Today I am reminded of a very special incident that happened to me years ago. That incident still makes me smile. My papa is an army officer and a few years ago we were posted at Leh. It so happened that one chilled winter morning I was snuggled inside the thick quilt not wanting to come out.
The ‘Bukhari’ (a type of pipe attached to the room. Coal is put beneath it to keep the fire burning inside and keep the room warm) was burning and my mom kept waking me up as it was time for my school.
She then put an electric rod in water to keep it warm and prevent it from freezing because it was -17 degrees outside. My mom gave me a quick bath and then the dressing drama began. I had to almost wear 7 to 8 clothes to keep myself warm. I counted the clothes as my mom made me wear them. We ate hot toast and milk.
Mom then put the tomatoes in a bowl of water cause the tomatoes used to become so hard because of the temperature; if we throw it at someone then it could also smash someone’s head. Mom quickly packed her registers as she was a teacher at our school.
When the bus arrived, mom and me quickly boarded it. The whole journey we were swaying cause the school was on the top of a hill and the way was all zig –zag. On the way there were mountain goats and the bus had to wait for them to scatter out of the way. There was a small tea shop on the way and the localities were chatting and drinking hot tea with momos and biscuits.
Some children were playing football; I wondered how they managed to get up early in this weather to play, but of course they have no school like us, so they enjoy. Women wearing traditional Ladakhi dresses were carrying firewood and the lamas were also walking. There was also a frozen lake with a small frozen waterfall. I observed all these things as I went up to the school. The snow caped mountain added more beauty to the scene.
When we reached the school I went to my class LKG and my mom went to the senior section. There were many Ladakhi children but mostly the army children in the senior section cause it was the only army public school in Leh.
When it was lunch break it was the daily routine of all the children of our class to come out on the ground to see a airplane flying and we used to wave our small hands though it didn’t wave back at us. It was freezing outside and our teacher told us to write ABC but all the children had very bad handwriting cause our hands used to tremble and shiver due to the weather. Finally the last bell rang and we all came out.
The return journey was also the same but now in the afternoon the tea seller was selling lunch and very few people were outside. The frozen waterfall was glistening as the sunshine fell on it. The bus used to leave us at the front of our house.
When we were about to enter, we noticed a small puppy hiding behind the water tank in our garden. When we glanced outside our garden door we saw two ferocious dogs in the distance. They looked as if they were ready to attack. Maybe the little pup was being troubled by those nasty dogs. The pup was looking very pale and weak. It was also shivering with fear. My mom being a animal lover did not waste a single minute and took it inside. When we came in, our maid who was a Ladakhi was sweeping the floor and as soon as she saw the baby in my mom’s hand she exclaimed in horror “Memsahib Ji . It’s a fox baby!!
We were very scared. What had we done! My mom lifted up the baby and was about to take it outside when suddenly she stopped. The puppy was looking at her with a hope of letting him stay with us. My mom’s heart melted and she said, “May it be a fox but it’s a baby and he needs a mother and care.”
We fed it with hot milk and mom tied a thick cloth with a thread to its body. Then the puppy went beneath our bed and slept soundly. Papa was not at home as he had had gone for TD (temporary duty). But if he had been at home he would definitely not have allowed the animal inside. When it was evening we played with him. By the evening the puppy became very friendly with us. But there was still some fear in one corner of our heart because of it being a fox.
When it was night, the baby refused to go out of the house. The puppy found itself a nice warm place on the carpet beneath the sofa and slept there. We also headed for the bedroom and were about to snuggle inside when we heard a loud scratch on the door.
We looked through the window and we were filled with horror. Outside the door was a big Fox!! Now the scratching became louder and continued. We thought what trouble we had landed ourselves into.
Suddenly there was a whining sound and me and my mom hurried to the front door to find the little baby wining and scratching the door from inside. When he saw us he ran towards my mom and pulled her pajamas indicating her to open the door. Now we were in a dilemma. If we open the door then the creature outside might harm us and papa was also not with us, but we were also worried about the pup. For once we thought that we made a mistake bringing the fox baby with us.
But then Mom took courage and then opened the latch. I held her arm asking telepathically that was is a right step to take. My mom nodded. The scratching sound ended as soon as it heard the door opening. We peeked outside and saw the maroon colored fox with sharp claws and big teeth. When it saw us it slowly crept behind and then leaving our doorstep went to the garden door.
The little fox somehow managed to slip through our legs and through the small opening of the door. He went straight to the other fox and they started licking each other. They then glanced back at us and then slowly walked away disappearing in the darkness of night, leaving me and my mom holding on to each other at our doorstep.