Art by Justine Osborne Más
Original story in Odia by Dr. Sachhidananda Rautrai
Translated by Bijaylaxmi Sarangi
The story "Tommy" has been referred from the book "Chaai" of prominent Odia poet, Novelist and short story writer Dr Sachhidananda Rautrai, published in the year 1950 in Odia language.
I am never been a poet. However when I see Tommy, intense feelings overpower my whole being. Alas,poor creature!! Perhaps not for a single day of her little life, she knew what respect and love is. Until now, she has grown only amidst sorrow, anguish and countless kicks. Her little incomplete life one day, most likely would end like this.
In our home from young to aged, every one beat back Tommy. Even the old chef's heart is not contented, if he has not beaten Tommy a good blow once in a day. It's a matter of amusement for all in our home to beat Tommy for no reason. Somewhat joy is gained by everyone through this act. That day when Tommy came near the door of our kitchen hunger stricken, the old chef banged a burning piece of wood on her small head. Tommy's crown was burnt. Her head also was wounded with the strike. Streams of blood flowing from her wounded head cloured the white floor of the kitchen. No one showed compassion for the poor creature. That day Saante Maa (Grand mother) was counting her beads near the Tulasi Vrindavan (small podium of Tulsi) on the eve of grand Ekadasi. Hearing the screams of Tommy she came running and by blessing handsomely the old chef she said, "Well done my boy! May you live long. Is the ominous bitch sparing me a little peace? She has twice made unworthy to my worship-prasad."
Poor Tommy gasped lying there, not being able to go anywhere for the intensity of hitting. Getting encouragement from Saante Maa, the old chef kicked Tommy's cracked head twice with his fleshy elephantine foot. The poor fellow remained unmoved there, only altering her glance from one face to another innocently, as if through those glances she wanted to utter many things.
Tommy was everyone's cause of discontentment. She was, as if an unwanted thing, having no life, no feelings at all! She is placed like any left over stuff beyond others' requirements. No one ever bothers to need her or call her. She would not go even though repeatedly being driven forcibly. She had come by herself and remains herself. She endures every kick and biting like that every day. With some mysterious bondage of affection she was tied to our home.
There was another pet staying with us. That was a Saariaa parrot. Every one valued her. In the morning after retiring from bed, Nua Bohu (wife of brother) would make her recite Raam Naam. My younger sister Haara everyday feeds her with milk-rice and coconut milk by her hand. Even the old chef visits her twice and secretly gives her cream of milk and Koraa (a sweet).
Saariaa was endearingly dotting. Everyone's love and respect towards her made her ever happy and proud. Whenever she found Tommy, she would swell her wings, curve her beaks and would speak as per teachings of Haara, "leftover eater bitch, nasty bitch, karrrr..... kachhh...". Hapless Tommy does not understand anything from those words, yet perhaps somewhat she knows that Saariaa teases her. It is because, by standing there she stares at Saariaa quite for sometime. She bashes her tail against the floor in anger and licks her dried lips repeatedly and then she sits down silently posing ignorance. She eats merrily the remnants of milk-rice fallen from Saariaa's acting beak. This is the way her hapless, baneful life passes by.
There is a grave shortcoming in Tommy for her being unloved by all. She looked ugly, having a body of pitch black in complexion. Her head as if has been extended upwards like a triangle; her flat and smooth chin was quite exposed separately from her mouth. In wanting of food her body was showing prominent bones and veins. Again, all sorts of lesions and eczema was spread around her dirty back and belly. All the time, from her body bugs, mosquitoes, rice louse were seen falling. It's very natural that a person is not a saint or Mahaatmaa. Thence, what's strange about Tommy's being an object of everyone's hatred and dislike?
"That small dog Bhaaluaa of Daaktar Babu from our neighborhood- how beautiful and clean body he has! His white fur glitters just like treads of silk. His thin waist bends with a curve and the vision of her large eyes can reach too far. And see our Tommy! yuk!
Apart from this, there is a big issue in Tommy, that is her calm nature in excess. She never barks at any one. She never is seen woofing or attempting to bite, may any stranger come inside the house. Instead, she curls around and hides her face in between the stranger's legs as if she has found her favorite master of yore. In the mid night if a thief comes, Tommy would bark once or twice. However, if the thief is clever enough to throw fist fulls of baked rice in front of her, she would soon be utilising those in proper way. How stranger a person may be, only if he caresses a little at Tommy's back, she turns completely towards him. Forget biting, rather she would rub her body against the person. For this reason everyone in our house gets angry at her. Being peaceful was a grave problem in her. It lacks the qualification for any amnesty. That's why, the quality which is merit in a human, is regarded as a demerit in an animal. If Tommy was as grouchy as other dogs are, if she has remained attacking at the sight of men all the time and if she woofed day and night, perhaps then her value would have been increased to manifold. Probably, then she would not have been reduced to skeleton for want of food. Yet, the foolish bitch does not figure out the shrewd politics in human. She loves to be peaceful like that. It is difficult to find out which is to be blamed between her mind and the Nature for her peculiarity. Because, if she was clever, she might have collected her share of love by changing her nature since much earlier. Again, there is another reason for her placidity. How wouldn't she be calm and quite after twenty four hours of kicks? Is it possible to maintain one's vigour amidst such hunger and neglect? Everyday's hunger, kicks, blows has turned her inanimate and worthless like a piece of log or stone. She has no courage to woof even once. She has neither energy nor inclination to get annoyed.
Again, she doesn't know what adoration is, since she was a child. That's why, when someone caresses her or gives a fistful of baked rice to eat, how big thief, robber or stranger he may be, Tommy turns towards him completely. The compassionate nature in human is a matter of surprise for her. She feels anew in this world, if any human can caress her and feed her. In her life, this much is her greatest delight. That grand moment alone makes a conscious wave of current flow in her inanimate life. Forgetting every thing she curls herself beneath the legs of that person. That's why when strangers enter into our house, leave the possibility of biting them rather Tommy licks their hands and legs. This is Tommy's nature. Especially for this nature, everyone in our house is displeased with Tommy. Yet Tommy is always that Tommy.
Since many days earlier Bhai (brother) has desired to drive Tommy out from our home. Also he has directed him twice or thrice to act as per his wish. All the same, the chef never fell back obeying his orders. Yet poor Tommy never goes anywhere, may how badly she be bitten. May two or three bamboo rods break into pieces hitting her back, she shall not leave our home. How big foolish she might be, yet perhaps she can sense that Bhai likes her not at all. For that reason hearing the sound of tapping of his slippers at the vestibule, she slips running at one go. She returns only when Bhai leaves for court. By eating whatever fish bones she gets, when Bhai's arrival time approaches she leaves our home. It felt as if she has memorised the time of Bhai's presence at our home!
Pertaining to this issue, that day a big quarrel occurred between Bhai and Bhauja Bohu. The matter originated concerning Bulu's studies. Bulu never desires to study from Bhai. He is greatly an ill tempered man. At a little mistake he would slap hard on his cheek.
For this reason at the time of studies, Bulu hides himself close to Bhauja Bohu. Getting irritated Bhai pulls and drags him. Bhauja Bohu gives her judgement in favour of Bulu. That day Bhai aimed a slap at Bulu's face. Bulu cried aloud. Who can control Bhauja Bohu then? Dragging Bulu from the place of his study, she enforced rough words at Bhai.
"By the virtue of the torment given by you a petty bitch is going out of home. This is only a child- oh damn, I have never seen in my past seven lives such teaching-"
Bhai felt embarrassed. It was not that Bhauja Bohu's compassion for Tommy has increased a bit since that day. Always her destiny is same.
In our entire house, only Haara had a little soft corner towards Tommy. Yet since when Bela Bhua (a male cat) was born, she even didn't let her come near her. While going to kindergarten she carries Bela with her. While sleeping she keeps Bela near her. Again since the day Tommy swallowed her cake from the ground, she turned attacking towards her. This is how Tommy abides under the load of everyone's nagging and beating lonesomely. She alone is to bear the reserved anger of the entire house lowering her head. She never even for a day has complained, never has revolted. Even has not expressed a gesture or indication of her discontent.
Silently she bears every pain and affliction. Only the remnant fish bones make her bind with our home. She digests the chefs beating with stick, Saante Maa's broom throw and Bhai's slippers thow, aiming at her and every other attacks. Why does she tolerate these, I don't understand. Only I sigh- O doomed life!
That day when I reached home back from school, I heard Saante Maa groaning- "O Haara, my darling, please go, feed Tommy with some warm milk- my child. The poor being has not taken anything since morning. Ahh! her throat must be getting dried. O Chef, please go and see her."
I could not figure out what the matter was. I was surprised in my mind. I tried to think why Saante Maa all of a sudden was pouring her love for Tommy. Finding me Haara grabbed my hand and cried out- "Nandaa Bhai, be fast running, come to see Tommy. Pulling me by my hand Haara took me to our granary. I could not believe to my eyes, what I saw there. For me that happening was as dreamy as any Arabian novel.
By reaching near I saw that Tommy slept at ease, her hands and legs spread. Her big eyes were half closed, and four puppies were sleeping surrounding her. Bhauja Bohu and the chef, both were holding two bowls of milk near her mouth. The chef by fondling her forehead was telling to her, eat-eat.
In joy and relief I danced from inside. I was transfixed in wonder and overwhelm at them who were the reason for bringing acceptance and love into the life of the helpless and unloved creature.