Ai-Yai howaha howaha..... Ghosla, the little cottage on the fringe of the forest, resonated with the howl. While howls like these were not unusual around the little town of Duli, near Ranchi, after sundown, none ever came from inside a house.
Mrs. Kumar was getting out of bed to brew the morning tea when she heard the howl from her daughter’s bedroom. She dashed into the room and grabbed the basket near Pari’s bed. “Now that we know it’s a jackal cub, we must get rid of it at once,” she announced.
What is Puddles?
“Don’t call her IT. She’s Puddles!” said Pari, yanking the basket back. Taking Puddles out, she cuddled her. “You said I could have her as a pet,” she scowled at her mother.
“That was until she howled like a jackal. Don’t expect me to keep a jackal cub as a pet. I’m your mother. I’m certainly not going to endanger your life. They might be like dogs, but jackals are not dogs.”
Pari refused to believe her pet might be a jackal cub. She looked at Nani for help. After all grandmothers were supposed to plead their grandchild’s case.
“Pari rani ...” Pari knew when Nani began with rani or rajkumari, it meant she was softening her up for the ultimate NO.
“No Nani!” she pleaded. ‘You’re supposed to be wise. At least tell Ma that Puddles isn’t a jackal. Ma only listens to you.”
Nani couldn’t bear to see tears in Pari’s eyes. “Sheetal!” Nani turned to Pari’s mother, hopefully.
“Puddles is a jackal,” replied Mrs. Kumar. “How can we have a jackal in the house?”
Pari placed Puddles in the basket and looked at her closely. She looked like a puppy and behaved like one. Except for the howl! Even Nani agreed that Puddles looked just like a pup. Else why would Vikram, Pari’s father, have allowed Pari to bring her home.
How she was found
Three days ago, on their way back from a fishing trip, her father and she had found Puddles alone in a puddle near the forest. Picking the slush-covered mite up, her father looked around for the mother. When they didn’t find her, they brought Puddles home. Pari’s ears perked up when she heard her mother tell her father about the new development over the phone.
“If Papa could mistake Puddles to be a pup, Ma is now mistaking Puddles to be a jackal?” Pari looked up at Nani.
“Puddles howled!” said Nani.
“Dogs howl, Nani. They howl all the time. Especially at night, if sad and alone. Puddles is only a baby. She must be missing her mother. That’s why she must have howled. Not because she’s a jackal!”
To be continued