Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Visit

It had been a pleasant surprise this morning to receive Ravi’s call. It was crazy that he had lived in Bangalore for the last 2 years and we hadn’t got in touch. It was a crime to say the very least. The day was Saturday, a holiday, and we decided to right the situation without much ado. We agreed that I should visit him the very same day at his home in Banaswadi for lunch. It did not matter that I had to attend a relative’s wedding that day. Weddings are a dime a dozen in Bangalore. My wife Shalini, the kids and my mother would adequately represent us. With such a large contingent from our home, my absence would definitely go unnoticed at the wedding. At least, this was the logic that I used to convince Shalini to go without me.

Thus, having freed myself from the shackles of social righteousness, I set out early to meet a friend who had been my neighbor for 4 years at the student’s hostel 15 years back when we studied engineering. It is such an irony, that the closer the friend, the longer we are comfortable with not keeping in touch. Maybe it has something to do with the confidence we have in the strength of our friendship, the belief that it will last, no matter what.

The locality where my friend lives was unfamiliar to me. I had never been there despite having lived in Bangalore for almost 30 years. But I did have the directions to his house. I always prided myself on being a good navigator who never asks for directions. But this time, I must admit I got a ‘little’ lost, not because I lacked in any way with respect to my navigation skills, but because of a lack of sense on the part of Bangalore’s municipal authorities in how they allot house numbers and in their reluctance to put up boards with street names. To add to my trouble, my cell phone had gone out of charge and I didn’t have my friend’s phone number written down anywhere. But lady luck smiles sometimes without reason and sometimes does not, even when there is lots of reason to smile, leading me to believe that she is nuts. I stopped at a rather large, nice looking house and enquired a woman standing at the gate if she knew my friend. The woman turned out to be Ravi’s wife and this was his house! Bingo!

I introduced myself and was politely invited to come in instead of standing at the gate. Inside the house, I was welcomed by Ravi’s mother and his daughter who was about 8 years old. I had brought a box of chocolates with me, which I promptly handed over to the little girl, to her great delight. I have always maintained that chocolates are the safest gifts that you could possibly carry when you visit someone’s house. This conviction of mine was proved right yet again!

The house was large and tastefully furnished. I settled down at one end of very comfortable sofa in the open drawing room. Before I could enquire, I was told that Ravi had stepped out and would be back soon. So I waited. I attempted making small talk with Ravi’s wife and mother, who however, were more inclined to ensure that I was comfortable and feeling at home.

Soon I had a variety of delectable snacks placed in front of me. I must say the timing was right. I had had a very light breakfast in anticipation of a big lunch and was starting to feel hungry. I attacked the samosas first. They were delicious and I made it known to my hosts. I made a mental note to pick some up from the same shop on my way back. Next, I attacked the kesari bhath, which of course, was home made and was just like how I liked it - full of pure fragrant ghee and roasted cashew.

I was half-way through my kesari bhath, when I heard the gate open and a man entered the house through the main door which had been left open. He glanced at me once as he walked past the drawing room into, what I understood to be the kitchen since I saw Ravi’s wife and mother-in-law flitting in and out of there all the time. I heard them conversing in hushed tones. There was a brief silence before the man came out and said “Excuse me, whom did you want to meet?”

I was taken a little aback, but replied in an inquiring sort of way, “I wanted to meet Ravi?”

The man’s expression did not change. I remember I almost choked on the kesari bhath and spilt the juice on the carpet when he replied, “I am Ravi. What can I do for you?”


Sunday, August 23, 2009

To my Master, with Love

The Beginning

I entered this world on a cool starry night without much fanfare. Heck, even my dad wasn’t there to receive me. I remember that I couldn’t see much, but it didn’t matter. I was anyway not used to seeing. I didn’t cry either. Why would I? It smelt like heaven out here in this world. I can’t ever forget my first breath. It smelt absolutely delicious! I later came to associate that smell with something called “chicken biryani”. I do clearly remember lying there, fresh from my womb, enjoying the first fragrant breaths of my life. This indeed was a wonderful beginning to my brand new life.

My post-natal bliss was too good to last. I suddenly felt something warm and slimy, being repeatedly thrown over me, knocking me off balance. And before I could gather my wits about me, I had a sponge like thing stuffed into my mouth! I instinctively sucked and to my surprise, felt a warm sweet liquid flowing down my throat. It felt good. The warm liquid in my stomach soon soothed my frayed nerves and I fell into a deep sleep dreaming about what might lay at the other end of that intoxicating aroma that had so titillated me.

For many days to come, my world would continue to be dark and languid, with these mysterious but delicious smells teasing me all day. Unfortunately for me, I had to be content with only this liquid that I called “milk”, which I got by sucking furiously at the sponge every now and then. I learnt to associate this milk dispensing sponge to a word called ‘Mom’.

One fine day, I woke up with light in my eyes! Yes, I could see! As my vision cleared, I perceived this humongous face looking down at me with large, watery, love-filled eyes. It scared the hell out of me! But what happened next would have scared the hell out of the devil himself! The mouth opened and a huge pink thing shot out at great speed. It was aimed straight at my face. I tried to duck, but could not and the next thing I knew – SPLAT!! I was covered with a huge quantity of a warm, slimy, wet thing. This was familiar! And then before I could find my ground, the milk-sponge was in my mouth! Aha – so, this was “Mom” - the milk dispenser!

And then, from somewhere under Mom, there emerged furry little whimpering, cute looking creepy crawlies. Mom said these were my brothers and sisters. My immediate reaction was that of puzzlement. They all looked alike – four legs and one tail, two eyes and two ears, one nose and one mouth. So why was one a brother and the other a sister? That question was moot. What was important was that I actually had a family. We were a dog family. But where was dad? Another moot question. His absence hardly mattered. He would never have been able to dispense milk the way Mom did.

Our home was in a gutter. It was one of those neat little cozy places under the granite slab that serves as a bridge over the storm water drain spanning between a house’s gates to the road. There was no fireplace – but that was not a problem because it never got very cold around here anyway. Mom had fought hard with the hardened ruffians belonging to the real estate mafia on this part of town to secure this patch of prime real estate to raise her family. The tear in her right ear and her pronounced limp along with a number of scars on her leg bore testimony to the battles she had fought before being able to assert her right over this place. For me, there was learning in this - one has to fight to get the best out of life. And one has to be strong. Like Mom.

I think I was the youngest in the family. From what I know, the youngest ones are usually the smallest ones and not the strongest. I was two sizes smaller than my brothers and sisters. Being small, did have its advantages. It taught me how to play all by myself and not get bored – something valuable. I always wanted to play with my brothers and sisters, but I didn’t fit in. Being small also taught me patience. I always had to wait my turn before I part-took in the morsels that Mom brought in or for that matter, to cuddle with Mom. Once in a while, my siblings got a little rough with me. This was usually when I jumped the line. There were times when the wounds from such occasions took a few days to heal. But I feel it only made me stronger. It taught me to bear pain. I also learnt the art of disappearing. It was easy. I just had to run like hell and hide in some nook or cranny where no one could find me! Loneliness, to me, was a way of life, not a problem.

The Quest

It was late one evening, an evening that was moonless. It was dark and overcast. Everyone else had eaten. Sleep had overcome the last remnants of playful energy amongst my siblings. They had now shifted the venue for their games from the real world to the dream world, but I lay unable to sleep, very much in the real world. I was learning, in a rather hard way, that it was difficult to fall asleep when one is hungry - especially if one has not eaten for two days. The feeling of pride that I had for having sacrificed my meals for my dear siblings was not good enough to entice sleep. It was just then that the aroma of freshly cooked chicken biryani once again decided to pay a visit to our house in the gutter and stumbled right into me! It immediately sensed a hungry ‘bakra’ in me and lost no time in starting its slow, seductive dance right under my nose – tempting me, beckoning me! I heard music too. I wonder where that came from!

The aroma picked me up like how the breeze picks up a dry leaf and floated me out of our little home under the granite slab. I found myself in chicken-biryani-aroma-induced trance, drifting up and out of the gutter and floating towards the massive gates of the house outside which our little lair in the gutter lay. The gates and the house that lay behind it, until now, had been a source of great awe to us. Mom had warned us to strictly stay away from going anywhere near it. Every once in a while, huddled in our home in the gutter, we would hear the gate creak open and sounds of wheels and feet pass over the roof of our home. Sometimes we heard voices, but we never dared venture out to investigate them. Mom’s instructions on this were clear as crystal – “Go out and risk being torn to pieces and eaten by the Oogumba that lives on the other side of the mighty gates!”

Now, the very same gates loomed large in front of me. I could hear the low menacing roll of thunder and there were bright flashes of lightening every now and then that lit up the gate in all its scary detail. Gory images of Oogumba taking me apart limb by limb started flashing in front of my eyes. I had this incredible urge to do what I always did in the face of danger - turn around and run like hell. But even through these gory images, the chicken biryani aroma maintained its bewitching hold on my olfactory senses and continued to beckon me with wave after yummy wave of aroma. Soon the gory images faded away and my drift towards the gates resumed – nose first and feet dragging slowly behind.

I soon found myself squeezing through a very narrow gap in the gate – I was amazed – a rat wouldn’t get through that one. But how did I? The matter was too trivial to agonize over – I had better things to do. Once inside, I quickly looked around to make sure Oogumba was not hanging about anywhere. He wasn’t. So I followed the aroma up a short tree-covered path that led to the lit up portico and then to a heavy, imposing door. This I figured was the main entrance into the house. By now, large drops of rain had started falling - splitting into a hundred tiny drops on impact with the ground. I approached the door cautiously with a single minded objective of dashing in, sinking my teeth into the delicious whatever that gave out this heavenly aroma, grabbing what I could of it and running out just as fast as I ran in! I was all set, assuming the classic crouching stance, all muscles tense, head steady, eyes focused, unblinking and ready to spring, when the door swung with a loud creak and slammed shut!! I was left crouching in all my magnificence in front of a closed door in the portico. This definitely would have qualified for the anti-climax-of-the-century award; a nomination would be the minimum! I felt foolish and angry. Angry at the door for slamming shut, angry at me for taking too long to make a dash for it! And there was no sign of the aroma now.

The Storm

By now, the rain had transformed into a torrent, the winds had picked up and it seemed like the trees bowed down to the wind gods with fear. Sheets of water came down as though a celestial dam had been breached, accompanied by ear-shattering thunder and blinding flashes of lightening. Anger now quickly turned to fear. Dogs don’t sweat. Else, I would have been sweating like a pig. Even as I stood there in the portico confused and frightened out of my wits – all lights suddenly went out! It was dark. No, black. Black like pitch! Flashes of lightening gave me glimpses of the eerie night as if to tease me – “now it’s there now it’s gone, now it’s there now it’s gone”!!

I stood there, shaking in my skin, wondering what to do next. Finding my way back home was out of question. It was too dark and too scary. This was exactly the kind of night you would expect Oogumba to be lurking around licking its lips waiting for its next hapless victim to show up. By now, my imagination had gone into overdrive. Every flash of lightening revealed to me a new monster that was watching me from behind the trees. I now understand the plight of dogs that suffer from paranoid delusions – it’s a scary life that they lead. I suddenly noticed that one of the monsters had slowly started making its way up the pathway – towards me! This was no imagination – this was real! Oogumba! With every flash of lightening it drew closer and closer! Every step that it took seemed to have a sense of purpose – I knew just too well what the purpose was! I stood rooted – too scared to move. The monster was now right outside the portico. My heart pounded, straining against my ribs! I crouched down to minimize my size, hoping Oogumba wouldn’t notice me in the dark corner, when suddenly, the lights came on!!

I slowly let out the breath that had threatened to be my last one. This was no Oogumba, this was a human – a mere boy – about 12 years old!! I had seen humans a before when I had once bravely ventured out of our home on to the road. Yet, instinctively, I had always been wary of them – they couldn’t be trusted. After all, they are the ones responsible for global warming and the extinction of scores of species.

The boy quickly stepped into the portico and took off his raincoat. He was about to knock on the door when his eye caught sight of my crouched form in the far corner of the portico. I instinctively froze and held my breath. He turned slowly towards me with a smile on his face. He squatted down on his haunches and a low whistle escaped his lips. I watched with apprehension as he slowly extended his hand as if to touch me. I was in two minds as to what I should do with the extended hand – one mind said “bite it, bite it” and the other mind said “shake it, shake it”! I was confused, so I licked it. It was salty. The boy did not withdraw his hand. Emboldened, I gave it a few more licks – I liked the salty taste! I let him stroke my head gently, it soothed my nerves and I felt good. I realized I could trust this human after all!

Abruptly, the boy stood up, stretched a bit and knocked on the door a couple of times. No answer. He knocked again – this time – he thumped it with his palm instead of using his knuckles. A few moments later, the door was opened by a short thin man with a little patch of hair on his head and some under his nose. He was wearing a dhothi and a towel was draped over his shoulder. The man bowed down with what looked like respect and said something to the boy and beckoned him to come in. The boy, took off his shoes and slowly tip-toed into the house. I tried to follow him in, but the man in the dhothi saw me and came charging at me swinging his towel making a weird noise with his mouth that sounded like ‘shoooo’ ‘shoooo’. I got the cue. I quickly turned and ran out – but not before I got a whiff of that heavenly smell that had drawn me this far. Once outside, I turned around only to see the door slam shut, yet again!

Outside, the light and sound show went on with tons of rain coming down every second. I lay down outside the door in the portico to catch my breath and soon fell into a coma-like, dreamless sleep. My ordeal had taken its toll on me. Hunger, thunder and Oogumba didn’t stand a chance of keeping me awake.

I woke up to the sound of a cuckoo bird calling. Usually, cuckoos have a nice voice and they send me deeper into sleep, but this one for sure, had laryngitis and most likely had hearing problems too. The fact remains that I woke up on that fateful morning to the call of a cuckoo bird. The rain had only just stopped and the morning sun had turned to gold everything that it had touched. I immediately set about finding my way back home. I trotted down the shady pathway, wading through a river of soggy dried leaves and twigs and soon reached the mighty gates through which I had entered. I looked for the tiny gap in the gate and slipped out on to the granite slab outside, which you already know, was the roof of our home, when I noted with horror that the gutter was full of swirling water! Water was flowing through it as if it were a river in deluge, washing away with it sticks, leaves, insects, small animals and everything that happened to be in its path. There was no home. There was just water. Lots of angry water. But where was Mom? Where were my brothers and sisters? I looked all around but there was no sign of them.

I sat there outside the gate for some time – expecting to see Mom trotting up the road. Much time passed. No Mom. I realized I was still hungry. I remembered the boy from last night. I turned around, squeezed through the gap in the gate yet again and ran up the path to the portico. The door was still closed. Maybe the door would open if I whimpered loud enough. I whimpered loudly and to my pleasant surprise, the door actually opened. It reminded me of Alibaba shouting ‘open sesame’ in front of the thieves’ cave.

The same boy from last night stood at the door looking down at me with bleary eyes. In return, I looked up at him with as much expectation in my eyes as I could manage, wagged my bony tail wildly, licked my parched lips and let out another pathetic whimper. I think I got through to him. He called out – something that sounded like “Ramu” and the same man who had shooed me away the night before appeared. He said something to him and Ramu went in and re-appeared with a bowl full of warm milk and a couple of slices of bread and set it down in front of me. I looked up at the boy and then at the bowl of milk and then back at the boy, all the while licking my lips and wagging my tail vigorously. I was thinking – “Give me the sign – will ya?” The boy nodded with a smile and said ‘eat’. That was the only encouragement I needed. I quickly lapped the milk up. Next, I tore the bread apart and devoured it – much like how Oogumba would have done it if it had caught me last night. Once I was done, I looked up again – this time with deep gratitude. The boy was still looking at me - with an amused smile. Someone called from inside. He petted me lightly on my head and disappeared back into the house. As for me, I settled down to a contented nap – my first one in many days. I dreamt of Mom and of playing leapfrog with my brothers and sisters.


Many days slipped by, memories of my family faded as I settled into my new home, which was, of course, the portico of my Master’s house. Yes, “Master” is what I call the boy – for he was the only one in this world who cared for me. It was he who ensured I was fed. He made me feel like a living thing – something that actually felt hungry every now and then. I must have grown big pretty fast, because one day, my Master had to extricate me from the gap in the gate where I got stuck for several terrifying minutes while I was trying to squeeze through. I remember that it felt like I was caught in one of those torture apparatuses that they built during the medieval ages to extract confessions of heresy. After that day, I waited patiently for someone to open the gates instead of trying to squeeze through the gap. To my delight, a few months later, I found that I could actually jump over the gate – the gates were no longer as big and imposing as they had appeared on the night of the storm. I had grown. I was big.

I was also fiercely loyal to my Master. I would describe my feeling towards my Master as being akin to what Osama’s followers would feel for their leader – fanatical. I always accompanied my Master wherever he went. I had appointed myself his personal body guard. When outside, I would run ahead of him and ensure his path was clear. I would chase away dogs or any other furry creatures that happened to be anywhere near us. My Master would frequently take me with him to meet his friends. He seemed quite proud of me and would show off my prowess at catching squirrels. He would shout “hunt! hunt!” as I chased the squirrel down, and pinned it under my paws. I would then pick it up by its neck and shake it until it stopped moving. It made for a tasty morsel.

My Master would leave home in the morning each day with a bag full of books. He went to something called “school”. I looked forward to the daily morning trip to school. I liked how everyone discreetly moved out of our way as we approached the school. It felt like my Master was king and all powerful. I loved the look of pride on my Master’s face when people yielded to us. I would then head back home once my Master entered the school gates. I was not allowed to accompany him in.

I usually took the longer, more interesting route on my way back. This route took me through some of the by-lanes that were the dominion of some other dogs with whom I did not enjoy the best of relations. I got cheap thrills out of walking down these lanes and marking every post that I could. A street battle would almost always erupt and would more often than not end in my favor, with my opponent usually getting badly mangled. On the rare occasion when things didn’t go my way, I would use my superior speed to save my skin. Thanks to all the training I got in my childhood, I didn’t need athletic shoes to outrun my antagonists!

My encounters with these other dogs would often follow this pattern:
I first appear on the scene out of nowhere. I then look around for a suitable pole, one that would typically be any dog’s pride – smooth and tall. I casually walk up to the pole, lift my leg with élan and spray it – as high as I possibly could, without as much as a glance at the dog looking at me with deep consternation from the other end of the street. This one-legged action of mine triggers an immediate but predictable reaction from the dog. The dog breaks into a full blooded charge towards me, coughing every once in a while. I hold my ground (of course, this depended on the size of the dog and the number of dogs). The dog charges as if it wants to run me over, but then screeches to halt a few feet away when it realizes that I am not budging. For some strange reason, the dog pretends to look elsewhere, like I was not important. But then it starts to growl. The tail is up, hackles are raised and it glances nervously at me every once in a while – all dead giveaways to the fact that it is a little worried about the possible outcome of a fight with me! I slowly approach the dog with my own tail cocked up and wagging stiffly – looking intently at the dog. The other dog bares its teeth and lets out some more low menacing growls, but is still looking away. By now the tension has built up to a point where one can actually twang it. I bend close and whisper into the dog’s ear – “Yo! What are you grinning like a half-brained, nit-witted chimpanzee with dental caries, for? Stop showing me your pathetic yellow teeth, unless you are looking for a pair of new dentures!” And all hell breaks loose!

Back home from my morning exploits, I would spend the rest of the day lazing around in my portico and then return to the school in the afternoon, in time to escort my Master home. (Of course, I got fed in the interim. Ramu took care of that). If morning was my adventure time, evening was fun time. After school, instead of heading home, my Master, accompanied by his friends, would go off to their secret haunt. This was a secluded spot in the woods on the nearby hill. This spot was a fairly large clearing with an emerald green pond in the middle, surrounded by rocks and shady trees and was hidden from view by thick lantana bushes that grew all around the spot. My Master and his friends spent endless hours here doing nothing worthwhile. I would spend my time catching squirrels and chasing birds or chasing down and mangling some poor mongrel that happened to venture too close, often to the “hunt! hunt!” calls and mad cheering by my Master and his friends. Some days I would spend time just sprawled under the cool shady trees. We would bide time here until sunset and then head back home before it got too dark.


Other than Ramu, there was one more person who lived in the house. My Master addressed him as ‘Dad’. Dad was a middle-aged man – tall and well built. He left home early every morning and returned late at night. I would hear his booming voice once in a while shouting something at Ramu. However, I hardly saw or heard Dad speak to my Master. I could, occasionally hear a few words exchanged, but nothing more than that.

Ramu stayed home all day and only went out once in a while to return with bags that seemed to contain vegetables, meat and such. I would know the days I could expect to get my chicken biryani just from the smells coming from the bags that Ramu brought back from his outing!

Dad wanted nothing to do with me. He wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence. He would walk past me without a second look, as if I was a stone lying in the corner in the portico. If I happened to be lying at the door, blocking his path, he would just say – “shoo” with enough disgust in his voice to make me get up and move out of his way. He would then carry on, muttering something under his breath, which I was sure, was not something pleasant. The look on his face suggested that he would have flushed me down a toilet bowl if ever he could accomplish that.

One evening, after Dad was back, I heard him talking to my Master, at first quietly. But soon the polite conversation deteriorated into a shouting match. Then I heard Dad shout “Get out, you bastard! Get the hell out of here before I break your legs!” After a few seconds, the door opened and my Master came out and slammed the door behind him. He sat down in one corner of the portico and sobbed silently. I heard him whisper ‘Mom’ several times. I wondered if he too had a “Mom” once upon a time. And I wondered if a storm had taken her too. Something stirred within me. I walked over to him and tried to make him feel better by giving him the same wet and slimy treatment that my Mom would often give me with her tongue. The result was not what I expected. I ended up getting a hard kick in my ribs! I was surprised! Was it because my breath stank like my Mom’s breath did? Possible. Curse these genes. I wouldn’t blame my Master for what he did. I went back to my corner and soon fell asleep.

The same sequence played out a few more times in the following months. I would routinely receive my Master’s well-aimed football kicks in my ribs or stomach on such occasions, even when I didn’t bother him. I could not understand why my Master hurt me in this way, but I inferred that it had something to do with Dad. I soon started nurturing a hatred for Dad. I had to suffer these kicks and bruises because of him. He hurt my poor Master and he hurt me. I did not like to see my Master crying – it invoked horrible confusing emotions in me – a mix of pity, fear and anger!

The Wedding

One morning, I woke up to a lot of activity in the house. All kinds of people started pouring into the house even before dawn broke. Lots of people - all excited. There were sounds of laughter and merry making. People moved in and out as if in great hurry and looking important. Some people shouted at some other people, who would immediately run and do something. The house was being decorated with lights and flowers and other colorful items. I could smell various aromas drifting out from inside. Of course, my favorite chicken biryani was among them! All this got me excited and I ran around barking at all the inanimate things like the table and chairs that were actually now moving around (Of course I realized that these were being moved by the people – I am not that naïve). Everyone was too busy and too excited to take offence to my barking!

This was all great fun, but my Master was nowhere to be seen. It was not often that my Master would go somewhere without having me around for protection. I decided to go looking for him. I was sure I would find him at his hideout in the hill and I was right. I spotted him sitting on a rock by the green pool. He sat there, sobbing, wiping his tears. I heard him call out to his Mom. I didn’t dare disturb him, lest I got kicked in my ribs. So, instead of approaching him directly, I crept up next to the rock and lay down. Without my knowledge, I fell asleep. When I awoke it was afternoon and my Master still sat there – staring into space. I got up, scratched myself, drank some water from the pond, marked a few of the trees and went back to my position next to the rock.

When I woke up again, this time out of hunger, my Master was still sitting there, still staring blankly into space. The sun was almost down and it was getting dark. This was getting to worry me. I had never seen my master this disturbed. I was evaluating my next action when I heard someone calling my Master’s name. It was Ramu. Soon Ramu’s wiry frame appeared from behind the bushes. My Master turned around, they exchanged a few words and suddenly my Master shouted loudly “That woman is not my Mother and that ugly baby is not my Brother!!”

My immediate instinct told me to jump on Ramu and bite off a mouthful of his scrawny butt for getting my Master excited, but I restrained myself. I had never seen Ramu harming my Master, so he was not a bad man as far as I was concerned. Also, he was the one who fed me twice a day! How could I bite the hand that feeds? Besides, I would have a problem getting a good grip on his butt – whatever little of it he had. No point in investing time and energy when returns were likely to be unacceptably low! So I let him continue talking to Master. After some more talking, my Master got off the rock and both he and Ramu headed back home. I was thankful. It was dinner time and I was famished. I followed them back with my lips smacking. The aromas from that morning still lingered in my memories. Surely a scrumptious feast was awaiting us at home. I had trust in the old adage - No smoke without fire.

Time had made its way well into the evening by the time we reached home. The crowd in the house had dwindled down to a few reluctant ones who, if allowed, would party forever. These were soon chased out with a few polite words and gestures.
My Master went inside and the door was shut. I lay down in my corner in the portico, anxiously waiting for the feast to be served – it never came.


The next day, I woke up in fright to the sound of loud growls. They were emanating from my stomach. I resorted to my usual whining trick to see if it would get me something to eat. The door opened a crack. I could see a young woman carrying a small boy peeping from behind the half open door. I had never seen this woman before. She looked at me warily, not knowing what to do. I instinctively growled at this stranger. Her face took on an ugly contortion that I was actually quite familiar with. I had seen this same look on people on the road when sometimes I chased them for sport. I felt that familiar sense of superiority that a hunter has over its prey and I gave a quick yap-yap-yap, hoping to consolidate on my advantage.

The woman shut the door in a hurry and I heard her screaming out to Ramu, Dad and my Master in that order. There was commotion – I heard Dad’s booming voice, then my Master’s voice, which was now a bit more like a man’s voice than a boy’s and then the woman’s voice and then again Dad’s voice and then all together. I suddenly heard my Master shout, “Who is this woman to order me around? He is my dog and I decide what happens to him!” This was followed by Dad shouting some expletives and I heard the sounds of running around and things falling and my Master screaming again and again – pleading that he would be good and would listen to them henceforth.

The door finally opened and my Master was pushed out screaming and crying with welts on his arms and legs. At the sight of my Master, I found myself running to him with my tail wagging wildly. I reared up on my hind legs and planted a few licks on his face. I was not thinking. It was all instinct. It was also a bad mistake. I had never faced such a brutal onslaught from my Master before. I felt the kicks slam into my guts, my head, my face - I lost count of how many. I think I saw a hockey stick in his hand. I am still not sure from where it came. The next instant, it felt like there were a hundred thunderbolts going off in my head and then my leg. All I could do was to crouch in the corner and let out loud piercing yelps and beg my Master for mercy. My Master paused to catch his breath and I seized the opportunity with all my limbs. Still yelping, I ran out of the portico to the gate, somehow jumped over it and hid under the granite slab. I lay down in the dust, shaking with pain.

I lay there for a full day smarting from the blows that I had received. By evening, the pain had ebbed a little and I could start thinking clearly again. I thought about what happened to my Master and what happened to me. I concluded that this woman, “Mother”, was evil. She was to blame for my painful state of affairs. It was she that had brought out the worst in my Master.


I must have dozed through that night, for when I awoke, it was morning. The vision through my left eye was blurred, I couldn’t see much from it. The other eye was fine. I tried to get up but fell back as pain exploded in my front left leg as I put my weight on it. I managed to crawl out from under the granite stone and hobbled over to the gate which was closed. I pushed with my snout, but it was latched. As I lay down to reduce the throb in my leg, the gate opened. It was Ramu.

Ramu looked at me and for the first time I noticed those kindly eyes. His mouth twitched and his eyes welled up. I wondered what made him, of all people, sad. He went in and returned with a bowl of water and set it down in front of me. As I slowly drank the drink of life, Ramu put down some rice and milk for me to eat. He watched me eat. When I was done, he left closing the gate behind him. I waited there outside the gate for my Master. He did not come. So I crawled back under the granite slab, where it was cool. I lay there all day. In the evening, Ramu was back with food and water. I was sure my Master had asked Ramu to take care of me, despite Dad and Mother.

The Sacrifice

It was still very early in the morning. The sun was yet to rise. I was woken up by the sounds of wheels passing over the granite slab. It was a car. Someone got out of the car, opened the gate and entered. My instinct was to get out and confront, but all I could manage huddled there under the granite slab were two low barks accompanied by shooting pain in my ribs. I next heard the person knock on the house door. The door opened followed by a short conversation between this person and Ramu. The gate opened again and I heard the car door open and then shut. Curiosity got the better of me. I slowly crawled out from under to investigate. I heard more voices. The gate opened and Dad and Mother came out followed by Ramu who was hauling two large bags. Mother was carrying Brother. Ramu loaded the bags into the car. Dad got into the car. Mother stood around for more time – cuddling Brother. Dad said something and mother handed over Brother to Ramu and got into the car. The car started up and drove away. Brother immediately let out high pitched cries while flailing his arms wildly - like a chicken on its way to the slaughter house. It seemed like he was not happy that Mother had left him behind. Ramu, who was carrying Brother, turned around and hurried in making sounds like “shush-shush” and “tch-tch”.

My Master did not go to school that day. I could hear Brother wail all morning and my Master shout a few times. Ramu, again, fed me. I was feeling a lot better but I couldn’t still see much from my left eye and my left front leg was useless. I was already getting used to living life with these handicaps. I lay outside the gate waiting for it to open and for someone to let me in. I missed my corner in the portico.

It was almost evening and Ramu had gone out. I was hungry again. I lay waiting for Ramu to come back when the gates opened. It was my Master. My heart did a flip and I quickly hobbled over to him with my tail wagging. He patted me lightly on my head and let me in through the gates. He turned around and headed back into the house and I eagerly followed him. I heard Brother wailing inside. My Master went inside and fetched Brother. I felt a surge of an unfamiliar emotion well up in me when I saw Brother in my Master’s arms. I did not seem to have any control on this emotion. I felt my hackles raise and I heard my own low growls. My muscles went taught and I bared my teeth in a vicious grimace.

My Master set Brother, who was still wailing, down. He turned to look at me. He had a strange look in his eyes. Then I heard him shout “Hunt! Hunt! Hunt!” again, “Hunt! Hunt! Hunt!” . Instinct ruled over logic in a mind that was already clouded with strange but vicious emotions. I pounced on Brother, just as I had done on those poor little mongrels on the road so many times before. My jaws locked around his neck in a vice-like grip and I shook him like he was a rag doll. I shook him long after he stopped giving out those horrible shrieks that hurt my ears. The hunt was over.

I looked up in time to see My Master come back into the portico with a heavy iron bar. He had a wild look in his eyes and this time it chilled my soul. He raised the bar high and the next instant I felt my head explode as I saw lights as brilliant as a thousand suns. My legs disappeared under me and the ground came up to slap my face. I felt something warm flow down over my eyes. I couldn’t move and I felt no pain. As I lay there, I heard the gate open. I heard Ramu scream. It was then that I heard my Master say to Ramu “The dog killed Brother! I tried saving him, but it was too late!”. Something snapped inside me. My eyes glazed over as I slowly let my last breath out.