for a week or two and then began bearing weight on the lame leg and in a month became normal. Another of my beliefs,’ leave it to nature and often you will see miracles happen’ proved right.
Another time he came when he was ill and took refuge inside the house. He would not eat and only drank water! I opened his mouth and found it full of small eruptions and when I asked my friend he said it was a common viral infection and gave me some pills to try. With great difficulty I managed to get him to eat these pills and in a week’s time when I forced open his mouth there was not a trace of this infection! He was also going out and eating grass and someone told me that dogs do this as a way of healing mouth sores! I don’t know which one did the trick but he became normal and resumed his antics.
He was fond of fried dosa and would know by the smell that this was being made in the house and invariably come to the dining area and sit on his haunches with an expectant look on his face. My old mother who was alive then and who was no great dog lover just could not resist liking him and would feed him one dosa after the other.
For a street dog he was clean, but I felt he needed a bath once in a way. He would have none of these and my attempts elicited a howling response. I gave up using water and would use a brush once in a way but surprisingly did not find much dirt on him despite all the mud he came in contact with on the streets.
Being a street dog, he would get into fights with other dogs especially when the females were in season. Again it was my job to treat him. Many an occasion he would report with injuries and allow me to clean and apply antiseptics and never once did he object and would lie down quietly often licking my hands or giving me small bites when I was cleaning his wounds which must have been quite painful. He knew that what I was doing was for his good.
I remember one day morning when I woke up late, only to see him sitting with an upturned anxious face. Normally he would not come into the bedroom but this time he did and was sitting there god knows how long. None of my family even knew he was there! No sooner I woke up his anxiety vanished and before I could touch him he ran down the stairs and disappeared down the street. Did he think, I wonder, looking at me sleeping form that I was dead and thus the anxiety on his face?
He lived a charmed life of may be seven or eight years and died after eating some poison from the street corner dust bin. He came home one evening vomiting blood. One look at him I knew he was too far gone to be saved. He died a few hours later and we buried him inside our compound.
Normally when a human being dies some rites are performed, priests are fed and poojas are performed to send the soul safely to the other world. The evening when he died, we put some flowers on his grave and lit some joss sticks and stood in silent prayer for a few minutes, just then an elderly man unknown to us came and asked for help. He did not look like a professional beggar. It is considered auspicious to give to charity and no one deserved it better than what I thought this emissary of just departed Bhutto,
Another year has gone by and we are entering 2012 and I thought the best way to usher in the New Year is to pay homage to a soul which left me some 20 years ago, but whose memory is still fresh and even after all these years I still miss him!
Like I did last year this year too I thank all of you, my patients, family and friends who have kept me going and for all the love and affection that you have given me.