“Reva….Reva….” mom called out from the kitchen. I could hear her voice, but I did not want to respond. I continued playing in the backyard with the neighbours’ 6-week- old Spitz pup. A black and tan tiny pup, highlighted with orange ear-tips, Magdy was a spirited young baby, as hopeful with life as I was at 12 years of age.
Mom called out once again, “Reva…Reva… where are you…dinner’s ready.”
After a count of five, I sang back to her, “Co-om- mi-in- ng.”
I picked up Magdy in my arms and jumped off the broken window in the outhouse, to land into my neighbour’s backyard, from where I could spot that Mrs Sharma was busy cooking, in her kitchen, the most fragrant biryani ever cooked in my neighbourhood. Another few steps towards their kitchen door would have meant that the wafting fragrance would have stuck a collar around my neck and dragged me towards their dining table. Since I had already committed my return home to mom, I could only leave Magdy inside the net mesh door and announce the same to Mrs Sharma. The mild cooing sounds from behind that door towed my heart towards the tiny pup but I did not wish to wait for another holler from mom.
This was not the first time something like this had happened. Every evening, after homework, it was my time to play with Magdy who would be the happiest jumping up and down as he would see me approach and sometimes get tangled in my legs, only to fall on his back. Adorable. The long evening walks gradually became our bonding time. Playing in the park, during weekends, we would often run after butterflies we’d find in the park, jumping from one flower to another- Magdy trying to scare them away and I, trying to hold them in my palm. The badminton sessions with friends always had at least one perpetual audience in Magdy, who would patiently wait for the shuttle cork to land on the ground, before sprinting off to chase it. That we would often manage to swiftly pick it up before he could reach for it, always left him exasperated. Watching sunsets with him was sometimes the most peaceful, as far as I could remember.
He was growing with me, at a much faster pace than I realised at that time. In a few months, with more fur on him, he looked like a fur ball who would appear as adorable to the passersby. More than that, he was growing on me. And when the Sharmas were about to
leave for out of town for a wedding, they were looking for someone who could take in Magdy for a few days.
I hoped and prayed mom would agree to have him over just for a few days. However, her dislike for any sort of pets in the house was enough to hold on to her decision of never having Madgy inside. At 12 you seldom have a say in matters such as these. Plus, she did not fret that I would play with him regardless, as long as he never entered the house.
The Sharmas found guardians for Magdy in Tikkus and somehow this was solace enough since the Tikkus lived in the same complex. The Sharmas were kind enough to inform them that Magdy’s evening walks would be with me. The first day after my homework, when I landed at their place, Magdy looked sad but was relieved to see me. He wouldn’t stop licking my face as I bent down to hug him. Later, we had a hearty chat, along with the unwinding walk and at nightfall, I left him back at the Tikkus’. It was not a very happy feeling on my way back home and I could only wish there was a way for me to make him happier. He looked sad as I turned my gaze to look at him as I closed the latch on the gate.
It was a disturbed sleep that night and possibly equally so for Magdy. It was the first time he was staying away from his family and he was not even a year old yet. Throughout the day at school, I kept wishing there was something that I could do, and I decided to go and meet him immediately after school instead of late in the evening after homework. As soon as I reached home and freshened up, mom broke the news, “Reva…Magdy is missing.”
A few minutes of silence was required for me to wrap the news around my head, before I finally quizzed her, “… as in?”
“He is nowhere to be found,” she paused. “Mrs Tikku called and informed in the afternoon that he was missing from her home. She has been looking for him for a while now, but I think he just left,” mom finally said as she placed a glass of milk on the table for me.
“He can’t leave, mom…he has to be around,” I reasoned.
She looked at me hopelessly while I scanned, in my mind, all the places he could possibly be in. I quickly gulped the milk down before I set out to look for Magdy. In an instant, I landed at the Tikkus’ house where Mrs Tikku was comfortably watching TV gratifying herself with a warm cup of kahwa. My insistent queries about Magdy disturbed her much, though she lent her part of the story as to how he may have escaped from the gate. I asked her if she had informed Mrs Sharma about it, to which she responded casually that by night the poor, hungry puppy would return on his own and so there was no need to trouble them with the news.
By the end of her story, I was infuriated. When adults falter and a tween is incapable of correcting it, one is only left with no option other than weeping and so I walked out of her home fuming, disappointed and in tears.
On my way back home, a few of my friends, called out for a game of badminton but I was in no mood, so I headed back home. Asthana uncle was kind enough to ask me what was wrong when he noticed me walking back home in tears. “Nothing,” as I said, did not satisfy his inquisitiveness and upon further prodding, I explained how I was mad that Mrs Tikku had lost Magdy who was nowhere to be found. Not just that, she was not even calling Mrs Sharma to inform the same. Asthana uncle revealed how he had noticed Madgy in the park some time ago but he guessed that the puppy was accompanied by someone, so he did not pay much heed.
As if a new lease of life was extended to me, I wiped my eyes and spun them around to scan the whole park where children were playing football in a corner and another set of children playing badminton at the other end. A few men and women were taking an evening stroll while the benches were occupied with aunties gathered to discuss their daily maladies. How I wished I were Madgy at that point in time! I would have sniffed him out from anywhere he would have been hiding.
When I was sure I had skimmed all corners of the park, I started tracing the route we used to take on our evening stroll. Singh auntie assured me she had not seen him around since yesterday and Disha, my schoolmate, claimed she may have seen him close to the post office. I ran up the curve towards the post office where the watchman at the gate refused to let me inside the compound and check for Magdy. Dejectedly, I returned from there but reconsidered going back to the Tikkus’ hoping that as it was getting dark, he may have returned.
As I was about to enter the gate, I met Mr Tikku who informed me that Magdy was still not home. I inquired if now they had informed Mrs Sharma about it, to which I did not get a definitive answer. By now I was no longer mad at them, I was just sad. Sad that humans such as these were devoid of any kind of love and concern. Aren’t these people just the poorest of them all? Possibly he noticed the pity in my eyes by that time, so he invited me over, but I had a mission to accomplish, so I headed back to my exploration.
Asthana uncle had already left the park by now but Disha was there who claimed that she had seen Magdy run behind Asthana uncle. I was not sure whether I should trust her claim since her first one was not so dependable, but I did not find any harm in making an attempt, so I ran over to Asthana uncle’s house. I rang the bell and he instantly jumped out of his gate, assuring me that the last time he had seen Magdy was about the time he had told me before.
What sort of a joke was this, I wondered to myself. I flashed an indistinct smile towards Asthana uncle who assuredly stroked my head. I traced my steps back home all the while cursing myself to have never left Magdy back at Tikkus’ the previous evening. I should have brought him home and kept him in my outhouse, I kept repeating this to myself. If mom would have resisted I would have worked out some kind of a deal with her, I nodded to myself on that thought. Why did God not make me a dog too, just like Magdy, so I could sniff him out somewhere? That thought finally brought the angst back, along with it tears welled in my eyes as I approached my house.
The heavy feet paralleled the heaviness in my heart. I was constantly beating myself for not having heard to my heart the previous evening when I left him after the evening stroll. What if Magdy never returned? What if Magdy was back already and I didn’t know? What if the only real friend, I ever had, was lost forever? What if we never got to see him again? What if Mrs Sharma blames me for not being able to find him? What if Magdy never forgives me for being selfish? My head was buzzing with all these questions before my tear-soaked blurry eyes spotted a vision. Or as I called it ‘a miracle!‘
As I approached the porch, I saw my mother feeding Magdy with her hands. Surprisingly, the biryani recipe that Mrs Sharma had lent my mom was working its magic. With the lightest feet, I closed in, not to startle any one of the two. Not just for Magdy, this was a special moment for mom too- the moment of crossing over to each other’s side. My tears suddenly became happy tears as I bent down to stroke Magdy’s back, gently. I was relieved just to feel the warmth of his body on my hands. He was alive, safe and back home.
Mom looked up at me and explained how she discovered Magdy sitting outside the gate and when she opened it for him, she noticed that he was very hungry. As soon as Magdy finished his dinner, I picked him up and cuddled him close, for the longest time, as far as I could remember. He could not stop licking my face. His eyes turned from gloomy to gratified. Somehow, he felt like the same 6-week- old black and tan tiny pup, highlighted with orange ear-tips, that I had held in my hands a few months ago. A fur ball of 8 months now, he made the embrace ever more loving.
Through the evening I had cried so many tears- scared tears, furious tears, relieved tears, disgusted tears, thankful tears. But here…here we had cosmic tears. Magdy and I. Even the sound of it made my 12-year-old world magical. Complete.
Mom had already returned to the kitchen and I was unsure what was I supposed to do with Magdy now. Was I supposed to return him to the Tikkus or was I supposed to sneak him in the outhouse till the Sharmas returned? As I considered all my options, mom called out from inside, “Are you coming in?”
“You don’t trust me?”
“You’re not mad?”
“Do you want me to be mad?”
“Can I have him over for the night and would return him tomorrow morning?”
“Do you think he will be okay at Tikkus?”
“Where else can he be?”
“He can stay in the living room, but he NEVER enters my bedroom,” she declared beaming.
My mom turned out to be my hero that day! Was this just the best day of my life? A day that was not just eventful but the most rewarding, in so many ways.
“Are you coming in for dinner, Reva?” she called out again from the window.
“But, of course,” I quipped.