In the winter of 1994, a farmer’s son came home from boarding school for vacation. He wanted a puppy – a German Shepherd to be precise – exactly like the one his cousins in Lahore had bragged about all fall. But his village was not Lahore, and his parents were not as liberal as his uncle and his family. Although General Ziaul Haq’s plane crashed a few years ago, the revival of Orthodox Islam in Pakistan, at least in the villages of Punjab, did not fade with it.
” A puppy ? The farmer looked at his son in disbelief. He was a holy, God-fearing man; a descendant of Sikhs but his grandfather had embraced Islam. The religion was not transmitted to them at birth but in fact the practice adopted by choice. On top of that, the 1980s saw the return of all who could be credited with the spread of Islam in the subcontinent, from Muhammad bin Qasim to General Ziaul Haq. A dog was a good deal against the angels – an opportunity cost that the farmer’s son would have to bear.
“A household that keeps a dog, turns away the angel of good, my son,” the farmer tried to reason with his 15-year-old teenager. “Dogs are ungodly beings. They make a place ungodly by their presence. You will need to perform wudu (ablution) every time you touch it.
“But Baba ji, we don’t have to keep him in the haveli; we can keep it in the barn with the other animals. Angels could still bring blessings to our home. It is also a guard dog; good for protecting animals. If you could get one for me, I promise I will never bring it to the haveli; I’ll keep it in the barn.
“I’ll think about it. We’ll discuss it when you get back for your summer vacation,” the farmer muttered.
By the time the boy finally returned home, parental love had triumphed over religious conservatism. A three month old puppy with a broad head, a pointed muzzle and a thick black and tan coat was waiting in the barn. Its bushy tail curved downwards and the pup ran towards the boy as soon as he saw him, as if they were old friends. The boy sat up and began to pat the dog’s back affectionately.
“What are you going to call him?
“Simba! Baba-ji; I’ll call him Simba.
” Why ? “
“Baba ji, Simba is a lion cub in a movie I watched at school. His father, Mufasa, is a just and honorable king. He loves his son more than anything. Simba loves him too. When Simba grows up, he looks like his father. It’s a very good story, Baba ji. It reminds me of us. I’m going to call him Simba so that when I get back to school he’ll call you back.
As the lazy summer wore on, the boy and his puppy frolicked around the canal that ran through lush green fields. Simba was a fast learner and could even find stones the boy was throwing in shallow water and thick corn crops. They would beat the afternoon heat in the shade of the sprawling trees. It was a perfect summer but it ended like all good things and it was time for the boy to return to his boarding school.
“Baba ji, could you please feed Simba for me until I come back in the winter?” You don’t have to touch it. Anyone can let go of it morning and evening for a walk. He likes to run after birds in the fields, but he will find his way back to the barn. He still does. There is nothing to fear about it, ”the boy said.
In October, the boy received a letter from his father.
“My son, Simba seems to have lost his appetite. He doesn’t eat much. At first, I thought it was probably because of your absence. I thought she missed you. But lately I saw that his stool was hurting him while there was also blood in his stool. He licks his cock excessively unlike before.
The letter further informed the boy that the farmer had taken Simba to his buffalo vet in town, but to no avail.
“He didn’t allow Simba into his office,” his son’s father informed sadly, “I begged him, but I couldn’t convince him to examine Simba. But he still prescribed medication.
The letter urged the boy to come home over the weekend for Simba’s sake and that the headmaster would be notified of the sudden emergency at home.
The following weekend, after sunset, Simba finally rested his head on the boy’s lap. Ironically, he was in the haveli, with the farmer sitting next to him. They sat in silence, stroking Simba’s head, who weakly licked both of his hands back. The farmer did not resist.
In fact, it was as if the angel of mercy and good had abandoned the haveli, for Simba had not survived the night. It seemed like he had spent all his energy waiting for the boy to come home and finally be ready to go. Towards dawn the farmer dug a grave for their beloved Simba under a banyan tree on the ground of the haveli and it was there that the dog remained at rest, pushing back or perhaps inviting to enter, the angel of mercy and good.