Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Mine came in the form of a big, black dog when I was just four years old. That bloody affair one chilly winter night can still give me goosebumps .
I lived with my aunt as my father wanted me to go to a good school. You see, we lived in the country and there were no reputable schools in the vicinity of our small village. So one dark , winter night , my uncle was busy entertaining some guests. The smell of meat on the grill was tantalizing my nostrils; not just mine , but of Jack(the big , black dog) more. He kept snarling at anybody who passed by him as he sat near by the drinking men . In fact, he even snapped at one of them in the hope to snatch the meat out of an unwary hand. I remember my uncle yelling at him to stop. I must have wondered in my little head why the usually happy dog was acting in such a ferocious manner.
As the adults talked around a crackling fire , the children ducked around playing chase ; or tucked themselves in corners in a hide and seek venture. I was already on edge , and when my cousin pushed me onto Jack’s unsuspecting back, he spun around and yipped at me . My heart skipped a beat. I pretended to be tired . “Aunty , can I please get ready for bed ? I am really sleepy!” My aunt , who was busy being the hostess , hushed me away unaware that I had not eaten yet.
After grabbing a quick bite from my cousin’s plate , I rushed inside to our room which we all shared . It was more like a dormitory. I snuggled in my quilt wishing it would warm my cold feet fast.I wished my dad was there rubbing my feet as he usually did to warm them. I must have slipped right into sleep because I didn’t hear the rest of the brood come in. Don’t know what happened , but I felt some sharp nails in my face and woke up screaming . And, what did I see? Jack, his big, black face snarling ferociously at me while I felt the warm liquid rushing down my face with my little fingers!
I screamed and screamed . There was a lot of confusion around. My uncle was yelling, my aunt was trying to calm me down. My cousins were huddling in a corner. It must have finally struck me that I had been bit by Jack!
The blood streamed down my face. I was in a daze , sobbing crying for my mother. My aunt cleaned my wounds with an antiseptic solution. We heard some gunshots in the distance. later, I learned that Jack had been shot dead, as he was running away into the wheat fields. My uncle rushed in, waiting impatiently as my aunt bundled me in my coat and mittens. The motorcycle ride to the city hospital was bone-chilling in every sense of the term. I was groggy and tired and probably must have fallen asleep in the waiting room of the hospital , only to be woken up to a nurse holding a large needle over my belly. And , this contiued for 14 more times as I needed all those shots to save my life from the ravaging disease of rabies. And, I have the dog teeth marks on my face to prove that everything I recounted happened that night!
Did I fear dogs forever would be a relevant question at this point. Of course not! For a while , I remember running away from an approaching dog, and hiding my face. I don’t remember when I learned to deal with and overcome that feeling. These days I often say that the love of my life is my big, brown dog , MauMau.
It was the December of 1971. I had been sent to boarding school in the city as my father wanted to empower his daughter with a stellar education. And , then the war between Pakistan and India disrupted my six year old existence.
Cold December days have a way of turning into dark nights before one knows it. A group of twenty or thirty ,first and second graders sat huddled over their desks trying to finish their homework. I, as always, needed to use the restroom. Walking timidly to the teacher's desk , I asked in a quiet voice if I could leave the room. "Roopinder, go with Kulbir. And, remember girls, rush back! I don't want you to dilly dally."
As we walked to the restroom, which was quite a walk away, we clutched each other's hands tightly. I barely squatted on the toilet seat, hurriedly finished up my business , and rushed out to my trembling friend. We scurried back like little mice who've just escaped from the paws of a pouncing cat.
Roopinder knocked on the door to be let in. We were taught that rule; always knock on a closed door. Just when Ms. Teresa called us in, I heard a loud , deafening sound behind us. I quickly glanced back as Roopinder entered the room. It seemed like a huge , green bird was descending in a swooping move. It was dark green in color and had a picture of a crescent moon and star on it. I stood transfixed unable to move. Then the door opened and Ms. Teresa yanked me in.
All my classmates were huddled under their desks as the sirens were piercing the air. I, too, went and crouched besides my partner. We were all in a daze. After what seemed like ages , we were asked to come out. With fear on our faces , we pretended to go back to our homework.
The war did not last very long. School was suspended for the duration of the war and all of us had to go home. When my father came to pick me up, I shared my experience with him. He told me it was an enemy plane and proceeded to explain the complicated reasons behind the conflict between the two countries. Of course, my little six year old self could not make head nor tail of it. I just closed my eyes, and laid my head on his shoulder and went to sleep.
As I have grown older, I have often wondered about the effects of war on little children. All they hear is loud sounds as they sit huddled under desks , beds, tables , or whatever it might be. They hear the sirens with pounding hearts and wish it would all go away and life would return to normal.