By Ziaul Moid Khan
The tires of my polar white Renault Duster screeched before coming to an abrupt halt on National Highway 52. I had applied full brakes, giving the whole weight of my torso on the steering wheel for leverage. I was concerned, my heart beat in my mouth. I looked around for the puppy, which had suddenly appeared before my lightweight speeding vehicle, that had now disappeared. Where the hell has it gone? Died or survived? I was on my way back home to cheer Christmas holidays with my family.
Just fifteen minutes before, a white uniformed traffic police constable had signaled me to stop. As I did, he handed me a slip of challan. His other fellow, looking equally grumpy, held a black device that would capture the speed of a moving vehicle. So, I was already pissed for having paid off a fine of rupees one thousand for over-speed-driving. Even after a dozen pleadings, justifications, the constable had not budged. Then I gave way and with it the pink currency. Two bills of five hundred rupees each. I’d decided not to tell Mona, my wife, about the challan. Or I’d face a curtain lecture at home.
And now this stupid puppy?
I had seen many a ghastly sight of mutilated bodies of beasts and birds that lost their precious lives in a multitude of road accidents on NH-52. And on countless occasions even reptiles and squirrels I’d found lying crushed on charcoal roads. Let me tell you, I’m a motivational speaker along with an educator, and more often than not in my public speaking programs, I’d voiced my concern about the road safety for these poor creatures.
On two different occasions, I’d rescued birds on NH-48. The first one—a dove that broke its right wing as a reckless biker gave her some near-fatal-bruises. That time, parking my car sideway I’d managed to catch the hopping bird and made it sit on the passenger seat of my prized Duster, while Cosmos, my cute little son, was asking me time and time again, “What is it, Daddy?” “A dove, my son,” I’d replied, driving the car to the Pink City.
The second one was an unidentifiable wine-colored wild bird with black tail and white breast victimized by a cyclist. That too, I’d rescued. Off course, again I parked the Duster aside, alighted and went after the poor bird. I caught it while it was trying to recover from shock, trauma and injury.
Cosmos, as it happened was with me then, too. This led him to a weird notion, that bringing home variety of birds is his daddy’s only profession. Or, perhaps, sort of a hobby. For Cosmos it was a game. A collection of sorts.
“Daddy, today I want one pigeon and one sparrow, too!” he shouted the other day when he saw my car keys in hand. I had to make a promise then. Though it was unlikely to be kept. It is not an everyday affair to spot an injured bird and then to rescue it.
Sadly, both the birds could not survive for long after being rescued so successfully.
The NH-48 dove, I released to live free away from the fast-paced highways on the school campus, where I live as a resident lecturer. Unfortunately, it was spotted basking in the winter sunshine by the two feline kittens that had also taken up residence on the campus. These two fellows, not more than two months old, with black strips all over their bodies, were recently trained hard by their equally skilled mother in the bird-catching-business and now they knew their job fairly well. As the bird fluttered her wings and distracted my attention from my laptop, I dashed from my common room to the balcony—where I found the bird bleeding profusely and taking her last breaths.
Both the bastards fled from ground zero licking their pink paws. I could do nothing but stand and watch the poor bird die in my hands. Cosmos stood beside me with so many questions I could hardly answer them all.
The wine colored and black tailed, made so much drama in the common room during its recovery that I felt guilty to have saved her from the highway. She kept hopping here and there all the time, farting everywhere. Mona had to intervene into this matter and asked me to release the bird in the fields behind our balcony.
I had no option but to oblige.
Later I found, to my horror, the two notorious kittens sniffing around down in the field of ground nuts where I’d released the second bird and I feared they had done their job, yet again.
I recalled my prolonged lecture delivered on Independence Day about people for their ruthless driving attitude, holding them accountable for the road mishaps that involved beasts or birds or even reptiles.
But today, after nearly hitting the puppy, I realized, when I confronted the situation myself, how hard it was.... if some creature suddenly appeared before the vehicle you were driving and you had to decide in a fraction of a second and your prompt decision was going to assure somebody’s life or departure. Easier to say than done, they say and they are right.
I jerked back to my present situation from the reverie. Thankfully, no vehicle was behind mine as I began to search for my little friend. Within that eventful second, I made sure the fellow must not be exposed to any of the front wheels. It then disappeared under the bumper of my dear Duster. Frantic, I saw it dashing out like an arrow off the car, yelping like it was saying swear-words that were impossible to be translated into any of the human languages, until it ran toward the safety zone. I released my breath, relieved as it ran past the vast expanse of the four-lane highway. Thank God—it was perfectly safe now.
Suddenly, my cell rang. I killed the engine. For a moment a shiver ran through me. I answered it without looking at the screen. I heard a familiar voice. It was Mona.
“Is everything OK, dear?” she asked with apprehension in her voice. There was a slight pause before she began, “Cosmos just woke up from a horrible nightmare in his afternoon sleep, and he asked for you. Perhaps his dreadful dream was about you. I was worried, you weren’t home yet.” She added, “Are you really fine?”
“I ... I’m perfectly fine...and...so is the dog,” I said instinctively.
“What dog?” she replied, sounding baffled.
“A little, baby dog came suddenly in front of my car. But now…I mean—everything...is fine now. I’m...just reaching home, Honey!” I said and disconnected the call.
On the pavement, in the reflection of my rear view, I found the puppy sat amazed looking around, feeling safe, and licking his paw in the distance. The sun was setting red in the western horizon. I restarted the engine, switched on the music player and smiled as I drove home. Somebody was waiting for my safe return.
Born and raised in North India countryside Johri, Ziaul Moid Khan writes speculative fiction and philosophical poetry. Fond of fiction books, pens, tea, and coffee. Mostly self-taught in English, he loves creative isolation for exploration of his deeper being. Living in an idealism, someday he will decode life with all its mysteries. He says he is close enough to do so. Khan happily resides in Jaipur, Rajasthan, with his wife, Khushboo, and five years young son, Brahmaand Cosmos. He has his work published in more than a dozen magazines, anthologies and journals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Google him for more info.