They say you always remember your first. Now usually they mean first fuck, but right now, I think you always just remember your first everything. Maybe not your first breath or step or word. But anything past that, I think you will remember. Now I don’t know about fucks as much as I would like to, but there are other firsts I clearly remember. The first word I read out was Bisleri. Yes, I had read out apple and ball and cat and dog, but this was my first word that was read out without prompting and first word with more than one syllable. It was a proud moment. Also, quite telling of the time and place, huh? In India, at the brink of capitalism. Oh, I feel like a writer now, having written that last sentence. I have arrived ladies and gentlemen! Where are the lights spelling out my name? And why isn’t a red-headed Nicole Kidman falling in love with me? Also, why is there no absinthe? And why isn’t Will Ferrell acting out every word I write?
Coming back on point, other firsts I remember – first friend, first introduction to atheism, first proper crush, first friend who made me feel comfortable in the new school, first crying over some stupid guy, first honest conversation with parents… Is it odd that all of the ones I care to recall happened before 18 or 19? Anyway, one of the most important firsts was Nikkie. First pet. I write about her now, because it’s the anniversary of her death. Taking advantage of the death of a loved one to write something presumably of depth – I truly have arrived as a writer. Will Ferrell suddenly looked at his trusty watch and realized that it was time to go to India, and that it was imperative that he take his friend Jon Stewart along, especially to a small little hamlet in the rather shitty state of Andhra Pradesh, where a girl waits, even as she types, for her Destiny…. Someone tell me if he’s doing it! Jaldi!!
I have loved dogs from the very beginning. Now that I think about it, it is the one consistent taste I have had and have never had to think twice about. Every other thing or show or joke or person I have liked, I have had to think about, and at times, change my opinion about. Not dogs. My parents often tell stories of me befriending mammoth police dogs on trains as a toddler, petting them without care, humping them silly. No, that’s not true. They humped me silly. And I still loved them because I knew I was asking for it, what with all the little girl clothes I used to wear. Wow. My comedy defense mechanism is really acting up.
Anyway, I never stopped loving dogs. And my sister always hated them. Well, she really was afraid of them. So everything was lining up around my ninth birthday. I had slowly brought my parents around to the idea of getting a dog. My sister was constantly afraid of this future canine that would be my best friend and her mortal enemy. I finally had the upper hand over her physical domination over me. And I had yet to discover that such a thing as a uterus existed, that would torture me for most of my adult life. Seriously, everything was perfectenschlag. Anyway, it was with all of this in mind that I had German Shepherds as my first choice of breeds. I had heard it was the smartest dog around. I liked that it was black and big. I liked that because it was smart, I could presumably train it so I didn’t have to pick up after it, and I could get it to growl and snap at my sister on command. Maybe even wrestle her and beat her up if I really committed to the training. Also, you know, I loved dogs.
So my dad asked around and we ended up at the house of a vet who also sold dogs. I will always remember the first view I had of Nikkie. It was from behind as she was contemplating going down the stairs in the two-level house. I always sort of had her as the same size in my head. Probably because I grew up during her growing years, and after that, she stopped growing. But I’m told she was tiny. That is of course expected of puppies. They are naturally tiny. But despite the disappointing size, I fell in love with her the moment I had her on my lap. She didn’t move from there the whole night till we got her home. I was lost. She was the ideal dog, exactly as I had pictured it –
Yes, that is her full grown size. Alright, maybe my parents never even considered the idea of a big German Shepherd in an apartment. Very wise of them, in hindsight. But what can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants. Or the heart wants what the heart had sit on the heart’s lap like it belongs there in all its adorable adorableness. The moment we brought her back home and my parents first approached the question of what we should name her, ‘Nikkie’ just popped into my head and that was that. History was made, ladies. I say that assuming all the gentlemen, a la Elvis, have left the building by now. Who am I kidding, bye ladies.
I have to say though, as much as I will always love Nikkie, I will always hate her for turning my sister towards dogs. Her cuteness was too much for my sister to bear. Even before we had gotten into the car, my sister loved her and from that moment on, has never really looked back to not liking canines.
Who am I kidding? Nikkie was a huge disappointment in everything I expected of a dog from watching Ghost Dog and Air Bud and Beethoven and all the other movies that I cant even remember the names of.
She didn’t shake hands, she didn’t roll over, she didn’t stand on her hind legs. She never even barked on command. Till the end of her days, she only knew two words that she would respond to – “Tata” and “Bye-Bye”. Tata was something our child brains just put there as a word the first time we were allowed to take her out. It just developed into a command so it was the only thing she could recognize as a sign of a trip to the great outside. And bye-bye was what we said when we were going on a trip and leaving her behind.
And worst of all, I was her playmate. Which you would think is great, but it wasn’t what was expected. You see, they say a dog only has one master, one person he or she is ultimately and completely loyal to. For Nikkie, the master as it turned out, was my mom. With regard to discipline, it was my dad sometimes. But it definitely wasn’t me. I was the person she considered her equal, the person she could nibble and snap and bite at. The person she felt need not really be paid too much attention to while this person was trying desperately to make her hate her sibling.
But that’s the thing about dogs. They never really turn out like how you pictured they would. Do people say that about children? Who knows. Anyway, she wasn’t what I expected and to be honest, I didn’t care. She was the one thing I could depend on to hang around when puberty with all of its horrors struck me. It was after Nikkie came along that changes started. I don’t mean physical -discomforting-uterine-wall, hair-in-new-places kind of changes. Actual empirical changes.
First change – I realized all over again that no matter how much I tried, me and my sister were not equals amongst our friends in the neighborhood. I was the kid sister, left to lag behind and be chosen last for teams. And then, we changed schools. Which was honestly quite terrible at first, what with all the mean girls and the guys who seemed so intimidating those first few weeks, though I’d never admit it. Then we changed neighborhoods. We moved all the way to Gurgaon which in 2002 was a village just starting to turn into the rich suburb that it is today. That meant there were no kids to be friends with. I will refrain from detailing out every perceived lonely moment and every perceived slight. Instead, I will leave you instead, with the following vlog post from Ze and Rainn Fucking Wilson (!?!?!?!?!?) explaining why teenagers are stupid and weird.
But yes, throughout these very trying times, I at least had someone that was always openly exuberant when I got back home. Sometimes I think the core of why we love dogs so much just speaks to the part of us that selfishly wants undivided, undeserved adoration. Dogs rarely disappoint in giving this. Nikkie while dumb at human tricks was clever in her own way. She designed a multitude of ways in which she could sneak into the car and hide when we all left in the morning. She had ways of telling when her meat was more than a day old, and refused to eat it. She knew when I was sad and would lie in bed with me. That is really something. To have someone alive next to you when your whole world seems to collapse over and over again according to your stupid teenage brain. She also knew when I was sick and would only let my parents touch me. The laptop screen is getting a little blurry.
The amazing thing about her was this – she was just a dog. Unbelievably special to us, but really she was like all the other dogs who didn’t know how small they were and how inadequately they would be at protecting us. She fucking needed protection. She nearly jumped into an open sewer once. There was also this other time when I let her run free, turned my head for a second and she was gone. I searched for hours before coming back home in tears only to find her there. So yeah, that is why she was amazing. Because she was like every other dog, only dumber and cuter and often mistaken for a monkey by kids under the age of five. But she was around and loving and insanely ours, more than any other creature. Really, what is better?
And it makes sense that she only knew Tata and Bye Bye. She was too dumb to know anything but the fact that we were there and ready to spend time with her or we were not there and were leaving her alone to miss us. I miss her, if y’all didn’t get that by now.
Which is one of the reasons why I want to kill all the other dogs in college except for Happy. Cause they keep raping her, and she keeps fighting them off, and I really, really don’t like that. And I know that’s how nature works, but I don’t have to like it.
me: Appreciate it.
ME: Write something less emo next time. I’m getting tired of this.
me: Preaching to the choir.
Here’s some stuff –
Zat is all.