Monday, October 12, 2009

Darpoke-The Courageous (In Memoriam)

As a kid, I used to love watching Courage on Cartoon Network. As a matter of fact I still do.
For those ignorant “adults” out there, Courage is the world’s timidest, most cowardly animated dog there ever was, who has been entrusted by his creators, the sole responsibility of saving his elderly humans-Muriel and Eustace from the paranormal elements that continuously buffet their simplistic existence.

He somehow always wins. Sigh! The wonders of being a toon, is that everything always works out for you. Whether you’re thrown into a burning ball of fire, or squashed under a cement loaded truck, hosed with toxic acid, or shredded into a million pieces by a furiously revolving set of knives, you can put the pieces back together or just re-inflate yourself and voila! You’re whole again.Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in the real world. A tiny little stone can change your life forever-especially if you’re an animal, and more so a stray. Such was the fate that befell one of the most beloved dogs we knew-Darpoke.Darpoke (meaning cowardly) was nothing like the toon Courage. He was first brought to the Thane S.P.C.A three years back, in a chauffeur driven dashing white Hyundai sedan. His anguished human explained nearly in tears that he was a stray from a posh housing colony in Bandra East, and a rickshaw had allegedly run over his leg injuring it badly. Since then he was out to bite all auto drivers. The lady was afraid that this characteristic would urge people to stone him, beat him or even worse kill him. Moreover his injured paw was healing very slowly and was emitting a distinct odour. Such is human behaviour. A fowl smell or unsightly existence, can very easily make a man resort to killing or some such brutal behaviour. The life of an animal is just not worth the ugliness and stench!We, at Thane SPCA, took him in, christened him Darpoke and so began his journey with us, as a resident animal.

His existence among us and the other animals was one of joy and many laughs, but unfortunately wasn’t meant to be long enough. His leg was cured soon enough, but his life was nearing its completion.Darpoke was a dog of changeable characteristics. I still have no clue, why he was named Darpoke in the first place. He seemed very courageous. Also, he loved being petted and took it upon himself to boss over the other animals by day and guard the hospital by night. He was a robust animal and grew in girth day by day; lapping up whatever meal was provided to him. Within a short period of time, he became trapezium shaped, which made him all the more adorable (fat dog syndrome). He was so protective about his food, that he never allowed other animals anywhere near it. This possessiveness took its toll one day.A few months back, he was relishing a lazy meal consisting of rice, lentil and vegetables when Sony, the resident baby donkey trotted by. The whiff of the nicely prepared lunch was tempting enough for Sony, to temporarily develop carnivorous tendencies. Craving the khichdi, she approached Darpoke’s bowl with care and slowly tried to inch her way through, when Darpoke whipped around, bared his fangs and growled at her in his usual scary bossy way. Sony, in her characteristic calm manner, returned to her stall and spoke no more of the incident.Later that afternoon, Darpoke was enjoying his daily noon siesta, basking in the sun, when Sony trotted up behind him, nonchalantly catching a blade of grass here and there. Before the hospital staff could even catch on to what she was planning, she had already kicked him as hard as she could square in the middle of his head! Darpoke had finally met his match in the little donkey and was woozy and trembly for around two months. Her kick had so much pizzazz in it that everyone was of the opinion that Darpoke was finished. But his spirit was still strong, and Dr Chariar’s veterinary skills sharp as ever. Two months of treatment, and the giddy dog was back to normal on his own four paws, bossy and hungry as usual.

But as they say, fate is a very determined lady. One can escape her grip once, even twice, but not every time. Destiny had decided that Darpoke was to go, and so it was to be.One day some children were playing out side the hospital premises. Weird as children’s games are, these particular two decided to play with little stones, by throwing them at each other. I guess the point of the game was to not get hit. Neither got hit but. Darpoke did. Apparently someone saw the stone fly in, and hit him, but never in our wildest dreams did we imagine losing Darpoke to a child’s harmless game.We won’t ever know whether it was the kick or the stone that caused Darpoke to suffer elaborate cranial and cerebral brain injuries. Extensive swelling on one side of his head disfigured his face and he lost perception of space and time. He would often go round and round in circles for what would seem an interminable amount of time, before finally flopping down on the floor. His appetite dropped along with his weight. Soon he was only a shadow of his formal ruddy self.As days passed he grew thinner and thinner, lost his eyesight and hearing, and did not care to be petted and loved like he used to. But he was loved all the same, and each time Darpoke winced in pain, each one of us cried for him. But something we saw in him also renewed the hope that often lies dormant within our fickle human minds and brittle hearts. It was his courage. His courage to live another day and fight to get there.It’s amazing how he survived so many days with such severe injuries. It’s as if there was a spark within that refused to be extinguished. Something that kept the life flame burning strong. So much so, that even after Dr Chariar pronounced him as terminally ill, he often showed signs of improvement. Even in his the mentally unbalanced state, he would growl at other animals if they got too close to his food bowl. He even barked at a stranger outside the hospital one day. Every day that he lived after the injury was tantamount to a miracle.I remember, even in the last few days, he seemed to be improving. In the end he had started bleeding internally and we winced every time he bled though his orifices. But he fought hard and long for more than two months. Many a time, unable to bear the extent of his suffering, hospital staff considered euthanizing him-something they resorted to only as an extreme measure. But his indomitable will to live stayed the needle. Dr Shellar even went so far as to try a new medicine on him in a final effort to save his life. But Darpoke was too far gone. He was leaning on his courage…purely his courage to live.On the last day, I was told that he ate a full meal-something he had always loved doing, and passed away peacefully in his sleep.I believe that he finished his final meal, by the sheer strength of his will power. He did what he wanted to do, what he had always reveled in. And then, when he didn’t want to hold on any longer, he decided to let go.

Mary Ann Radmacher said-Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow”. And Darpoke did just that. Contrary to his name, he faced every sunrise with a renewed will to live each day and see another. He couldn’t roar like he used to do in his hay days. But he was always roaring inside.He will be cremated tomorrow, with all the respect that should be accorded a hero and a loved one. His was a battle that he had to fight alone, and he died fighting gloriously. As someone said, a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. Darpoke wasn’t meant for a cushy life. His was an example of the struggle that all strays have to face, and it exemplified the right attitude with which one must ideally confront “life’s” various faces. To love, to be resilient, to stand up for what holds right an true, and to be courageous-these were the life lessons he taught us.If you are one to believe in reincarnation and karma, then know that Darpoke is bound for a more evolved state of life, wherein he will be able to express his unique personality beautifully and consequently evolve further.

And if you are one to believe in a permanent afterlife, know this-He is healthy and happy, in a world much like our own, but devoid of the pain and anguish that our plane holds. He is with all the other animals that we have loved and lost, and he has everything he ever wanted. Love, friends that he can boss around and yes of course, a magical food bowl that’s always full.Rest in Peace Darpoke. We will miss you.

In fond remembrance,


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