The Wagging Days…
The Big Picture
The driver pulled the car up in the driveway and opened the rear door for the passenger to get in, no different from the way he had regularly done it for the past several years. Except, this evening turned out to be irregular. For today, the usually-excited passenger refused to board! The driver pleaded and cajoled the passenger, but to no avail. Something felt amiss here. It was not adding up. The car was identical. The driver was the same. The timing followed clockwork precision. Then why was the passenger reluctant to get in? Perplexed, the driver peeped deeper into the passenger’s eyes and was swept away by an ocean of sadness. Something terrible has happened, he realized…
Lester was only six-weeks old when we got him home in a basket. A golden Labrador, as soft and fluffy as a puppy can be. Getting a dog was the children’s idea, supported by their father. The mother’s veto didn’t count. Her only mistake was tagging along when we went to the pet store to explore the possibility. It is virtually impossible to say NO when something that cute and cuddly wags its tail playfully and gazes at you with puppy eyes.
The name Lester just happened. A year ago, we had visited Kanha National Park, where a forest ranger had ‘introduced’ us to a fascinating tiger named Lester. Of course, our Lester was a far cry from the fearsome tiger that we had interacted with, whilst safe on an elephant’s back. Lester was just a nervous baby separated from his mother, cuddled in a bundle next to our bed, drawing frequent pats every time he whimpered in his dreams. During his very first week of arrival, Lester fell terribly ill. What followed were daily sprints to the vet’s clinic, tender care, and lots of love. By the time he recovered, the bonding initiations were over and our puppy had graduated from ‘Lester’ to ‘Lester Nathani’.
When Lester hit the six-month mark, we got him a trainer. Nothing fancy like fetching a newspaper or guarding the house. Our country has enough unemployment; the last thing we can afford to do is to have dogs stealing the jobs of the maid and watchman. The same held true for any rolling-on-the-ground or catching the ball antics; our society has enough jobless entertainers to justify the existence of yet another showpiece. Lester was family first who just happened to be a dog. Therefore, the trainer’s brief was simple—a couple of basic domestication instructions, “sit” and “shakehand”, sufficed. However, by this point Lester had developed an attitude—he seemed to have figured out his rich inheritance and lacked the initiative to learn anything that he felt was pointless.
Of course, by “attitude” I don’t mean that Lester was turning out to be a snob. By the time he turned two, he had grown up to be the most handsome and eligible hero in the neighborhood. He refused to regard his walks as an exercise routine, rather a royal, leisurely stroll that involved lots of socializing with many unsightly and uncouth friends. The racial and economic disparities didn’t mean much to him. His annual birthday bashes were a neighborhood rage with a dozen invited breeds and a few stray gatecrashers diving into his birthday cake!
His tail waved with equal excitement for anyone who smelt of either affection or food. Yes, Lester was a food connoisseur. Experts say dogs should ideally be fed only once a day. We disagreed, for that was a very inhuman way of treating a nonhuman. So Lester would get two meals instead, plus a few intermittent snacks every time he looked starved, lonely, or extra-cute. Over time, Lester developed an identity of one who would waggingly give a grand tour of the house to any thief promising him a bone to chew. His warm personality, in fact, overshadowed the identity of his master; the Cybage CEO’s first introduction in the neighborhood was as Lester’s father!
The next few years were that of one happy dog story. But dog years roll faster than human, seven times faster to be precise. By the time Lester turned five, the slowing metabolic rate was distinctly noticeable. His puppy excitement levels had dropped—his favorite hobbies now were more about eating and sleeping than socializing! The years of dietary indiscipline and lack of exercise had taken their toll. Lester was a bit on the obese side now, and looked more cuddly than handsome. His neighborhood ‘hero’ title had slipped away to newer dogs on the block, younger and friskier. Of course, Lester didn’t seem to be bothered. His daily strolls had become even more leisurely and greeting old friends was reduced to a couple of casual wags. He preferred car drives over walks, and would bring the house down with his stubborn barks until I pulled out the car every single night for his post-dinner drive!
When Lester refused to get in the car, is when I realized we had a crisis at hand. You see, the problem was not that Lester didn’t want to get in the car—the trouble was that he couldn’t! He just sat there helplessly, staring longingly at the open door. A series of X-rays and blood tests revealed an ominous prognosis—Lester’s backbone had undergone rapid degeneration; in addition, he was alarmingly diabetic. It took several days of antibiotic injections and drips to bring his excruciating back pain and sugar levels under control. We managed to snatch our dog back from the jaws of death.
But our dog is a different Lester now. While he manages to walk unsteadily, it is clear that the apple of our eye is living on borrowed time. Lester is only 7, a human life equivalent of 50 years. The average life span of Labs is about 10 years. Lester is not going to make it, and worse, whatever part he does make it won’t be a high quality one. He is a candle that is fading away faster than its wax.
So what winds of hostility blew over Lester’s candle? Was it his leisurely royal walks instead of a disciplined exercise regime? Or was it his disorderly eating habits, rather than well-balanced meal times? Or was it the lack of obedience-training that made him stubborn to instructions which were meant for his good? Unfortunately, it was all of the above.
What happened to Lester has abundant recurrences in random samplings of real-life. Be it the casual upbringing of the offspring in a privileged home where future security is pre-guaranteed, or the unstructured way of running operations just because the organization is presently rolling in handsome successes, or an unorganized way of executing an IT project only because the team is richly loaded with heroes.
Of course, most men of reason already realize the price they pay for unplanned approaches to matters of importance. Yet, interestingly, many of us repeat similar mistakes, even though we have a premonition of the dire consequences. Definitely, we are way beyond the point of drawing inspiration from doggie stories to mend our ways.
Lester is just a Lab, and not a lab experiment to innovate on the functioning of this complex world. He is not capable of conveying his own excruciating back-pain, what positive difference can he contribute to this planet? A four-legged animal that is unable to comprehend the basic ABCs of the pet instruction manual is surely unworthy of being covered in a corporate blog.
Then why did I choose to write about Lester? That’s because Lestu spent his baby weeks timidly snuggled in my arms, and soon he will be nervously cuddled in the same embrace as his wagging tail slowly goes still in this world. You see, Lester is Lestu for me because I saw his complete picture, from start to finish. Had I seen his picture only in parts– start, middle, or end – I would not have felt the same (and the next puppy in Nathani household will not be raised any differently). And that, my friends, is the power of seeing the complete picture…
The human race can be broadly classified into the following clubs:
a) The men of free spirit, who believe in the supremacy of destiny, and rely more on intuition than structured methodologies while approaching either the present or the future;
b) The men of science, who understand the importance of applying logical principles to daily decision making, but often fail to do so because they are unable to imagine the complete picture;
c) The men of art, who have the creative inclination to visualize the complete picture but don’t have the scientific will to translate it into daily structured actions;
d) The men of balance, who are able to combine the power of “art and science” into a unified direction—be it the disciplined upbringing of an offspring by imagining the future, an organized way of running a corporate by envisioning tomorrow’s competitive landscape, or a structured execution of an IT project by understanding the bigger business need.
On a candid closing note: Which of the above clubs best describes your present personality? (And yes, to ensure the audience gets to see a larger sampling size – you need to vote to be able to see the results. Innovative comments, I am sure, would be even more appreciated by everyone).