I had known Kaveri amma as a valiant fighter and a strong headed woman. I would often meet her at the old book stall or while I was out for a stroll. She was mostly accompanied by her dog, an old Labrador, who would walk along with her or walk around people who would stop to have a word with Kaveriamma. Kaveri amma was always seen with her dog and I don’t know if that animal had another name but Kaveriamma called it ‘Dog’. If it loitered away too far or if a child was scared of its friendliness, Kaveri amma would call out to the animal in a stern voice “Dog, No” or with a “Dog, come here. Now”.
In her early 70s, Kaveri amma would often take an evening stroll in the society park. At times alone and most times with the dog. It was during one of my evening strolls that I saw her sitting alone on the park bench. I walked to her and asked how she was and pointed out that the dog was missing. She asked me to sit by her side, and without answering my trivial questions, she asked me “Jay, you are somebody who can tell me what love is.” I was not sure what that meant but with certain uncertainty I answered “Amma, I am not sure what the answer should be but I am sure love is an excuse to be with or not to be with someone or something”
She patted my back and chuckled as she spoke “Cut the philosophy, tell me what exactly love do to you. What does it feel like to be in love?”
Instead of answering her question, I asked her why she was asking me these questions out of nowhere and then she told me something that is etched in my thoughts for a lifetime.
“Dog died this morning. The pet care centre took him away. I know I have my children but I don’t wish to leave what is left of my memories with my husband. He brought me in here; we lived and loved each other in this apartment. I grew old with him and before he left, he brought the dog. I named the dog Grumpy but he would call it dog and soon, even I started calling it dog. We were retired, old and happy. 5 years ago when he passed away, he left me the dog for company and memories enough to last until I leave this world. And this morning it all changed. I am not sure what love is, I am not hurt because Dog died. People die and so do animals. Today, I am afraid of losing our memories one after the other. Dog was one of them and now when my children ask me to come and live with them, I will lose this house and everything that belongs to our memories”
I looked at her as she spoke, tears brimming in all four eyes. She stood up and I helped her, she spoke as she walked “I was sitting here and was wondering, if love is all about being together or if love is all about spending time and being loved. I might be too old to say this but I think love is all about ensuring you have enough memories of being together. And we connect these memories with words, people, things, emotions and even an animal that was part of that moment”
I nodded in agreement with what she said, as we reached her building. She once again patted on my back and said “Dog was just one of the moments of us being together in my memory. I have lost dog today but I hope the memory survives. And yes, I don’t know what love is. Hope this is it. And if you have a better answer do let me know” and she walked to the lift.