A Guest Post by PN Sampath Kumar,
Cochin Shipyard, Kochi.
When life in our two bed room small apartment started becoming boring without much activity other than his studies and routine TV programs, prompted by some TV program, Achu, my son, started pestering me to buy a pet for him.
A pet, in the form of a Dog, as appeared in a TV commercial, a pug, was the imminent option that occurred to him. The life in an apartment has got its own limitations and he was well aware that keeping a dog with us had its own problems. Then came the idea of getting a parrot. A bird that talked, answering you and engaging in dialogue with you would be an excellent option. More over it is not very costly. He has seen birds being sold at market places and roadsides in our city, though illegally. I pretended to avoid all these ideas. Also I tried to convince him against it explaining how cruel it would be to cage a bird. At last he abandoned the concept half heartedly cursing me for my miserliness. Deepa also promptly joined him. She will not leave any opportunity to taunt me for my attitude.
One evening, after a hectic day out, at home, I was greeted by both mother and son at the doorstep with broad smiles on their faces. Achu took me near the glass jar with water in it, kept on the table wherein I found a creature swimming. It was a turtle. Though curious to observe the cute little one swimming and occasionally resting on the big pebble placed in the centre of the water, I pretended to be serious and kept away. I had a feeling that as time passed, they will lose interest and the duty to take care of him will end up ultimately on my shoulder. I told them that.
The turtle feed was available in the market. They have bought it. They have done the preliminary study to find out the quantity and periodicity of feeding him. As expected, Achu’s early school timings did not permit him the liberty of taking care of him in the morning. He was supposed to feed him daily in the morning. And I pressed him into the duty by compulsion. Deepa will not do that.
And slowly the little turtle became our family member. He made us feel his presence felt by tapping on the sides of the glass jar as if he was asking for the feed whenever any of us reach near him. We named him “Nellikka Pappu”. We in fact had lifted the name from narration in a TV program about the story of a mischievous boy.
One evening back home I was surprised to find a neatly displayed aquarium in place of the old Jar. Deepa had bought one. She had arranged it with some sand in the bottom, some colourful pebbles in the middle and a bigger pebble in the centre to act as an island for him to take rest. She also arranged it with some artificial plants in the back to create a feeling of being close to nature. Though not very receptive of any (wasteful) expenditure, I approved it. Good, the guy deserved some more space and comfort. He was dark green in color. The star like design on his back with white borders made him look beautiful.
Water needed to be replaced regularly. Considering the difficulty in physically lifting the tank and the risk of my son breaking it, I took over the cleaning work on my own. While cleaning the tank, I brushed his back with an old tooth brush provided by Achu. He reluctantly allowed us to do so like a boy refusing to take bath. Achu enjoyed keeping him on his palm and he enjoyed the tickle it provided while walking on the palm. Whenever left free on the study table, he would hurriedly walk towards some book to hide himself. It was always fun watching him in action.
His growth was phenomenal. Within few months, he became double the size that he was when he first came home. The star designs on his back became more prominent and the red patches on both sides of his cute neck became brighter.
In the mean time, the food packet that Deepa had bought earlier got exhausted and while searching for a new packet, we came across a locally made product. We tried that with good results. He continued to greet us by tapping whenever approached nearer. The new product should have been tastier. In his eagerness to swallow the whole piece given to him by hand, he bit me with his small but prominent set of teeth. It was fun lifting him with the worm sized feed bitten on the one side. It reminded us of the drawing in the Amar Chitra Katha, on the famous story of the tortoise who travelled from one pond to another, with the help of his swan friends.
In our daily household chores, we did not notice his getting started disinterested in food. All those days, I used to drop two-three long pieces of feed in the morning and rush to office thinking that he will consume it whenever he felt hungry. He had lost his appetite. He never demanded food. No tapping sound heard.
Achu’s neighbourhood friend Kaachu and her mother opined that it would have gone on hibernation, a phenomenon which is common with turtles. But we never wanted him to be on hibernation. We wanted him with us, making the tapping noise, eating food and playing with us. I tried to force feed him; but of no use. He never responded.
One evening back home, Deepa came screaming “the turtle is dead”. I did’nt want to face the inevitable. I argued that he was on hibernation and not dead. But within me, I too started slowly believing that he is not going to come back.
Turtles have many lives. Each time they go on hibernation and come back, it is a new life for them. That is why they live for very long years.
I wanted to give some more time for Pappu to come back to life. But no miracle happened. Deepa started troubling me to remove it from home which I never wanted to do. I blamed them for all that had happened. It was they who brought Pappu home and it is for them to decide what to do with it.
At last during this weekend, I agreed to do the last rites of Pappu, but with some conditions. It was the right time for me to negotiate. I made her agree to my demand of clearing the aquarium from home and not to rear a pet at home, which she half-heartedly agreed.
I took his motionless body out of his home and placed on a piece of paper. Before covering it I examined him once again in and out with the precision of a Doctor, with the last hope of his making some movement. He didn’t move. Suddenly I found traces of blood on the paper he was laid. It was all over.
I took him like a baby in my hand to the water in front of our apartment, left him there and returned. I dared not to look back. He has gone on a very long hibernation. If he returns back to life he will be a new born turtle with an unknown past. He should never remember us who deprived him of his freedom.
Bye my dear friend. Be in your world. Whenever I feel like meeting you, I will come to your world. I will never be selfish enough to keep any pet animal to decorate my drawing room.