September 27, 2012

My Family and Other Animals" (... with due homage and apologies to Gerald Durrell)

Ours is a funny family. Animals included.

Once, our cooking gas cylinder leaked, in the middle of the night. The folks from the emergency service came in at 3:00 AM, to find mama starting to eat dinner, Bonnie watching a football game and loudly cheering Manchester United, Ma making tea, mami solving a Bangla crossword puzzle, and me on the computer, laughing at some joke on the cyber world. They were surprised. We were surprised that they were surprised.

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" asked Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

Gullu, our Japanese Spitz, likes salami for breakfast, prefers Coke to Mirinda, and does not consider himself a dog. A stray cat is found sitting gNyat on the mat in the living room. Not surprising. We are all used to some normal level of insanity in the house. But, things started getting curiouser and curiouser, when my Boromashi landed up last month, with a fresh whiff of life, unbound energy of a 64-year young lady, eager enthusiasm in returning home after forty years, 10 chattering birds, 2 docile and furry baby-rabbits and one over-excited Jack Russell Terrier named Millie. Now, there is a general rise in the level of normalcy at home, curve tending upwards.

The birds have interesting first names like Rabri, Lalu, Shundori, Hitler, Kochi, Tioti, Raju, Ria, Freddieand Friya. They chatter and chirp all day, sometimes getting into mock fights and tearing neck feathers off each other. My sister is unimpressed with them bird brained creatures. The more interesting rabbits are called Cleopatra (blue eyes, white and grey fur) and Nefertiti (red eyes, brown and white fur), nicknamed Cleo and Neffi. They happily eat all day. I mean all day. Given food, theywill eat. We are too softhearted to keep them on a diet. They will have to start eating cabbage flavoured with Entero-quinol, pretty soon.

Millie has already proven her stripes by trying to eat a lovebird. She ended up tearing off some blue feathers and pawing the rabbit cage so violently that she upset the cage. Poor Millie! A terrier is a hunting breed. Now, she alternates between mournfully sleeping when leashed, and frantically peeling the paint off the doors, when locked. Lately, though, she has begun killing time by chasing tiktikis. A good way to deal with the frustration! All night, she diligently climbs the dining table, TV, my work desk and other "high" places, in her futile search for one, just one, tiktiki. She might need therapy, methinks.

Gullu is nonchalant to this entire hullabaloo. His age, grace and dignity are beyond such juvenile delinquency. He comes in, observes the baby rabbits with polite interest, reprimands Millie's mad attempts to eat them alive with a disdainful look, and retires to his place of honor in front of the kitchen, to look at life pass by.

Boromashi is having a good time, tending her grandchildren, "Aayi Rabri ! Ekdom bachha der thokraabe na! Oi Tioti! Tumi chan korcho na keno? Hello Friya, where is your nest? Good boy, Freddie, come hiya!" Training a terrier to curb her instincts, "MILLIE!! They are your children-ee! No bite-oo! You will get big smacky! Naughty mashi you are!! Say sorry to little birdie you tried to eat today," etc., and generally having a ball.

(Spring, 2005)

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