Only a person who has lived with a dog will understand why no human- relationship can ever come to that level of selfless commitment. Once a dog has befriended you, no human friendship can ever be good enough. Ramu came into my life when I was two years old. There is a queer story behind his name that grandma narrates. My grandma was a dexterous lady back then. It was the 21st day of April. Like every other day, she went to the Kalibaari (Temple dedicated to Goddess Kali) early in the morning to help out in the daily worship. Very few people used to be in the temple at that hour of morning. There, inside the sanctum sanctorum (garbhgrih), at the feet of Ma kali, slept a little pup like a soft ball of chocolate. She brought him home and debates started over the name. It was Ram Navmi that day and hence, they named him Rāmū. Well, such were the names of pets in those days, Heera, Chamku and Moti. But he? He was my Ramu.
My first memory of him is that of a brown pup with big round eyes and a cute little tail. When he came home and my baby-eyes met his puppy-eyes for the very first time, somewhere, we both knew this bond was forever. I remember looking at him carefully for several minutes and then touching my bums again and again trying to find my tail but alas! there was none on my bums whereas he had it right there! The tail intrigued me. Especially, because the elders had asked me not to touch it!
Being a silent rebel since the time I was born, one day, I gently touched Ramu’s tail even after the elders strictly asked me not to do so (it was BECAUSE the elders asked me not to do so!) and to everybody’s surprise, unlike his innate nature, he just looked at me, stuck its tongue out and started panting. I touched his tail again and this time a bit firmly. What happened next left me all the more in love with him. He slid his body closer to mine and sat sticking to me. He then started licking my right toe. This was not at all his usual behaviour. Like the other dogs, he used to get furious if somebody even accidentally touched his tail. Ramu was different with me.
Time started flying on its wings and we both started to grow up, together. Whenever I used to visit grandma with my parents, it was mom and dad who used to enter first while I waited at the door for my buddy to receive me. He used to wag his tail in joy seeing my parents and then, he would come to me, look at me as if he had been waiting for me since eternity and then lick both my cheeks one by one. Only then was I allowed to enter the house.
Ma fondly talks about the instances when the elders used to scold me for some reasons and he would come and stand between the elder and me and with his big, round eyes would look at the elder as if pleading not to scold his friend. Don’t know how many times he himself got scolding for protecting me like that!
I was a fluffy kid, a typical bong child. I remember how I used to climb on him whenever I needed to switch the light or fan on. He would bear my weight without a regret. Throughout the day, he would play with me and pretend to eat the leaves and flowers that I “cooked” for him in my clay toys.
In the evening, he would let me sit on his back and give me a ride in the garden. When I used to dance merrily on the terrace, he would hover around me as if my joy was gushing out through his heart.
When I would be depressed and cry in the sultry afternoon of May, he would sit beside me in the hot sun, lick my palm and caress my hand with his head.
Without any siblings and almost no one to talk to, I had created a whole world of mine. Back then, my partner-in-crime was my four-legged buddy, Ramu. As a child, I used to be thrilled by the idea of going to my grandma’s house. Reason? It was a big house with lots of antique stuff gathered since decades. For me, the house was my Narnia. One would never know what door might open the way to an entirely different world. There were old clay toys, dolls from yester-years, crockery sets like those of black and white movies, heap of comics and…a closet full of BOOKS! I loved exploring the house when elders were busy discussing their “elderly” topics. It gave me an immense adrenaline rush and I used to explore every corner of that mansion with Ramu walking beside me (He used to make sure that I don’t hurt myself).
Time passed. Death took my first friend away from me. But his memories are still afresh. Ramu taught me the meaning of friendship and he was the Spartan who protected the childhood “me” from every harm. People say if a dog is your protector, no harm can ever befall you. Ramu left the mortal world but I still feel him near me, very near. While reading alone in my room, I feel him lying next to me. While listening to music, I feel him relaxing on the beats. When I come back from office, I feel him waiting for me eagerly. He still listens to all my tell-tales like he used to do in my childhood. Ramu still protects my inner child and till he is here, no harm will ever befall me.