‘To see Doogie attack the milk-ashtray savagely, filled us with pride’

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A Series On True Experiences Hostel Life

WHY WE ventured on such a thing despite the accumulating evidence that our parents had met with complete and utter failure, was not altogether clear to us at that time. But if life teaches you anything, it is that the shortest path to wisdom is to stick your finger in odd places labelled ‘don’t’.

Entering U’s room one afternoon circa August 2002, I found him and S delicately examining a fur ball at odd angles with a curiosity that would have made Galileo proud. I joined the quest not entirely sure what we were looking for in a palm-sized, brown puppy when it was explained to me that they had found it outside the hostel gates snuggled in the bushes. Because the mother hadn’t shown up for the whole hour that they had scouted the litter, S and U decided that the most vulnerable-looking of them needed a home, survival of the unfittest being the civilisational parallel to the natural world. Since obviously the puppy needed a name, the search was to determine whether it was a boy or a girl. Several people stopped by to offer their opinion and after much debate lasting most of the afternoon, it was decided that the fur-ball was a boy and we christened him Doogie.

The first order of business was to feed Doogie. It was decided that all babies are the same, don’t you know, and so we should treat it just like one did a human baby. This involved dropping Doogie repeatedly into an ashtray full of milk. It didn’t work. Then it was suggested that given Doogie’s propensity to vacuum anything within sucking distance and given U’s prominent nipples (cause for much pontificating in his early college days), U should take one for the team and offer his services and look, it’s going to be difficult for us too since we would have to smear those with milk in between sucks. Worried that U was showing only mild horror at this suggestion, the ever resourceful S engineered an ink dropper into a feeder and the problem was solved.

Doogie soon learnt to feed himself and to see him attack the milk-ashtray with such savagery filled us with pride, little realising that this was a survival response to the six droppers of milk we were giving him at feeding time. Life then subsequently fell into a pattern and U and S’s rooms, which were next to each other, soon became the olfactory centres in the hostel. U and his room continually smelt of milk for years while S’s room, one thinks with some prodding from U, was identified by Doogie as the potty zone. This was fitting since in all our experimentation with personal hygiene in those days, S was the true pioneer (multicoloured fungi that talked back when prodded). Rumour has it that his room is still being fumigated by hostel authorities.

Doogie’s upbringing met with several bumps in the early days, many of them literal. According to one estimate, Doogie got cosy with Newton’s laws at least 442 times from varying heights depending on who was paternally flinging him in the air, sitting, standing or lying down. Doogie, a quick learner, would frantically work his legs whenever anyone approached his belly with baby noises.

But in one thing we did not fail as parents — we gave Doogie culture.

We taught him how not to play the guitar, showed him how not to woo women and taught him how to roll a joint. Informed him on Gilmour, Knopfler and Tarantino and showed him Pune from a rucksack atop a scooter. It would later prove that Doogie, in fact, was a girl but as U would say, “Ah! that’s ok. We’ve raised her as a boy.” She turned out alright in the end although her left eye still twitches, occasioned by photographs of U bare-chested.

Illustration: Samia Singh

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