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A Gift Lost And Found On Diwali

By Priyanka Rajput

“He was here when I went inside for lunch,” I heard my worried neighbour say. It was 6pm in the evening on the festival of Dhanteras when I was sipping tea with my cousin in my living room then. I had come home that morning to celebrate the festivals with my family and the atmosphere in my lane was as is usual during this time of the year – festive.

As soon as one enters the lane one can feel the festive vibes through the heightened activity of its inhabitants: houses being cleaned, scrap dealers doing the rounds since early in the morning, people carrying newly bought brooms and other cleaning paraphernalia and fairy lights being arranged on the balcony banisters and balustrades. A lot of chatter about things being asked to be brought from the market can easily be overheard while passing through the lane.

It was about dinner time when I was back in the living room watching television and simultaneously helping my mother in the kitchen. I heard my neighbour say with a lump in her throat: “It has been the whole day; my Dingo has not returned”. She complained to her next-door neighbour.

Curious to know who had gone missing, I opened the door and looked around. The old lady who resides diagonally opposite to my home bore a forlorn look as she sat down at the platform outside her house. Mr Krishna who stays right opposite to my house expressed surprise about the incident and tried to console the old lady that it will return.

When I inquired what had happened and who had gone missing, Mr Krishna replied Kanaujia aunty’s pet dog Dingo cannot be found since morning.

“Child, I went from one lane to the other checking every door in search of him. I have been calling out Dingo, Dingo, everywhere there is a possibility of him being found but to no avail,” aunty said with a grim face. While aunty sat narrating her tale, others around also joined the conversation. 

It so happened that during the whitewashing of the house, Dingo was tied outside the house not indoors as was routine. Everyone wondered who could have taken the dog or where could the two-year-old baby dog have gone on its own.

My other neighbour Twinkle suggested surveying the area until the park outside the colony on his bike. Though aunty had been preoccupied by Dingo’s absence, she did not want to bother her neighbour and hesitantly refused saying: “Night has fallen. It is better we search around during the day tomorrow”. The thoughts about whether Dingo would be safe robbed her of her sleep.

The next day, Twinkle scanned the entire neighbourhood with aunty riding pillion on his bike, desperately inquiring from all and sundry if they had encountered a tiny pug with long brown hair that covered its eyes and feet. “This tiny, small, brown, furry hair,” she gestured with her hands. It appeared to be a lost cause. The duo returned when the sun had gone down and the lane bore an unwinding look.

Upon their return, everyone hurried out of their homes to see if the pet had been found. They were all dejected to know that the effort bore no fruit. Aunty wiped the tears from her eyes with the end of her saree and sat again on the platform waiting for Dingo to return home for the festival. Sadness covered everyone’s face as hope to find Dingo waned.

The next day was Diwali and the pet’s absence so bothered aunty- she couldn’t eat. Everyone in the neighbourhood expressed shock over the sudden disappearance of a pet. “If I get hold of the culprit, I will set that person right,” said Mr Krishna in anger. “Who behaves like that during the festival? The poor woman is restless, her mood is all spoilt,” said another. “I hope he did not venture out on the road and got under some vehicle, or it could be that someone took it to his home,” Twinkle said with concern. Aunty’s face turned pale as she saw Twinkle utter those words.

The fairy lights shone on everyone, but it turned out to be a grim start for Diwali for the neighbours. I went inside my house praying that the pet be found. My mother told me the dog was such a cute one that anyone would have loved to have it. It was a gift from her daughter who got married and settled in a faraway place. “It is very playful and goes along with anyone, it is like a baby,” she said. “It doesn’t make Mrs Kanaujia feel lonely when all her children are gone for work, so she is very attached to the dog,” my mother said. 

From my balcony, I saw aunty sitting on the platform outside her house until late at night waiting for her genie to return.  However, Dingo could not be seen anywhere for two days. Some residents felt it might have been crushed under a vehicle on a busy road nearby. 

However, on Diwali day, just before noon, there was commotion on the street. I and my mother came out of our house too; aunty was holding her dog and it licked her incessantly. She petted and tickled her animatedly as if a miracle had happened. Mrs Kanaujia put him down as tears welled up her eyes. Dingo was so excited to be back; it went around in circles joyfully, jumping on everyone standing around him, including me, whom it didn’t recognise. A rush of joy filled everyone.

Some children had taken Dingo to their home to play with it. They never wanted to part with it, but they could not own it. Their hearts pounded in fear when they heard Mrs Kanaujia’s cries to find Dingo, but they were too scared to reveal it was with them. The teenagers realised they had committed a theft, a crime. They silently came up to aunty, Dingo in tow, and confessed. Remorse showed up on their faces and they profusely apologized for the trouble it caused Mrs Kanaujia. Just then, all was forgiven and forgotten; everyone got in the mood for the celebrations.

By Priyanka Rajput

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