That first night, I looked into the pit, and he stared back at me intently. In that brief interlude, as we sized up each other, I knew that he had been named rightly. ‘Hector’, I whispered. A little bigger than my palm now, he’d grow up to be as valiant and handsome as Homer’s Prince of Troy, my heart said so.
I scooped him up from the big Videocon box that was meant to be his bed, and laid him on my pillow. As he tossed and turned and succeeded in pushing his butt up my nose, I hugged him. Minutes later, we both lay with our backs on the mattress, breathing equally heavily and occasionally kicking at the air in protest as and when a scene changed in our respective dreams. Tintin and Snowy never looked so macho together.
Remember the part where I prophesized he would be an epitome of courage as he grew up? I have never been more wrong in life. The next morning amma referred to him as ‘gullu’ and the name stuck on forever.
To understand his importance in our lives, firstly one has to know love, and secondly, speculate if the Narayanan family is sound in the head. For how else do you explain a girl (Nishi Narayanan) who’s leaving her home and city for the first time in her life, in pursuit of a post graduation, suddenly turn back from the gate, and run towards a now emotional mother and brother standing with outstretched arms, but push her way past them to hug the little pooch and burst into gallons of tears? I must insist that it was with the greatest dexterity that I slammed my embarassed arms back to their rightful positions (beside my frame) as soon as the first pangs of foolishness seeped in.
It is my belief that he would have been a forceful, assertive lad if we had spent more time together, but my moving to Belgaum for my engineering, and an over exposure to mother-daughter conversations made him a complete pansy. When I did return for the holidays, I did try to convince him that punching the air and snarling was more the stuff of what real men were made of, but he preferred rolling on his back and being tickled. I suppose I could consider this very ungainly of positions with all his organs in glaring public display and lying out in the open at gravity’s mercy as a sign of cheap, undignified and therefore, manly behavior. Good boy, Gullu.
As the days passed and he entrenched himself in our hearts and souls, we realized that there was absolutely nothing he was good at except for probably being, a physical manifestation of anything that is good in this world. He was never asked to perform any duties as a watchdog because when we did try to broach the subject, he snored even louder than normal. When I was scolded by my parents, and expected him to understand intuitively and come comfort me just like all those intelligent dogs did in story books, he would saunter around the house or gnaw at his bone with even more dedication. In our WWE games, I ‘choke slammed’ him every day but instead of feeling insulted and arousing pride to beat the crap out of me, he’d lick me as soon as his ears got out of his eyes’ way. The only time he looked positively embarrassed was when Air India refused to let us carry him in the passenger space, and hours later, he was brought out in the luggage trail with the rest of the suitcases, bristling with indignation.
A few months back, the doctors said he had a tumour. It may or may not be cancerous, we do not know yet, but somewhere the thought that something like that could touch him makes me furious with whoever’s up there. I will strike my bargains.
As I look at him now, I wonder if it’s possible that the little imp takes more space on the mattress than my six-foot father lying next to him. ‘Little’ he isn’t any longer, for he is twelve years old now, an old boy, and that gives him the license to be excused for not chasing cats even if they are sitting on his head, or not being the first to reach the door when the bell rings, sometimes not hear it ring at all.
As I tickle his stomach, amma asks me to ‘let the poor baby be’. He might be twelve, but he is still a baby? Maybe nothing has changed, even if it has. We still give him new names every day, and we still play with him like we did when we were ourselves children. We are still as fascinated by him as we were when he first came in.
You were named Hector, stud boy, beat that tumour till it begs for mercy.
‘The appearance of a furry head from under a chair is often all that a man needs to realize how much that one ‘okay’ added to his family.'