Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I must have mentioned this a million times both to myself and the people around me...but it never fails to strike me how individualistic and unique every animal is. And by animal I do not mean the species as a whole, but the animal by itself.And every now and then, I come across the idiosyncracies of animals which seems to get me all excited, if not enable me to gain a deeper isight into their behaviuor.
i was in Mumbai on business for a couple of weeks this august. During this time I stayed with mum and dad and their pernacious cat mau rani.Apart from my usual duties of setting up business meetings, eating junk food and harassing mau by falling on her when she least expected it, I had other more mundane duties too like going vegetable shoopping and completing some basic household chores.
On one such evening, mum and me had gone out to do some general larder stocking in the mira road bhaji mandi at Shanti Nagar. Any one familiar with Indian mandis, especially Mumbaiya mandis, will have an idea of how chaotic and noisy they can get. A normal mandi scene would comprise of a string of vegetable and fruit vendors lined up, shrewdly and efficiently attending to the demands and needs of numerous people at any given time. Hands flailing in all directions, either to ask for a particular vegetable/fruit, or to refuse the given price, or to complainingly collect the loot, are representative of any mandi in Mumbai. In places like Kolkata, the "vegetable" mandi products extends to fishes, mutton and "bodis" too. Such is the colour of India.
Needless to mention, integral to any such veggie mandi, are India's famous pariahs...strays dogs of all possible shapes, sizes, colours and temperaments (In a fish mandi, one sees only cats lounging around). Also visible are donkeys, cows and occasionally also horses, lazily munching on the excess by products of the stalls. That evening I encountered one such animal Id like to tell you about.
She was this ugly little thing (but oh so beautiful). Brown and white in colour, sharp face, prominent nose and pointy ears, dirty profile with overgrowin toenails, I noticed her standing next to me staring one pointedly at this particular bhajiwala with a large stock of tomatoes.
We were haggling with him, trying to get him to downprice his lot, while this little dog stared on. I was fascinated with her rapt attention and so I went ahead and spoke to her. She just response. So I proceeded to stroke her head and talk her up a little more. Still nothing, though I did notice a slight shiver in the tail area of what I could only call "a statue of a dog"...:-)
Anyways to cut a long story short, I stroked, talked and cajoled, did my bit to befriend the animal, but I could not fathom the reason for her relentless attention. Just then our unassuming friend-the bhajiwala, said to me "madam, your talking wont help, she wants tomatoes."
He threw her a tomato,and I watched open mouthed as an otherwise ferocious carnivore, benevolently picked up the tomatoe carefully and bounded away with a joy that I could only relate to what a mumbaiite feels when Sachin hits a sixer. It took a while to sink in that this tiny little girl could be so happy with something as trivial as a tomato.
It kept sinking in more and more, each time she came back after wolfing down her tomato, to ask for more. I believe she must have eaten four or five while I was there with mum, buying our share of tomatoes for the week. And it amazed me.
I was amazed at a number of things which are so characteristic to animals, and so important for us to learn from. The little dog loved tomatoes and knew she wanted them. So she kept at it till she softened the bhajiwala enough to give them to her. What was more astounding is that in a world where we need pots of cash, tonnes of jewellery, swanky cars and gargantuan apartments to satisfy ourselves, a little dog could achieve that same level of happiness, with a couple of well earned tomatoes. Trivial? From our point of view probably. But from the dog's point of view? hmmm...I wonder...Could it be possible that such happieness is possible even for us humans with things as small and seemingly inconsequential as this? Is it possible to be happy just for the sake of happiness...? Is it possible that a mercedes, a penthouse in Bali, and a fruit could all amount to the same thing? Tomato? or Tomahto? I wonder...

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