It’s a dog’s life

Divya was finding it hard to breathe. She had been crying so hard for so long now, there was nothing she could do to stop this outpour of hers even if she wanted to. Everytime she passed through that road outside her house she was reminded of those two little pups she had fed, cared for and fought for ever since they were born. How she adored them. How she fought with random strangers on the road for annoying them in the name of cuteness. She had taken it upon herself to be their guardian. Now that they are gone, all she felt was pain. The pain that she felt was not hers. But the pain that she assumed her dear pups were probably going through. “They are kids!”, she cried to her mother. “They know nobody there. They must be so scared. What if they miss me?” she asked. And this last thought of them missing her struck a dagger through her heart. Not just as a verbal expression, but as an actual physical manifestation, she felt pain in her chest like something was stopping her from breathing. Life has always been cruel to the sensitive, for they perceive the emotions around them in overwhelming proportions. Image

The two orphaned pups had been the reason for her smile for five months now. They were also the reason why she could see the humane side of her not so social neighbours. With their charm, the two pups managed to get themselves fed by six out of the ten families living in the building everyday. It was like the entire building was bringing those pups up after their mother died. Divya could never stop smiling when she saw the two pups having it their way with almost everybody by simply wagging their tails. 

Those soft ears that she caressed with so much love each time she saw them, that adorable manner in which the black pup shook hands with her without being taught to do so, the way they would come running after her when they saw her…………… she missed all of it – mostly she just swallowed the pain than letting it out. But today, it was just too hard for her to take. “My babies – I hope they are fine.” she repeated to herself as she cried. 

“How are you going to survive in this world if you are going to be so sensitive?”, asked her mother. She had no answer. “Even humans are not given any importance in this country. It is no wonder that they treat dogs like this.” her mother continued.

Divya’s emotional state, however, was a lot more complex than the sorrow of it all. Just as she was crying, the girl felt so much anger inside of her, it wouldn’t be right to call it anger. It was fury. Fury that could make her burn everything there is to ashes. She was infuriated by the world and its ways. She loathed, what she called, the human arrogance.

“What gives them the right to abduct an animal like that and deprive it of its reproductive rights? Is equality only a privilige enjoyed by humans? Why is it so hard for everyone to simply respect? Why can’t they just live with nature?”, she asked her mom. Nobody in the building seemed to raise a hue and cry over the puppies like Divya did, despite all the dearness the residents showed towards the pups. But she also thought that it was one of the residents themselves who must have been responsible for the turn of events.

Mr.Roy was never fond of the pups. He smiled at the pups when Divya was around, but behaved like a barbarian with them when she was not around the pups. Divya was aware of this. An obvious result – she hated him and his wife. This, coupled with the uncertainty over the pups’ return multiplied the anger that sprang from her helplessness, manifold. It was after all a known fact that the people who are in charge of animal birth control never return the animals to their territory as per rules.

She wiped off her tears and finally made up her mind. “If the people here don’t know how to respect life, I shall teach them. I am not leaving this here” , she said and left the room.

At the Animal Birth Control centre, Imran, a 57 year old man was cleaning up the poop left behind by some dogs, when he was told by the vet to put the two new pups in their kennel. They were both unconscious when Imran came in. He handled them gently, one after the other and put them in their kennel. He just stood there, gazing at those two lovely angels, which were both males and he began reminescing an episode in the history of India, back when he was a young man full of dreams and teeming with energy.

Back in 1976, a time when India faced the same problem of over-population as it does today, a young leader in the national political scene, Sanjay Gandhi had come up with the ingenious idea of compulsory sterilisation to tackle the problem of over population. Scores of unwilling men were forced to undergo vasectomy. Learned men called it a blot on democracy. Common man was terrorised about family planning. The entire episode was such an embarrassment that governments ever since then made it a point to ensure that family planning was indeed voluntary.

Imran now had an indignant smile on his lips as he continued to look at those pups with pity. “You are not humans. You are dogs. You don’t count as votes. It is your fate to silently suffer.”, he said to the pups that still lay unconscious.

The Mistake

Dalia was on her way home on a bus after a gruelling day at work. The city felt cooler than usual that night. Despite the long distance to be travelled, she had resolved not to listen to music during the journey. She was taking all those articles she had read about ear phones damaging one’s ears seriously. She opened her
window to feel the cold air caress her face, when the bus halted. It was yet another bus stop. Contrary to the regular chaos that happens at the entrance of the bus at this stop in the name of boarding, today everything was just peaceful and quiet, probably because there was only one woman waiting to board the bus. She got in. “Did someone just die?”, thought Dalia, on seeing the rather gloomy look the bus stop wore. She missed the bustle. But stopped missing it soon after she noticed the woman who had boarded the bus. She was a large, middle-aged woman with an average height that some might consider tall. She was dark skinned – the kind of complexion that Indians have grown an aversion to, in time. She wore her old pink saree in an unrefined style. She had no jewellery except a silver chain and no bindi either. Her appearance spoke poverty. Her eyes seemed like they had witnessed the vile and horrendous faces of the world too many times to let anyone mess with her. Anybody would think twice before getting into her bad books. Dalia, in her mind’s registers, instantly classified her as an outlaw who probably lived in the slums of the city.

It was then that Dalia noticed a bag in the woman’s hand. A black bag. The kind of bag that jewellery shops gave away to their customers for free, back in the 90’s. The woman was clutching the bag tightly in her hands.

Dalia continued to watch the woman. She didn’t seem to find a better subject of observation in the entire bus. She noticed that something was amiss with that woman. The woman was, in a subtle manner, probing the people around her to see if anyone was watching her. Dalia hadn’t caught her attention since her view of Dalia was blocked by two other people at the front. After some inspection of her immediate surroundings, the woman placed the bag right under her seat.  Two minutes later, the bus halted at the next stop. The woman quickly got off the bus –  without the bag. Dalia was confused. “Why would she do that? she did that on purpose, didn’t she? What did she have in that bag? Did she just kill someone and stuff their body parts into that bag? Or………. is it………….. a bomb….. like they show in the movies?” Dalia was way too intrigued by the woman and her bag to think straight. At one point she considered informing the conductor of the bag. What if it really did have a bomb? But she simply couldn’t get herself to get up and walk towards the conductor.

She lived alone in the city and didn’t want to get herself into unwanted trouble. But, “Innocent lives will be lost!!”, she thought. And that’s when her primordial instincts reminded her ” You shall also die!!”.
She couldn’t hold it in anymore. She walked towards the conductor and informed him of the bag. The conductor walked towards the seat under which the bag lay. He bent his knees and stretched his hands to reach out for the bag, but pulled them back when Dalia warned him ” You don’t know what is in the bag. I suggest you don’t open it yourself.”
An elderly man who was watching all that was happening, suggested the bus be directed to the nearest police station. The driver obliged.

At the police station, Dalia went with the driver and conductor to talk to the cops. Just when the conductor was about to finish saying that there lay an unclaimed bag in the bus, Dalia intervened, “It was left in the bus sir….. by a woman.” The sub inspector, conductor and driver looked at her intently, waiting to hear more from her. “She boarded the bus at Marathalli and got off at the next stop right after she placed the bag under the seat.”, she continued. The three men didn’t know what to say.
The driver gulped some air and felt like he was in a room with no ventilation. “What did she look like?”, he asked Dalia. “Remember that dark, fat woman in a pink saree? She was the one.” The driver was too worried to say anything.

The constable brought the bag from the bus and placed it on the SI’s table. The SI was just about to open it, when Dalia warned him to be careful. “Relax ma’am. It is my job.”, he said with a smile.
He gently pushed away the handles of the bag to open the zib. Everyone looked on anxiously. He opened it gently and with such patience like he was handling a new born baby, scared to upset whatever it is that is inside. And on opening it, everyone’s jaws just dropped. Not quite what anyone had expected.
The SI looked at Dalia with annoyance. “Really?? A bomb?”. The man didn’t know if he was to laugh or yell at the woman who caused so much panic to him and everyone else.

Dalia was visibly embarrassed. This was when she realised people would have been happier had it truly been a bomb. A bomb, after all, means excitement and action, even if it also meant fatal danger. But no. This was not a bomb. Just the regular pictures of Lord Rama, Krishna, Ganesha and Shiva that can be found in any hindu household in the world.

Disappointed at the turn of events, Dalia and the rest of the passengers got into the bus again to head to their destinations. Dalia felt like she had made a fool out of herself. She began thinking. Why would anyone do that? Trying to get rid of photos of gods? why?
In her mind’s eye, Dalia was picturing the woman who had been her subject of observation sometime ago, without realising she was doing so. She was after all the woman who illuminated her stupidity in front of a large crowd. She pictured every detail of her – her dark skin, her chubby cheeks, her broad forehead without the bindi, and the curly hair, her pink saree……” Just then it struck Dalia………. the single detail in that woman, which she had completely ignored and had forgotten all this while “The cross!!! she was wearing the cross!!!”