Rumi was awake. He remembered knowing, in that moment, that that day on, he was never going to have to worry about choosing between food and a warm spot under a ragged piece of cloth.

Rumi had known Arya now for nearly as long as he’d been around in the world. They met ten years back when Rumi, barely awake, was wriggling under a ragged piece of cloth trying to find a soft corner, to keep himself warm. He was hungry too, of course. As far back as his memory went, he’d been hungry all the time, each day of his life.

But that one day, from ten years ago, he remembered being more cold than hungry. He remembered wanting nothing more than his somewhat warm corner under the sheet. Leaving it to hunt for food would mean coming back to a not-so-warm corner. And so, he had stayed, curled into himself, trying his best to fall asleep.

It had only been a few hours since he’d managed to fall asleep, when, lost in dreams about warm food smells, Rumi had felt large hands from an unfamiliar looking creature lifting him. He felt himself being wrapped up in a soft snuggly piece of cloth ( that he later learnt to identify as his blankey — but more about that later). The large, and very long seeming hands had then wrapped him up in an even cosier embrace. Rumi remembered feeling scared and excited at the same time. He dared himself to open his eyes to check if he was still dreaming, sniffed a little and was struck by a lovely, tasty food-like smell emanating from what seemed to be this large creature’s mouth. Rumi was awake. He remembered knowing, in that moment, that that day on, he was never going to have to worry about choosing between food and a warm spot under a ragged piece of cloth.

This was ten years back, an ordinary late winter evening, when Arya (on her way back from somewhere Rumi had begun to understand as ‘office’), had found him sleeping under a pile of litter on a busy street corner near their house. For reasons unknown to him, Arya had decided to bring Rumi home with her. In the earlier days of their relationship, he used to think about this a lot. And while he still didn’t fully understand Arya’s decision to bring him home, he had had his suspicions. For instance, Rumi knew he was fairly good-looking and had the best kind of ears amongst his species. Some might call this arrogance on his part, but he knew this as a fact from the way Arya couldn’t keep her hands off his ears when he lay curled up her lap as she sat facing a mysterious device that made sounds, changed colours and made Arya laugh in spurts.

Today afternoon, rolled up comfortably in the corner where soft sunlight fell through the windows of the same small house he shared with Arya, Rumi found himself thinking about that evening from ten years ago. He found himself thinking about the moment he’d first opened his eyes to Arya and the tasty smell of what he’d later learnt was mangoes — an amazing yellow fruit they both shared equal love for. He wondered why it was that he was reminded of that day today. Was it his perennial desire for mangoes, he wondered? It was still December and mangoes were a good two-three months away. He trusted Arya to get her hands on the first batch of the season and he knew he didn’t have to worry himself about this.

So what was it, he wondered.

Was it the time of the day — early evening — when the sun is yet to set and the sky is filled with a lovely combination of blue, yellow and sometime orange? He remembered how the sky had looked so beautiful behind Arya’s face, when he’d first met her. But no, that evening was from early spring and they were in the thick of winter still. So it had to be something else.

Feeling slightly restless, Rumi got up slowly. He let out a yawn and gently stretched his four legs. He left his spot from where the sunlight was now receding and walked over to the bowl of water that Arya left for him every morning when she left for ‘office’. (Ten years of living together and he still hadn’t figured what on earth made Arya want to leave the house, him and all the food in the kitchen every morning five days, every week). But she was a good girl and she made sure she came back on time every day. Not once in all these years had she come home late. He was aware that many of his old friends, who could no longer hold their bladders for long, were made to wait by their Aryas. Rumi knew he had taught his Arya well and he was proud of this.

But feeling a bit tired of his thoughts today, Rumi took a lazy sip of the water in his bowl and walked across the hall into the room he shared with Arya. He looked around and tried to remember his thoughts from the day Arya had brought him home, to this room.

And that’s when he remembered.

It was Arya’s smile. It was her smile and the brightness in her eyes he’d seen that day when he’d opened his eyes and smelt the mangoes on her. He understood now why he was thinking about that day again today. It had been a while since he’d seen Arya with a smile as big as the day they’d first met. Of course, she still smiled when she opened the door to him every evening or when she called him over to join her for post dinner snuggles and sometimes — but not often — when she was looking into that black device in her hands which made strange sounds.

It hadn’t been the same for a while now, thought Rumi to himself. And he wondered why that was the case. He curled into another comfortable spot, sat his chin down on one of his cushions and began thinking. The more he thought about this, the more he realized how much he wanted to see the same big smile on Arya’s face — again and soon. He knew he had to do something about it.

An idea began to formalize in Rumi’s head. He smiled, feeling pleased with himself. He knew Arya would arrive soon and he had to act before he heard the sound of the key turn inside the hole in the door. His only challenge was the arthritis in his legs — something he tried hard to ignore and not worry himself over. This had been discovered on one of their recent visits to the doctor that Arya had forced him to come along for. He only really went for these visits because he loved Arya’s company and that was irrespective of where they were going. But the lady at this clinic treated Rumi like a puppy and he really did not appreciate being infantilized by a fellow adult. The only saving grace was the not-so-fresh ‘dog biscuits’ the lady’s assistant tried to lure him with. The assistant clearly didn’t know that Rumi accepted the ‘dog biscuits’ only so he could make her look good in front of her boss, the annoying lady. This, however, often meant that Rumi had to swallow his pride (along with the biscuits, of course) and overlook his opinions around ‘dog biscuits’ and ‘dog food’ in general. Arya had never fed him anything she did not eat herself and to him the whole concept of different food for dogs was absolutely discriminatory.

Rumi shook his head to bring his thoughts back to the current day. He didn’t have much time and he couldn’t get himself worked up around his feelings for ‘dog doctors’ and ‘dog food’.

While he didn’t fully agree with the lady at the clinic (and he told himself this was not because he didn’t like her) Rumi knew his body, lately, had not been keeping up with his head and heart. He needed to act fast and just for the day, he really needed his legs to cooperate with him. With this thought, he pushed himself up slowly and walked over to Arya’s bed. It took more attempts than Rumi was willing to admit to himself, for him to finally climb onto the bed. He turned, sniffed a little and looked around himself — as if to confirm there was no one else in the room who’d witnessed his embarrassment. Once settled and feeling strong over his legs again, Rumi lifted the covers with his snout and curled himself underneath the blankey. It was warmer than he preferred but he was confident that this would do the trick.

A minute later he heard the keys outside the door. He heard Arya’s voice and understood that she was talking to that strange black device of hers. Once again, he wondered why she spent so much time with that black thing when it got her so worked up each time. He closed his eyes and waited for Arya to call out his name.

“Rumiiiiiii, I’m home!”, he heard. He was so excited he could hear his heart beat inside him. He worried if Arya could hear it too. He yelped out softly from underneath Arya’s blankey, hoping she’d come straight to the bedroom. Instead, she passed by and went to the hall looking for him. He yelped and wondered for the 1000th time why his Arya couldn’t use her nose as well as he and some of his friends could. But this time he heard her walk into the room.

“Rumi! you climbed onto our bed!” he heard her scream in delight. This was it. He took his head out from underneath the blankey and looked up at her. And there it was. That big smile with the big bright eyes. He smiled, wagging his tail, inviting Arya to join him for a cuddle under the blankey where he’d kept the spot warm for both of them. He knew how much she loved it and he also knew she missed it as much as he did. Ever since the annoying lady at the clinic had tagged him as a ‘senior dog’, they had been advised to move him to a separate bed on the floor. It had been nearly six months now since he’d tried climbing onto the bed and napped with Arya, with her hands wrapped around him — just like the first day they’d met. Of course, he was no longer the tiny pup Arya had picked up from the street. He had grown really big — and very quickly too — in the last ten years. But somehow Arya’s hands also seemed to have extended in length, to wrap themselves around him, the same way as the first time they’d met. Rumi knew this was a superpower special only to his Arya.

Researcher, writer — always wondering why and what if.