To Zulu on her ninth birthday….
I take the liberty to address you so as there are people who understand the underlying feeling in my calling you the daughter of the house and because there are people who vehemently oppose calling you so. My letter to you today is but an effort to express what I feel for you and transport the same to others who haven’t been fortunate enough to spend time with you, let alone know you.
On your birthday I remember how you were wished by us and the hunt for a hound took us to Chennai and as I still was in a far away land you were born just a day before Christmas eve. Upon getting the first images of you with your other siblings lying with your mother I exclaimed: Dies ist das Christkind! And I know too well how you have saved me and made me what I am today.
You came to our house a couple of months later than King Shaka who joined me in January 2009, spending the first night in the home that he made together with you, built upon love and friendship that you both found and discovered in your playful ways.
It’s often said the love of one resides in another. To King Shaka I was his world and he never, even on the last day of his short but great life, forgot to express in all the ways that he could. He is that hound who made the land of my emotions a home to call, a place filled with love and purity which we humans probably have lost sight of in our run to achieve material bliss.
As this difficult year ends, I stop and ponder what it was. The year has passed so quickly, and it may seem it was just yesterday that my heart broke, after my knee, as Shaka left us. I didn’t wish that you see him suffer as I wasn’t sure how you would react but there you lay after we laid the warrior Shaka to rest and spent a couple of hours on the sofa where he breathed his last. It was evident you knew that he was gone, and this time around, when his smell came back in the form of his collar, you came and sniffed the same. His collar lies every night on our bedside. You have moved on and have taken charge, or for that matter, only made it evident to us that you were always in charge. You have owned our den like no one else and it’s you who is the spirit of Dhole’s Den. Free and Fearless.
This letter to you isn’t meant to bring tears remembering Shaka your companion. But its difficult to separate him as he is very much the love that we feel that is all around in the den. Shaka and Zulu shall forever remain the owners of Dhole’s Den. It’s the both of you who made us complete.
Even today, it’s you who rests every evening on our bed after dinner, which is usually ‘Room Service’, something even guests of Dhole’s Den are told not to expect. Even getting your boys to sleep in the same room as we do, is out of the question as you demand 100%, not one bit less. After your breakfast, you demand a ‘Goodie’ by standing in front of me and even making all the sounds that the humans call a bark, until you get the same. Shaka did the same earlier, but just before going to bed at night, we sleep with you covered in a handmade silken quilt from my mother’s sarees, giving us the warmth of your love.
You my Zulu have given me many a thing that I wished and opened my eyes and heart to, things that would have remained obscure to the eyes of my soul. You came and jumped everywhere and opened all that was covered and shrouded under an incomprehensible mass of emotions.
Just yesterday I remembered the day I broke my knee and lay there in pain covered under a blanket, and as if Shaka and you knew what the problem was, both of you jumped onto that bed placing each of your heads on a leg of mine. I have no doubt in saying that gesture of yours took the first pain of fracture away from me.
Later in the year, you broke your own foot probably chasing a hare and the doctor had to come many times to make the foot immobile and my staff readily carried you down so that you don’t have to forego the comfort of my suite, well actually yours, I knew how much every staff member loves you.
I get up in between my work to stop and see you sleeping during the day and call you ‘Baby’ and place my hand next to you, and as if you know it, you instantly place your head on my palm. You possibly even know that my hand aches as I don’t have the choice of two as others have.
What I do observe, and I consider myself fortunate enough to do so, is that after our dear King Shaka has left his physical self, you listen and come to me more often and even refuse to leave my side. You have even developed a cry which you use after 17.00 hrs. lest I spend too much time at the reception talking to staff. You make it a point to say: Well I wish to retire… And the moment I move towards our suite you follow and on the steps even overtake me to reach what is your territory, your holy space which you allow me to use.
On this day Zulu, I am so glad and thankful we came together to build a home from a house, to experience how it is to be a father, to love unconditionally and to be able to experience the myriad emotions that rise in our hearts. The cake that you got on your birthday or the poem that a wonderful heart wrote for you are but things that describe what you really are. Our World, our longing and our love…
Happy Birthday Zulu! My Child…