Wooo, woooo, woooooo—that was Mullahji responding to the azaan, the Islamic call for prayer from a mosque. Five times a day, the loudspeakers in the mosque’s minaret would come to life as the muezzin’s call for prayers went out and five times a day Mullahji would respond by standing on his hind legs, turning his head skywards and going wooo, wooo, woooo till the azaan ended. He would then drop on all fours and slowly lie down, as if prostrating himself. He’d give himself a shake after arising and then he’d be off to get his favourite cream biscuits from the local teashop before bounding off to play and fight with other dogs.

When locals in Badarpur on the Delhi-Haryana border first heard his woooo-ing and observed him standing on his hind legs in response to the azaan, they were amused. A few people got annoyed at the loud, grating wooo-ing and threw a slipper at him saying gadhe, chup ka—‘ass, be quiet’. But everyone soon realised there was more to his wooo-ing than simply a dog’s reaction to loudspeakers and before long, they learnt to respect him and his routine.

The azaan was so beautiful, so melodious, so sublime. In stark contrast, Mullahji’s woooo-ing was so unmelodious, his actions so ungainly but everyone was struck   by his fervor, his awareness of the azaan.  Somebody called him Mullahji,  the name by which “local Islamic clerics or mosque leaders” are commonly addressed, and the name stuck. There would be pin drop silence amongst the usually chattering locals during the azaan largely because of Mullahji’s fervent response. It was clear that it was no ordinary connection between Mullahji and the azaan, but what was the explanation? Was there an explanation, a plausible explanation?    

It is known that animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, etc are far more attuned to nature than us humans. Are they also more attuned to the other world and indeed not just more attuned but more meaningfully attuned to dimensions of which we humans are so woefully unaware? Over the years, instance after instance has revealed ever new, fascinating facets of inexplicable connections. For example, in the Himalayas, I met a wandering sadhu to whom the plants talked—a flashback to the legend which relates how once upon a time , animals and plants and even stones and other inanimate objects could converse with humans. The plants divulged their secrets to the sadhu, how they could be used for the benefit of mankind, especially for curing seemingly incurable diseases.

Then there was was my very own cat. She didn’t need a calendar to check what date the Navratras, the annual nine days of worship and fasting devoted to Goddess Durga, would begin and what day they would end. She just knew and on the first day, she would settle down just below the image of Goddess Durga. No rats or mice, no meat of any kind, no milk, none of her favourite treats for her during the entire duration of the Narvratras. She would survive only on water and would leave the puja room only to answer the call of nature. On the tenth day, she’d resume eating. Each year’s Navratras were as special for her as they were for us and everyone, impressed by her dedication to Goddess Durga but unable to find a rational explanation for it, began calling her “Devi”.

There was my mother’s cat  who’d go rushing to the puja room when she heard the ringing of the small bell with which my mother began her prayers. She’d sit beside my mother, her eyes closed, for the half hour or so that my mother chanted mantras. Day after day,  the cat never missed out on any puja . Incidentally, the cat didn’t like it all when once my mother jokingly said to her, somewhat unfairly  “ Choohe khaani—eater of rats, when you’re praying, I hope you also pray for all the rats and birds you kill”. The cat stopped joining my mother for prayers till my mother apologised to her.

It is known that animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, etc are far more attuned to nature than us humans. Are they also more attuned to the other world ?

There was a crow who couldn’t fly because someone had very cruelly cut off all his wings. This crow somehow hopped his way to my home, braving several cats and dogs who soon learnt to leave him alone. The crow too drew his boundaries, wandering till a half way point in the compound but never coming right up to the verandah. After having   his treats—boiled chicken pieces and home made cheese pieces—he’d hop to the park, pecking at things he fancied in the grass.

One evening, I was surprised to find he’d come right upto the verandah and seemed to want something to eat. I was even more surprised at the very unusual amount he ate. Even more unusual, he kept staring at me and went very slowly and reluctantly to his perch in a potted plant. The next day, I understood why. We couldn’t find him all morning though we searched and wondered. We found him in the afternoon, crushed under the wheel of a parked car. The crow had known his end had come and we humans hadn’t been able to interpret his seemingly strange behaviour of the previous evening.

There were was the dumb dog—literally dumb—at the Yamuna riverfront who was a faithful sun worshipper. There was my own Golu, fatter than the fattest labrador I’ve ever seen, who was a Shiva bhakt or devotee, responded when he heard the words panditji or priest and thali or plate usually set out for  priest. There was a very special parrot, a very special goat, a……their list is long and their stories not just amazing, but with an inexplicable connection to another world. An inexplicable connection which is so important because without experiencing it, a part of our soul remains unawkened.

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