Links to earlier Parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4

Yellamma

Hello! I hope you all still remember me. I am Buddy from Bengaluru. Sorry for the delay in continuing my chronicles. It has been an eventful year for everyone, hasn’t it? Papayi was busy and so I had to wait for her – you see, she has to narrate a big part of the story I am going to tell you today. Being just a puppy, there are many things I don’t understand. But I saw and heard enough to tell you that this is an important piece of my story, and so it has to be told. And Papayi is the best person to narrate it.

When I first came to the house and Papayi was taking care of me after the accident, Amma would remark jokingly to Somu, “see Somu, your mother has sent this puppy. Do you remember how she loved dogs, and had a street dog sitting up the stairs at your house?” Somu would just grunt and not say anything. I had not seen anyone here that they called as Somu’s mother. But I was glad she liked dogs. Somu remembered that at that time, he and Amma had not approved of his mother allowing a street dog to sit on the first floor near the steps at his house. Street dogs bring dirt and disease, they had said. But his mother was adamant, and so the dog stayed. Later that dog had died, Papayi told me.

As the days passed however, and as I got more and more ill with CD, Amma often had a baffled look in her eyes when she saw me. She could not contain her astonishment. Once, I was eating bread and milk for lunch and Amma held her cheeks in her palms and exclaimed, “maa ammo!! Yellamma vachchesindi ra!” Her eyes were wide and big with emotion and wonder. I looked at Papayi. What was Amma saying? “Don’t worry Buddy, it is nothing. Amma is saying Yellamma has come back!”. What is it about me, and bread and milk that led to this reaction? Who was Yellamma and if she had come back, where was she?  I was not sure. I just saw Papayi’s pensive look and wished fervently I knew what she was thinking.

Papayi didn’t say much more, but once in a while I started seeing the same baffled look in her eyes too. One day, for example, I was standing on the porch. I was still very weak and unsteady on my feet. As Papayi was watching me drink milk, I suddenly just toppled over and fell off the porch with a thud. Just like that. It was not a big fall – the porch is about a foot and a half high – but still, I was standing upright one moment, and was on the metal lid of the motor pump cavity the next.

You can see the height of the porch here

Honestly, it was not a big deal. Yes, it was a little shocking, but I recovered quickly. But, Papayi’s reaction was just too much. She got really startled and almost cried. “Oh my God, Buddy, how did you fall? Oh no….” she went on and on. She rushed in and told Amma how I was standing on the porch one moment, and then just keeled over fell down to the ground the next. Both Papayi and Amma again looked at each other knowingly.

Somu didn’t say much about it either. One day he would be very loving towards me, and the next day he would just draw away. He seemed to care for me, but at the same time, wasn’t sure how to be with me. It was strange. He was generally a loving and caring guy, and it looked like he was in charge of keeping the house clean. He sometimes complained about my fur being everywhere, but other than that, he would take good care of me too. He brought a brush to keep my fur nice and tidy and he would brush me with it.

Somu brushing my fur – rare moments when he sat down with me

Another day, I was having difficulty eating and was drooling from all sides of my mouth. I saw that Papayi never scolded me how much ever I dirtied the place. She patiently wiped me down when I was wet, or when I was drooling, or I dropped food all over the porch. “It is Ok Buddyilu”, she would say. “It is not a big deal. Easy enough to clean it up. You don’t have control on the drooling because of the nerve damage that CD has caused. So it is not your fault.” But she and Amma would once again exchange their secret knowing looks. The suspense was killing me. So one day, I got really agitated and I said to Papayi, “what is it? Why do you not tell me? Why does Amma get surprised, sad, anxious, astounded – all at once – when she sees me like this? What is she thinking? What is she saying? You must tell me!”

“Oh Buddy”, Papayi said with a deep sigh. “It is a long story. I will tell you, but I don’t know how much you will understand”. “Try me”, I said. So Papayi started telling me about Yellamma. Over to Papayi now. It is long, but brace yourself and you will not be sorry for spending half an hour reading what follows! I am still trying to make sense of what she told me.

Somu’s Mother Yellamma

 We met Yellamma sometime in the ‘90s. We lived in a different house then. Our regular maid Paapamma who helped us with domestic chores was getting on in age. We had to respectfully ask her to stop work and retire.  Finally, after much cajoling she agreed to retire on a pension. Her daughter in law introduced us to Yellamma who lived nearby. Yellamma started working at our house. Her two youngest children – Somu and his sister Parvathi – were both teenagers then. Both were school dropouts.  They would come by once in a while with their mother. Eventually, we moved to this current house in 1996. Of course, I was away in Boston at that time, Buddy. So I hadn’t met them then. Somu was a sickly child suffering from Asthma. But he was very good at organizing things. So he and Parvathi helped Amma and Daddy to pack all the stuff before moving, and then unpack and set up our new house. Without them, Amma would have found it very difficult, since all of us were away at that time.

Slowly, Parvathi also started helping her mother with chores at our house. They have an older brother and three older sisters. Eventually we came to know all of them well. In about 2001 or so, the little hut they lived in was severely damaged in heavy rain. Water would pour in through the sheet roof, and the walls almost collapsed. The land on which their hut stood was ‘gifted’ during the Indira Gandhi Government way back. Can you imagine living in a shack where the rain water pours down onto you when you sleep? No wonder little Somu was such a sick kid! For days and months, they had to live in a makeshift dwelling on the side of the street. They desperately needed to build a proper house on that tiny piece of land in Marenahalli that the government had gifted to them a long time ago.

Now, Yellamma was a very industrious lady, Buddy. She worked hard to provide for her family. Even with her meagre earnings, she saved some money. Our neighbors also knew her family well. They had helped her open a bank account into which she would regularly deposit small amounts of money over many years. This was way back in the ‘90s when salaries for maids were not that high! Yet she saved money from her earnings. Can you imagine?

Yellamma with her grandchild

A brand new house

So when disaster struck and they needed to build a new home, Yellamma found that she had about 150,000 rupees in her savings. Her older son also gave some money that he had saved up. But she still had only 50% of what she needed. Amma and Daddy loaned her the extra money she needed to build immediately. Not only that, Daddy supervised the design and building of the house, along with a construction Engineer – Umesh – that we knew. So, Yellamma, Somu and other family members soon had a brand new house to live in. Daddy designed it as a two-family home so that Yellamma would also earn an income from renting out one portion of the house. Yellamma loved the house and happily lived in it. She and Somu lived upstairs and they rented out the downstairs unit. Parvathi got married and left, and all the other children had moved away well before then.  The entire neighbourhood was envious of their new home.  How did Yellamma manage to build a house like this, they wondered!

Yellamma was a strong, upright and dignified lady, Buddy. I would see her and always say: this is how one should be. I learned that dignity does not come from educational degrees, wealth, power, position in life or material possessions. It is earned by how one behaves, the values one holds and practices, the way one treats others and expects to be treated by others. She was straightforward in her dealings with people, and never brooked any nonsense from anyone (even her own children). She was always prim and proper in her dress and behaviour: the saree palloo was always draped over the right shoulder, the hair was always in a neat bun (with flowers around it). Her glass bangles clinked merrily as she worked. “How do you wash dishes with so many glass bangles on, Yellamma?”, I would ask her. “I would break all of them in one day if I did that”. She would just laugh heartily. She lived life on her own terms. She may give to others, but never depended on others for anything in her life. At the same time, she did not encourage free loaders, even if they were her own children or grandchildren.  Every year, she would ask Daddy to send a money order of 100 rupees to Dharmasthala – her favorite temple in South Karnataka. It was her heartfelt contribution to her Lord Manjunatha.

Over a very short period of time, she and her kids paid back the loan by working it off. She would not have it otherwise. Their pride in the house was intact because they were able to pay back the loan through sheer hard work and discipline.

Life went on smoothly after that. In addition to working in our house, Yellamma also started working in a school near her house. She would take care of the school yard, help the disabled children who attended the special needs school and also act as security at the gate. Parvathi married and moved on. Somu took over much of the duties of our house and became our trusted and indispensable housekeeper. He had another day job too. Still, Yellamma refused to stop coming to our house. She would walk all the way just to do the dishes. Over time, she gave up the dishes duty too, but would still drop by to talk to Amma and carry out some banking work, or to just visit.

Yellamma’s formal photo pose :). Permanent glass bangles

She was very attached to us and made sure to enquire about the well-being of each one of us. Not only that, she would go to every temple in the vicinity and pray for us! She would bring the Prasadam from the temples – fruits, flowers, kumkum – and offer it to Amma. “May all the Gods bless your house and all of you, Amma”, she would say with great devotion, fervour and earnestness.  Whenever we came home from the US, she would arrive with fruits, flowers and tender coconut to gift to us. I would be so embarrassed, but Yellamma was very loving yet very formal. These gestures were a natural part of her. Once, she offered me 2000 rupees, Buddy! She wanted me to buy new clothes for myself! I was so touched. It was a lot of money for her, but she felt it was custom and her duty (done with love, no doubt) to give me a gift of clothes! That is how she was. “I want to give you some new clothes, Paapa”, she said. How could I refuse her? Wouldn’t it be an insult to her if I refused? If I was home when she was leaving after her chores, she would always leave with “Thalupu vesko, Paapa”, instructing me to close the door securely after her. Always. Her words still ring in my ears.

Health – The Most Important Asset. Ever

I know Buddy, you are wondering why I am telling you this long story about Yellamma. And how it is related to Amma’s reaction to you. I know. But I had to give you the background so that you would know what Yellamma meant to us. The next part of the story will fill in the blanks for you. I promise. Just be patient.

Yellamma was enjoying life. She guarded her personal space at home, enjoyed the company of her grandchildren and kept a sharp eye on Somu. If he did anything out of line, she would complain to Amma and, between them they ensured that he got an earful. And so the years passed by. But life has a way of throwing curveballs at you. Also called Googlies in cricket. I tell you Buddy – a person can have EVERYTHING under the sun. But if they lose good health, then all the other things do not matter. Health is the most important asset in life, Buddy.

Yellamma was illiterate. That means she could not read or write. Still, she was quite capable of looking after herself. If she had any health problems, she would go to a doctor. She would buy the medicines prescribed; then she would come to our house and show us the prescription and the medicines. This way she cross checked what was given to her. She was very diligent in taking the prescribed medicines. If she needed to go to the bank, she would ask Daddy to help with paperwork like the deposit slips. Then she herself would go to the bank and do the transactions. Amma also encouraged such independence because, everyone should have control of their life, Buddy. They should know how to do things themselves. There is no harm in asking for help; even at the bank I am sure the staff would help her. But she didn’t shirk from going to the bank and asking for help and finishing the work by herself. She never lost a piece of paper, Buddy! If we asked her to bring her papers, and if she didn’t know which piece we needed, she would bring all of them. Nicely saved away. She never said she couldn’t find a piece of paper from her records.

Yellamma came to meet Daddy many years ago and said she needed to write a Will. I think Amma might have encouraged her to do so too. So daddy took her to a lawyer. The lawyer asked her all the details and prepared a Will in Kannada. He read it back to her to make sure her wishes were correctly written. It was then finalized and she affixed her thumb impression on the legal document. The Will was then registered at the local Registrar’s office in Jayanagar. That is how organized she was, Buddy! This woman who could not read or write, and had no means of finding information from books or online, she wanted to get all her paperwork in order. Isn’t this impressive?

One day Yellamma fell down at home in the middle of the night.  She had a deep gash at the base of her neck on the back. There was blood all over the floor. Somu got scared and called his older brother. The sons rushed her to the hospital. When the doctor examined her, the boys told the doctor that Yellamma drinks, and so she might have fallen down because of that! The doctor wrote it in the file, “chronic alcohol issues…”. I was so angry when I saw this, Buddy. Yes, Yellamma used to drink once in a while. But she was not the kind to lose control and fall here and there. I was so angry that the boys told the doctor this, and the doctor wrote it as the cause of her fall in the house without investigating further. Anyway, they stitched her up, and Yellamma came back home to recover.

But, a few weeks later, Yellamma fell again! She was walking on the street and she fell down and hurt herself. This time they said her saree was too long and she tripped and fell. Sometime later, she fell again!  This time she was sitting on a stool in the school yard where she worked. She just toppled and fell over. Now they thought it was hot and she was tired and dehydrated. It was the middle of the day and she was at work, so they couldn’t say she was drunk! I knew by now that something was wrong with Yellamma! Around this time, she also started having difficulty with her speech. It was almost like her tongue was not cooperating with her. Sometimes, we could hardly understand what she was saying, her speech was so slurred. Slowly, her speech condition progressively worsened until, we could not really make out anything she was saying. Poor Yellamma, she could only communicate through grunting sounds because her tongue would not form the words she wanted to speak. I could see the pain and confusion in her eyes. What was happening to her?

Like many others, Yellamma loved to chew tobacco / paan. I had said to her many times over the years that it is not a healthy habit and she can get serious diseases. She would just smile her broad paan-stained-toothy smile and say in Telugu, “may God bless you Paapa”. So I started wondering whether her speech issues were due to any disease in the oral cavity or throat. But no, that wasn’t it either.

The Tongue – It has many important things to do!

Do you know Buddy, when your tongue doesn’t cooperate, so many things become difficult? Not just speaking. Now, Yellamma could not swallow food either! Yes, it is the tongue that allows us to take in the food and swallow after we have chewed it. And, it is the tongue that helps us to keep the saliva inside our mouth. When the tongue doesn’t work, saliva can’t be swallowed and it just drips out from the corners of our mouth. Her daughters and grandchildren started getting embarrassed – if they went out anywhere, Yellamma would be drooling saliva onto her clothes and her saree would get all wet. “We will not take her anywhere from now on”, they would say. They didn’t know either, that she couldn’t help the condition. You understand, right Buddy? It happens to you too – it is not your fault that you drool all over the place and you can’t pick up food right, so it spills all over the place. It was the same with Yellamma. Slowly, Yellamma could not swallow solid food either. So she resorted to milk, bread and biscuits. It was so difficult to see, Buddy.

So I took her to St John’s hospital. It is a very big hospital in Bengaluru. I wanted her to see a specialist so that we could find out what happened to her. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t talk; she kept falling down! Surely the doctors would know what it is that was causing such havoc in her life? We met a neurologist – Dr R. They ran a lot of tests on her, and we had to go back a few times. Dr R then told me what happened to Yellamma. I was so heartbroken!

Turns out, Yellamma had a disease called Bulbar Palsy. It is a motor neuron disease. To put it simply, a group of nerves in her brain were not working as they should. So her speech, eating and walking were all affected by the malfunctioning of these group of nerves that served the Bulbar functions. So this is what was making her fall down often too! The doctor said it is a progressive disease and they could try and give her a new medicine, but he thought she would progressively weaken further. One of the things they do for such patients is insert a feeding tube into the stomach. It is called a PEG tube. Since she cannot swallow, someone would have to put soft food into the feeding tube and it would go directly into her stomach. They had to poke her stomach from the outside to insert a tube, and then make sure that the other side stays inside her stomach, so that it can drop the food in. It was a difficult procedure. The doctor said that some patients have feeding tubes for years and years.

A PEG Tube

Yellamma was dead against the feeding tube. Even with her limited speech, she conveyed to the doctor that she didn’t want any such thing. She told him that she was ok with passing on, but she would rather not have the feeding tube! He counselled her, but finally allowed her to make the decision. He asked me to watch out for signs of distress – patients with this condition often choke to death when they try to eat or drink. I was so anxious – here was a bright eyed, cheery, strong and vibrant person who was slowly melting away right in front of our eyes. Her struggle to eat and drink was terrible to see. Since she spent a lot of time alone, I was worried that she would choke and no one would be around. But we had to respect her decision to not have the feeding tube. The doctor told me in English that she would not survive for long due to the disease progressing. It was very difficult, Buddy. We always want to do something to make our loved ones suffer less, to get better. To at least be comfortable. But we sometimes don’t know what the right thing is. Poor Somu too didn’t know what the right thing to do was either: put a food tube in, or no? The doctor said, it is a foreign object after all! So the chances of infection are always there. So they would have to be very careful. On the other hand, if she didn’t get it, what next? See her starve in front of our eyes? It was so hard, Buddy!

Yet, she once walked all the way to our house – about a kilometre – and brought two tender coconuts for us. I was so shocked. “Yellamma, you should not be walking around on your own! You can barely walk. And you are so weak. Why did you carry these two tender coconuts all the way?”, I asked. “it is ok Paapa”, she replied. “I had gone to the temple, so I just came by to see you all”.

As expected, Yellamma’s condition got worse. Finally, one day, she said ok to the feeding tube. I feared that it was too late, and she was too weak. We went back to the neurologist. They again ran several tests to make sure she could withstand the procedure. One morning, they inserted the feeding tube. She was in the hospital for three days. Then they sent her home, with strict instructions on how to put food into the tube, and how to maintain it cleanly. She had to go back to the hospital for a follow up after one week.  I went and visited her at home; she didn’t look too good. But I was hoping she would hang in there and get used to the tube and get strong again once she got enough nutrition.

The following week, Somu and his cousin took her to the hospital for the follow up. I was on my way to work. I offered to take her to the hospital, but Somu insisted that he and his cousin would be fine taking her by auto. Even before I reached my office, Somu called to say that Yellamma had collapsed on the way to the hospital. She was declared dead as soon as they reached there. I turned around and went to St Johns. It was all over. She lasted just one week with the food tube inserted into her stomach. It was probably the Bulbar palsy that progressively got worse and ended her life. Maybe the food tube wasn’t good for her; but she would not have lived long without nutrition either. So who knows what was the right thing to do? See her starve? Or, see her waste away from the motor neuron condition, but with the discomfort of a food pipe sticking through her stomach?

Interconnections

Somu’s family and ours grieved Yellamma’s passing. We missed her loving presence. She could have lived a long and happy life, free of any worries – financial or otherwise – if only this dreadful disease had not taken over her completely. We grieved what she missed by leaving too early. We grieved our own inability to do anything more for her when we saw the confusion and pain in her eyes. We grieved over whether we had done the right thing by having the food pipe inserted into her stomach.

Just over a year later, you arrived at our doorstep, Buddy! You were a cute little puppy who showed up out of nowhere. Of course, now we have narrated to everyone about your accident and your illness and all your big and small adventures. For Amma, the turning point was the Canine Distemper (CD) that you suffered a few weeks after you came to our street. Suddenly, the nerve damage, the keeling over and falling down, the wasting of the tongue, difficulty in swallowing, drooling uncontrollably, the ribs showing due to low weight – all were like an action replay of the previous year with Yellamma! Just like her, you did not get all these symptoms at once. They appeared slowly, one at a time. Each time a new symptom appeared, and it was exactly what Yellamma had gone through, Amma would recollect her experience. It was too unreal, Buddy. How could you have the EXACT same symptoms? She had Bulbar Palsy, you had CD. Other than that, it was a mirror image of happenings between the two of you. Whenever you would eat powdered bread and milk, and you would drool and splash the milk all over the floor, Amma looked at you with wonder in her eyes. Do you remember? “Yellamma Vachchindi Ra”, she would say to Somu. But why? I wondered. Why would Yellamma come back?

Maybe she was not ready to leave us yet. She was so attached to our family. Maybe she wanted to give us an opportunity to serve her again – by helping her with food, with the doctors, with love and affection. Maybe she wanted more of that. Maybe so that we could see her happy and healthy, and living in our house that she loved so much. I don’t know. So here you are Buddy – living Yellamma’s life with us. Giving us an opportunity to make special food that you can swallow easily, cleaning up after you, getting you medical treatment so that you can be strong again and, more than anything living a happy and healthy life with us. See how well you understand everything we say to you. See how independent and feisty you are even through your illness. Just like Yellamma was. Someone I know said that maybe Yellamma came to protect our family during the COVID-19 lockdown because she was always so concerned about our family and its wellbeing. This was her way of keeping an eye on us. You are just a little puppy, but who knows Buddy. Who knows what is the right answer?

Amma was worried that people (including Somu’s family) may think we are disrespecting Yellamma by saying she has come back as a little pup. But I don’t think so. What is disrespectful about it? We are just narrating the incredible interconnections between what we saw and experienced with her, and then with you just a year later. That is all. Nothing else.

Wasn’t that some story? You must be exhausted listening to it. But, it had to be told. Because it made us aware of so many things that are inexplicable, that cannot be discussed through logic and rational thought. We cannot dismiss what we saw and experienced. It was too real. And, just because we lack answers to something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means we don’t know.

Links to earlier Parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Having The Time of My Life

By now I am sure all of you are thinking that I am up to no good: first I had an accident, then I was sick as a dog (!) and then I was taken away by ABC of BBMP! I am sure you think that this is the story of my life. But I assure you, that is far from the truth! Yes, I had all these stressful episodes in my life, I cannot deny. But I want you to know that despite all these, I have a busy, happy and active life. I love running up and down the streets around 16th A Main, visiting all my dog and hooman friends, sitting at the corner store with all the smokers who are there till 10 pm, and best of all, returning home to eat, rest and play with Papayi. Slowly, I finagled my way into sleeping every night in the front lobby of her house because the rainy season started, and amma thought I should not sleep on the front porch where it will be cold and wet. Sometimes, I even snuck into the living room to lie down for a bit. Papayi would pretend to scold me, but I saw that she actually didn’t mind if I stayed there for a bit.

In the living room giving company to Amma. And, taking a nap

“Have you seen anyone allowing street dogs into their living rooms, Buddy?” she asked me once. I don’t know, I thought. How would I know? I am just a puppy, and Papayi sometimes treats me like an adult dog. As if I knew all the answers. And, what’s wrong with street dogs anyway? “It’s because you wander around everywhere”, she explained. “I have to keep sanitizing the living room every time you walk in and out”. “But why?”, I asked. “I am pretty clean. I have even stopped sleeping on the cement and sand piles, because I am here most of the time, sleeping in the front lobby”. Sometimes, she would put a red stool between the front lobby and the living room; but I figured out how to sneak in between the legs of the stool and go into the living room. So she then brought a square pot to put under the stool. Now I couldn’t squeeze in from below, but the nice part was, I could still converse with them through the open door.

I figured out how to sneak in by crawling under the stool. So she put a square pot under the round stool.

Papayi would sit on a chair from where I could see her and she could see me. “what’s up Buddy? What have you been up to, today?”. She would ask through the opening. “Let me in”, I would say. “Naah, I will come out instead, let’s go for a walk”.

Let’s go for a walk instead

So off we would go for a walk up and down 16th A Main. She didn’t put a leash on me, because I didn’t like the leash. And I didn’t need one. I would just follow her, and sometimes I would playfully lunge forward and catch hold of her legs. “How can I walk Buddy, if you do that”? she would ask. I would wander off a bit, but always keep an eye on where she was. As we walked, I would go into the neighbors’ compounds if they had the gate open. Sometimes, I would steal shoes from next door because the Shanthi Upahar boys who lived there never closed the gate. “Paruvu theesesthau, Buddy!!” Papayi would smack her forehead. “Our izzat on this street is going to go”. She snatched the shoe from my mouth and put it back in their compound before I chewed it out of shape. The boys also liked me, so they never scolded me either. But they learned to close the gate after that. There were other neighbors who would complain about me though. The man directly across from our house asked her one day whether BBMP can take me away! Why? She scowled at him. “Because he is out on the street and barks in the night and is a nuisance”, he told her. There are three other dogs round the corner who bark, and then Buddy also barks. Who are you going to complain to about them? She asked. Actually a Professor uncle looks after the three dogs – Whitey, Blackie and Patchy, as Papayi named them. But the man didn’t complain about them! So he kept quiet after that. That is one of the reasons too why Papayi put me inside at night, so that I didn’t bark on the street at 2 am!

Papayi once got into trouble because of me. One day, I saw her leave home early in the morning. Where does she go so early, I thought. The sun hadn’t even come out yet. So I followed her. She was running. She turned back and looked at me. “Go back, Buddy. Don’t follow me. Go back home”. She said. But I didn’t listen to her. After running more than half a kilometre, we reached a big playground. There were many people there. Then one group, along with Papayi, started running away from the ground. It was a new road for me, so far away from home. I too followed her. Suddenly, as we turned a corner,  a big pack of dogs suddenly pounced on me, all at once. It was their territory. There were so many of them. They barked and growled and tried to attack me. They can be loud, I tell you. Papayi got so scared. I just stood my ground and barked back at the dogs. Papayi’s running coach saw the commotion and yelled at her, “eiyyy, don’t do that. Why did you bring your dog?”.  “It’s a street dog, Coach. I didn’t bring him”, she yelled back. “A half-truth is still a truth in this situation, Buddy”, she said jokingly. “You are a street dog, but you are also a house dog. A hybrid.  The coach is very strict, so I had to tell him that”. Meanwhile, she picked up a stone and tried to scare the dogs away from me. I somehow zipped out from their attack and hid under a car. They continued to bark. Luckily, the coach went away on his run. After a few minutes, I came out from under the car and resumed the fight. Papayi somehow drove away the dogs. Finally, I was free. “You got me into trouble, Buddy! But I am glad you are ok. Let’s go back home now”. So she ran all the way back home and I ran with her. When we reached home, she tried to put me inside the compound. But I sensed what she was up to. So I resisted for a long time. I refused to go in. After much cajoling and tricking, she put me inside and closed the gate. Now she was ready to go back to her running route. I was so angry that she finally tricked me. I ran inside the compound back and forth until amma woke up wondering why I was so mad. After that, whenever Papayi went running, she firmly closed the gate behind her and I never went running with her again at that time of the morning.

Quiet and more Quiet

One fine day, I noticed that there were no people on the streets. And, no cars, motorbikes, school buses! I could sit on my white line plumb in the middle of the street, and I didn’t have to get up and move even once! It was quiet. Very quiet. Where was everyone? Wow, this is incredible. No people and no traffic. What else can a dog ask for? “It’s all yours Buddyilu”, Papayi said, with her arms wide, gesturing grandly to both sides of 16th A Main. “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…” she said, and laughed aloud. It was her own private joke, I think. I definitely did not understand. I looked at her with a raised eyebrow, but it may have looked like I rolled my eyes. Papayi didn’t seem to mind, because she had a faraway look in her eyes, and was in her own world. “Oh, it is a song, Buddyilu”, she said. “It is called Dancing Queen by ABBA that was very popular when we were kids”. I didn’t know what or who ABBA was, but I recognized the B sound. As long as it was not BBMP or ABC, I was ok with it! She proceeded to sing a few lines from the song.  “I haven’t sung that song in years. No, decades actually, Buddy. See you reminded me of that song, because you are having the time of your life!”. I am glad I made Papayi happy. “I used to listen to these songs on SLBC – the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation – on an old radio we had in the bedroom back in our house in Surathkal.  So funny, Buddy.  I don’t remember what happened last year or even last month sometimes, but I remember the names of the DJs, Adrian and Jeremy, on SLBC in 1977. Isn’t that funny?”

Sigh. Hoomans are so funny. Here I am asking her, “where is everybody? Why are the streets so quiet?”, and Papayi’s mind has gone off somewhere else to Surathkal and Sri Lanka. Once she came back, she explained: “there is a lockdown Buddy. It is because there is a virus that is contagious and people may get sick from it”. Must be like my CD. That was a virus too, and it was contagious, I remember Papayi telling me. Only thing was that was a doggie version. This time there was a hooman version that was keeping everyone indoors. “People are not allowed to go anywhere. No schools, colleges, offices. So everyone has to stay home. That is why it is so quiet. You can walk around anywhere without worrying about traffic now”. It was too good to be true. We could wander around, sleep on the road, run up and down the street, and not worry about being run over. It was heaven!

But, she also told me, many people didn’t have food to eat, because all eateries were closed. And the workers didn’t have any money. So, many folks she knew were helping by preparing food and distributing it. It was so touching because animals also didn’t have food to eat. All the bakeries and restaurants were closed for them too! But citizens of Bengaluru are so nice, she told me. They formed groups in different neighborhoods and went out in the morning with biscuits, bread and buns and sometimes rice. They would feed all the dogs they saw on the streets so that the dogs didn’t go hungry. That was so nice of them. Sometimes, they would give me food to eat too, if I was round the corner near the shop. One day Papayi saw this, and she told them, ‘this fellow eats at our house. So don’t worry about giving him food. You can give the other dogs’.

So this is how my days were. From the waking moment when amma or papayi opened the door for me to go out at 6 am, to late night 11 pm when she would beg me to come in and go to sleep, I have the time of my life. Of course, during the day, I spend a lot of time sleeping too. I want to tell you about a good friend now because I played a lot with her in the morning and at night….

Bella my Best Friend

Bella

You remember that other dog with no name? Well, she came around so often that Papayi gave her a name. Bella – She is my bff. Ever since I sat under the car as a scared little puppy, Bella has been looking out for me. She would keep a friendly eye and made sure I was ok. I think she was also new to the neighbourhood, and she realized that I would need some protection. When I was injured, Bella anxiously came and hovered over me when the doctor was trying to help me. She was worried sick. Even as I was going to the hospital, Bella waited while they loaded me into the car. Papayi told me later that Bella would come looking for me when I was away at the hospital getting rest and treatment for my hip injury. After I returned, Bella continued to come by and play with me. She taught me how to chase motorbikes. She could run really fast.

Sometimes, she plays rough, and bites me around my neck. I don’t think she draws blood, but slobbers all over my neck. So papayi has to clean me up with soap water once I get home. But we enjoy running up and down the street in the morning and at night. Playing with each other. I run so fast with her that one will never guess that I have a broken hip! I could shoot behind the cars and over the sand mounds in no time at all. It was so much fun.

Playing with Bella

But after some time, Bella changed. When I recovered from distemper, papayi noticed that Bella’s head also started shaking and bobbing up and down. She worried that Bella might have caught the distemper from me. The doctor thought she would be ok – she was older and strong enough to get over the effects of distemper. I was glad to hear that. But, one side effect was that Bella quietened down. She didn’t play any longer. She came to our street sometimes when Murugha the trash collector came by. But she did not run around and play. When it rained and she got wet, Bella would go into sneezing fits and Papayi was worried, since CD can also result in Pneumonia in dogs. Papayi would get some warm milk and put her Vibrionics medicines in it for Bella, so that she could get strong again.

Initially, I didn’t like it that Papayi would give milk to Bella, and she would talk sweetly to her. I would growl at Bella and drive her away. Even though we played together, I didn’t want Bella to be friends with Papayi.

The Big Stand-Off. I made sure Bella didn’t come near our gate! “What a jealous and spoilt brat!” Vidya wrote 🙂

But Papayi would get mad at me, and would bring the leash out. I knew she was serious when the red leash came out! So I would let Bella go and drink the milk laced with medicines. I knew that was a good thing, because the medicines mixed in milk helped me too. Slowly Bella got better, but she was still not the same Bella that ran up and down the streets with me and played with me.

Papayi took a picture of Bella’s infected toe to send to Dr SK

One day Papayi noticed that Bella had a huge curved toe nail, and her toe pad was red. She was always vigilant and noticed the slightest health problems I or Bella may have. She called in the doctor. But Bella was nowhere to be seen. “Come along Buddy”, Papayi said. “Let’s go find Bella before the doctor comes”. So Papayi and I walked together to 38th cross – two streets away from our house – to find Bella. We found her sitting there on the street. We called her, and she came home with us. Papayi put her inside the compound and closed the gate. Bella seemed very sick and listless.

Poor Bella, she was so sick. Waiting for Dr SK to come

I was mad that Papayi kept me outside the gate and Bella inside – it was usually the reverse! So I walked up and down the street. But boy, was I glad to be outside – because the doctor came after half an hour. He checked Bella up and gave her some injections. They tied her mouth so that she would not bite. Poor Bella. She cried so loudly that I came running to the gate. She didn’t like the injections either. But they let her go soon after that. The doctor said Bella would feel better soon. He also clipped her curved toe nail. “She is a good dog. She didn’t try to bite. She just wanted to be free and was scared of what we would do”, Dr SK said.

Waiting for the rain to end

Now, Bella comes only once in a week or so. She has moved to a different street. Murugha and the ironing lady say they see her near that store round the corner. Maybe she is not well. Maybe she is depressed – I heard Papayi saying that sometimes dogs are depressed when they have distemper. So they have to be coaxed to eat, and to get up and walk around. When I was down with CD, it was Bella who would come play with me and make me feel better. So now, I try to do the same for her. We play together, but sometimes it is just not the same when one friend is sick or has changed because of that. They may make an attempt, but things once changed can never be the same again. Isn’t that so philosophical of me? Buddy the budding philosopher! Still, she is my first and best friend. Whenever she comes by, we have a good time seeing each other, playing and accompanying Murugha the trash collector around on his street rounds. It is good to have such friends. Dear Bella.

Next week, I am going to narrate a totally different type of story. You will be amazed. No, no adventures and escapades, I promise!

If you missed Part 1, read here

If you missed Part 2, read here

ABC and BBMP

Hello friends. Are you thinking that I am learning the alphabet? No, no. I am not learning ABC! Read on, and you will know.

With my first wide red belt

After I returned from the hospital, papayi would insist that I wear a collar. I had a wide red collar which the hospital gave me. It was almost too big for li’l me. When she walked me to the construction site, she told the workers too that I should always have the collar on. I don’t know how it happened, but I promptly lost the collar in less than a week! Papayi was exasperated. She went up and down the street and looked everywhere. No one had seen my collar. I didn’t know what the big deal was about the collar, so I kept quiet. Papayi got me another one – it was thinner and lighter and just right for me, she said. So off I went with my brand new orange collar.

My brand new orange collar which also didn’t last too long

You guessed it! I lost that one too. “How do you lose the collar, Buddy?”, Papayi asked me. “Do you take it off with your paws? Or your friend does it for you?” she glared at me. I was scared, but didn’t know what to do. She then tied some gift-wrap ribbons around my neck. “I can’t bring you a new collar every week!”, she said. “Here, keep these yellow and blue ribbons on for now”.  I lost those too. Twice. When Dr Shaswath Kumar came by to see me, she complained to him that I lost a collar each week. “What to do, madam?”  Dr SK said, ‘jinke tharaa iddaane, so the collar slides off his slender neck and small head”. Papayi was amused. “Look Buddy, Dr SK says you are like a deer, that is why the collar is sliding off”. She stopped being mad at me after that.

Dr SK Said my neck and head were slender like a deer’s, so the belt slides out easily.

Ha. I am sure by now even you are saying, so what IS the big deal with the collar? I am a street dog after all. I will tell you.

One day, I was sitting on 17th Main, minding my own business. One thing Papayi had said to me was, “you can go wherever you like, Buddy, but yavari zoliki velladdu – mind your own business! see what Dr SK said? You got the CD infection from going about playing with every other dog on the other streets.” But she knew I was a streetie, I needed to be outside, and to meet other dogs. Papayi’s friend Bunty from Mumbai would say: “Buddy needs medicines. Don’t let him out” (because Papayi would tell her that I ran away from the doc). “Keep him in a cage until the treatment is done”. But Papayi would say, no, he will not be happy. And Bunty said to her, ‘he doesn’t know what is good for him! Sometimes we have to make decisions – he needs treatment’. Anyway, you will hear about the wonderful Bunty and her rescue dogs (and cats!) some other day if I have the time to narrate what papayi told me.

So, there I was minding my own business, just sitting and enjoying the early morning sun on 17th Main Road. Suddenly, disaster struck! No it wasn’t a car, or a motorbike. It was a huge net! One guy with the net threw it at me and imprisoned me. I could not get up and run quickly enough. Remember, my hip was just healing AND I still had CD. So I was one ill doggo. Oh My God! It was so bad. I cried and thrashed around, but it was no use. The more I struggled, the more I got entangled in the net. Two guys tied the net tightly, carried me and put me in a van. There were so many other dogs in the van – each sitting in its tightly tied net. We were like potato sacks, laid one next to the other.  We could not move, stand or turn. It was bad. I tell you, it was bad.

This is how they imprisoned me in the net and put me in the van like a sack of potatoes

Meanwhile, poor Papayi of course did not know all this, because it happened one street over from her house. She was at home. Suddenly around 9 am, she said, “hmmm, where in the world is Buddy? He has not come by to drink milk. Nor do I see him walking around outside”. So she went to the construction site where I often used to be. She asked around. None of the workers had seen me. The watchman’s wife told her she hadn’t seen me all morning. Papayi went in and searched every damp and dark corner inside the half constructed building, in case I was too sick and was lying there. She didn’t find me. She checked on every sand pile in the area, because my fur and the sand were the same color, and it was easy to miss if I was lying on a sand pile. She walked up and down all the adjoining streets, but nope. Nowhere to be seen. Highly unusual, she told her mom. The fellow is just recovering and will not have the energy to walk too far. Where could he be? As she walked around, she could not spot any other dogs on the streets either. There was only one dog – the other one that would come check on me earlier.

Her heart sank. What does this mean? Where are all the dogs? Oh no! Could it be? Could it be ABC of BBMP had struck? “Did you see my dog?”, she asked Muniyappa, the street-sweeper Muniyamma’s husband. “No, amma”, he replied, “I haven’t seen him today”.  Then a vegetable vendor came by. He and his wife sell vegetables on their push cart every day. “Have you seen my dog? The one who limps”, she asked him. None of them knew my name, so she had to identify me by my limp to them. So I didn’t mind. “Oh”, the vendor replied. “A van came this morning. They have taken all the dogs”. They were sitting at the corner of 16th Main street, and they had seen the van at 7 am, rounding up all the dogs and carrying them away in the nets. The vendor had confirmed Papayi’s worst fears.

Oh no! Now what to do!! Already sick and with a limp. And now carried away by ABC of BBMP. You see: ABC is the Animal Birth Control program of BBMP – the Corporation that runs Bangalore City. They take away dogs, spay or neuter them, clip their ears to mark them as done and then take them back to the streets after three days. Only thing is, papayi told me later, sometimes they drop the dogs off in the wrong locations instead of where they picked them up. This is bad, bad, bad. So what to do now!!! She thought she will never see me again.

The ABC BBMP van

Papayi was filled with guilt, she told me later. Why? Because…. If I had a collar around my neck, they would not have taken me. They take only street dogs because no one puts a collar on them or ‘owns them’. The day I was picked up was the in-between day when I had lost my collar and she hadn’t put a new one on me yet. She knew the danger, and so was insistent to the workers and everyone around from day 1, that I should ALWAYS have my collar. She had explained the danger of BBMP taking me away. But the migrant workers were from outside Bangalore and didn’t really understand. And, they were not too bothered anyway, since they were so busy with other work.

The only thing Papayi could think of was to call Dr Shaswath Kumar. “They took Buddy. The vegetable vendor told me”. She was in tears. “Oh no, madam!! He is too young and too sick for the operation. They will have to put him under anaesthesia. This is not good!!” Dr SK told her. “Didn’t you have a collar on him?” Sigh.

“Don’t worry, ma’m” (Dr SK says this to Papayi all the time. That is why she calls him for help!). “We will get him back”. “How?” Papayi asked. She didn’t know how the ABC of BBMP worked. And she didn’t know how to get me back from them. Dr SK gave her a number and asked her to call that person. He was the Animal Control person in charge for Bangalore South. Call him and explain, Dr SK told her. He will tell you who to call to get Buddy back. Meanwhile, he would find out which agency had the contract from BBMP for the ABC program this year. So papayi talked to one officer who directed her to another, and then another and so on. All morning she was on the phone, she told me.

“Good news”, Dr SK called back. “CUPA has the contract. They are good. They will take good care of him. We will get him back, don’t worry”.

It was 11 am, and Papayi was still on the phone all morning trying to talk to different officers and to explain to them why I needed to come back.  She had two student interns who had come home for a meeting and they needed her attention. But, she told them to look after themselves while she tried to get me back. They just looked on in surprise, but Papayi was very focused on getting me back.

Papayi has a friend called Vidya. I have never seen her, but I know Papayi tells her EVERYTHING about me. Do you know why Papayi has so many pictures of me? Because she sends them to Vidya every day on whatsapp. And she tells her stories about me all the time. “The Rascal”, Vidya would say. “You are spoiling him rotten”. So Vidya knew me well, even though she had never seen me. She promised she would come by and visit one day to meet me. Papayi told me, Vidya also LOVES dogs, and she has a streetie rescue like me at her house. Her name is Snowy. In fact, Vidya has written two whole books about dogs. One of them is about street dogs like me. Can you believe it, that someone loves street dogs enough to write a book? Vidya also volunteers at CUPA. So Papayi called her and told her the whole story about my being taken away. Vidya was so helpful. She called her friends at CUPA and asked whether they were working in the Jayanagar area on that day. They said yes. She then talked to her friend Sunny who is the manager there, and told him that I needed to be sent back. Sunny gave her a phone number for the driver of the van. He also promised that the moment he saw me, he would make sure I was ok, and would send me back.

Vidya’s book about Streeties like me.

Pheww, now we are making progress, Papayi thought. Finally, HOURS after I was taken away, Papayi talked to the driver of the van. “Did you pick up this little brown dog near 16th main Road? He has a limp and he is not too well” She asked the driver. “No”, the driver said in Kannada. “We have not picked up any such dog. In fact, we only pick up healthy dogs”. Now what? She tried to ask, and probe and cajole and plead. “The puppy is not well. He needs medicines. Please, please check whether you have him in the van”. “No ma’m. They run away too. If you are not seeing him near your house, it is possible he ran away and hid when he saw us. Dogs do that all the time when they see the van”, he said.

Papayi was terribly disappointed. Just as she was about to give up and hang up phone, she heard another voice on the driver’s phone: “We have him, we have a brown dog. We picked him up on 17th Main” the voice said in Hindi. The driver gave the phone to the boy who spoke Hindi. “Are you sure? Do you have a langda dog – he limps on his left hind leg. Do you have him?” Papayi asked. “I don’t know about limp ma’m. He was sitting on the street when we picked him up. So I couldn’t tell whether he is a langda”, the boy said. ‘We would not have picked him up if we knew he was a langda”, he said apologetically. “Doesn’t matter, please bring him back. He is sick, he needs medicines, otherwise he will die”, Papayi pleaded with him. “Ok, ma’m. We will bring him back”, they said. Half an hour, they said. They would bring me back in half an hour. But, apparently, Papayi told me later, ‘half an hour’ is never half an hour. In fact, it has no meaning. “I am round the corner” doesn’t actually mean someone is round the corner! It is just things people say, she said. I don’t know what that means – why do people say things that have no meaning. But I let it be. Anyway, after many more calls, and directions to come to our street, she saw the van turning into 16th A Main. She jumped and gestured wildly to catch their attention and stood in the middle of the road so that there is NO CHANCE of their missing the house.

As the van pulled up to the house, Papayi peeped into the back of the van. She was shocked and started crying when she saw all the dogs crunched in their nets. The men who came do this all the time. So they were not too moved by the smell of fear emanating from the dogs. She looked for me, but couldn’t figure out where I was. The Hindi boys who accompanied the van pulled out a sheet of paper to show Papayi. On it, they had neatly written the location where each dog was picked up and had assigned a number to each of us.  This system helps them drop the dogs back on their streets after the surgeries (if they do it right). There was one entry for 17th Main. The boy reached into the back of the van and pulled me out and put me on the road. “Is this him?” Poor Papayi wasn’t sure – I was all crunched up inside the net and she couldn’t tell if it was me. “Take him out of the net, then I will know” She told them. The van guys were worried that I would run away if they released me from the net. But she was firm. So she asked them to come inside the compound of our house and then release me. They readily agreed. 

Amma had kept water and milk ready for me because I had been gone since the morning. As soon as they opened the net and I saw I could get out, I tumbled out of the net and ran away to the back of the house. I was shaking so much I could not stand still. I was all dirty from being in the van all morning. There was black dirt all over me and I stank to the high heavens, Papayi said. When they saw me walk, all were convinced it was indeed me. The men were also satisfied. They made her sign on the sheet saying that they had released me. I rushed to the bowl and started drinking the milk. I was so thirsty. I had been in the van for six hours! The men discussed a lot with Papayi, I don’t know about what. I went to the side of the house and hid as far away from the men as possible. I could not believe I was home. Nor could Papayi and amma. They paid a lot of money to the Hindi boy and thanked him profusely – without his help, I would not have come back home! The driver was upset that amma paid the boy and not him. Amma hoped that he wouldn’t take the money from the boy. Maybe they will share, which is ok, she said.

What an ordeal! I did not go out for the rest of the day. “He is shaking too much”, Papayi called Dr SK. “And is limping on his right leg too! Maybe from sitting crunched up in the van for six hours!” He was so happy to hear that I was back home. “He will be fine, madam. Don’t worry. It is just the shock of what he went through. He will bounce back” Dr SK said. So I slept for the rest of the day.

Papayi immediately called Sunny the CUPA manager and thanked him for sending me back. She called Vidya and gave her the good news, that I was safely back home. Vidya was so happy.

One thing was bothering Papayi. “Why do they tie the dogs like that in those nets?”, she asked Dr SK. Each is like a potato sack. They couldn’t move for six hours. Why do they do that? Dr SK explained that if we are tied up that way, we will not hurt each other or ourselves. If we are able to stand, or thrash around, we will end up hurting ourselves. “This is the best way, ma’am”. He said. Vidya thought that the method and his reasons are fine, but they should drop the dogs off at CUPA within two hours. Why can’t they drop them off by 9 am? she asked. Why do they keep them in the van for six hours? That is not right. She said she will speak to the CUPA manager about it. Apparently the van has to catch 15 dogs before they return to the centre to drop off. That is why we were in the van for six hours – maybe they couldn’t catch 15 dogs that morning.

That was my half day adventure in the ABC BBMP van that I could truly have done without! All because I lost my collar. After that day, Papayi made sure I never went out without a collar or the ribbons. Or both. Not even for a minute. “I can’t take it anymore. I am going to sell him off to someone”, Papayi said to Dr SK. “Who will buy him, madam?” Dr SK asked. I think she was just saying it. Hoomans sometimes just say things. With no meaning. And I was glad Dr SK thought no hooman would buy me anyway. I want to be right here. In my home.

My Home

If you missed Part I of the Buddy Chronicles, read it here first.

Enjoying my dining area

Buddyilu – What’s in a name?

I had said I would tell you about my many names. By now you know that I was named Buddy while at the hospital. So Papayi, amma, daddy and Somu call me Buddy. But, you know, Papayi always said I didn’t belong to her or her family. I was a ‘community dog’, she said. I belonged to everyone on the street. Or maybe, the hoomans on the street belonged to me, she said. Because I had certainly stolen their hearts! The boys from Shanthi Upahar called me “Tommy”.  Moksha, the little girl across the street, named me ‘Cookie’. So I ended up having many names. Recently, I even heard someone on the street call me “Bingo”!  The dentist who walks my friend Leo (the massive golden retriever) told Papayi that I was a ‘vagabond’. “This fellow is everywhere; he is a vagabond. He and Leo are friends”, the dentist said. I don’t know if vagabond is a name. But Papayi laughed out loud and enjoyed with him and his children who came by walking Leo. “I would never have met them Buddy, but for you. They live several streets over”, she said. “I have talked to more people in the neighborhood in the last few months than in the last ten years combined. All because of you!”

Papayi also calls me Buddyilu. I was surprised when I heard it the first time. Was Buddy short form for Buddyilu? I looked at her quizzically. Then she told me: although she didn’t grow up in Andhra Pradesh (I don’t know where that is), they do speak Telugu at home. And she somehow picked up the Telugu habit of putting “lu” at the end of names! “It is so strange, Buddy”, she said. “I am not that conversant with Telugu culture, not having grown up there, but somehow I quite naturally add a ‘lu’ at the end of your name”. Sometimes, it became “Budloo”. She would stand outside on the porch and say, “why don’t you come inside Budloos, it is beginning to rain. See you got all wet”. I would go in through in the door and sit inside, and she would wipe me down with a towel. If it was dark and rainy, she would anxiously wait for me to come back. But I knew how to wait at the shop round the corner until the rain stopped for a bit, and then I would scoot across the street to go home. Amma would spot me first and say “oh I saw the tail; Buddy has returned”. The towel would always be waiting for me.

Rain rain go away! Nap after rushing in from the rain

Papayi was very creative with names. Sometimes, Buddyilu would become Buddy-Kutty; and sometimes, it would be Bud-Munna. Sometimes, it would be different gibberish names – like Boochulu. Boochukutti. If I did something naughty, it would be Bud-Mash. Sometimes she would call me Chunky Monkey. But I noticed that whatever gibberish names she called me, it was the tone that mattered. She would always speak to me with lot of love. So whatever names she called me, I didn’t mind at all, because I paid attention only to the tone of her voice. Amma also started talking to me so nicely. She would talk to me as if I was a hooman baby! Papayi told her – research has shown that when hoomans talk to little babies or to puppies and look into their eyes, something called oxytocin is released in their brain and it makes them very happy. “That is because hooman babies and puppies are such pure forms of energy”, Papayi said. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded nice. Does this mean hooman babies and puppies are the same? I will talk about this in another context later (maybe next time, if I remember).

 Distemper

Anyway, I got too ahead of myself. I have to go back to where I left off last week. Remember, I used to sleep at the construction site and come over to Papayi’s house to eat. I was only an occasional visitor here. Mostly I would be on the street or at the construction site.  Papayi would keep an eye on me, but didn’t insist that I should stay in one place. She observed whether I was able to get away from the middle of the road fast enough (because of my limp) when vehicles came by. She saw that I got better at that each day. So she let me wander around happily. Life was so good.

Life was so good! Waiting for lunch 🙂

And then one day, she noticed something funny. It was nearly the end of January. I came over to her house, and as she patted me, she noticed a crunching sound in my head. It was as if my skull was rattling, and my teeth were chattering. What could this be, she wondered? I would start drooling from the sides of my mouth and my eyes were watery. She got so scared. She read up on the computer to find out what it could be. Sometimes doctors don’t like it if people read up on computer and find out what is happening to them. But Papayi finds it very useful – ‘an informed patient is a good patient Buddy. But you have to be careful to read only from good reliable sources’, she used to say. After a few days, she called the doctor. “Can you please come? I think Buddy has Canine Distemper”.

The doctor came. He took one look at me and said, ‘oh. This fellow roams around everywhere, plays with dogs here and there. He has picked up an infection”. Isn’t that what dogs do – go here and there and sniff around, I wanted to ask the doctor! Papayi’s heart sank. She knew the ‘infection’ he was talking about means Canine Distemper (CD). Many puppies die from the viral illness. It spreads like anything and it really hurts the puppies, that is why so many of them die. Even if they survive, they continue to have problems. The doctor spoke very kindly (now that we are sharing names, let me tell you his name too: his name is Dr. Shaswath Kumar). “Don’t worry, madam”, he told Papayi. ‘We will do the best we can. There is no treatment for this. But we can give some antibiotics to ward off any other infections. We will also give him some B12. If he gets stronger, he will be able to fight against the virus and survive”. He would give me 2-3 injections at a time. Some of them were ok, but one would poke right through the muscle on my back, and it hurt so much! I dreaded seeing the doctor coming by, and after 3 days of these shots, I ran away and hid. “It is ok”, he said. “Let him be”.  But I knew that he came only to help me. They knew that if I survived for 2-3 weeks and got stronger, I would be ok.

Papayi now started asking that I stay more often at her house. So that she could feed me and give me medicines. I would divide my time between the construction site and her house. Papayi would stand on her porch and make a clicking sound with her tongue. I would hear her and come running to the house. It was getting hot during the day, so I would sometimes sleep behind their car where it was cooler. So she always knew where to find me.  

My favorite place to sleep during the day

Yes, I had nerve damage due to the distemper, and my gait was still crooked due to the broken hip. I did not put on weight, and was scrawny how much ever I ate. People would walk by on the road and comment on how skinny I was. They would wonder whether I was getting any food. Everyone on the street would feed me biscuits. And Papayi would try not to show her annoyance. She didn’t mention my viral illness, because they would get scared and want me to be taken away, even though the distemper doesn’t spread to hoomans. So she kept quiet.

After a bath – black water flowed due to the cement on my skin and fur. I was getting weaker

Quietly, she would grind all my food in a blender and give me only semi-solid foods. Milk, bread and cornflakes are my favorite. She would grind the multi-vitamin supplements along with the food and give them to me. She also added drops of vibrionics medicines to the food. All in all, she tried her best to fatten me up, to no avail! But it is ok, I was a happy camper basking in her love and affection. Dr Shaswath Kumar would say, ‘don’t worry madam, he is not going to go anywhere. He will come back here, for food and love’. Isn’t that the truth! Slowly she added eggs to my diet, and I really really liked them.

My skin was itchy and my fur was falling out in clumps. Most difficult of all: my teeth were slowly falling out! The canine sharpies on the sides in my bottom jaw were jutting out in opposite directions, and the middle lower teeth were flattening out, and eventually fell out. I couldn’t pick food up easily because of that. Papayi would make small pieces of the Boost biscuits and feed them to me from the side of my mouth where my back teeth could grab them. I could not hang my tongue out fully like other dogs. Dr Shaswath told Papayi that all these are common because of the CD. I did not get a chance to grow into a healthy pup, the doctor said. The CD had left lasting damage. If I was scared or tense, my head would twitch and bob up and down rapidly, and my teeth would clatter against each other in my jaw. For weeks, I had no voice! I could not bark. Amma was very sad that I could not make any sounds. But luckily, my voice came back after some time, and I could bark in the middle of the night again!

Papayi would take pictures and send to the doctor.

“Let’s do affirmations, Buddy”, Papayi said one day. Not having done affirmations before, I of course didn’t know what they were. She brought some white powder that she kept near the window. Every day she would put a small dot on my forehead and put a pinch in my mouth. She said this is a special healing powder called Vibhuti that she brought from some place called Puttaparthi.  After putting the Vibhuti on my forehead, she said, “let’s say the affirmation Buddy: ‘I am a happy and healthy dog’. It is the Truth. Let’s say it, and Baba will help.” So every day she would say the affirmation with me.

I am telling you, it worked! I slowly recovered. Papayi even asked the Homeopathy doctor Dr Swathi for some medicine for my skin and fur. I tell you – it was miraculous. The powder that the doctor gave worked like a charm! All my clumps fell out and brand new shiny fur grew in its place. And the itching and red welts also disappeared. Papayi and Somu would brush me and be so proud to see the shiny new fur. “You are perfect just as you are, Buddyilu”, she would say.

And so I stayed on, happy to roam on the streets around 16th A Main, return to Papayi’s house for food and affection, and to the construction site to visit the watchman’s family.

But I always knew how to get into trouble. I didn’t do it purposely, I swear! It was not my fault AT ALL. Even before I got better from the CD, I got into big trouble. Wait till next week to hear what happened to me. Oh my God, Papayi almost lost it!

Prologue

August 2020

 “Hey Bud, doesn’t Corona suck?” Papayi guffawed loudly at her own joke. “Aren’t you the weiser one!” I retorted. These hoomans! what next? ‘hey Bud, have you climbed over the hill? Terrence Hill, that is” [again, laughs at own jokes].  Haven’t I heard these lame jokes before? There goes my nap. What’s a dog got to do to get some quiet time around here? This lockdown is all messed up. Hoomans are home all the time, cracking corona jokes because they are bored. I have a busy program in the evening – so many streets to cover, so many hoomans and dog friends/rivals to visit. And all this before it starts raining heavily. I need my nap time. Uninterrupted.

I can’t complain though.

How I got here… my story begins

Let me tell you how I got here in the first place. Back in December, I think I was only a few months old – maybe 4 or 5 max. I don’t know what happened to the rest of my family. Suddenly I was all alone. To be safe, I hid under an old car on a small street. I was so scared. If anyone came, I barked loudly, and just sat under the car for a few days. Only one dog used to come and see if she could get me out. I didn’t know who she was and whether she was friendly, so I stayed put.

IMG_20200906_162819.jpg

The car under which I hid for a few days. 

Slowly after a few days, I came out because I was hungry. The nice people on the street started giving me food. Papayi, whose house is across from the abandoned car, gave me these crunchy flakes which were so yummy. She called them cornflakes. I really loved them.

First time I had cornflakes!

Slowly, I walked over to the construction site where a new house was being built. It was easy to find a place there to sleep. There was a lot of construction material around and I had to be careful, but I also found nooks and crannies where I could sleep undisturbed and safe. And the workers were nice. Sometimes they gave me food. And there was a small child called Lakshmi Priya. She liked to play with me (if you call it playing – she would just carry sand in her tiny hands and heap it on my back!). Her father was a kind person and he was the watchman at the construction site. On Sundays, he would give me a little bit of the chicken rice they had for lunch.  They even gave me milk sometimes, although they themselves had so little. I really appreciated their kindness. I would spend my time snoozing on the cement or sand mounds. And so the days passed. I now slowly belonged to this little road called 16th A Main. The boys who worked at Shanthi Upahar – the Darshini or eatery round the corner – would also play with me. They lived in a house directly across from the construction site. They would feed me biscuits and I would walk with them to the eatery and sit there for a while. So, slowly people on the street got to know me.

And then disaster strikes!

I loved sitting or sleeping in the middle of the road. There is a nice white line on the road right there across from Papayi’s house. And I used to sit there all the time. If any of those monstrous bikes or big cars came roaring down, I would get up in a hurry and go to the side of the road. Papayi would worry all the time that I would get hurt. But I didn’t know why. Surely those drivers can see someone sitting in the middle of the road?

Sure enough. One fine evening last December, I was sitting there on the line, minding my own business when a car came hurtling down. I tried to get up and move, but the car was going too fast. Maybe the driver thought this was the autobahn! Otherwise who will drive so fast on such a small road? [I must confess I don’t know what the autobahn is, but that’s the word papayi used when she cussed out the driver]. Anyway, the car hit me on my left hip and I let out the loudest cry ever. There was a sickening thud. It was 9 pm at night. Everyone was indoors. Suddenly all doors opened and people started streaming out to see what the thud was. I was so scared, and in so much pain. I yelped loudly for a few minutes. It was really bad. Still, I dragged myself to the abandoned car (where I used to hide when I first got here) and crawled underneath with great difficulty. Papayi and the neighbors across brought torches and tried to see if I was bleeding, and if I needed help. I was too shocked to move and stayed put there. That is what dogs do – by instinct, we try to hide somewhere when we are hurt. I know – that is silly! How will hoomans help us if we hide? But I did not realize that and stayed put under the car.

Papayi went inside and somehow found a doctor who was available at 9 pm. His new clinic was only a few minutes away by bike. She asked Vikram the neighbor to fetch him because the vet was new to the area and didn’t know the roads. Lucky for me, eh! That the vet opened a clinic nearby and could come at 9 pm?

Of course, I didn’t know at that time that he was a vet and he could help me. So I tried to resist, but he pulled me out from under the car. I escaped his clutches and tried to run away. He caught me again. Meanwhile, a crowd had formed around me. I was so terrified. The vet was gentle though. I tried to bite him. He didn’t mind. He tied my mouth up with some bandage cloth so that I would not bite him again. It was dark. He checked if I was hurt. But he said he needed x-rays to see if anything was broken. They discussed for some time what to do. Then they came up with a plan. He put me inside the compound in papayi’s house (I had never been inside before!) and tied me up with a rope. I didn’t like that at all. He gave me some pain killers and a sedative. He said, he will let me sleep it off for the night. In the morning, he would come back and take me to his hospital which is really far away – 15 kms I think. There he would do x-rays and see if anything was broken. I didn’t know what all this meant. I just wanted to get away from all of them. So everyone left me inside papayi’s compound on a sheet, and went back home. The doctor also left. Pheww. What a night. In the middle of the night, the other dog came and peeped in through the gate a few times to make sure I was ok. I was so touched. One of the young boys from the Darshini also came to check – he was so worried and saddened that I was hurt. Somehow I got through the night.

Lying inside the compound the night I was hit.

Going to a big hospital

Next morning, the vet came to make sure that Papayi could put me in the car and go with him to the hospital. The other dog who was keeping an eye on me came and stood anxiously wondering where they were taking me.

The other dog wondering where they are taking me.

This is the first time I was in a car! Woww…I was still drowsy, so slept a lot. Once we got to the hospital, the doctor did the x rays. He found that my left hip bone was broken! If it was the leg, they could have put a cast, but because it was the hip, there was nothing they could do. It had to heal on its own. But they had to give me medicines and make sure I was fine. Papayi elected to admit me to the hospital – I was too new to them, and I was too young. She felt that at the hospital, they would give me medicines, food, IV fluids and lot of rest. So I stayed there for 8 days (from what I can remember).

By the way, do you know how I got my name? When I was admitted to the hospital, they asked for a name during registration. Papayi called home and asked amma. Amma said ‘put it as Buddy’. So that is how I got my name. But more about that later. I will explain my many names later, if I remember!

After 8 days, Papayi came to get me from the hospital. I was so happy to see her. I wanted to go back to my road which was my home. So she put me in the car again, paid the bill, picked up the medicines and we went back home. This time I was more awake, and she had a hard time keeping me down on the seat.

Returning home after 8 days at the hospital.

We reached home and she helped me down from the car. I was a little wary, and I didn’t know what to do. But Papayi knew – she slowly walked with me up the street to the construction site. When the workers saw me limping back slowly to the site, they were so happy! They didn’t know what had happened to me. Now they were happy to have me back. They knew I was used to sleeping there. She gave them some cloth to put on the floor as my bed. They put it in the corner where I liked to sleep. I was still limping and had difficulty getting up.

Anyway, slowly I recovered and limped around. I was so weak. Sometimes, I would sleep on the sand in the shade and couldn’t get up. Papayi would come around lunch time and search for me. The sun would be streaming down, and it was really hot. She would then slowly coax me to get up and walk towards her house. It would take a long time. But she stayed with me and slowly we would reach her house, which is about 4 houses away from the construction site. Then she would give me food. I would eat it and then go back to my sleeping place. The doctor came back a couple of times to see me. He even gave me vaccinations. They hurt a lot, and I started running away any time I saw him coming. They would have to search for me a lot!

Slowly life was getting back to normal, even if on a limp! But life had more surprises for me. Would you like to read on? Then wait for part II which I will narrate next week.

To be continued….

[Reproduced from an article written / published on LinkedIn]

It is that time of the year again – the token March 8th Women’s Day celebrations round the world. Does half the population of the world need one day in a year to celebrate them? And to celebrate what? Do these celebrations have an impact on women’s status and empowerment round the world? Let’s agree to be truthful and honest as we try and find answers to these questions. Every day should be women’s day, as it should be men’s day, or children’s day. Does the tokenism behind these “days” mean we do not need to pay attention to women for the rest of the year? How about we just say, we are all humans stuck on this planet with nowhere in sight to go (yet); so how about we treat each other well. All the time. Every day.

Just last week, I went to a home renovation store in Jayanagar, Bangalore to look for tiles for a kitchen renovation I am planning. As an evening outing, my father accompanied me to the fairly large and “modern” tile store. He was least interested in the tiles, or in the transaction. He just came along for the ride and was therefore trailing me by a good ten steps as we entered the store. I explained to the manager what I was looking for. He called out to the floor salesperson: “Sir wants some tiles; can you show him?”. I looked around in surprise. “Sir? Who me?” I thought. No. The manager was referring to my father who was still near the entrance of the store, whereas I was near the manager’s cabin. It did not matter to him that I initiated the conversation, I was looking for the tiles and I was going to carry out the transaction. Is this a rare occurrence? Not really. Am I invisible?

I was traveling overseas with our director. We were going to conduct a workshop for a government agency in another country, and I was the lead technical trainer. As we passed through Kuwait airport at our layover, we went to the security gate to catch our connecting flight. “Why are you here?”, the guard at the security gate barked at me. “This is not your gate”, he continued in the same barking tone. How the hell did he know where I was going, I thought. Looking around, I realized – he saw me, a diminutive Indian woman – and assumed I was an Indian domestic servant and, chances are, this would not be my gate if I were indeed one of the thousands of Indian women employed in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region as maids. They would be boarding flights to India that departed from other areas of the airport. I plonked my laptop bag on the security machine belt and handed him my passport and boarding pass. Only then, he noticed our director behind me who also did the same. No mea culpa there; there never is. He quietly handed my passport back and let me through. I visualized a tight slap that would have brought the blood rushing to his stern face. I also realized how the poor women who go as domestic aides are treated at the airports and in the countries where they serve. The visuals I saw were stunning to me, because I had been reading and writing for more than two decades about women who migrate as domestic servants. The women aides with their small roll-on suitcases trailing their employers – sometimes families with young kids, sometimes older men being assisted by the women who looked very much like me. What kind of a life did they lead, captive in these employer-families’ homes? I wondered. For the rest of the trip, I joked with our director that I am the domestic servant and he is the rich Arab Sheikh. The irony and sickening misogyny of the security gate experience was not lost on me, despite the joke. Am I invisible?

Such behavior is place-agnostic. It is the same everywhere. Many years ago, a friend and I went to a KIA car dealership in Watertown, Massachusetts. After much back and forth with the car salesperson, we were still haggling over the price and the inclusions. Suddenly, the manager of the dealership rushed across the floor. “These “girls” are not here to buy a car!” He thundered. They are here just to pass time. “It is a waste of time”, he told the salesman. “Forget about them”. We walked out of the dealership. Next day, the salesman called to apologize for his manager’s behavior.

“Please come back”, he said. “I will work with you and get you the car you are looking for”.

“I already bought a car”, I told him; and, added that his manager’s behavior towards ‘these girls’ was not acceptable. He was surprised. “What car did you buy?” He asked me curiously. “I bought a Honda Accord”, I told him. “And, I paid cash for it”. The phone line went silent for a few long seconds.

“That is a higher end car than what you were looking for here”, he said. “Yes”, I replied. “Indeed, it is. You lost a customer yesterday because of your boorish manager”. Am I invisible?

There was a discussion here on LinkedIn (#AskVishwas) on whether it is a good practice or not for HR to ask the marital status of a job applicant. Reading a random sample of responses to the question, it was disheartening to note that most respondents from various companies (Indian of course) cited the following; (a) women get married and leave their jobs; (b) women have babies and so go on maternity leave. Therefore, it is better to ask marital status. But, if men leave their jobs and move on to other opportunities, that is not apparently an issue. Women may leave jobs for the above reasons, and so companies are justified in asking the marital status, was the argument. Married women (and men) are more likely to be ‘stable’ employees, according to some of the other responses.

Starkly missing in the above LinkedIn discussion was an acknowledgement of the multiple roles women play – at the work place, and at home. Yes, women have babies. That is how creation is, unfortunately. Yes, women are most often primary caregivers and therefore are more likely to need time and space for such caregiving. However, companies and their HR would rather look at this as a lose-lose situation for the company than think of how to employ women and create enabling conditions of employment that will make it a win-win for both sides. No wonder, India has the lowest rates of women’s formal employment in the worldIs what I do invisible to you? In a few other parts of the world, it is illegal to ask marital status of job applicants – precisely to discourage this kind of discrimination in employment based on the roles women have to play in society. “Women are the primary contributors building societies, nurturing the young, looking after the elderly and trying to earn an income too”, I wanted to counter one of the respondents who thought it was too silly a topic to discuss on LinkedIn.

I could go on and on. Every woman who reads this will have stories of her own where she was invisible, talked down to, looked through as if she did not exist, devalued for what she does, and doesn’t.

This is my experience – that of someone who was lucky enough to be educated, employed, reasonably well-traveled person. What about women who, often due to circumstances beyond their control, cannot claim the same level of exposure or empowerment, or choices on how to lead their lives? They are even more invisible and voiceless. And, one day of celebration a year is not going to cut it. They would rather have 365 days a year of respect and acknowledgement of what they do for society. Shall we start a new hashtag perhaps? #Am_I_Invisible?

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