I woke up with a start. ‘What are these strange sounds around me this morning?’ I wondered. I headed straight to Ajji’s room to whine in complaint. I wanted to tell her that I hadn’t slept too well. But to my dismay, Ajji was not there. I sat on her bed, still sleepy.
Suddenly, I spotted something large looming nearby. I looked towards the figure. It was very handsome with dark eyes, a dark nose, golden fur and a beautiful smile. I immediately liked this fellow being, but I was very upset with Ajji. How dare she bring a stranger into our house? She says she loves me so much. Then why does she need another one like me? I frowned at him and he frowned back. ‘Hello! Who are you?’ I asked. The stranger repeated the same question. I stood up to attack him. He also stood up.
‘A-ha! It would be a battle of equals,’ I thought. I jumped at him. But instead of landing on the stranger, I hit my head against something very smooth and hard.
As I sat on the ground moaning softly, Ajji came into the room and saw me in pain. Within seconds, she guessed what had happened. ‘Gopi! Oh, my Gopi! Happy Birthday, Gopu! Today is your birthday and you have hit yourself against the mirror!’ She began pressing her palm against my head right where it hurt. ‘Oh my poor boy, did you think that there was another dog in the room? You were looking at yourself, your own reflection!
‘So that explains it,’ I thought happily, very relieved that I was Ajji’s only dog.
I had been looking at something called a mirror and the handsome fellow being was none other than me! Ajji patted me on the back and said, ‘Gopi! I bought this large mirror yesterday. Come, let’s go to the living room. Don’t worry, you will be fine and the pain will disappear soon.’
I followed Ajji with my tail hanging down.
But, when I entered the living room, I immediately forgot my silliness of a little while ago. ‘Happy Birthday, Gopi!’ said Tachi Ajji happily as soon as she saw me walk in. ‘You came into the world a year ago. When we brought you home, you were five kilograms. Now, you are forty kilograms and weigh more than your cousins Krishna and Anoushka put together!’
There was a brief knock and Appa came in. As usual, he gave me a tight hug and smelt my coat. Then he wished me and said, ‘Gops, I can’t believe a year has passed since I met you. You have brought me so much happiness. Thank you!’ I hardly heard what Appa was saying. I could smell a dog treat in his shirt pocket. ‘Now, that’s much more interesting,’ I thought, as I licked his pocket. Without hesitation, Appa took out the treat and gave it to me. ‘Today is your day, Gopi. We will give you your favourite food all day!’
Appa was right. Paneer, boiled eggs, treats, chew-sticks, biscuits were kept in front of me through the morning and afternoon. I feasted on them all. Finally, when I really could not eat anything more, I lay with my back on the sofa and put my paws in the air. Now I understood why and how birthdays are celebrated. This was the best day ever!
Ajja saw me like that and said, ‘Maybe his stomach is hurting. He’s probably eaten too much.’ He sounded worried.
I smiled, ‘Ajja, you are wrong. When I show my stomach and put my legs in the 19 air, it means that I am very happy. You always stand at a distance and look at me curiously, wondering what I’ll do next. When will you understand me?’
Ajji and Tachi Ajji just chuckled. I know they had heard me.
In the evening, a beautiful young girl came to our house. She was holding a colourful box. She came close to me and said, ‘Happy Birthday, Gopu! I have heard so much about you. I couldn’t wait to meet you!’ Although we were meeting for the first time, she gave me a big hug. ‘You are soooo handsome—like a majestic lion,’ she cooed. ‘It’s like you are the king of dogs. I have never seen someone like you.’
‘BOWROAAARWOW,’ I barked, trying to sound like a lion to show off. But to my surprise, she said, ‘I know that you are not a lion when you bark, silly! Come now, I have brought ice cream specially made for you. You will love it! It’s yummy!’
She set down something white on a plate in front of me. I took a small bite. OOOOH! It was so cold, yet so tasty. I licked the plate clean within seconds and stared at her. ‘Do you have more?’ I asked, hopefully.
Almost as if she expected me to ask, she opened a second box. This time what she put on the plate was brown in colour and tasted different. I ate it quickly – I can’t even describe how wonderful it was!
Ajji said, ‘Aparna, thank you very much for Gopi’s treats. How did you know he would like the ice cream?’
‘Aunty, I had a dog at home when I was younger so I know what dogs like.’
Ajji and Tachi Ajji are so lovable and nice but they are old-fashioned and don’t go out shopping to get things I might like. But look at this young lady—she knows what I want without even meeting me!
I went and licked her hand to say thank you.
Excerpted from 'The Gopi Diaries: Finding Love' by Sudha Murty published by HarperCollins Children’s Books