Sorry, a gentle soul
We lost Sorry last Saturday.
My workplace, Asiatic Centre, is constructed on a five katha land in Banani. The parking lot is a shelter for homeless dogs.
I was never a pet lover, but I have become one. I have to admit that it has been made possible by the orientation and training from my son Iresh and later from my daughter Sriya.
It was 2005. At that time, we were persuading Iresh to return home from USA. One of his conditions was that he would only return if we allowed him to bring Fire with him. Iresh was younger then and Fire was a baby. By the way, Fire was Iresh's pet dog, a character in her own right. When Iresh was saying goodbye to his friends at the JFK airport, we were speaking to him on the phone. I was crying. Crying for Iresh who was leaving the land of many opportunities. Iresh said, "Ma there is no use crying. Fire is on the luggage belt and she is saying goodbye to the US, which means I too am happily saying goodbye."
Fire had puppies when she was very young. She could not handle the trauma of pregnancy and the responsibility of little wriggly babies. Even animals have physical and mental trauma when they have childhood pregnancies. So, as the story goes, Fire fled from her "responsibilities" and was roaming around in a building under construction in Philadelphia from where she was rescued. That is how Fire came into our lives, and led the way for the homeless dogs who would eventually find homes in our own home and in the shelter of Asiatic's parking lot.
Another interesting story about Fire I cannot resist narrating is when she took to the highway. Before returning to Bangladesh, my son took a road trip in the US. Fire was his company for the thousand miles he covered on his trip. With the windows rolled down, Fire would stick her head out, her ears flying back in the wind of the speeding car. One day, for some reason, the car had to stop on the highway and Fire got a chance to step out of the car. She was on the dream road, which she had fondly watched for hours and hours of the drive.
Suddenly, she decided to run on the highway, and my son started running after her. The faster he ran so did Fire. This was getting dangerous. "Come back Fire. Come back! Fire! Fire, stop!" The drivers of the speeding cars on a highway would have no way to step on the brake if Fire went under their wheels. This would mean a series of disastrous accidents for many speeding cars. So Iresh decided to lie flat on the side of the highway. This set off an alarm in Fire. All this while, the entire chase was a game for her: she would keep looking back from time to time to see how fast Iresh would run after her. When she saw my son lying flat on the ground she walked back, knowing that the game was over, concerned about the well-being of her friend, "father", and companion. And that's when Iresh found the opportune moment to catch Fire and take her back to the safety of the car. By the way, for all those who may be wondering, Fire was a Pit Bull, and none of the ferocious characteristics this breed of dog has a rep of having.
To keep Fire company, first Ganga and later Sorry were adopted. Sorry was a baby. His paws were so big that he would plod like an elephant. I first named him Oirabot (shuddho Bangla for elephant.) Like many German Shepherds, he had weak back legs. But he grew big soon enough.
I cannot recall who named him Sorry. It was not fair on him—he appeared to be saying sorry for his existence. He was such a gentle soul. He would greet us as we stepped out of our cars or came in through the gate of Asiatic. He would gently brush his body against ours, searching for the hand that would kindly pet his back or head. That was his way of showing love.
I remember Maher, a young chap who used to work at Radio Shadhin and was particularly fond of Sorry. So Sorry made many rounds on the Shadhin floor. He was a big dog, but he would often attempt to hide behind Iresh. His sloppy yet adorable attempts at hiding were futile since either his tail or his head would invariably stick out from behind. He was, as they say, like an ostrich sticking its head in the ground thinking no one can see it if it cannot see anyone. Sorry too felt safe thinking that nobody would see him and disturb his alone time with his favourite person in the world if he could hide himself well enough.
Yesterday, Sorry suddenly passed away. In the morning, I heard Joynal, the caretaker of all our four-legged loved ones, had taken him to the vet. I thought it must be one of his usual skin irritations. Or maybe I had that uncomfortable feeling, and maybe that is why I avoided calling Joynal back.
When I went to say my last goodbye to Sorry, I saw him lying on the parking space with the ghungur (dancing bells) around his neck like a necklace. Joynal used to do little creative things to make them look better. The entire place had the familiar smell of Dettol. Sorry was given a good bath and Joynal was in charge.
I again felt sorry for Sorry. Why did we name him so? As I write this article, all my colleagues pour in their condolences for Sorry. They all agree he was a gentle soul.
All we did was give him a shelter. But what Sorry probably valued most was the love he got from so many in the Asiatic family and from Joynal, his caretaker. Goodbye Sorry—our gentle giant. Your adoring eyes and sloppy steps and loving welcomes with a gentle push and a brush of your head will be truly missed.
The shelter house at Asiatic still houses five dogs.
Sara Zaker is theatre activist, media personality and Group Managing Director, Asiatic 360.