— Dr Rajagopal Soondron
I heard the master talking to the mistress about the loss of the joint family as their children stay away; about old parents having to prepare for spending their last days in homes in their old age
What was dad’s name mom? “Virgule,” Sonny. While on a visit to France in 1998 the mistress heard about it and decided to name him Virgule – in honour of that French dog.
And me, Mom? Oh you were Brazil, dear. Brazil? Why mom? Oh you and your four other bros and sis were born on Music Day 21st June 2002, so your sis was named Melodie. I heard the boss saying that Brazil beat England in the World Football Cup 2-1 of that year so you inherited that name. And you, mom? Oh Sonny, I was Venus – the boss, born in October, has Venus, the planet of love, as his planet. I was the only black coloured of the family; then all you five beautiful kids took after your father—a pale, brownish light chestnut colour.
The mistress’ two children loved us all, carrying us around in their arms since the very first day we came into their lives. We were the apples of their eyes.
Yes, I remember the children, where are they mom? Oh, one good day the girl came over and hugged all of us with such a heavy heart; then she went away for months, and came back after a year or so; the son did the same. They were very sad to leave us all behind. Why, mom?
I heard their mother telling the maid, Ginette, that it was time for them to go to the university; now and then, the first thing they did when they came back home was to step through the back door and run to take us in their arms, fondling and caressing and tickling us behind our ears. But now we see less and less of these wonderful kids. They are grown up, I heard, and they have left for higher studies and may not come back. What sadness!
Why did we never go to the house, mom? Oh, son, when we came here in 2001, they kept us inside; for one week it was real fun with daily showers in their rose bathroom, then suddenly they sent us out to the backyard of the house.
Why, mom? The master said that he did not want to have our smell or our hairs all over their home. But, mom, they could have given us more baths, more shampoo? oh, maybe sonny.
Yes, mom, we had a wonderful time there, we were spoilt by the mistress, always nice food … pedigree pellets and what not. The best was rice and chicken liver too. Sometime they took us to Rose Hill also, you remember, when we were sick. The mistress would be all worked up and put us at the back of the car where she would lay newspapers and take us to her veterinary cousin Raj, who would poke us with some needle in our neck. I was worried when you were sick, son. I would be standing by the side door thinking that you also would leave me forever; two of your brothers and sister were given away to friends and relatives as gifts. I never saw them again. What heart-breaking tragedy for me, Sonny.
Mom, I remember fighting with dad so often when I grew up, and the master would throw water on both of us “to cool down”, for disturbing his afternoon nap. Ah Ah!!
But there was another foreigner, mom. I remember him he was brownish, tall and longer than us, they called him Sniff. He was from Riviere du Rempart, supposed to get long ears and become a shepherd dog. But the master was taken in for a big ride. Yes, Sniff was long here before us … never fought with us. A decent boy he was. The mistress would scold him so often for running away for days; then he would come back, stealthily, with a bleeding mouth and ears and he would timidly hide in a corner. The mistress would be slightly wild and scolded him for ‘alle dans marriage’; wonder what that was. Then the mistress would open her hose of water and give him a good cold bath.
Mom, what is that light at the back of the house? Sonny, one night the boss came and stood at the back door of the mansion, and looking in our direction he switched on the light. It’s as if he could visualize us alive. With a heavy heart he was thinking of us — perhaps also of his own children who are no longer home. Since then he or the mistress had taken the habit to switch on that light at night – as if they still have us in their heart.
But, mom, why did they like us? Oh, the mistress and children loved us; we were their pets, running around, playing with their children, keeping them company and being their friends. But we were also like dogs – guardians of the house. Howling and barking if any stranger should trespass or come inside. Of the whole lot I was the most diligent, contrary to your dad, though he was good at catching some mice. The mistress was proud of him. But now son, they have cameras to watch over their house.
You remember, mom, we would be scared also, when it rained and there were loud booming sounds; oh yes, Sonny, that was thunder and lightning, I heard the master telling his children. And how we would run for shelter in any corner when we had our ears bombarded by some banging, loud noise… We heard people laughing, singing and there were parties for some days especially at night. And the children were happy, running about because they were not going to school. Yes, Sonny, that was their December vacation. It was new year for them, they would light fire crackers and have fun. But what a horror to our ears! At times I would run into the house and the mistress would let me in for the rest of the night.
Mom, why are we here? Oh, son, we lie in the back garden of the mistress under a small green house with anthurium blooming above us. To my right is my incestuous brother – your dad – and you lie to my left.
But, mom, why can’t we run now? oh, sonny, that’s a long story … your pop, Virgule, was the first to go after sickness … then you also got sick at the age of 14 years… you were brought to Raj and then one day you went slowly in the kitchen, vacillating with weakness, and somehow you jumped with much effort into her arms… and there you just dropped dead. And the mistress wept her heart out for you – she could not forget how you came to die in her arms. I wept in my own way, Sonny, but the eyes of the mistress became red and swollen with tears; I had never seen so much sadness. And six months later, the same happened to me when I was 15 years old. I became weaker, with a swollen abdomen; the master took me to the local surgeon who gave me an injection; the following day I became worse. The boss went for a night party while the mistress stayed with me and she took care of me as a mother. I lasted for one more day, Sonny, then I passed away the following day. She sobbed like anything, she poured out all her heart for me also. That night for the first time I thought I saw the master shed some tears when he came back; and so they have buried us here in their flower garden by the back wall of their compound, maybe to be near them forever.
Mom, will the children come back? I want to see them. Oh, Sonny, they won’t be as small as they were long ago; they are now adults. I heard the master talking to the mistress about the loss of the joint family as their children stay away; about old parents having to prepare for spending their last days in homes in their old age. Will their kids come and live here one day? But, mom, they won’t see us? No, Sonny, they have our photos, they will remember us. Will they always leave the light on at night, mom? I am so scared of the dark now. Maybe, Sonny, they will keep the tradition and their memory alive.
And if the children also are gone, mom? Oh, Sonny, we will lie here for eternity until some other master would come and light the bulb again, for us and his children.
* Published in print edition on 5 July 2019