Lift for Love – A Story

The newly built 15-storey building on the outskirts of Hyderabad had a rush of activities with families moving in one after another and occupying their new homes. With a truckload of their belongings, arrived on one fine morning a family of parents, their 20-years old son, Dev, and their German Shepherd, Zico. As the parents oversaw the unloading of the furniture, Dev went to the entrance of the building with the dog on the leash and started climbing up the stairs to reach their condo on the tenth floor. Zico loped beside him to keep pace with his long strides, panting.

The packers carried their belongings to their new home, set the cots, kept the furniture in place and left. The family had lunch and Dev had a good nap in the afternoon. In the evening, Zico started wagging his tail and growling and barking at his master. It was the time usually when he would take him for a walk. Today the dog was demanding this treat from his master more aggressively.

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Dev put Zico on the leash and took him out through the front door, holding the leash tightly in his hand. Going to the middle of the floor, Dev found that the lift was moving down fast from the fifteenth floor. He pressed the button, and within a few seconds, the lift came and stopped at the tenth floor. A girl of his age was standing there with a pug on the leash. She was tall, dusky and had nice flowing hairs. As the door opened, Dev smiled at her and entered the lift along with Zico. She smiled without raising her head, avoiding an eye contact with him.

Zico started growling a bit which frightened the dog. But Dev remained unperturbed, knowing that it was usual for his pet to show his superiority at every opportunity, which made him proud rather than concerned. It was all fine until a sudden power outage brought the lift to a complete halt just as it was about to reach the second floor! The lamp went off and it was little dark inside. Zico suddenly pounced on the pug and held it on its neck! Dev could not control him by pulling the leash. The little dog was traumatized! The girl picked up and calmed her pet by holding it close to her chest.

After a few minutes, the power was on and the lift started moving again. The girl pressed the button for the second floor, and as the lift stopped there and the door opened, she hurriedly went out with her dog, mumbling, ‘Savage! What kind of training has it got?’

The lift went down to the ground floor. Dev came out of the lift and stood in front of it for a while, expecting her to come down so that he could apologize, but the lift moved up to second floor and thereafter up again to the top floors. He was not at all happy about upsetting a neighbour and that too a pretty girl with whom he should rather make friends.

Dev went out of the complex with Zico. He shouted at the dog, ‘Who told you to attack the puppy? You’re a dog after all. A dog will forever be a dog. Your species can never be civilized!’ Zico cringed a bit at the sudden scream of his master whom he had never seen so angry. His master taught him to be aggressive at times and was happy when he drove away street dogs. On occasions, he also gave a pat on his back. Now what crime had he committed that made his master so furious!

The next few days, Dev did not take Zico out for the walks, which made him extremely restless in the evenings. Dev’s father used to take him out in the mornings. Afterwards he stayed home all day, bored and depressed. Dev’s mother, Srilekha asked, ‘What happened, Dev? You don’t take him out now. Why?’

‘You ask him why,’ Dev replied. ‘He attacks neighbour’s dog. How will I make friends?’

‘OK, he’s made a mistake. Don’t we make mistakes?’

‘Mistakes? He needs some lessons in civility.’

Zico understood all these arguments were about him, so he sat and stretched his neck on the floor, sporting an appearance of regret.

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Days passed. Dev would sometimes oblige Zico by taking him for a walk and sometimes not. As Dev would shut the door while going out alone in the evenings, Zico would protest strongly by barking. Zico would then go to the balcony and watch downward helplessly as his master would walk down the road in front of the building or drive away on his bike.

One day, Zico looked down to see something completely unexpected of his master. Dev had the pug in his lap and the girl they met on the lift that day stood beside him, giggling! A few days later, Zico saw her again in a nearby park, where his master took him for evening walk. The girl also came to the park along with her parents and her pet. As her parents were away for a walk, the girl secretly waved at Dev raising her hand only by half. Dev smiled and waved back at her, mimicking her way of it, which made her almost burst into laughter. Zico felt his master was now friends with this girl, so he should treat her as someone of his own and not as a stranger.

Srilekha came to know from newspaper one morning that a dog park had been inaugurated in the city. She suggested to her husband, ‘Zico is getting bored. Dev does not care for him much nowadays. Why can’t we take him to the dog park? All of us will enjoy!’

Zico was in the dog park a few days later along with Srilekha and her husband. He was surprised to see so many of his ilk there – Labrador, Bulldog, Pug, Dalmatian, Indian Spitz, Dachshund and Doberman. He felt like chasing them all and send them out of the park. But then he met a German Shepherd – a female one. His usual aggression gave way to tenderness and love! He sniffed at her and rubbed his body with hers as their masters stood appreciating their new friendship. She ran playfully, inviting him to follow her, and Zico did so with glee. They had to part after an hour of playing in the park, but Zico had a new feeling, a new spurt of emotions which he had not experienced earlier.

In about a year, Zico reconciled himself to the whims of his master though he was quite happy in his outings with him. It was the same routine of taking the lift and going down to the ground floor and then wandering around the streets or playing in the nearby park and coming back home, but he enjoyed it to the fullest. One day, while going out for a walk, they met the girl and the pug again in the lift. Dev greeted her warmly, ‘Oh hi, you’re also coming!’ Then they came closer. Zico looked up to see his master approaching her to plant a kiss on her cheek. The dog kept staring at them and as his master did it, he closed his eyes and looked down as if in acceptance of what the chance meeting a year back had eventually blossomed out into.

It was love of a kind different from what was between him and his master – a kind which he only had a feel of but did not know much about and for which his master was ready to put him aside and make way for himself. It would be wise to make friends with the girl and her pet rather than sulk about their warming their way into his master’s heart. He would now rather be a part of this new spring in his master’s life than protest and invite his wrath, Zico thought.

A Walk for Talk and Snaps

I would do it invariably every morning whenever I go home to Maynaguri – be it a day in summer or winter or a day in the rainy season. It is a walk through the path that leads from my home to a nearby village, which takes just a little more than half an hour.

The pathway has on its both sides agricultural fields, ponds, clumps of bamboo, plantations of sal and teak, and hamlets draped in thick foliage of banana, betel vines and all kinds of trees.

Kash phool on the pathway

Nature assumes wide variety of forms and colour in different seasons, changing from lush green during the rains to golden in winter with paddy covering the fields. My passion for photography only pushes me to go along this path, looking for a scene or a moment to capture in my mobile phone camera.

The people living in the hamlets do not only know me but also have known my parents and grandparents. In villages, people know each other for generations. Now I live in Hyderabad and can visit home only once a year.

Thus, when I come across an acquaintance, they would naturally smile and ask, ‘Oh, you have come.’
‘Yes, yesterday,’ I would say.
‘For how many days?’
‘Seven days.’
‘Only seven days?’
‘You’re now an officer, doing an important job. You must be a busy man now.’
‘But you’re free,’ I would say. ‘You don’t need anyone’s permission to go anywhere.’
‘So how many more years will you be there?’
‘Still more than ten years.’
‘You’ll be old by then.’

I break into a conversation and ask about their well-being and then take leave. To be recognised on the road by people is a privilege I do not have in Hyderabad.

Again, I tramp and look for something special to feast my eyes on and capture in my camera. Water lilies flower in the pond after it gets filled with water after the rains. In the autumn just before Durga puja, Kash phool (Kans Grass) adorns the fields with their white chiffon like flowers. Bengalis have a deep emotional connect with Kash phool as it heralds the festive season. I look at the flowers for a while and judge the spot and angle for capturing them in my camera.

Fishing in the paddy fields

But then there would be a moment which I need to capture immediately, or else the moment would be gone and opportunity missed. In the rainy season, it rains incessantly all day in North Bengal, leaving brief interludes when it would be drizzling.

I go out with an umbrella. As rivers and ponds overflow, fish comes with the flood to the agricultural fields. In those interludes between spells of rains, people come out with nets and fishing rods to catch fish in the streams and the paddy fields with knee deep water. I quickly position myself and take snaps for my recollection of the visit later or a Facebook post for my friends to enjoy the beauty of life in my native place.

After a brief stay at home, I have to return to Hyderabad. I have to wait for a year or so for this pathway to appear in a new form. But what I see year after year and season after season go into my mind’s album, and all the talk I have with people and snaps I get from the walk become a part of my lasting memories.