A Dog’s Life From my safe vantage point

Till now… Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building, where he meets Tiger (another dog), Harichander (the watchman) and Pinto girl. He gets hurt and is disowned. He is driven away from Brindavan and he makes the drain as his home. The Pinto girl is concerned about him and brings him food everyday. Tiger shows him the cricket field, where he plays at night….

The second monsoon of my life came with a very loud bang indeed. Lightning and thunderclaps, heavy winds that felled down some trees, a dust storm that sent the leaves scurrying down the road, and all the neighbourhood dogs running for cover under the cars. The rains came down in a torrent, sweeping up all the muck in my drain, and water logging it completely. I could not even put one foot inside my “home”, let alone live there. So I ran about aimlessly in the cricket field, or on the street, taking shelter where I could, and finding very little.

Finally desperation drove me into “Brindavan”. I huddled close to Tiger under a car, the sound of the thunder and the chill of the rain temporarily shut away by his comforting breath.

“You’re playing with fire, do you know that?” Tiger was not very pleased to see me. “They will beat you up again if they see you. You just keep very still and quiet now.”

From my safe vantage point under the Shivdasani car beside Tiger, I saw the Pinto girl and her family leave the building in their grey car. I remember she was wearing a powder blue dress. Fool that I was, I should have left the building then, but I chose to hang around with Tiger.

To my misfortune, Harichander did discover me, and along with the other servants, he gave me the hiding of my life. Blow after blow rained upon me, while Tiger watched sadly, unable to help me in any way. I ran outside in terror, shaking my head and tail, quivering with fright, howling in pain.

I slipped inside the cricket field, and hung around woefully, soaking wet, the rash on my skin burning with the sting of the biting rain, both of the water and of the blows I had received. Those were the saddest moments of my life. The physical pain was more than matched by the feeling of despair that coursed through me as I now seriously considered the possibility of complete homelessness.

“No one wants me,” I thought to myself. “I have nowhere to live. It would be kinder for the SPCA to take me away and put me down, easier had she never fed me, had I never known those few moments of friendship with Tiger. I wouldn’t have minded being run over by a car when the rats bit my ears, but this is even worse, much much worse. My body hurts too much.” But, my human friend, I think you know all about something called keeping the faith. At that time, when I was only two years old, I didn’t. That evening I gave up hope.

After she returned home that night, she came down with our meals in the bread paper as usual. I watched her, from my vantage point under the steel gate unseen by others. The rain had thinned down to a drizzle.

When I didn’t respond to her calls, she went up and down the street looking for me and calling my name repeatedly for a very long time. Wet mud and water from splashes made by passing cars stained her pretty blue dress in several places.

Later she told me that the dress was completely ruined, she could never get those stains out. In a way, that was good because it became a permanent reminder of the night that was to change my life forever.

Eventually, she went back into the building, shoulders drooping, probably thinking that I had been frightened away for good, or run over by a car. I wanted so many times to call out to her, “I’m here, I’m here, please help me”, but of course I dare not.

A few hours later, she came down again with my food in her hand and asked the watchman if he had seen me. This was a different, kind-hearted watchman who kept the night duty. He told her that I was probably in the field, since he had seen me slip in there many times, and had kept my secret, that sweet man. When she spied me hiding beyond the steel gate, her face broke into a smile of relief, and she called out to me softly.

“Here Moti, come here, sweetheart, and have your dinner. Aren’t you the little hungry boy then? Oh my dear, you scared me so!”

I wagged my tail slowly, but did not approach her. I still wasn’t fully sure of her intentions. Humans had treated me very badly, and she was a human after all. Humans had even turned against me, after feeding and befriending me. For all I knew then, she could do the same.

“You don’t trust me, do you, Moti?” she asked me, quietly, knowingly. “You think I am going to beat you too. So let’s see how we can work around that and still get some food inside your tum”.

She then went to the security people at the Gymkhana and asked them to open the steel gate, so that the could take me out. I don’t know how she managed to get them to agree, that too at midnight, but how does that matter?

I watched her walking slowly towards me, with mixed feelings. Hunger and pain struggled with fear and mistrust, and the latter won. So every time she got close, I darted away.

By now, Tiger had joined the party, and urged me to stay away from her too. But she didn’t give up, approaching me in a slow semi circular fashion that eventually got me backed up into a corner near the main Gymkhana building. Then she got close enough to make a quick sharp lunge at me, from which I couldn’t escape. And I was caught. I struggled to break loose, but she held on tight. I gave up the fight and started trembling with fear, confusion and cold. I needn’t have.

Because all she did next was warm me up with love. I must have been the filthiest thing she had ever held in her life, muddy, wet, with a red rash all over my body and bleeding ear tips. But she held me like a little puppy, cuddling and soothing me, wiping away the pain of the beating I had received with gentle strokes and kind words.

“My poor poor Moti”, she murmured, caressing my face and shoulders. “What did they do to make you shiver so much? There now, let’s get you inside the building and warm you up”.

She carried me back to “Brindavan”, and there was Harichander standing at the gate, drunk and ill-tempered.

He actually stopped her from getting inside! He must have been well over the top to risk blocking a legitimate resident from entering the building. He began to hurl abuses, defying her to bring me back into the building.

She pointedly ignored him, which infuriated him even more, and pushed past him, still carrying me in her arms like a puppy, though I was a fully grown dog by then. Miffed and insulted, he stormed off to fetch his stick.

By now, the Pinto mother, who had heard all the fuss he was making, came downstairs to investigate. She was a hot-headed bighearted woman, with the kind of guts rarely seen in women of her age. Most of the other middle aged and elderly women in the building were overweight housewives who came down for the odd gossip session. This lady was very different, a trim energetic outspoken person who could hold her own among all the men folk. A reassuring fact for us that night.

Though it was way past midnight, she had no qualms about waking up the entire building by rebuking Hari-chander. In her outrageously broken Hindi she called him a stonehearted servant who did not know his place in the society! “Dil hai, ya patthar hai?” she demanded angrily.

He was too drunk to keep his mouth shut, and answered her back, and a shouting match ensued. One of the Shivdasanis leaned out of his balcony on the second floor, and foolishly asked the Pinto mother what all the fuss was about. That was all the cue she needed to launch into a ten minute tirade about the cruel hearted residents of “Brindavan”, who indirectly supported their staff in such acts of cruelty by not reprimanding them, perhaps tacitly even encouraging them to do what they themselves could not.

I can never forget this little tableau, me sitting pretty in the Pinto girl’s arms, Tiger looking on very interested, the watchman and all the other servants standing around the Pinto mother in a circle as she looked up at the second floor balcony and let forth her speech which was actually directed, not at the servants but at all the building residents, and they all knew it.

She rounded it off with her ultimatum. “This dog will live right here in this building, downstairs among the servants, just the way Tiger is. He will be fed, and medically treated by us. I defy any of you to lay a finger on him hereafter. We will not be spoken to by drunken servants in this way, and you will first keep your own servants in check before taking off on harmless dogs. If any of you have a problem with Moti living downstairs, well then I too object to your servants living downstairs. You take them into your own homes first, before sending this dog back out on to the street. Is… that…. clear?” There was a stunned silence all around, even more pronounced in the stillness of the night.

After a few seconds, the Shivdasani man apologised profusely for Harichander’s behaviour, and then ordered Harichander to go to bed and never touch me again, or speak to anyone in the building in that manner.

The Pinto girl fed me at last, very relieved to be doing so. After all she had been waiting for several hours to do it, but I ate only to please her. Fear has a way of killing hunger.

Then Tiger licked my face, led me to the grey car, and said to me,’“Go under this, Moti. This will be your home from now on”.

This was my first real lesson in the power of universal compassion. Put a drunken man with a stick before a helpless wounded animal, and you expect the former to win-right? Wrong. That night I learned that there are good and kind forces in this world that do prevail, and all we have to do is to believe in them for them to come to our rescue.