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 becomes a stray dog. He is driven away from Brindavan and he makes the drain, his home. The Pinto girl is concerned about him and brings him food everyday…. Irarely came out of the drain now, because people would kick and abuse me, and little children would throw stones at me. Only Pinto girl remained unaffected, bringing me my food as usual, but now it was laced with something pink that contained calcium.
“It tastes yuck, I know”, she explained, “But it will help your skin a lot”. She had finally discovered my “home” such as it was, and had let out a huge laugh when she saw me jump down into the drain one night after my meal.
“You crafty little thing”, she guffawed. “What a good idea for a home, so near, and yet so safe from all these idiots. But don’t you get cramped up? You’re growing up now, and it looks like you’re going to be bigger than Tiger, so you can’t stay there forever you know. Beside, it will make your weak leg hurt”.
She was right, but what choice did I have? Staying all the time in the drain with little exposure to fresh air only worsened my condition, till I figured it couldn’t get any worse, so gradually accepted it.
The rains went away, and I lived out my first winter.
The drain was actually a pretty good place then, because I felt quite warm in there. My skin improved a little, the pink stuff and the dry cooler air appeared to have some effect. But I was still more clumps of red than mousy brown fur. Then came the summer, and the hot sweltering heat, and I was a mass of bleeding skin again.
I had taken to the habit of trotting after her every morning as she walked down to the main road three streets away to catch her contract bus to work. It was my only time out of the drain, and I felt safe and protected during that ten minutes walk. People would stare at us, and some would warn her that there was a mad dog following her, but she would laugh at them and say, “No problem, he’s my dog, he’s just got a skin infection but it will be ok”.
She would wave at me after boarding her bus, and call out a goodbye, and always say, “Now go back home safely, Moti”. Then I would run back to the drain before anyone could come after me with sticks.
But there really wasn’t much that she was doing for my rash filled skin. She worked very hard, leaving home early in the morning and returning home well after sundown. She often went to work on weekends, and told me that she was doing quite well at her job. She did not seem to make time for just having fun with her friends. I think humans call such people “over ambitious”. Had I been human I probably would not have liked her too much.
One weekend, when she was home, I heard loud arguments between her and the building secretary. I knew that Tiger and I were the subject of discussion, because our names cropped up several times. She wanted me to be allowed to live in the building so that I could get well soon, while that secretary taunted her that if she loved us so much why didn’t she take us into her home and treat me there. She lost the argument.
That summer the dog vans started coming around again. Tiger warned me to stay well out of sight whenever they approached, and I listened to him very obediently.
“I lost my mom to this van, Moti”, he warned,”“I don’t want to lose you to it too”. So we weren’t caught, at least not that year. But she felt nervous that we would get rounded up, and called a vet over to give us some injections.
“It’s just a little poke in your skin”, she reassured us. “But that will prevent you from getting a very serious disease that you could die from – it’s called rabies, and it makes you so thirsty that you would go mad with the pain and discomfort. After you take this injection, the government will let me have a license to keep you and the dog van won’t be able to take you away”.
Unlike Tiger, who was very trusting of humans, I never let anyone except the Pinto girl touch me. So I really wanted to bite the vet hard, when he dangled that sharp looking tube before me, and took out a bottle with a nasty pungent smelling liquid. But she held me comfortingly, and the prick came and went with very little pain. Soon after that, she brought Tiger and me two handsome nylon collars, around which dangled small aluminium tags that held our licence numbers. We were now legitimate dogs, owned by “Brindavan”– Tiger with his glossy brown black coat and black muzzle, and me with my terrier face, unshapely ears, broken hip, skin and bones frame and furless red skin. Since the nights were so warm now, I complained to Tiger about the stuffiness of the drain. Resourceful as he always was, he tossed his head and said, “Let’s show you some magic then, Moti. I am going to take you to the dog discotheque”. Big show off. All he did was take me across the street, under a steel gate, into the cricket field that belonged to the Gymkhana opposite the building.
“No one will see you in the dark,” he said. “You just hide out anywhere you like, it’s nice and pleasant out here, and full of surprises. I’ll come out and join you sometimes in case you feel scared”.
I should have known he would be right about the magic. The cricket field was like heaven. Cool, soft, wide open spaces, with real squishy mud and real crunchy grass, not hard cement like the roads and the car bays. There were frogs and insects that came out at night, and made funny musical sounds. Very early in the morning, a light dew would fall all around making the air moist and full of mystery.
After that, each night when the lights at “Brindavan” went out, I would crawl out from the drain, dash across the street, duck under the steel gate, and wait for Tiger, who was more bold about leaping over the building wall, and jauntily walking across the road and under the gate to join me.
Then we would party wildly, chasing each other across the field, rolling over, jumping and frolicking. I felt like a puppy again. Tiger warned me not to bark out loud or we would get caught by the Gymkhana guards.
The grass used to be watered every evening, so whenever we rolled on it at night, it smelled and felt so good, somehow I was dimly reminded of my mother.
I have no recall of what she looked like, none at all. But off and on, I still do get a strong sharp sense of what her skin and fur felt like when I nestled against her, and the smell of her breath is still with me as if it were only yesterday that she nursed me, and licked what you call my “bum” after that to get me to defecate. Bet your human mom doesn’t do that, does she! Let me tell you, among us that is a sign of love, and rather a practical sign too!