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The Inner Meaning
I first met Coffee six years ago when he was but a pup. As of myself, I was seven years old then. It was a cold November night and having finished my homework, I sat watching the television with my parents. Suddenly we heard a faint whimpering followed by the sound of a barking pup. Its echoes suggested that the pup had entered our three-storeyed living quarters. We let it be, thinking that it would go away. But it didn’t. Instead, it simply climbed up to our floor, and, as if it were proud of its great accomplishment, started a continuous round of barking. Well, when even after midnight there was no relief from this noise, I finally came up with an idea to stop this racket.
Frankly speaking, I really felt sad for that poor creature; it was such a cold night and it was alone, with no one to look after it, no one to take care of it. I really wanted to do something to soothe it. At that point of time, I felt that if it could get some sleep, it would calm down. Of course, the idea did seem strange enough, but I reasoned that there was no harm in trying it. I would later know that the pup had difficulty in climbing down stairs.
When I was sure that both my parents were asleep, I quietly sneaked out of the room looking for something out of which I could make a bed for it. Finally, I took out a basket which I had made for the school craft display festival, covered it with a piece of soft cloth and quickly placed it outside the door. Then I peered through the eye-hole to observe the pup’s reaction.
It stopped barking and, coming close to the basket, suspiciously pawed on it. I wanted to watch it for some more time but with sleep and tiredness getting the better of me, I retired to bed for the rest of the night.
The next day when I prepared to leave for school, on opening the door I found that the basket was broken and the cloth was bitten off. My front door neighbours had chased the pup off.
However, it was still there near the main gate of the quarter and when I went past him I noticed that he looked at me with eyes full of gratitude, expectation and hope. It was only then that I clearly got to examine its features – it was even smaller than the tire of a car, with a light biscuit colour fur wrapped around it. Here and there stood out many marks on his skin, suggesting that the pup had been exploited recklessly before it turned up in this place. Even more prominent was the small cut behind his nose. Even without knowing it, I had started to empathize that pup.
I had always wanted a pet, but my parents were zoo phobic; hence this wish was never fulfilled. I felt that perhaps this pup had been sent to be my pet; to fulfil that wish, and a firm resolution crept into my heart- I would pet him as my pet dog; as Coffee.
In all the years that I lived with him, I had never seen Coffee with his litter nor did I ever come to know where he came from. He certainly did not belong to the pack which originally lived near our house- they were always off detesting him. Also, there were no other pups around the house when he was one, although pups are usually found in litters. In fact, almost everyone looked at him with disgust. Perhaps even he disliked them, but he was too good to express his dislike.
As he grew up, Coffee became somewhat like “Mary’s Lamb” (yes, the lamb of the poem “Mary had a Little Lamb”). He would accompany me everywhere - be it the marketplace, tuitions or playground – just everywhere. Back then I entered school through the back gate. He would come with me till the gate and would stay there till dismissal when we would walk back home together. One day, when he was four, Coffee even plucked up the courage and managed to get inside the school!
During the recess break that day, my friends and I noticed a crowd in the kindergarten playground. On moving closer into the crowd, I saw, to my great surprise, that right in the crowd was Coffee! The poor dog was distressed by this large gathering around him and came running towards me when he saw me. Without hesitating, I picked him up and caressed his head. What was there to hesitate about it anyway? Just because he was a dog and I am a human being doesn’t have to necessarily mean that I would have to hate him or think him to be inferior to me. After all, he was my pet dog!
Coffee was later taken out of the school by the authorities while I was made to answer a volley of questions hurled upon me for touching a “street dog”.
At the end of the day when I went out of school I saw Coffee still there outside the gate, waiting for me. I stared at him while he simply wagged his tail towards the right and looked sheepishly at me as if asking “What wrong have I done? I just wanted to be with you.”
The greatest disadvantage in my petting Coffee was that he was not “officially” my pet, which was because he was what people called a “street dog”, a dog which was considered to be impure, to be loathed. I could never bring Coffee indoors, nor even take him to a vet (my greatest regrets). The most I could do was give him some non-sweetened biscuits (as sweetened ones are hazardous to their health) and play with him in the parks. I never had any friends in the neighbourhood and at that state, Coffee was like an island of hope in the vast ocean of despair I had been drowning in.
I have heard philosophers boast that their literacy, their knowledge was what made human beings the greatest of all creatures, but to me this knowledge was useless. What is the need of attaining knowledge if at the end of the day we were to look upon those who were different to us as being inferior? Human beings worship the Gods, but despise those same animals whom they believe to be the manifestations of those very Gods.
I was often asked by others as to what was in that dog which had made me love him so much. If I ever told them, most wouldn’t understand, for they looked down on dogs as a lowly creature, but I saw in them a shrine of faithfulness, an idol of determination and an image of God’s own greatness. But sadly, very few people out there would understand it. And it was this disadvantage which separated us.
I was shattered when, a month later, I heard the news. We were shifting to a distant part of the town. No amount of pleading could convince my parents to take Coffee with us. Was this, then, the end of our friendship? Would I never hear Coffee’s barks again? Nor see his innocent face any more? Or play with him in the evening?
I felt terribly lonely. And weak. I wasn’t able to let my pet dog come with me. That night after dinner, I cried on my pillow. I had made a promise to myself long ago. And I couldn’t keep that promise.
On the day we left for our new house Coffee followed us. He desperately wanted to come with us but soon lost us in the traffic. Since then I had always prayed for us to meet at least once in our lives. Little did I know then that my prayers would be answered, but in the most unexpected way possible.
The next time when I entered school through the back gate was when I joined the school sports activities a year later. To my surprise, even then, yes even then Coffee was there beside the gate. He still had that small cut at the back of his nose which he had received in his childhood. I was overjoyed.
But my joy was short-lived. He was the same dog, but he was no longer my pet. That shrine of faithfulness had turned into a doll of hatred. He did not wag his tail at my sight any more. Nor did he ever show his innocent face again, which now sported an evil sneer. His eyes burned with repulsion. He was no longer the pup I had empathized. He was purely evil now. My Coffee had gone mad.
Throughout the day I wondered what had happened for him to change in this way.
“It is the order of the nature and regret is useless…” our English Literature teacher read out a chapter on a speech given by the American-Indian leader Chief Seattle for the rights,the sorrows and the pleas of the Native Americans.
Was my shifting the reason behind Coffee’s transformation? I wondered. Guilt enveloped me for many days as I tried to find answers. And it would continue for many more.
I soon learnt that Coffee had been living near the back gate ever since we left our previous quarters. With time his ferocity grew, and people now avoided getting into his “territory”.
One day, as I walked towards my van after dismissal, I saw two people dragging Coffee into a van. Their uniforms showed that they came from the Municipal Corporation. Perhaps someone had complained about him…
As he was dragged, his eyes fell on mine and they asked the same question they had asked before when he had entered my school, but now Coffee was demanding the answer.
“Your God loves your people and hates mine!” … “They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help,” … “Not a single star of hope hovers around his horizon,” the speech flooded back into my mind.
“Hurry up!” the driver of the van shouted at me.
We both climbed into our respective vans, I climbed to go back home to my family, and Coffee was forced into that van to be lead to an unknown, bottomless abyss.
We were given a homework to find the inner meaning of the speech. I don’t think I will need any help in that homework any more.
Coffee had taught me the inner meaning.