When I was about eight or nine years old, a puppy strayed into our yard. Perhaps a six-month old pup. It ate whatever was thrown out, and seemed to have decided that our yard was his place in life.
One day, when mom gave him--well, tossed to him--something to eat, I remember watching with utmost fascination this puppy seriously digging a hole in the ground, burying this food scrap, and then covering it up. My first puppy love it was, I suppose :)
In a couple of days, however, it was time for us to travel to Sengottai and Patatmadai for the annual holidays. That is what we did most summers--we went to grandmas' homes. We had to board the train at vriddhachalam, which, during my childhood days, felt like a gazillion miles away from Neyveli.
As we started driving, the puppy followed us. Initially, with the car slowly inching out through the gate and then onto the road, he had no problems keeping up with us. Then, as the car started accelerating, the pup started racing as fast as he could. Soon, he fell behind, and was gone from view in no time at all.
For a family that didn't have animals as pets, those couple of days we were a family with a dog. Every once in a while, during that summer break, I wondered whether the puppy would be waiting for us when we returned. Of course, that was not the story.
Years later, in the US, I have had dogs at home, but my memory of this first dog has not gotten erased.
Now, decades after that--almost four decades after that accidental puppy interaction--here I am walking around in some really, really, traditional and old parts of Tamil Nadu. While stray dogs are everywhere, the kids seem to far too busy with their own lives to even bother the sleeping dogs.
And then I see this, in an absolutely traditional home in an old street in an old small town of Srivaikuntam:
The door was ajar, and there was a dog happily sitting there watching the comings and goings. He didn't even bother when I stopped there for a few seconds to take a photo.
If in such a small town, in a traditional part of that town, a dog gets this kind of a treatment, then I can only think that India has changed a lot. For the better.