THE UNFORGETTABLE TARZAN
Dogs are men best friends.
Most “house-dwelling” living things— say of cats, rats, caterpillars, ants, mosquitoes, bedbugs or other micro-organism like bacteria or fungi cannot be best of friends. They are quite a maniac of something or the other. Some are madly super-playful (say Cats), some indulge in excessive likeness for food and blood (like Rats, Caterpillars, Ants, mosquitoes etc.) and some spread diseases.
Dogs are, however agile. They are intelligent, faithful, and cannily ferocious and have conscience that can “own” its owners.
When I had my first introduction into the intelligent world of the dogs, I must have been 8 or 9 years old. I cannot forget our dog named TARZAN.
Whenever I retrace the memories of TARZAN, I use to be filled with the affection and the association I had with that dog in that point of my lifetime. Equally, I also get worried over things that are always changing. I feel unhappy and I often find myself being puzzling more by life itself.
One fine morning, in those many years ago, my father (being an early-riser and habitual visitor to any probable kin in the locality) came home with a puppy. He kept it on the floor of the kitchen and it was screeching and rubbing its feeble limbs forward and backward on the floor. Its furs were silky white, and had big ears that flap by the sides of its head. The eyelashes were red with tenderness and eyelids watery-black. My elder brother said, “The limbs and ears are big for its size. It may be of Labrador breed. Let us tame it nicely”. My younger brother was the most excited. With all longing eagerness he ran about the dog to grab it (He could be 2 or 3 years then). All of us were massively happy.
My father said that he forcefully paid the kin 20 rupees in spite of his roaring hesitation to take the money. In my misconceived childish opinion, I wandered why he paid 20 rupees for the damn dog, when he usually pays one or two rupees for our pocket money. Dogs are everywhere, barking and chasing around. They are as available and as free as air.
It was way later, when TARZAN grew into manhood that I realized the 20 rupees was the “life insurance money” for the dog. There is a lingering belief that all living things taken for taming has to be insured by exchanging our most prized possession (in this case money) on their behalf. If not, they die a quick premature death.
My first scrutiny on the dog was whether it was a “HE” or a “SHE”. After proper investigation with my brothers, the fact was proven. It was a proper “HE”.
And why the name TARZAN? In that year, the Bollywood song “Tarzan” was swirling at its peak in the locality. Every household played the music, danced and marveled at its tunes. It was so simple and captivating! And so, we agreeably named the puppy TARZAN. And the fact of being the TARZAN for the house was uncontested and came to each notice in no time.
When my father snatched TARZAN from her mother, he was yelling not willing to part with the warmth and milk of his mother. On the first week of his stay in our house, he was insecure and found us all alien and learned each “one step” with a faint light that penetrated his young pupil and limbs as fragile as reeds. Who could be in more misery than a child snatched from the breast of its mother?
But, TARZAN he was! He had a strong emotion and stubbornly inclined himself to survive, no matter what. He tried to survive and grew to keep up to his name. Now, his mother’s milk was replaced by cow’s milk, biscuits and sometimes rice.
When he was a month old and as big as medium-size horlick can, his inclination to learn new things— the human way—started to evolve. He did not cry for food until we dine. And when we ate, he approached his food-bowl and looked about at us, asking food. On school going time, he would rumble around, pulling our trousers as we wore it and roamed around searching for our shoes. He had just mastered the art of delivering shoes for his masters. On departure for school, it was his utmost priority to see us off up to the front door. And then went back to his bed under the chair.
In less than a year he grew into a macho dog, with silky furs that sparkled on the face of the sun. Till now, I do not find a dog of such beauty. He dashed with energy and prowled about with that colors of a white angel. And when he moved, his ears were flapping like the wings of a swift bird. I had always heard people saying, “Your dog is very beautiful and clever”. We were a very proud owner.
As much as to his beauty, his mind was conscious. One night, I must have been class 4 or 5 then, he kept on barking. We didn’t pay much attention—he always barked at strangers. That night, he didn’t stop barking, and then he ran to the door and pushed it, with the intent of telling us what he saw. My father and I ran out with torch in his hand, and on the glare we saw TARZAN leading our way towards the bamboo grooves in the dark. He started to stop barking, instead he squealed on us and bit my father’s trouser and pulled towards the grooves. What we saw was horrifying—a young girl, must had been 7 or 8 years old, holding an infant, wrapped in loose sheets, covered with blood and stains. She was sobbing intensely, covering her mouth with her hand so that she would not be heard. Mosquitoes had bitten her red and swelling; leeches sucked the blood from her legs and were almost bursting with blood like balloons. We took the girl in the refuge of our house. They stayed with us for few days and the infant child was crying most times due to cold and fever. Whenever she cried, TARZAN was the first to show care; he would jump to where the infant sleep and looked at her, wagging as if telling her not to worry about a thing. It was later learnt that the girl ran away from home when she overheard her parent’s decision of selling her infant sister for needs of money. Had it not been for TARZAN, the girl and the infant would not have been saved.
When TARZAN was around 10 to 12 months old, he was filled with stamina. He was ferocious too’’. He could sense his family members even in the darkest night, and could bark at any unrecognized “face and smell” even in the middle of his sleep. And when he was 13 months old, he was fully grown with husky voice and libido started to show up in his blood.
When TARZAN was about a year’s old he started to admire female and longed for sex. More in mating season, his libido would grow untamable, like fanning a coal furnace, and he would forget that he is a tame animal and ran out of the house and went stray, looking for a mate.
The blood of a living is a fluid of battles. It is the fight between cares, love, tenderness and the atrocity of hatred, urge, desires and barbarism. Life of a living is just an act between these two extremes. And when the “need” part of the blood calls, without having any thought, the living often submits to insanity, brutality and irrationality. So was TARZAN.
He would undergo barbarism, straying, not returning until a week or two. During all those insanity (mostly due to sexual urge) he mostly came back wounded and tired. There use to be gang-fight in even in the world of dog. And the fight use to be more aggressive when the goal is fleshy—female. And when tired and wounded, his nature was calmer—timid but bolder. He craved for more cares from us. He hated strangers more, and jumped at them in disarrayed mood, gnawing his teeth and tongue. He could be calmed only by hearing our voice.
One night I was alone at home studying. TARZAN walked up to me, lie on the chair and put his head on my lap. He looked at me profoundly. I said, “How are you, Tarzan?” He seemed to grumble in complain in his reply. He looked as if he had so many things to tell me—could be a sad doggie story, or about life or about the sorrow of death. Then, all of a sudden we heard sounds from our kitchen. TARZAN and I ran out of the room to check the sound. It was a burglar on the verge of sneaking into the kitchen from the window. TARZAN did not miss a second. He pouched on the thief and bit him on the leg, but he somehow managed to overpower TARZAN and jumped out the same way he came in. It was quite a scene, and that was the first time in all his life that TARZAN bit a human, hurt a human.
Still unsatisfied, TARZAN jumped out of the window, without barking, without sound, he traced the thief. The aftermath sound was deadly. He bit, scratched and jumped on the thief till he immobilized him. The thief was caught and before taking to police custody, he was taken to hospital. He was a deprived handsome young man. Consequently while dressing his wounds the pretty nurses asked him “how he got injured?” The thief answered, “I was attack by a mad dog on my way to Church!” None want to spoil our chances.
That day and the week that followed, TARZAN was the talked of the town—a hero. I was so proud when people talked about his achievement. In fact I was flying. Even local newsmen came to us to take picture of him. In the picture I was holding TARZAN like any proud owner had done before.
But my father was not happy at all on that attack. He found it very inevitable that he would attack and bite again, not only thief but innocent stranger. And then my father, in all his seer conscience came up with a plan—to cut his canine teeth so that it would not hurt others. No member in the family, at that time, knew that cutting canines would make the dog incapacitated. It was thought to be good for the family and more for the dog.
And so it was. During September while I was in class 6, I guess, the canines teeth were trimmed with the instruction of my father. With pliers and many men at armed, forcing TARZAN like a big uncontrollable baby, they blunted his canines.
The aftermath days that followed were different for TARZAN. He opened his mouth in pain, watery saliva flowing out the sides. He could not eat because of irritation and pain. Every day he grew thinner. Sometimes, he tried eating biscuits or soft rice. But he could not take much. He was always hungry and weak and sad at how things could just changed into, like that, in a flip of a second. And those were the time when he needed us the most. He would lay by our sides, and looked at us through his weak eyes, asking what we have done to him. Father took him to veterinary doctor regularly. With medication, his condition had improved. But there is some originality given by life, if broken, could not be substituted by any medicines. TARZAN lost his strength.
During one breeding month, Tarzan strays again as usual. He did not return after a week or two. All the three of us brothers went out looking for him. Every day for one whole week, search in the morning before school, and after school in the afternoon, were unproductive. My father even published about the missing TARZAN in the local newspaper with a promise of reward for any spotter. My younger brother and I were like crying and sobbing, literally. We did cry though in secret. I didn’t know how often my brother cry, how much he miss TARZAN, as he did not reveal it and did everything in secret. For me, I cried a lot. I really miss TARZAN. I wanted to touch his furs, I wanted to call him and I wanted to see him running towards me. I felt the house emptier. TARZAN was the most regular living being in the house that would wel-come us back after school, which would wait by our sides with faithful gestures. The woolen pillow I had placed for him during his canine injuries was still there left untouched.
One morning we were waken by a weak squealing sound of TARZAN. All of us, rushed towards the sound cheerfully. But our joy was knocked down by the sight. We found TARZAN lying beneath the bush covered in blood and injuries. The tooth marks of dogs could be seen all over his body and deep blood were oozing from them. Both his eyes were bitten blind and the right side of his skull was punctured badly. He wagged his tail once or twice when he heard our voice. I could not hide any longer. I cried holding the waist of my father and cry, “Tarzan….don’t die, don’t die!” But death came swiftly for him once he heard his family’s voice again. He took one last deep breath and released his soul.
After almost 30 years hence when I look now, our house is emptier. Except that day when TARZAN died, I never have another chance to hold my father and cry soberly. Instead, one by one they leave us. Tarzan left us first. Then my father. And then my younger brother. And then my grand mother. TARZAN was the only living being in the family who heard my voice before taking the final journey.
That is the story of TARZAN. Everyday I become firmer and firmer to the conclusion that it’s a story of my life too.