A DOG'S STORY
From my Creative Writing Archives
Short Fiction - One of my poignant dog stories
I wrote this story a few years ago at the height of the real estate boom in Pune
There is tension brewing in my house.
My brother, my sister, even my mother, all are trying to convince my father to sell off our lovely spacious bungalow with a huge compound surrounded by plenty of greenery on the banks the Mula river near Aundh on the outskirts of Pune.
But my father won’t budge.
I sprawl in the verandah and listen to their conversation.
“Please try to understand, Papa,” my brother pleads, “we can’t stay in this dilapidated place forever. The builder is giving us a fantastic deal – a luxurious 4 BHK premium penthouse flat – and that too near Deccan Gymkhana – plus whatever money you want in exchange for this godforsaken place.”
“Godforsaken place? How dare you say that? I’ve built this house with my sweat and blood. I like it here and I am going to live here till my dying day!” my father affirms, “If you want, you all can go wherever you like. I’m not going anywhere, I am staying here.”
“Please, Papa!” my sister implores, “Deccan Gymkhana! Just imagine living in Deccan Gymkhana! It’s such a posh locality – and so near my college and all the happening places.”
“It’ll be better for you too,” my mother says, “I’ve seen the place. Luxurious fully furnished flats in a brand new posh building, right opposite Kamala Nehru Park. It’s so near your library, and your club, and you can walk and sit in the beautiful park. You’ll love it there.”
“Meena!” my father says angrily to my mother, “You’ve gone and seen it – without even telling me!”
“Sanjay took me there in the morning,” my mother says sheepishly.
“Over my dead body!” my father shouts furiously and gets up from his chair. He looks at me and says, “I’m going for a walk. Come Moti – Chain, Chain!”
I jump in delight at the prospect of this unexpected extra outing and rush to get my chain from its place under the staircase. I bring the chain in my mouth – actually it’s not a metallic chain but a leather leash – and hold it in front of my father who ties it to my collar, he picks up his walking stick, and off we go for nice long walk on the jungle path skirting the banks of the Mula river. My father becomes playful and sings to me, “Come, come, come, Moti come!” and I teasingly grab the lead in my mouth, wag my tail and spring up and down and my father says, “Drop it! Drop it!” and I let go off the lead and bounce along.
I love these bubbly walks with my father, there is so much to see, so much to play, so much to sniff – and soon my father will let me off the leash and play chase-chase with me on the sandy ground near the river.
“I don’t know why my father is so stubborn, so adamant,” my brother says to the real estate agent next morning as they talk on the lawn in front of our beloved bungalow, “I think he has gone senile!”
“He’s not gone senile at all,” the wily agent says, “in fact I think your father is a shrewd bargainer.”
“Had you sold this bungalow last year you wouldn’t have got even half the price you’re getting now. Real estate has suddenly skyrocketed, and yours is the only plot left in this entire place – that’s why they are offering you so much. The developer has managed to acquire everything around here – even that finicky old lady’s place. He’s given her a flat in Mumbai and enough money to live her remaining life in luxury. Once he gets your bungalow he can start his project. That’s why he’s offering you so much – the maximum – it’s a fantastic offer – a deluxe exclusive penthouse apartment in the posh elite Deccan Gymkhana locality and a hefty sum of money. I’m telling you – You better make the deal fast; otherwise they’ll try and somehow manage to get hold of your place by hook or crook.”
“Hook or crook...?”
“The developer – he’s a big guy – he’s got connections right till the top. Big money is involved. They can even get the DP altered.”
“Yes, DP – it means Development Plan. They’re so desperate to start the project that they’ll get the DP changed and get your land acquired for their project. Then you’ll get a pittance and regret all your life. Better strike while the iron is hot.”
“We will try and convince our father,” my brother says, and then asks the agent, “What’s coming up in this desolate place anyway?”
“It’s a huge 5-star project – IT Park, BPOs, Hotels, Malls, Multiplexes… This whole place is going to be transformed into something so magnificent and futuristic you can’t even imagine – you better make your father see reason, otherwise you’ll be just swept away by the winds of change. Even if you manage to stick on your lone bungalow will be dwarfed between high rise commercial structures all around and it will be difficult to live here.”
The real estate agent pauses, puts his arm around my brother’s shoulder and says, “Talk to your father, your mother – convince them. If they don’t like Deccan, they can choose an apartment from any of our projects – Kondhwa, Kalyani Nagar, Baner, Wakad, Aundh, Kothrud – wherever you want – but I am telling you there is nothing to beat the Deccan Gymkhana area – it is impossible to get a place there now-a-days, so just go for the deal.”
Sitting quietly unnoticed by anyone I hear every word carefully and I feel confused, apprehensive and frightened by all this but I know my father will not succumb. And my chest swells with pride as I know the reason why!
At night, curled up on my mat under my father’s and mother’s double-bed, I attentively listen to my mother nagging my father as they lie down to sleep. “Please Shankar. Don’t be so obstinate. Try to understand – at least for the children’s sake.”
“What about Moti?” my father asks.
“Yes, Moti. Tell me Meena – have you thought about Moti? She can’t live cooped up in a multi-storey flat – she need all this ground and space – there Moti will suffocate,” my father says matter-of-factly.
“What?” my mother suddenly shouts, “I can’t believe this! You’re more bothered about that bloody pie-dog than your own children!”
“Pie-dog? How dare you? Moti is not a pie-dog, she is my daughter!” my father says emphatically.
“Daughter? Have you gone mad Shankar? The comfort of that wretched mongrel is more important to you than the future of your own children, your own blood!”
“Listen Meena,” my father says, “The children will grow up and go way, but Moti will remain with us forever.”
My heart swells with affection and tears of happiness well up in my eyes; words cannot describe the immense love, adoration and warmth I feel for my father.
My name is Moti. In Marathi, Moti means Pearl, and generally it is a boy’s name, but my father named me Moti and I like it.
I was born in the garbage dump down the street. My ‘birth-mother’ was the local street dog and she died a few days after giving birth to me and my six brothers and sisters. My ‘dog-father’ is unknown.
We all lay wallowing in the rubbish, and one day they suddenly came to collect the garbage and took away all my brothers and sisters in the garbage truck and somehow they left me behind, and I lay helpless and frightened, wondering what was going to be my destiny, when suddenly I found a tough-looking bearded man staring at me.
Shivering with fear I looked back at him in terror as he extended his hands towards me.
But the moment he held me in his large cozy hands, caressed me lovingly, and put his finger tenderly in my mouth, I felt snug, warm, loved, safe and secure.
This was my new father and he had already decided my name – Moti – the name of his canine ‘son’ who had passed away a few days ago.
“She was destined to come here,” my father said feeding me warm milk when everyone asked him why he had brought such an ugly, weak and sickly pie-dog home.
He made a nice warm bed for me in a basket and put it below his own bed. And as I drifted into sleep, he gently fondled me with his hands.
I felt so wonderful, safe, comfortable and happy for the first time in my life.
As I grew up, everyone started liking me, my mother who I follow all around the house, my brother who is a Software Engineer, my sister who studies in Fergusson College, and, of course, my father who always adored me. I am sure my father loves me even more than his "human" children.
I love my family; I love my house, and I love the wonderful life I live.
I wake up early in the morning, get off my cozy mat under my father’s bed, rub my cold wet nose against his hand and give him a lick.
He grunts and growls and opens his sleepy eyes, and the moment he sees me his face lights up and he lovingly caresses me and says, “Good Morning, Moti,” gets up from bed and opens the main door to let me jump out into the garden, do my ‘little job’ at my favorite place near the mango tree, generally dig in the soft morning mud a bit and sniff around to find out if there are any new morning smells, not forgetting to run and welcome the milkman the moment he comes on his cycle.
When I return I find that my father is back in his bed and my mother is up and about.
She pats and cuddles me and goes about her business making tea in the kitchen while I loiter around the house.
She surreptitiously sneaks to the bedroom and slyly hands over a tidbit to my half-asleep father under the blanket when she thinks I am not looking.
I pretend not to notice, as I do not want to spoil their fun. Earlier, when I was small and impatient, I used to snuffle out the tidbit from my father’s hand, but this spoilt his fun and he became grumpy, and now that I am a mature young girl well experienced in the ways of the human world I have realized that it is better for us dogs to act dumb and let these humans think they are smarter than us.
So I go outside, sit down and put on a look of anticipation towards the gate and pretend not to notice my mother hiding and peeping through the corner of the window and giggling to herself.
The moment the newspaperman comes on his cycle and shouts ‘paper’, I rush to the gate and fetch the newspaper in my mouth, gripping it just right between my teeth, and hold it up to my horizontal father, who gets up, takes the paper from me and gives me the dog-biscuit he’s been hiding in his hand, as my mother, who has rushed behind me, watches me with loving pride in her eyes.
My brother and my sister, who till now were fast asleep in the other room, call out my name, and as I dart between their beds wagging my tail, they both hug and cuddle me all over saying, “Good Morning, Moti. Moti is a good girl!” Everyone is cheerful and happy and my day is made!
Soon my father will be up and about and call me for playing the “bone-game” – but before that let me tell you about my home.
In front of our roomy bungalow there is a huge garden, or rather an orchard, with all types of trees and bushes, and a lush green lawn on which I love to frolic, prance and roll upside down, and lots of flower beds which I love digging up to my mother’s horror.
I love digging up the mud – it’s so tasty – and there is plenty of it in the spacious kitchen garden behind the house where I create havoc digging up to my heart’s content, and the only thing I have spared are the tomatoes and some horrible tasting leaves called Alu, in Marathi, because they itch.
When I want to go out, I tap the front door with my paws and they let me out, and when I want to come in I peep through the windows, and, if no one notices I bang the door from the outside or make entreating imploring sounds.
And my father taught me ‘human talk’ and some words, and soon I began to ‘speak’ to him – well, we have a vocabulary of our own.
Of course, our communication styles are different – he uses words, speaks in human language, while I rely on varied sounds like whines and howls and groans and non-verbal antics like nudging, pawing, begging, tugging, licking, and when I want his attention desperately, giving him a shake-hand.
I am lucky – they don’t tie me up but leave me free to roam and play around as I please. And there is so much to explore and investigate, in the nooks and corners of our verdant garden with plenty of trees, bushes and hedges.
There is so much to sniff, so much to dig, and so much to chase - squirrels, mongooses and birds and butterflies.
The cats have disappeared though; ever since the day I almost caught one.
My father has warned me not to leave the compound, but sometimes I can’t resist the temptation, and slither under a gap I’ve discovered under the fence and go out to explore the street outside but take care to quickly return unnoticed.
The only few days he totally restricts my freedom is when I have my chums. He becomes very overprotective, and guards me like a shadow, never taking me off the leash when we go outdoors.
Once, during my chums, I managed to slip away across the fence, and all hell broke loose, and I was located, chased, captured and, for the first time in my life, I was soundly scolded by my father who was really furious. I felt miserable, and sulked, but then my father caressed and baby-talked me and I knew how much he loved and cared for me, and it was all okay.
And during those sensitive days he specially pampers me and takes me for long leisurely walks, on a tight leash, keeping an eagle eye and stick ready in his hand for those desperate rowdy rascal mongrels who suddenly appear from nowhere and frantically hang around and try to follow me, their tongues drooling, looking at me in a lewd restless manner.
Once they even had the gumption to sneak into the compound at night, and beseechingly whine outside, till my father chased them away.
When I was small, and my gums itched, and my milk teeth began to break through, I could not resist chewing up anything I could lay my teeth upon – like shoes, slippers, clothes, toothbrushes, furniture . I especially loved chewing up my father’s favourite Kolhapuri ‘Kapshi’ chappals which were so silky-soft and yummy.
So my father bought me a chewy bone which, it said on the wrapper, was guaranteed to save everything else.
I don’t know why, but I secretly buried the bone in a hole I dug below the Mango tree, and I used to dig it out when I thought no one was looking, chew it a bit, and bury it in some other secret place.
One day my inquisitive mother found out, and she dug up the bone when I was sleeping and hid in under the pomegranate tree. When I didn't find the bone, at first I was confused, then I tracked the bone down with my nose, and when I spied my mother giggling and grinning like a Cheshire cat, I knew who the culprit was.
This started the “bone-game”.
First they (the humans – my mother and father) would give me the bone, and after I hid it they would rush out into the garden and dig it out – then they would hide the bone (after locking me in the house so I could not see) and make me find it, which I did using my nose.
I wondered how they found the bone so fast, and one day I caught them spying crouching behind the hedge when they thought I wasn't looking and the mystery was solved.
So now I first let them see where I’m hiding the bone, and when they complacently and confidently go inside thinking they know everything, I dig out the bone and hide it some other place which they do not know and then watch the fun as they search in vain.
Then when they go inside and my father asks me to get the bone, I run out and get it, for which I earn a tidbit.
The way these humans act sometimes, I really wonder who is more intelligent – they or I?
One day my brother, my sister, and even my mother, they all gang up on my poor hapless father, apply all kinds of pressure – emotional blackmail, threats, cajoling – and soon he wilts, his defenses broken down – and it is not long before we leave our beloved bungalow and move, lock stock and barrel, to the ‘luxurious’ flat in Deccan Gymkhana.
And with the huge sum of money the builder has given him, my father has suddenly transformed overnight from a simple frugal pensioner to a rich prosperous millionaire - a crorepati...
For me, life turns horrible - my new life is worse than hell...
The marble floors are so hard, smooth and slippery that my nails break and paws get sore.
The fancy ‘luxurious’ fittings are so fragile, and decorative adornments are so delicate, that my mother is always on the edge when I prance around, scolding me to sit down quietly.
There is no earth to dig, no bushes and trees to smell, no grass for a carefree loll, and, worst of all, no cats and rats, mongooses and squirrels, and birds to chase.
The society over here is so elitist that even their dogs are snobbish, and they sneer at me and loudly speculate about my pedigree.
I can’t even pee where I please after sniffing around and selecting a bush, or a tree, as in the good old days.
Here, in the “luxurious” flat, there is a stipulated sand-pit in the corner of the terrace earmarked for my ablutions.
They don’t allow me in the lift, so my poor old father has to walk me down ten floors, and then up again after our daily walk.
Even that I don’t enjoy any more.
The streets outside are so crowded that we have to squeeze ourselves in the dense crowd and the hustle bustle and din of chotic traffic drives me and my father crazy.
My father tried to take me to play in the verdant Kamala Nehru Park near our house but we were rudely stopped at the entrance and my father was shown the sign: DOGS NOT ALLOWED.
In short, my life is hell.
My father too has a guilty conscience and he tried to make up by being more and more affectionate towards me, and I too feel sorry for him and snuggle up to him whenever I can and tell him it’s okay and I’m happy.
My loving father and I have become closer to each other than ever before and endure our misery together in silence, while the rest of my family, celebrating their new-found affluence, are becoming more and more distant.
One evening while huffing and puffing up the stairs my father suddenly cries out my name, “Moti...Moti...!!!” and then he drops my leash, clutches his heart and collapses in a heap.
I bark and bark desperately, but no one comes for quite some time, and then suddenly they all appear, carry my father to the lift and take him away. I follow them to the gate and watch them put my father in a car. I want to go with him but they shoo me away.
Everyday I eagerly wait for my father to come back.
I wait and wait, but my father never comes back.
Yes, my father never comes back. They all say he is dead and I never see my father again.
Things change, my brother gets married, his newly wedded wife hates dogs, so they tie me up in a dirty corner of the terrace whole day, and for the first time in my life I realize that I, Moti, once the apple of their eyes, have now become a terrible burden.
Days pass, a baby is born, and I am further banished from the house lest the delicate baby get allergic. One day, the baby crawls towards me.
I wag my tail welcoming my adorable little nephew.
The baby catches my tail, pulls my tail with his full weight and tries to stand up.
The pain is terrible, but I grit my teeth and stoically suffer the excruciating agony.
The baby innocently pulls my tail even harder, and now, unable to bear the terrible excruciating pain I squeal, howl and yelp in unimaginable agony, desperately crying for help.
My brother’s wife comes running out and starts shouting, “The dog, the dog, it’s killing my baby!” and my mother comes out and runs towards me.
The baby releases my tail, I try to lovingly lick the baby, but my mother takes him away, comes back and glares at me, while I look at her trying to convince her of my innocence.
Tell me, how can I ever think of even slightly harming my little baby nephew who I love so much?
But it’s no use. In the evening, my brother comes home, and he and his wife have a heated argument about me. “Either I stay in this house or the dog stays,” she warns my brother threateningly, “I can’t leave my baby with this dangerous dog. If the dog stays, I’ll go to my mother’s place. You make your choice.”
Later, in the evening, after taking me for my customary walk, my brother stops by at the vet doctor’s clinic and I overhear snippets of their conversation: “dangerous dog...unprovoked…aggressive…behaviour…put to sleep…”
“put to sleep” - They are planning to kill me.
As I see the face of death, a terrible fear drills into my insides.
Totally terrified and alarmed, I tug violently with all my strength, break the hook holding the collar to the leash and run for my dear life.
My brother chases me so I turn swiftly into an alley.
I see a garbage dump, and I quickly jump inside and hide myself in the filth.
No one comes for some time.
Wallowing miserably in the filth, I smile to myself at the irony of it all.
I was born in a rubbish dump and now it looks like I am destined to die in a rubbish dump.
And all because of the Real Estate Boom.
A Tragedy - isn't it?
Well that's my story.