'Don't be the minimum guy!' - said by one among some who had minimum screenplay time. (IYKYK!)
Prompt 2: Animal
Hello everyone, I'm back for day 2 of the fest! So far, I have written these prompts at the most inopportune moments, so please forgive me if they literally make no sense.
Today's piece was meant to be my first attempt to write a story, but somehow it became a self-reflection that has nothing to do with being queer and desi and everything to do with my personal feelings lol.
Hope it still counts. Regardless, if you decide to read this, then thank you! You're already doing something that even I can't make myself do.
Pitch to @desi-lgbt-fest for my submission. It's under the cut below.
See you guys on the other side~
Did you know that Muslims are not supposed to keep dogs as pets?
This interpretation can vary depending on who you ask, but the general consensus is that dogs...are a no-go. Why? The simple answer is because they are too “unclean” to keep inside the house.
Did I ever question this rule? Of course, I did. I have been living in the United States for years now, ever since I was a child at that. Some of America’s customs are going to rub off on me, and that includes keeping dogs as domesticated indoor pets. They’re so cute and fluffy and so friendly, how could you not love them?
I never knew, until much later, that someone else shared my sentiments as well.
My grandfather was not a great man. He had flaws. Many, many flaws. But he was quite extraordinary in his own way.
For starters, he could make friends everywhere and anywhere, a facet of him that I have come to deeply envy. Sociable, affable, and able to put anyone at ease (except for my grandmother, who had always hated his habit of staying out until the evening Adzan had already long passed), my grandfather was an easy person to get along with.
That, somehow, translated to animals as well.
One day, I get a call from my cousin hundreds of miles away.
“Nanu brought home a dog,” she said, her smooth cadence of Bengali a welcoming change from my mother’s harsher ones.
I was, naturally, baffled. After begging for years to get a dog or any other pet in general, my grandfather brought home a dog?! The most taboo animal of all! I couldn’t believe it, refused to even.
Turns out, my grandfather was walking home when spotted a small puppy by the roadside. A stray. Strays are not uncommon. Bangladesh has streets full of them, living alongside us until they almost feel like they are a part of our society as well.
Then, I remembered my grandfather’s habit of picking up strays. When I was four, it was a cat. Another cat when I was five. He bought rabbits that were sold off for cheap, pigeons because why not?, and even people, if any of the unfamiliar guests that came by whenever me and my family traveled back home were any indication.
So he noticed the stray, struggling to stay alive. Took pity on it, and carried it home. My grandmother was furious. She never liked any animals that demanded too much attention, preferring independent ones that stayed out of her sight. My grandfather didn’t pay her any mind, this too was common, and raised the stray under his own loving hand and guidance.
Flash forward two years, and I was traveling back to Bangladesh because I can never stay far from home for long. The dog that was mentioned to me in passing was now large and healthy, loyalty and love shining in his eyes. I am a simple person, I fell in love instantly. What I didn’t expect was my family’s reaction, even less my grandmother’s.
The few days I stayed with them, I saw that my Nani and cousins have accepted the dog as a part of the family. Nani gave him the best cuts of meat, a sight that boggled my mind when I first caught sight of it, and my cousins were eager to learn how to pet him the way that I do whenever he is close by.
Despite the elation, there was still one question that kept on bothering me.
“No one,” my grandfather said when I asked him how he managed to raise a dog of all things when I’ve been told all my life they were unclean, “said anything about not keeping a guard dog.”
Understanding dawned on me. It was so simple that I almost felt stupid. That was the loophole. No dogs inside the house, but no one said anything about keeping one outside. Plus, when we get “dirty” for petting the dog and getting his saliva on us, we just had to remember to stay clean by showering or doing wudu so that our namaz can still count.
I envied him since then. Every time I looked out my bedroom window to see my grandfather sitting in the baranda, the dog leisurely lying next to him, that feeling followed. Nanu was always patting his head, just like I had shown my cousins how to do. I was under no illusion that my grandfather learned that from me, he was the one who raised the dog with his own hands after all. But, at that moment, I could at least pretend.
I envied how easily he could get people to like him, how easily he can get animals to like him, and how easily he could make people understand him if he tried.
He is gone now, it has been three years since the last time I saw him. We didn’t part on good terms, my grandfather’s last moments with me woefully bitter. However, that didn’t lessen my love for him. I still remember how he held my hand and took me to meet his friends in the village marketplace, excited to introduce his favorite granddaughter to the fondly exasperated crowd. I still remember how he yelled at me whenever I caught him smoking, unwilling to let me see the worst parts of himself. I still remember how he taught me to look for loopholes, especially when circumstances seemed impossible.
And that, I suppose, makes all the difference.