Hem and I were 17 and in college. She was an animal-lover and I was a human race-lover (I suppose?). I never fully apprehended her rationale behind calling roaches and lizards cute- excitedly, but I liked her weirdness, nevertheless.
One evening after college she came home unannounced, which was not uncommon at all and we rushed into my room. Without wasting a lot of time, she showed me a picture of a boxer puppy on her phone. He was only a few days old and she’d grown to like him. Her parents said they would have to send him to their farm house since they already had a dog at home. I don’t have a picture of him but I remember the little guy very well. He was a white skinny pup with black spots allover. His puppy eyes melted my heart. After a couple of minutes, she asked “Do you want him? You can have him you know!” With a huge smile and a big question mark on her face. She wanted me to keep him so she could come and see him every day. Considering how she’d successfully convinced me that even mosquitoes can be good pets, a puppy was an easy sell. I jumped up and said yes- in a jiffy.
I lived in a small house. I knew my parents wouldn’t be as excited, but I wanted to give it a shot. I asked Hem to leave so I could talk to my parents about it. And she rushed out. I ran to my mom and described this gorgeous pup. She said no, instantly. Telling her she looked stunning in that new saree or that I’d pick her over dad any day didn’t seem to help either. I then begged, yelled, curled up and wept. She laughed and said, “We have you, we don’t need a puppy!” I haven’t been able to decipher what she meant but I couldn’t bring the little boxer home.
So, I called Hem and said that I couldn’t keep him. We brooded over it for a while and moved on to discussing how much we hated boys. We had to say that once every day. I wonder how could we have possibly fallen in love and be married later. We were teenagers who didn’t like boys as much as we should have. Although most people thought of me as the exact opposite. That’s the thing. If you wear short skirts and be social, you are often mistaken to be a boy-monger.
Well, the pup went on to live in their farm house a few days later.
Every time I was pissed at a boy and screamed “He’s such a dog!!” Hem listened to me crib patiently and always added “Ranj, don’t insult dogs by comparing them to these dumb boys, OK?” with a straight face. It made me laugh every time I heard her say that. It still does.
Over the years, my love for animals grew as I watched her love them with such intense passion. Unknowingly, I’d started empathizing with animals more than human beings. A few days ago, Bing had a beautiful picture of an adult chicken as their image of the day. I stared at that picture for a few minutes cursing all those people who kill this beautiful bird, mercilessly. I even emailed the picture to Murali, angrily, and asked him to give up eating chicken. He called the creature yummy and laughed at my dementedness. And I have no one else but Hem to blame for this.