I have realized a tad slowly how tough it is to fight loneliness after living, enjoying and sharing the milk of togetherness for thirty-four years of married life with Mani. All along adoring subtle privileges and fending trails that are thrown at us as we endearingly walked down our chosen educator path. Beating all odds, assembling our family, business, and children. And when we are excitedly getting ready to hold in our laps the blissful innocence of our two grandchildren; karma, cast its noose at our family! Losing Mani, my wife to cancer shattered me, my future and plans we had for our children.
Today is the tenth month since I started measuring the burden of staying alone – and I don’t see any indication that it would become any easier in the days to come. All I see is one unsuspecting reality after another seem in a hurry to push me to lonely corners as if damnably pointing, “no one comes to you, the battle is yours alone – to suffer and to fight”.
MostlyI enjoy the sociability of people, always looking for occasions to be amidst well-wishers and well-meaning circle of chums. All of a sudden, as soon as I lost my wife, I felt, overshadowed by a cultural taboo, friends left me high and dry. No one to knock my door, no one to sit with me, no one ever, so far, peeped into my house to find out ‘how I’m surviving my mourning’. It appeared like I’m hearing a collective spell “it’s your fate, fend for yourself, get used to it” from everyone around whom I consider the nearest and dearest connections.
Perhaps, my wife Mani had foreseen the possibility of isolation and sociable boycott I have to deal with after her ‘eternal adieu’. She left me her loyal, humble pet dog the ten-year-old white, cottony Pomeranian –got into our home, ten years earlier by my teenage daughter Neelima, as her birthday gift. Given the size of a tennis ball, eyes not yet fully open, silky, a trembling curled furry lump was launched into our home with Bruno as his title. With his babyish playfulness and cute innocence, he became right away a sweetheart to Mani and Neelima.
Eleven years later, for Bruno and me, life took an unexpected deep plunge. Mani disappeared from both of our lives claimed by cruel cancer. My daughter got married and left to settle in the US. Living alone now I find myself in a fix like I had never volunteered to enroll as a friend to Bruno; his loyalty and affection always meant to my wife. My presence to him was just an obligatory authority and not necessary to be obedient – like barking when I’m around or not entitled to his friendly tail waving.
Today we are both thrown into a harsh possibility of living together. Huddled, more often at night in our allotted beds in the big hall, that was earlier used as the treatment room for Mani. Acknowledging each other’s pensive moods, and empty rooms to knock around. The tell-tale symptoms of exhaustion of suffering the absence of my wife were as grimly prominent on the blank staring face of Bruno as it is on mine -not knowing how to hide it – for both of us.
Roaming around, inattentively, Bruno began picking, oddly, three places for to stretch, eat or lie down; strictly at the corners located in only two rooms. The rooms where my wife was confined to bed for two years during her medical care. He never allowed putting himself into other rooms. If forced against his wish the yelps and growls grew louder and restless as if pleading ‘take me back to my place’. Maybe, I guess, he is still able to instinctively scent the presence of my wife and her love in his chosen two rooms.
The third is the parapeted wall that overlooks our school campus and the buzzing main road across our building – exactly where my wife preferred to sit on her wheel-chair, lamenting, when she would, on her own, be able to generously explore the buzz. Puzzlingly, I notice Bruno too would choose to wedge its curious head between the decorative spaces left in the balcony inspecting the same bustle two floors below. Mostly early mornings and cool evenings. Gazing longingly towards the excitement of the traffic as if he would catch, one day, a glimpse of my wife walking in!
Catching him curled around near the balcony, remotely looking out, I marvel at the sight of selfless love and attachment, firm even after ten months of Mani’s absence, flashed in the sorrowful eyes of Bruno. Disturbed and deeply touched I have a tough time holding my dripping eyes when I notice the clear display of loyalty by the Bruno.
Let me be frank, I was never good at ‘pet – sitting’ or like my wife and daughter never had a keen interest in the psychology of canines. Hardly displayed any sympathetic view to cuddle him or taking him around on to our terrace for prolonged morning and evening voiding trips.
It was ten months since; so far an agreeable rapport started emerging between Bruno and me. He started watching me, closely, particularly during nights, where I’m alone, positioning himself close to my bed with pricked ears, keen eyes, head tilted to one side, takes his post as a vigilant.
So long as I’m awake he stays close to me on guard. Occasionally, we both share a midnight snack or a sandwich. When I doze off, I’m aware of the slow sounds of his sides rising and falling and peculiar breathing noises, that he is cautiously watchful and listening attentively to any sounds outside the tightly bolted doors.
If I snap pop up at midnight hour, unusually, I at once notice Bruno intently watching me with his wet marbled eyes as if inquiring with ‘are you ok’ look. I’m really fascinated and be surprised at this faithful companion: the unconditional devotion he has been displaying from the time of my wife’s departure – a well-groomed gift from my wife.
Now I have built up an affinity with Bruno, developed a bond by saying bye when I leave to my office, cuddling when I return back home. As soon I wake up, putting on hold my morning ebullitions I began taking him around supervising the peculiar warming and excretion procedures of him. Going around, choosing specific corners, twisting noisily, and finally scrapping his nails on the floor -giving a signal to me that he had done with the morning session. Hitherto, in my regular routine I have never undertaken and ever imagined that a day would come where I would show interest looking after ‘the morning rituals of a pet dog.’
I have to praise Mani for making me realize the fact that the pet dogs are most devoted fellas without ever looking back what they get in return. In our case, we give them those leftovers and the scraps. Without protest, they bite any snack that is held before them, at our convenience. Never bothering about their own moods or pains, if they suffer any, they serve us abundantly, transparently with love, faith, and trust. Despite their inability to speak, they communicate in hundred various ways to express and announce their empathy and compatibility without partiality– a doctrine, I trust no human being can ever imitate.