“Goodbye Mom,” I said as I stepped out of the house and kissed my mother on her forehead. I was a warrior now; I had to go and fight my battles. She had a plethora of emotions on her face; joy, grief, pride, concern, fear…they were endless. I couldn’t attempt to understand all of them. I was 21 years old and full of enthusiasm. My academic life was behind me now. I had been offered a job in a different country and I was heading there.
I stepped out and got into a taxi to get to the airport. I turned back to wave her goodbye one last time; she was smiling with her hands folded in a silent prayer; tears rolling down her cheeks. I didn’t want her to cry but she was always an emotional person; all mothers were.
At the airport, the image of my mother standing at the door was fading out. I was absorbing the advent of my new life – a beginning.
I had a connecting flight with a layover of 8 hours at an intermediate airport. I checked in my luggage, got past the security and plopped myself in the lounge chair listening to Adele.
I was leaving everything behind. My friends, family, city, the promenade and my oh-so-dear love interest. I was at an age where I needed to create my own world. Professional success, a good house, nice car, marriage, kids and a comfortable retirement; my road ahead was chalked out.
The flight departed on time; I was going to face my destiny soon.
We arrived at the intermediate airport after 6 hours of flying. My co-passengers looked tired, not me. Every inch of my body was pulsating with enthusiasm and anticipation. I decided to grab a bite and then cuddle up in a nice corner listening to music or catching forty winks.
It was around 4 in the afternoon when we got there. The waiting lounge overlooked an open reserved area which was not used for any aviation purpose. I could see some local children playing there; probably family members of the staff working at the airport and living in staff quarters nearby. They seemed to be having so much fun; kids mostly not more than 12 years of age.
Suddenly, a car approached the playing area and stopped in the middle of the ground. Four young boys alighted and looked around rather suspiciously. This grabbed my attention as I stared intently to see what they were up to. One of them then headed towards the rear of the car and opened the trunk.
What I saw next was unbelievable. Eight puppies, cute as they can be, were sitting in the trunk of the car. I was at a fair distance but I could understand that they were scared. These four guys picked up the puppies one by one and placed them on the ground. I thought that was a really sweet gesture as I assumed that these guys had brought the puppies to the ground to play. I was WRONG!
What they did next was heart wrenching. One by one they got back in to the car and started driving off. The innocent puppies started running frantically behind the car – they could sense that they were being abandoned. They ran with all the might they had; poor little souls. Before long the car had sped off and the puppies gave up on the chase.
This area was apparently highly infested by stray dogs. Before long, a pack of strays started circling these puppies. They were not looking friendly even from where I was sitting. They approached the puppies and started pawing them. They were certainly not playing. The puppies looked in grave danger.
Suddenly, another stray appeared from behind them. She looked older than the lot. The moment she saw what these strays were doing she started barking and howling and scared them off. All the eight puppies, as if on instinct, positioned themselves behind her. She was their knight in the shining armor.
But the strays weren’t going to give up so easily. They encircled her and started yelping from all sides. She wasn’t going to give up without a fight. She had to be a warrior. They strays attacked her from all sides simultaneously; the warfare of the wild. The ground had a lot of loose soil on it and soon the area was covered in dust.
I was on my feet by now. I wanted to go and help those poor puppies and their protector. I rushed towards the exit and explained the situation to the security personnel. Smirks and giggles and raised brows were all I got. I was on a connecting flight and I couldn’t exit the airport; those were the rules.
I ran back to the spot overlooking the fight. Some local kids had reached the area and were enjoying the fight. They were not even attempting to make it stop! I couldn’t just stand there doing nothing. I approached the security personnel again and tried persuading them to send someone out to stop the fight. Luckily, sense prevailed and they sent a young officer to the play area.
I rushed back to the waiting lounge. The officer approached the scene with a long stick in his hands and before long he managed to disperse the strays. The dust settled. The warrior-mother was lying on the ground – bleeding. The puppies were all around her licking her wounds and comforting her. She had gone beyond the point of recovery and within minutes she closed the eyes and lied there motionless.
The puppies didn’t understand death. They were continuously licking her wounds and snuggling under her paws. My tears couldn’t hold back anymore.
The security officer turned to look towards me and I signaled him to get the puppies to me. He managed to get a big cane basket and with the help of the local boys he put all the puppies in the basket and headed back.
The sight of my mother at the door flashed before my eyes. The warrior who had died moments back was certainly not the mother of these puppies but she certainly was a mother nonetheless.
I thanked the security team for taking action and took the basket with me. That day I learnt the biggest lesson of my life.
‘There is no bigger wealth than the presence of your mother in your life.‘
I sat in the lounging chair, logged in to the airline’s website, cancelled my ticked and booked a ticket to get me and these puppies back HOME.