Angel with a Big Stick
Anu’s new school was much smaller than the previous one.
“That’s nice”, she remarked to herself. “I’m sure I shall be able to have my own way here, without stupid rules to mess me around”. It was the lunch break. Pupils had been told to eat their tiffin in the playground, and not in the empty classrooms which were swept and cleaned in the interval. But Anu decided she’d much rather sit in the just-cleaned classroom and eat her lunch while she read a comic, rather than be outside, with all the other noisy girls. So she slipped into the room and was busy reading and munching pop-corn, scattering it on the floor as she ate, when a loud voice boomed “What are you doing here girl? Haven’t you been told not to eat your tiffin indoors?”
Anu looked up to see a large fierce looking lady with muscular arms, a frightening beak-like nose, and piercing eyes that looked even more frightening than the nose, as they stared down at her through steel rimmed spectacles.
“Wow!” thought Anu “This must be the headmistress. My last one used to be scary, but this one makes her look like a fairy godmother by comparison.
“Now get up little girl and pick up every single bit of that pop-corn you’ve dropped, or else I shall take you to the headmistress.”
“Oh, who are you?” demanded Anu, surprised, and rather relieved, that the fierce looking one was not, after all, the headmistress.
“I’m Malti the cleaning woman”, she replied “and I have cleaned this classroom only minutes ago”
“Well Malti”, responded Anu, “I’ve done a lot of geography in class, and I’m tired. So I’m not going to pick up the pop-corn.”
“Then come with me to Miss Lobo”, said Malti sternly. Not scared any more, Anu allowed herself to be led to the headmistress.
Miss Lobo turned out to be charming, young, and with gentle, delicate features. She smiled at Anu, and got a cheeky grin in return.
“I’ll have her in my pocket in no time”, thought Anu confidently. Malti explained the situation and ended by telling Miss Lobo that Anu claimed she was so tired after Geography, that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pick up the pop-corn.
“Yes, geography can be both tiresome and tiring, if one doesn’t pay attention”, said Miss Lobo with apparent sympathy. “Never mind, if you don’t wish to pick up the pop-corn, you needn’t”. Anu beamed.
“Instead, do an hour’s detention after school, as punishment”. Anu frowned darkly.
“Why?” she demanded.
“Because you disobeyed rules and now you have to face the consequences.
“No way!” muttered Anu, under her breath. She was looking forward to a game of cricket with her three brothers who didn’t really like playing with her because she made up her own rules and changed them as it suited her. But she usually had her way by throwing tantrums before her mother, who then coaxed the boys into agreeing, so that Anu would stop pestering her. Detention would delay her going home, and then she’d miss playing cricket.
“I can’t stay back in school”, said Anu piously. “My parents would be worried”.
“How considerate of you”, said Miss Lobo. “Don’t worry dear, I’ll phone your mother and explain”. Anu’s eyes opened wide in alarm.
“No, no, Mummy will be out”, she lied.
“Well then, I can always phone your father at the office”. Anu turned pale. There was a long pause. Then she said
“I’ll pick up the pop-corn”.
“I think that’s a very good idea”, agreed Miss Lobo, with her charming smile. “Malti, please see that she cleans up the classroom properly”.
Looking considerably less fierce now, Malti gave an impish smile in return, and winked as she marched out of the room with Anu.
That night, Anu drew two pictures in her scrap book. She was good at drawing. However, she drew people, not simply as they appeared on the outside, but what they represented in her imagination and as they made her feel towards them. One picture was of a ferocious looking bulldog, wagging its tail in the friendliest manner. Underneath she wrote “Malti”. The other, was of a beautiful, angelic, other-worldly being, complete with halo and, holding in her hand, a big threatening stick. No prize for guessing who that was meant to be.
During my schooldays, I don’t know what it was about me that teachers found exasperating. It could be that I asked too many questions, despite the fact that we’d be told at the start of a lesson, to put up our hand and stop them if anything needed explaining. Taking them at their word, I found it difficult to stop myself stopping them, which left them considerably upset.
Or could it be that, often, I’d preserve a respectful silence from start to finish? Then, on being asked if anybody didn’t understand anything, up would go my hand.
“What didn’t you understand, boy?” I’d be invited to explain. My simple answer would be:
Everything sir”, because, at those times, my mind would, for some reason, slam its doors shut and put up an impenetrable barrier to any words of information or enlightenment, coming my way.
On the one and only occasion my father, a doctor, chose to give me a lesson --- it was in Physiology and Hygiene --- he too was overcome by exasperation. I cannot, accurately, recall whether it was too many questions or too few, that gave rise to it, as it was a long time ago and I was only seven years old when it happened. What I do remember is that this person, praised for his teaching skills by medical students who did the rounds of hospital wards with him, suddenly flung my text book at the ceiling. From there, it descended onto the ceiling fan which shredded the tome and scattered the contents more or less evenly, to all four corners of the room. At the time, I thought the visual impact of this display, couldn’t be bettered. I was mistaken.
Following shortly after the incident with my father, I was in class at school, sitting next to a boy conducting a most interesting auction of his ‘dinky toy’ miniature cars, while the English lesson was in progress. All of a sudden, the auctioneer snatched up his wares and, like a conjuror, made them disappear into thin air.
“Hey”, I said aggrieved, “You can’t do that. I put in the highest bid for the blue and white racing car. So, by rights, it’s mine.”
“Shut up” I was told, in a sibilant whisper. To which I replied:
“Oh yeah, we’ll see about that.” The next instant, I was seized by the collar from behind, and a third voice, deeper than the rest, said:
“Oh yes, indeed we will.”
In the sort of company I kept, I was used to being seized by the collar from behind, and I reacted instinctively, by bending my knees and twisting my body, which immediately freed me. I need not have turned around to identify my attacker. The deep voice was a giveaway. It was Mr. Liddle, the teacher.
“Come here, you”, he ordered, reaching for me as I moved away, and so menacing was his tone, that I promptly moved even further, to find the infuriated schoolmaster bearing down on me at full gallop. In that moment of panic, the obvious thing to do was, try and outrun him.
At first, I ran in the corridors alongside the rows of desks, but the worthy master was more nimble than I anticipated, and would certainly have caught me. So I changed tactics and began moving across desks by placing my hands, one on the table-top and the other on the back-rest of the seat, and swinging my legs through the gap between. I was skilled in this mode of traversing the classroom. Wearing shorts as a schoolboy, helped. Liddle soon found himself in difficulties, attempting to copy me. His foot failed to clear the seat of one of the desks and he tripped, hurtling forwards and crashing face down on the floor. With a moan, he rolled over on his back and lay very still. At the same time, we boys noticed an ominous looking, bright red stain, spreading slowly across his chest.
“My God, you’ve killed him” said the boy next to me.
“Never!” I replied in a terrified squeak. “He did it himself.”
“You idiots, I’m still very much alive” announced the figure on the floor, sitting up and examining the huge red blotch on his shirtfront and jacket. Then, extracting something from an inside pocket, he eyed it tenderly and, addressed me.
“That was my favorite fountain-pen you helped smash. Write ‘I shall not be a disruptive influence in classes, a hundred times, and let me have it by this evening.”
“Yes sir”, I answered, relieved. How do you spell ‘disruptive’, sir, one ‘p’ or two?
Grandpa’s Secret Love
The fat lady threw back her head and guffawed. Grandpa had casually walked over to her at the club, and related one of his funny stories.
"You sound just like Radhika", he told her, when she'd finished laughing.
"Radhika, who might that be?" asked the fat lady.
"A dear friend of mine", replied Grandpa. "Delightful creature", he added soulfully. The lady gave him a puzzled look and rose.
"Well, I must be off", she said and departed.
As Grandpa returned to where Grandma, mother and I were sitting, a few tables away, Mother whispered to Grandma:
"Radhika must be another of his lady friends."
"I suppose so", agreed Grandma, as she sniffed haughtily, and turned her face away.
Grandpa loved funny stories but, somehow, Mother's and Grandma's faces would freeze when he was telling them to ladies like the one at the club. They didn't have to be fat. The ladies could be of any shape or size, fat, thin or medium. They all seemed to upset Mother and Grandma. I wondered whether Grandpa would get that same disapproving look when I grew up and listened to his stories.
One morning I went out for a walk with Grandpa. After some time we came to a field. Grandpa stopped, put two fingers in his mouth, and let out a piercing whistle as roadside ruffians often do. Anyhow, that's what Grandma says they do. I looked around to see whose attention he was trying to attract, but there was nobody. I noticed a donkey, though, grazing in the distance. Up went its ears as it looked at us keenly for a moment. Then it started braying loudly and came galloping in our direction. I got scared so I hid behind Grandpa, and clung on to him. Grandpa just stood there, which I thought was rather brave. When the animal was almost on top of us, he opened his arms and let it shove him right in the middle of his clean white shirt, with its wet and muddy muzzle.
"Hee haw, hee haw, brayed the creature in delight. Grandpa produced a carrot and offered it. Then he put his arms affectionately around the donkey's neck, as it munched contentedly and continued to ruin his shirt.
"Excuse me Grandpa", I said, "I hate to interrupt, but do you believe in telepathy?"
Grandpa disentangled himself from the donkey and looked puzzled.
"Er, I'm not sure" he said.
"Well, that donkey just told me its name.
"Which is?" demanded Grandpa looking interested.
"What will you give me if I tell you?"
"Anything you say", he replied indulgently.
"Right . . . give me just three bars of chocolate, four jam rolls and a slab of butterscotch jaw-breaker toffee", I said, not wanting to appear greedy.
"Done" said Grandpa. I motioned to him to bend down, and whispered in his ear. Never have I seen anyone look so utterly amazed. He didn't say anything then, but that evening, waiting for me, was a bag containing all the goodies I had asked for, with a couple of packets of chewing-gum thrown in as ‘extras’. Pinned to the bag was a card, addressed to 'My Telepathic Granddaughter'.
I didn't tell Grandpa how I guessed the donkey's name, but it was really quite simple. When the donkey started braying, my thoughts suddenly went back to the fat lady laughing, at the club, and something went click in my mind as I recalled that Grandpa had said she sounded just like his dear friend Radhika. Now nothing could be friendlier than Grandpa and the donkey we had just met, and nothing could sound more like the fat lady laughing, than the very same donkey, braying. So Radhika had to be the name of Grandpa's donkey friend.
A couple of days later, I happened to be present when Grandma decided to interrogate Grandpa about his "dear friend Radhika" whose name she had overheard earlier, at the club. When he explained that it was a donkey, Grandma suddenly, turned fierce, and shouted:
"Don't insult my intelligence with your idiotic excuses!" And when I stepped forward and told her it was true, she turned on me, telling me to get out and not poke my nose into matters that didn't concern me.
Grandpa being the sensitive sort, appeared rather shaken after Grandma's outburst. It left me feeling bad about getting all those delicious eats by lying to him about 'telepathy'. So I confessed to Grandpa, how I really came to know the donkey's name, and apologized, offering to give back what was left of the confectionery. For some reason he found it extremely funny and doubled up laughing. Sensitive people can be quite unpredictable, you know. He then took the sweets, went straight to Grandma, and offered them to her, but she turned up her nose and said she "wasn't in the mood". So Grandpa and I sat down and finished them between us. As we got up, Grandpa gave me a dig in the ribs and said very pointedly "Telepathy eh?", and collapsed, laughing, all over again.
That took place three years ago. In the meantime something very sad happened. Grandpa fell ill and never fully recovered. In the end, he passed away. I missed him terribly; I still do. He left a huge gap in my life that no one could fill. Before Grandpa died, when I was sitting alone with him at his bedside, he made me promise I’d go at least once a week to visit Radhika, and take her a carrot and some sugar lumps, just in case he wasn’t able to. He even tried to teach me how to put two fingers in my mouth and whistle like a roadside ruffian, to call her, but he didn’t succeed. So, until we moved to another town, I’d go there regularly, cup my hands and yell “Radhika”. She would always come to me, and accept whatever I had brought, but the spring had gone out of her step and her gentle eyes had turned sad. Often I would notice her gazing over my shoulder, out into the distance, as though straining to see someone who might be there, but wasn’t. And now, even her braying had turned mournful ; anguished almost. To me, it no longer sounded as it used to . . . like the fat lady laughing, at the club, on that evening long ago.
Lady in a Green Sari
“Auntie, that’s too much to give carol singers” said Renuka, who saw the lady next to her, put a twenty rupee note in the cap brought around by a small boy. She was a striking looking lady, tall, with a ‘tikka’ on her forehead, and dressed in a green sari.
“Well, they deserve it. I thought they sang rather well,” said the lady to Renuka, who had come downstairs from her flat on the fifth floor, with her twin sister Anita.
Minutes later, the group which had just sung, was replaced by another, a forlorn looking bunch of children among whom the eldest must have been not more than eight or nine years old. They were from an orphanage and a cardboard placard they carried around with them, displayed the name, in the hope that people would contribute towards their ‘home’. Their singing was a disappointment and the crowd chuckled good humoredly. But the lady in green exclaimed:
“ Oh dear, this will never do. They won’t earn anything for their orphanage if they sing like that on Christmas eve”. She pushed her way to the front of the crowd, held up her hands just before the singers began their next carol, and as they sang, she waved her arms about like the conductor of an orchestra. Renuka and Anita, as well as the others in the audience, noticed at once, the improvement in rhythm and timing, but their singing was still badly out of tune. Then the lady threw back her head and an alarmed Renuka said aloud, “My goodness, now she is going to sing!” Renuka was right, the lady sang along with the children. The notes came out smoothly and as clear as a bell. Along with her, the children too, found their voices and their sense of tune. Renuka, Anita, and many others in the audience, were so carried away, they could not help joining in also.
What a collection the little urchins made that evening. Five and ten rupee notes came floating down from the surrounding buildings. People standing downstairs with the girls, were digging into their pockets and giving generously. Renuka and Anita gave away a whole week’s pocket money that they had received just that morning.
“ Auntie, who are you? Where do you live?” asked Renuka excitedly. The lady smiled mischievously and said “ Aha !” Then she pointed to a star, way out in the distance “ Do you see that star? Not the big one, but the little one next to it?” “Yes” , chorused the girls “Well ... “, exclaimed the lady and broke off abruptly. At the same time there was a ‘plop’, like the sound of a bubble-gum bubble bursting, and when the girls turned questioningly, to the lady, lo and behold, there was no lady. The girls looked about them, among the people present, but there was no trace of her.
Renuka plucked up courage and asked the man whom she had seen standing next to the lady, whether he had seen her go, and to her great surprise he said
“ What lady? I saw no one in a green sari standing next to me, leave alone conducting the carol singers and singing with them. You girls must have imagined the whole thing.
The girls asked a few more people if they had seen the lady, but they all replied that they had not.
“ This is very strange”, remarked Anita to Renuka “If you had told me about the lady and I had not seen her, I might not have believed you. But since I saw her for myself, I know that neither of us is making it up. What a shame she isn’t here any more; I so wanted to speak to her.”
When the girls returned home, they wisely mentioned nothing about the lady to their parents. If people who were present at the spot, had not seen her, how could they expect their parents to believe she had been there, and then just vanished? So they had their supper and went to bed.
The next morning, Anita woke up with her eyes shining.
“ You know, I dreamt about the lady in the green sari,” she told Renuka excitedly. “You were there too”, she added. “I asked her if she was a Christian because she sang Christmas carols, or a Hindu because she was wearing a tikka. And do you know what she said to me?
“Wait let me guess”, responded Renuka. “She replied ‘I am a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, a Zoroastrian and all the religions you can think of. You were puzzled and asked her how that was possible”
“ Yes, yes, go on” , cried Anita, “ that’s exactly what happened.” "Well,” continued Renuka, “she said all religions say the same things about how human beings should behave towards one another, and other important matters, and that if there were any differences, they were almost certain to be invented by people. She also went on to say that great souls like Mahatma Gandhi, Shivaji, and emperor Akbar, believed likewise and were always surrounded by friends belonging to different religions.
“Why, that’s absolutely amazing!” remarked Anita “How do you know all this about my dream?”
“I had the same dream”, remarked Renuka quietly. “You see, she must have visited both of us at the same time in our dreams, which is why our dreams were the same. Now it’s up to us to think about what she said, and if it’s true, refuse to take sides when people try to make us join them in their quarrel against others who belong to a different religion.
Handsome is as Handsome Does
Mr. Rao considered himself a dog lover. To prove it, he had George. Judging by the certificates George brought with him from the person who had sold him when he was a puppy, he was a very special pedigreed dog and Mr. Rao made sure he received very special treatment. When he was young, George made his owner proud by winning a cup at the local dog show, for three years in succession. As he grew older though, the comfortable life he led, with lots of rich food and very little exercise, made him too plump to win any prizes. The veterinary doctor who was called in every time George coughed or sneezed or missed a meal, assured Mr. Rao there was nothing wrong with his dog that regular exercise wouldn't cure. So Mr. Rao bought himself two new pairs of shorts because his old ones were too tight around the tummy and, suitably dressed, he took George for a gentle stroll every morning, stopping often, to chat with friends who also thought they were getting exercise from that form of walking. Not surprisingly, both George and his master, grew steadily plumper.
Mr. Rao’s son Ashok, desperately wanted a dog of his own. “What’s wrong with George?” asked Mr. Rao. “Why don’t you play with him?” “Because he just sits and pants and stares into space, and when I try to speak to him, he turns his head away”, complained Ashok.
Some days later, on his way back from school, Ashok noticed a thin, miserable looking, black dog, tied with a bit of string to a telephone pole at the side of the road. The string was so short, the animal could hardly stand up. Coming closer, Ashok bent down and found himself looking into the largest and saddest eyes he had seen in any dog. He felt a wave of anger come over him ; how dare anyone tie the poor creature with such a short string and leave it to bake in the hot sun, he fumed. After waiting awhile for the owner to return, and trying to comfort the animal as best he could he, then, pulled out his penknife and when nobody was looking, cut the string, and marched off.
When he reached home, Ashok was surprised to find that the dog had followed him. “Go home”, he commanded, pointing to the road outside the garden gate. The dog put its ears down and stared back at the boy with those large sad eyes, as if to say “I promise to be very good. Please don’t send me away”, and the boy felt his heart melt within him.
Ashok’s mother who had been expecting him, appeared at the front door. “Ashok”, she said, “what is that strange looking animal doing over here? Get rid of it at once.”
“Mummy, he’s my dog”, he blurted. “ I’ve always wanted to have a dog of my own. Please let me keep him.”
“But why this one? Look at it, it’s just skin and bone”, observed Mrs. Rao.
“He’s special! He will be my own private, personal dog. Besides, we can always fatten him up, like George”.
“Not like George”, said Mrs. Rao with a shudder. “Skinny as it is, I’d rather the creature stayed that way, than have another fat ‘George’ about the place. What will you call it?” she asked.
“Champ”, came the quick reply.
“That’s short for Champion, I suppose”, said Mrs. Rao sardonically. “It doesn’t look much of a champion to me”, she teased.
“It doesn’t matter Mum. Our teacher taught us that handsome is as handsome does”, said the boy earnestly.
“And what exactly did he mean by that?”, she demanded, raising her eyebrows.
“It means you’re only as handsome as your good deeds, not your looks” explained Ashok.
“Alright Ashok”, relented the lady of the house, trying to look as stern as possible, “You can have your private, personal dog, so long as you keep it, and its good deeds, and its muddy paws, outside the house. It can live in the garden, and it is not to set foot indoors. Otherwise it gets this, where it hurts”, she threatened, brandishing her slipper. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes Mum. Thanks a million. Anything you say”, rejoiced Ashok, and for the first time in a long while, Champ wagged his tail.
Late one night, when he had been with Ashok for almost a month, Champ started barking in the garden. Ashok woke up at once and waited, hoping the noise would stop before his parents were disturbed. When the barking continued, and became more excited, he decided to go outside to speak to the dog and calm him down.
Yes, Ashok often used to speak to his dog. He would tell him what happened in school that day; how, for instance, the maths teacher had caught him reading comics in class, and when he expected to be punished, he found, to his surprise, that he was made ‘class monitor‘ instead ; and how that turned out to be worse than any punishment because, now that he was responsible for all the other boys’ good behaviour, he dare not misbehave himself. Champ would listen attentively, his head cocked to one side, his large eyes fixed on the boy’s, and at the really exciting parts, he would bark, paw his master, and wag his stumpy tail. With Champ, Ashok never had the feeling his words fell on deaf ears, which would often be the case when he spoke to grown-ups.
Softly, the boy opened his bedroom door and stepped into the passage outside, on his way to the garden. His room was on the ground floor of the cottage, while his parents slept on the floor above. As Ashok entered the living room, before he could get to the front door, he was frightened out of his wits by a hand being clamped over his mouth, and a muscular arm wrapped around his body. A low voice told him to remain still and not make a sound, or he’d be very, very sorry. He noticed that the person holding him, had an accomplice who was busy emptying the glass fronted hall-cupboard of its silverware, including the three cups George had won at dog shows. He also noticed that the hall window which was carefully bolted every night, had been forced open. All the while, Champ continued to bark in the garden outside. Ashok heard footsteps coming down the stairs. It was his parents. He tried to cry out to warn them, but the smelly hand over his mouth, remained firmly in place.
“My Goodness! What’s going on here?” exclaimed Mr. Rao, peering through the darkness at the open window, with the dog barking outside. The lights came on, and the lad saw the look of horror on his parents’ faces as they took in the scene.
”Don’t move, and don’t try to shout”, said the thief who was holding Ashok. “If you do, I’ll make mincemeat of your son.” From the corner of his eye, Ashok saw that the man was holding a wicked looking knife to his throat, and he froze with fear.
“Just keep calm and do as I say, and as soon as my assistant has finished his work, we will leave quietly and release your son.”
While the lad’s parents stood rooted to the spot, there came a deep rumbling sigh from the far corner of the room. It was George lying under an armchair, fast asleep and snoring. Regardless of the tension in the air, George’s behaviour struck Mr. Rao as being so funny that he burst out laughing. But the thief holding Ashok, grew alarmed, first at the strange sound from George, and then at Mr. Rao’s sudden, loud laugh.
Accidentally, he pricked Ashok’s throat with the tip of his knife. At this, the youngster panicked and pushed away the hand over his mouth, and screamed. Before the sound of the scream could die down, there was a black blur at the open window, and Champ came hurtling into the room, in response to the cry from his master. A split second was all the dog needed to locate Ashok, and with one big bound and a savage snarl, he sprang at the man holding the boy, and sank his teeth into the hand with the knife. Taken completely by surprise, the thief howled with pain and dropped the knife. While the man tried in vain, to shake off this 'demon dog' dangling from his hand, Mr. Rao took advantage of the changed situation and, kicking away the knife, jumped on the burglar and grappled with him. Not to be left out of the action, Mrs Rao picked up the knife, flung it out of the window and disappeared into the kitchen which was next to the living room. She was back almost immediately, wearing a determined look and armed with a stout rolling pin which she waved about as if she meant business.
The thief was putting up quite a fight against Mr. Rao who was not a very good wrestler. But it was Champ, small as he was, who the thief found dangerous. No longer were the dog’s eyes sad. They showed their anger, glowing like live coals, while his teeth felt as though they had been specially sharpened for the occasion, as he clung on to the thief in spite of being kicked and beaten by him.
When Mrs Rao joined the fight with her rolling pin, delivering well aimed blows at the burglar, the fellow found that matters had gone had gone completely out of his control, and he fell to his knees begging for mercy. His ‘assistant’ had long since fled the scene leaving behind all that he had collected, and vanished quietly through the window, into the darkness outside.
“Champ, sit”, commanded Ashok.
The dog sat down at once, but continued to growl menacingly. One false move from the intruder, and the fellow knew the dog would be upon him in a flash.
“Put your hands behind your back”, Ashok ordered the burglar. The man remained on his knees and obeyed. Ashok produced a length of cord from somewhere, and swiftly tied the man’s wrists together. Then there was a diversion. George who had been asleep all the while, chose to wake up. He yawned, stretched himself and saw an unknown person kneeling on the floor. This appeared unusual to him, so he walked slowly and majestically up to the terrified burglar and proceeded to sniff at him. Finding the smell disagreeable, he stopped sniffing and continued his walk, leaving the room lost in thought, in a world all his own.
There was a ring at the door. “Who on earth can that be?” wondered Mr. Rao aloud. “It must be the police”, said Ashok. “I telephoned them and asked them to come as soon as possible”. Not only was it the police, but with them, came along a reporter with his camera. The thief was still kneeling, with Champ glaring at him, and looking most unfriendly. The reporter made Ashok stand next to Champ, and click went the camera as he took a picture which was to make the boys in school green with envy, when they saw it in the newspapers next morning.
Mrs. Rao moved over to her son. “You have a wonderful dog, and he really is a champion”, she said admiringly. “Now I understand what you mean by ‘handsome is as handsome does’. I take back the rude things I said about him and, you can tell him, he’s welcome to come into the house whenever he likes. Also, I know he’s your own private, personal dog, but if you’d care to share him with us, Daddy and I would be proud to make Champ part of the family. May we? Of course Ashok agreed, and from that day on, both Ashok’s parents spoke of Champ as ‘our dog’. But we all know who Champ really belonged to, and who he loved the most, don’t we?