Co-existence

Those were indeed unforgettable days in my life. Ours was a large joint family then with around 20 near and dear ones of three generations living blissfully under the same roof, with my father as the head of the entire set up. Come summer holidays, the number would nearly double with my cousins joining the household for spending the much-awaited summer holidays after the ordeal of annual school exams.

To this day it looks a near miracle to me how my mother managed those two months year after year with so many of us mischievous youngsters enjoying ourselves with our unbridled simian antics, throwing the entire household into disarray, while adequately taking care of all our needs.

This was only a part of the total picture. The household also consisted of a couple of cows, two German Shepherd beauties, a pair of pampered cats and at least a dozen pigeons! All these were provided with the amenities needed for their respective pattern of living. The manner they were fed at set hours was something remarkable.

A large rectangular steel trough with partitions filled with fodder, meals, grains and water in a row to suit their individual requirement was used to feed these domesticated occupants. It was a treat for us children to watch these creatures, belonging to different species, feeding themselves freely at the same time with an inexplicable display of companionship, overcoming their inherent hostile responses while eating.

During one such holiday session, a group of us decided to give bath to Byra, the friendlier of the two German Shepherds, and in our enthusiasm to outdo one another at our skill in bathing the pet we managed to flood Byra’s eyes with soap lather setting off an ear-splitting howl from the poor dog as it writhed in pain. What followed was something unimaginable.

Visibly startled by this cry of anguish, the cows, cats and the pigeons at once stopped eating and started converging towards their howling companion with an amazingly uncanny understanding of the situation. It was so touching to see them moving around the wailing Byra with an astonishing display of concern as we hurriedly washed away the soap from its eyes. And it was only after Byra was fit enough to start eating did his companions resume their feed!

This delightful scenario, lined with the pristine concept of co-existence, remains green in my memory even after 70 years. In comparison to the above, which gives just a glimpse of values of life prevailing then, what a paradigm change has taken place in our pattern of life since then! There is a distinct erosion of all aspects of life once held sacred and ethical. We have managed to divide and sub-divide our existence into fragments replacing sentiments with intolerance. We seem to be fast drifting away from the basic vedic concept ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ - both in thoughts and deeds!

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