I too had a pet story
Let me start where it all begun. If on a winter’s night a traveler…comes knocking at your doorstep? He did that just night - the traveler who was no stranger but my own father who used to work as a small scale industrial office – a traveler who used to travel the length and breadth of Karnataka and Kerala to audit businesses that had had sought funding from his bank. To check the viability of the project and suitability of the project for a loan. Usually he would be away for half the month on these tours and on the days he would return, I would stay awake late. Of course, it is always a joyous occasion to be reunited with one’s sire but the greater attraction were the gifts one’s sire conferred upon one. Absent fathers have this guilt conscious for being away from their children. So, they try to make up for it with gifts which children soon learn to manipulate to wrangle the most expensive gifts out of their most niggardly fathers. Though in my case, the gifts I got were mostly surprise ones which made it even more special. There is nothing as delightful as a surprise gift, isn’t it? Though of course it can backfire as well if it turns out to be something you do not want. So that winter night my father was expected to return and so I was allowed stay up past bedtime to welcome him.
He came in as usual with a straight face, greeted me formally and went about changing clothes and washing his legs and then sat down for dinner. I kept running all around him. But he seemed to ignore me and went on describing the events of the tour to my mother as he finished his ablutions and dinner. Then he opened his suitcase. I watched - my eyes open with expectation. But he took out only his old clothes to put for wash. I could not hide my disappointment. I was about to slink away to the bed when my father called out to me. My heart skipped a beat. Had he brought a gift for me after all?
I appeared in front of him and stood with bated breath. He put his hand into his suit case and brought out a small cardboard box. I rushed to grab it. “Careful! Careful!” he said and took the box and carefully placed it on the window sill. Then carefully he unwrapped it. Inside were six large dull white colored worms. “These are silk worms,” he said. I was auditing a silk unit. They gifted me a few of their worms. I thought it would be an educational experience for you to watch silkworms go through their life cycle. And then he again put his hand inside his suitcase and pulled out a cover. “There are Mulberry leaves inside it. You need to keep replenishing them in the box every 2-3 days. This is what they live on.” My heart was filled with joy – my first ever pets. And pets that none of my friends could ever boast. My own unique pets.
I diligently fed them every 2-3 days. Our maid servant knew where fresh Mulberry leaves could be obtained and she kept us supplied regularly. Every morning as soon as I got up, I would look at my little friends for few minutes before getting ready for school. And every evening as soon as I got back from school, the first thing I would do would do was to drop my bag and run to see my pets. And one more time I would see them before I went to bed in the night. They never seemed to notice me me - they just went about their business leisurely munching away at the delicious Mulberry leaves and crawling from one end of the box to another at a snail’s pace or should I say worm’s pace.
One morning I got up to see my dear worms. A most terrible shock awaited me. One of the worms had turned blue and lay lifeless. “Must have been bitten by a mosquito,” my father said. I grieved for weeks for my little deceased friend. Meanwhile the others had moved on to the next stage of their life and had started weaving their cocoons. This was a fascinating period for every day you could observe progress like a sweater being knitted. Another tragedy stuck during this period. These creatures somehow seemed to hang around in pairs. Not sure if they were male and female. The partner of the one that had we had lost seemed to start pining from the day of the loss and stopped eating. And we could notice it growing listless compared to the other four. And one day we found it too followed in the footsteps of its friend. So, we were left with only four. Thankfully nothing happened to these four till they completed their entire cocoon. Beautiful little ovals they were with the silky luster.
“These are known as cocoons,” my father told me. “This is what they make silk from”
“How do they do it, Pa?” I asked.
The answer completely horrified me. “The put these cocoons into boiling water and then extract the silk threads.”
“And the worm inside?”
“Dies a horrifying death.” I swore I would never touch a silken garment after hearing that.
But my silk worms were not going to undergo that fate. For many days nothing happened. The cocoons just lay there motionless. Unfortunately, I missed the day the silk moth emerged out of the cocoon. We had to go to a different city to attend a family function. My aunt who used to stay with us, had remained behind and she told me everything later on – of how she had been woken up by the sound of movement in the cardboard box and how one of the moths had emerged out of the cocoon.
By the time I was back, all four moths had emerged from the cocoon. One lay dead in the box for me to see. Apparently, they don’t live too long. The moths had also left behind a gift for me on the mulberry leaves – new eggs out of which new silk worms would emerge. My parents were not too keen on seeing yet another generation of these worms. So, the eggs were given away to the maid servant who has been supplying us the Mulberry leaves. Apparently, she had a relative who wanted to start a silk business. I knew what that meant for the worms. But what could I do against parental authority. So like lambs to slaughter the poor little unborn silk worms were given away.
I never got to have pet animals after that. So these memories will be some of my fondest ones.