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A Man and His Dog

by HARVIND KAUR

 

His tall, six-foot frame must have been commanding in his youth. Now still tall, sinewy and white-haired, that's the Baba ji I met.

His constant companion was a vicious black dog called Moti, a black pearl alongside a silver tower of strength.

Baba ji never really spoke. At least I cannot remember his voice. What is unforgettable is his presence. He spent his days lying on his munji (cot) in the middle of the courtyard, his faithful companion tethered to a post not too far away. Both lounging away the hot hours, made long by the scorching summer sun.

In the evenings, both went for a walk through the village. Perhaps he went to check on his fields or take care of other business. His tall frame could be seen walking down the dusty dirt roads. He would not be back until after dusk.

What did he do on those evening walks? What did he think? His white turban was always tied around his head. He may have aged, but there was so much grace and so much life in him. His quiet composure made him a mystery.

I know that he prayed. Sometimes, I saw him at the gurdwara. Sometimes, I heard him reciting the evening prayers. But more importantly, I could feel that he prayed just by looking at him. There is something about people who pray. They exude acceptance.

So did Baba ji.

He was content with his life as he lived it. He had lived a long life and a simple life. But he was content and accepted all that came his way.

He was meant to protect us: he and his dog, Moti. Both stood guard over our house throughout the night. We only yelled out to him when we wanted to make sure the dog was tied up and not running loose. He was a scary dog. He didn't just bark. We had seen him bite once. It was almost comic. All you could see was dust and hands and feet and teeth and noise and shouting. When Moti was subdued, we saw that the man was left with an open wound on his stomach.

None of us ventured out of the house or into the verrah (courtyard) unless we knew Moti was tied to his post. We knew what he could do. It is ironic that such a vicious dog could be the silent companion of such a quiet old man.

I sit now and realize I lost an opportunity. There was something to be learned from Baba ji. But I never came out of my self to learn from him. His simple life did not enthrall me. I knew that life here was not the life for me and that I would leave after my short time here and go back to the real world.

The irony is so painful.

The real world! I guess it's all relative.

Baba ji's hard and simple world gave him a serenity that I can't seem to find in my concrete jungle. There are few dirt roads for me to walk down and melt away into. I don't do any labor; I am modern. I am overly educated. But where is the contentment, the serenity that Baba ji exuded from his very being?

It is too late to find out the answer now. My time to ask him about all that his life taught him is gone.

He died a year after we left.

I went to the funeral. There were so many people there. The family asked if we had a picture of their loved one. With all the techy gadgets and computers we had with us, none of us had ever taken his photo.

He was our bodyguard; the silent old man who had so much to teach.

I wonder what happened to Moti. Who would walk with him in the dusk and be his companion?

Moti was contained by the sehaj - equanimity and contentment - in his old friend. Too bad I did not realize this then. I, too, could have benefited from that sehaj.

 

December 23, 2008

Conversation about this article

1: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), December 24, 2008, 5:48 AM.

A simple but incisive story bringing out the value of the most missed quality of sehaj in modern life. It also rues the missed chance of learning how to imbibe one of the most emphasized Sikh ways of living. It reminds me of Bhagat Kabir's oft-quoted couplet on equanimity - 'Kabir kookar Ram ko Motia mairo naun/Gullay hamaray jayvari jeh khinchay teh jaun' (GGS, p1368). - " Kabir is God's cur called Moti and has a leash around his neck. He goes wherever the master tugs him to."

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