The other day while listening to Radio Mirchi, I heard that Dharmendra, our dhishoom-dhishoom Bollywood megastar of yore, along with his two sons, Sunny and Bobby, had come to Gujarat for a film shooting.

Well, so?

So, all the perpetually hungry and otherwise well-behaved street dogs in Gujarat have sat on an indefinite “Hunger Strike” (only the strike part was extra, I suppose) protesting the presence of apna Dharmuji on the soil of Gujarat. Our dogs were reportedly miffed at the presence of someone, who, for all his life, cursed and demeaned the species each time he thrashed a baddie – “Kutte main tera khoon pee jaunga” – in his much-caricatured nasal voice.

The canines had two grievances: Why should the dirty, lecherous, ruthless, ugly guy needs to be compared to a perfectly innocuous (except the bite part, of course!) and venerable species like dog? More importantly, why someone thrashing these scums grievously intimidate the species by declaring nonchalantly to drink their blood? As if their blood was dispensable. Probably the malnourished dogs with precariously low supply of blood in their visible veins were too afraid to have this blood-thirsty guy anywhere close to them.

Well, that is different story. But what the hell did I do to the species? I surely haven’t been great friends with them. Neither have I occasionally been kind enough to toss a slice of bread or a biscuit at them despite they encircling me, begging me and wagging their tail in front me as if they were my childhood friends. But as far as I can remember, I have never been unkind to them, at least in the physical sense. I occasionally might have used certain derogatory phrases against them without their knowledge, but never attempted anything beyond that, in spite of several demanding circumstances. Nor did I ever pour hot water on them, as one of my friends did, disgusted with the persistence of a little brown member of the species who wouldn’t stop entering his house every time he had his lunch. I still see the dog roam around my friend’s place, nude, without the fur coating that once covered his skin.

This is how it all happened. A dotted black and white quadruped lay peacefully with eyes half closed and tongue rhythmically touching the ground, while I purchased chicken from a shop nearby. The apparently well-fed and somehow well-maintained guy was breathing rapidly, displacing the dust near his nostrils, while his shiny black stomach swelled and caved in perfect synchronization with his tongue. The gentleman (so far, in retrospect) coiled his body around his legs poking the snout into the dust underneath. He (yeah, it was a he) was probably taking a cool nap in the tree-shade in the hot may afternoon. I hung the chicken bag onto the rear helmet lock of my black Pulsar and revved the engine, unaware of what the guy lying on the ground thought of me. As I released the clutch, the bike motioned towards him, and then, the unforeseen happened.Before I could pass him completely, he leapt up, charged, almost like the released cord of a catapult, and with a short loud burst of bark, pierced his teeth into my left knee. Though my Pulsar had picked up considerable speed by now, the dog seemed to be in no mood to let go of his bike-riding attacker. He kept on running along the bike that was about to lose its balance any time now, and tried hard to hold onto my knee. I was too shocked to understand what was going on, as it all happened even before my factory-fitted default reaction time had elapsed. I kept on hitting the throttle and the dog started to lose against the 150CC engine that raced the bike forward with more speed than he was probably used to. Before he finally let go of me, or rather my bleeding knee, he tore apart a piece from near the knee, from my new bottle-green casual trouser.

Luckily, the bleeding wasn’t profuse because the impact of the bite was almost entirely borne by the trouser seam. Trembling with shock and anger at the unprovoked turn of events, I kept on driving till I was sure that the monster wasn’t following me. I looked back to see if the chicken bag was still there. Yeah it was; only without any chicken in it. I usually drive slowly when hanging those micron-thick flimsy polyethylene bags onto the vehicle, lest they should give away at the slightest jerk. Unfortunately, this day was to be different. Needless to say, the bag behaved in exactly the same manner as I was afraid it would. It fluttered merrily in the air behind the vehicle while the chicken pieces lay spilled on the ground a few yards behind me. Some crows had already started to jump their way up to the chicken pieces looking cautiously at both sides for any impending owners. I watched them from the distance and felt a violent urge to go back to the dog and run my bike over him. But urge has no relation to courage. I didn’t want my other knee to meet the same fate.

Even before I could completely recuperate from the shock and pain of the incident, I found myself in another terrible situation one night, again involving a member of the violent species. It was about 1 am at night and the Pulsar was running at not less than 70 kmph when I spotted a big fat brown dog at a distance, about 10 meters off the tar road. There was something about his body language that sent a chill down my spine the moment I saw him. I felt as if he was waiting just for me at that odd hour of the silent treacherous night, meticulously, like a leopard waiting for his prey. I was wondering whether he came alone or had directed his colleagues to keep themselves hidden behind the bushes till he brings me off the vehicle.

Before I could finish my thoughts, the beast started to bark wildly while running ferociously at 90 degrees to the direction of the road, to a pre-calculated point on the road where it would meet his prey. I did the calculation myself. Yeah, the bloody beast was right. If I kept driving at the same speed, the dog was surely going to catch me at the point he had so perfectly planned. There was no question of slowing down. Time to hit the throttle. The bike and my heart raced at speeds unknown to me. The tyres slapped the road with atrocious speed. However, the dog wasn’t an easy beast. He increased his speed like a learned student of kinetics, trying to keep his date with the point on the road. The next split second was like a dream, when I narrowly missed the beast (or rather, more accurately, the beast missed me) and had the escape of my life. While zooming away from the spot, for a moment I looked back. The dog barked away standing at the middle of the road, frustrated by the minor miscalculation on his part, while watching his prey vanish into the dark.

After two such unfortunate incidents, the most ubiquitous of street animals that once merged into the world that surrounds me, much like the cow on the street, has now acquired an identity of its own, at least for me. It no more gels into the background. Now every time I see a dog on the street, I try to keep as much distance as possible while involuntarily hitting the throttle hard. I don’t trust their claimed innocuousness any more. Meanwhile, the quadrupeds prosper, dominating every overlapping spheres of our inseparable existence – ubiquitous as they are – coiled precariously under the railway ticket counter slab, wandering thoughtfully about the platform, rummaging through the dormitory garbage bucket at night, sleeping on the apartment staircase, alighting down the IIM subway stairs, walking about on the street outside, roaming around the mess.

The only derogatory phrase I use that has anything to do with the species, which I was talking about in the beginning of my story, hardly mattered to them:

Saala, Kutte ki aulaad”.

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