My father had acquired a peculiar habit at one time during winters. A habit that was found strange not only by his own family, but also by all those who took note of a particular custom he religiously carried out, once in the morning, once in the noon and once at dusk.
Winters in our town had always been harsh, there was always a layer of sleet covering the roads and driving anywhere became practically impossible for one whole month. It snowed once or twice during this time, but other than that it was only the frozen frost that was the cause of much inconvenience.
But even during these times, when all automobiles were rendered useless, my father used to pick up his car keys and go to the car, parked out at the side of the road, since we had no garage, and start up his car engine for a whole twenty minutes. He then silently moved out, closed his car door with a noiseless thump and came back in to the cozy, heated rooms-looking as innocent as a pup.
He used to do so thrice in the day, sometimes four, and never spoke a word about it to anyone. It was never as if he had to go somewhere, he used to simply ignite his engine and close it after twenty minutes had elapsed. Another anomalous habit he had acquired in this time was a stubborn resolve to get a dog.
“A dog, maybe three,” he used to tell my mom, “they always make good pets.”
“You know we can’t,” my mother always replied, “with granny in the house. You know she has allergies.”
So the argument used to end there.
My father carried out this practice of starting his car, sitting idly inside with it a newspaper in hand for precise twenty minutes and then shutting down the engine- the same procedure was repeated thrice through the day- for one whole weak before questions began to crop up.
Mother never asked anything of my father, she let him have is way- no matter how eccentric it seemed and never interfered; but he became a victim to vigorous questioning from me and my elder sister, who always wanted to know what he was doing inside that car of his. Starting it, shutting it- and going nowhere.
The neighbors also began to ask questions at one point.
“Mr Tiwari, what’s with this habit of yours?” many used to ask him, “Are you worried that your car engine will rust? You know you don’t have to start the engine every day.”
But he never responded, he was always known to be a silent man- my father.
But one day I stood up to his obstinacy, I hid away his car keys and agreed to let him have them back, only if he were to let me into his little secret.
“Alright,” my father said, “get the car keys, I’ll tell you,”
I followed him, as he took my hand and led me into the cold street.
“There, do you see them?” he asked pointing under his car.
I bent and peeked at where he was pointing, two little puppies lay under the car nestled against their mother- a thin shriveled dog.
“The engine heat keeps them warm,” father explained, “Three puppies are already dead, I just wanted to save the remaining two, by keeping them warm.”
To this day I look back and admire my father’s kind act- and I cannot help but smile at the memory of this particular event.
By Chaynika Tewari