"He lived tensely. He was always keyed up, alert for wary of being attacked, with an eye for sudden and unexpected missiles, prepared to act precipitately and coolly, to leap in with a flash of teeth, or to leap away with a menacing snarl." From White Fang by Jack London
I made his acquaintance in Delhi. He looked strong and healthy in his shiny black coat, a big, handsome animal. But few recognized this, because he was a stray dog, a creature India is abundantly endowed with.
He combated daily for survival, partaking of rotting food articles, spilling out of wayside garbage bins. He was the fiercest antagonist of his rivals and a dreaded animal for passers-by.
I caught his fancy on my way back home one late afternoon, when, to my discomfort, he began to follow me. Dog lover though I am, I was cognizant of his savage propensities and watched him warily from the corner of my eye. Strangely enough, however, his personality had undergone a complete transformation, for he didn't growl or bark and walked behind me like man’s best friend. I too behaved as casually as I could. He stopped, however, at the bottom of the staircase leading to my first floor apartment and watched me silently, till I disappeared inside its confines. He seemed aware of the boundaries of his territorial rights.
He repeated the act almost daily for the next few days. And I did not fail to notice his softly wagging tail, his tentative proposal that we socialize. Hunger clearly explained his behaviour. He was battle weary and hoped for me to bring him succour.
The next time he looked up longingly from the bottom of the stairs, I asked my wife if there was food to spare and brought it half way down the staircase and threw it towards him, aiming as accurately as I could. He ran and grabbed the victuals where they landed, overtly wagging his tail now, stealing grateful glances at me as he ate.
Over time, my wife and I slowly got used to the ritual as much as he, so much so that around lunchtime one day, he violated rules to climb up the staircase and wait in front of our living room door. The honour of the discovery was reserved for my wife. I was home and heard her say between giggles, ‘Look, who's come for lunch!’
He sat there, his eyes as infinitely trustful and innocent as a child's, his confidence in human friendship unshakeable. He got up on all fours as soon as he saw me and his excitement was evident from the vigour with which his tail wagged.
He earned his lunch and almost smiled as he bid us goodbye.
Our relationship continued and one day he went a step further. My wife was sitting on a couch reading a book and had failed to notice his arrival. But his self-assurance had grown and he walked straight into the living room, where he stood a few feet away from her and whined for the first time. Since she was looking away, he needed to rely on sound waves to catch her attention.
She was amused, but scared too. He was getting dangerously close. She described the incident to me when I returned back home and I too was not too pleased about the development. We discussed the matter and decided that we would need to find a way to take him to a vet for his anti-rabies vaccine. An elaborate plan was hatched about how to transport him in our car next morning.
As morning arrived and we readied ourselves for the adventure, the door bell rang. I went and answered the door and found the gentleman living next door at the landing.
‘Good morning,’ said he, ‘may I come in please?’
‘Sure, please do. Can I offer you a cup of coffee, we are still at the breakfast table.’
‘Why of course, coffee would be welcome on a chilly morning.’
We sat down at the dining table, exchanging pleasantries, as I wondered what had prompted the visit. He brought up the issue soon enough.
‘My wife is disturbed,’ he began, ‘by this dog you have been encouraging for some time. We have a young boy as you know. It's unsafe.’
The message was clear. The dog had to be banished. Nonetheless, I informed him about our plan to get him vaccinated, but my explanations did not cut any ice with him. Vaccine or no, this scary thing must go. Embarrassing silence followed and there was little to argue about.
How do you explain to a dog, however, that he was unwanted? A plan was ready for him though when he arrived around lunch time. We kept our living room door securely bolted from inside and watched him unseen from a vantage point. He waited outside without any trace of suspicion that his hunger was not about to be appeased.
But his friends did not show up. He kept staring at the door stupidly, leaving now and then, only to be back again at his post, imagining perhaps that his biological clock had developed a defect. After an hour or so, he finally went away, but conditioned reflex ensured that he returned the next day and the one following the next. His trips continued for several days and then one day he didn’t show up anymore.
Within a month, I noticed that he was back at the garbage bin snarling and howling at his adversaries as he battled for his share of its putrid contents. I do not know if he noticed me anymore. Even if he did, he never asked me for an explanation.
Unlike human beings, dogs do not seem to bear you a grudge when you back out of a friendship.
Comments on this Blog
Dear Kumud-babu, I was deeply moved by the poem. I could almost see Lucy sitting next to your daughter. Thank you for this lovely piece.
In my view one who does not love dogs is less than human. Your story told so admirably reminded me of this Tagore poem. Here is my Lucy who was like my second daughter -|
Tears, idle tears
When you came to us twelve years ago
You were a ball of wool
A toddler barely one month old
A breast sucking babe
And always full of play.
You took some time to shed
Some of your naughtiness
And to learn to behave
Yet a lot of it you still retained
Till your very last days
And it was so sweet
It always sweetened our lives
Often prone to be sour
You never liked anyone to quarrel
To show your disapproval
You hurried to a corner
Or took some cover
An embodiment of happiness
You were always happy
Even with trifles
Like a rag, a stick or a ball of rubber.
You took to your new mother like your own
Because you never measured your choice
By rank or riches
As we always do.
A great detective
You could easily detect
The presence or absence of love.
You sought coziness and warmth
Not of physical comfort but of love and care.
You relished a hug or a kiss
More than a dish of sweet fare.
You grew up with mother's other daughter
And became great friends.
You made her your constant companion
And taught her how to love
When weighed down by weighty things
Like her heavy studies or exams
You were always there her to tell
Not to make life dreary and dry
Not to make it all work
But to keep aside some time to play
And to share the precious moments
Of your perennial joyfulness.
The home you once made your own
A castle you jealously guarded
With all your might and brain
Against all sorts of intruders
And all kinds of sorrow and pain
Your golden touch
Once filled it with fresh air
And a lot of light and innocent fun
Now even under the midday sun
It stands empty and dark
Like a house of death
When you suddenly left
You took it all away with you
Now only an utter loneliness reigns.
But you have left your indelible marks
In all its nooks and corners
And in every place
To efface them is but to efface our very existence.
Originally written on 1st November 2002
(Our beloved Lucy was born on the 27th of October, 1990.
She left us after a short illness on the 31st of October, 2002)
Dear Kumud-babu, I was touched by your transcreation of this poem. In my small way, I experienced a somewhat similar experience with the dog in my story. Add to it the fact that I have been a dog lover since my childhood.
Here is what Tagore says on the subject -|
Every morning this dog, very attached to me,
Quietly keeps sitting near my seat
Till touching its head
I recognize its company.
This recognition gives it so much joy
Pure delight ripples through its entire body.
Among all dumb creatures
It is the only living being
That has seen the whole man
Beyond what is good or bad in him
It has seen
For his love it can sacrifice its life
It can love him too for the sake of love alone
For it is he who shows the way
To the vast world pulsating with life.
When I see its deep devotion
The offer of its whole being
I fail to understand
By its sheer instinct
What truth it has discovered in man.
By its silent anxious piteous looks
It cannot communicate what it understands
But it has succeeded in conveying to me
Among the whole creation
What is the true status of man.
Transcreation of poem 14 from the collection Arogya by Rabindranath Tagore. During the closing years of his life every morning at Santiniketan the poet used to take his breakfast sitting on the verandah. At that time a stray dog used to sit very patiently at his feet. The breakfast consisted of a few slices of bread and a cup of tea. This dog shared it with the poet – but the bread had got to be buttered, otherwise it wouldn’t touch it. They – the poet and the dog – became great friends. Occasionally when it absented itself from this habitual meeting the poet made his attendants seek it out.
[This was published in boloji not very long ago.]
Dear Amrita: Couldn't have agreed with you more. Something needs to be done for these beautiful and loving creatures.
Beautifully written... and sadly true... that we banish our four legged friends in India.... till they become a real menace to the community. |
I am sure more can be done... let all dog lovers unite... LET US DO SOMETHING !
Dear k2s: That was a wonderful comment. It is not without reason that a dog is called "man's or woman's best friend". This statement is backed by centuries of wisdom I guess. If you get a chance and if you've not read him already, try Jack London. Superb.
WOW what a beautiful story about the dog in Japan! It makes me want to cry just imagining the loyalty and faith. You are right Kerman, they are a real pleasure to have around. They don't know of any other way to show their love for their master. Its either there or not there. There is nothing called selected loyalty to a few in their behaviour, unlike we humans who tend to have different scales of affection for each other.|
And btw, great to see you here K!
Dear Kerman: The advantage here is that I can collect all my contributions in one place. Besides, the blog platform allows you to edit as many times as you like. You can even delete something you don't like anymore. IL doesn't allow this. Otherwise it is a nice site where you make excellent friends.
lovely narration really heart touching... somehow we humans always want other living beings to adjust with us and form rules and regulations for them...
the loyalty of animals know no boundaries and they are such a pleasure to have around....
ps missing you on IL
Dear k2s: You have made a very important observation. The dog is a practical animal you say! At least, in my story, it certainly was. But this is not always the case I think. There was a true story about a dog in Japan whose owner didn't return from office one day. It was his practice to wait for the owner at the station in the evening. The dog went and waited everyday till he died. They built a small monument for the dog near the station. His owner had died and that is why he didn't return one day.
In many ways a dog's attitude to life (or any animal I suppose) is much more practical than what we humans follow. The only attachment I can think of is between a mother and the pup, and that too only for a brief period. After that everybody goes their own way to figure out what their life is all about and live the way they like. With this psyche we can avoid so many of our human psychological conditions don't you think???|
Loved the narration of the episode, OJ da. It now makes me wonder if I am also supposed to be an animal lover (a cat to be specific). We seem to have some kinda bond from previous birth maybe. No matter how much I ignore her, she still makes it a point to visit me and make herself comfortable in my backyard. But then again no expectations are laid on the table here and I am fine with that type of understanding.
A wonderful exposition on the dog's psyche and his thoughts about us-the humans!