Posted on 22nd May, 2015: Phantom’s back. Remember the brave leader of the Pack of Indian Stray Dogs (PISD) who subverted intense security to crash Obama’s party when he was in India? This time he has a more subtle message. Tired of the disrepute earned by his kind, he invites us to take a walk in his shoes… or paws…
‘Do you think it is easy being a stray dog?’ he implores.
It’s a dog’s life
‘It is day break already.
Itches and sores and ticks are my constant companions. And they were acting up all night. Not that I got much sleep. There was some commotion at the street corner and our pack had to howl and bark all night.
Then there is that night watchman. That particularly cruel two-legged creature wields a big stick and an evil temper. Almost broke my back one night! All because I crawled under the gate and snuck into the building to sleep under the stairs. I couldn’t help it! It was so cold on the road and something smelt so warm and tasty and inviting from inside…
That reminds me, I’m so hungry!’
‘My stomach is growling and my body feels weak. I haven’t eaten a proper meal in god knows how long! The last time was when that kind soul gave me some chai-soaked rusks outside the chai tapri on the main road. But it is so dangerous to go there right now. With so many cars and angry honking bikes, someone is bound to get hurt. And that someone will most likely be me.
Let’s go look for some friends to travel with.
Little Timlu might be at the presswalah’s stall. He is also a kind soul. Sometimes, when it is bitterly cold at night, Timlu and I crawl under his ironing table and dig ourselves into little sleeping holes in the ground. And he lets us sleep under the shade of his tent, when it is sweltering hot outside. He sometimes even shares his roti with us.
Oh no! The kids from the apartment complex have, once again, decided to ‘play’ with Timlu today. Poor thing! They will pull him in different directions and carry him by his hands till he cries out in pain. Then someone is going to want to put some colours or clothes on him or give him a bath or something horrible to eat. The worst is when they want to give him rides on their bicycle. The poor fellow always vomits. Why doesn’t someone teach children how to play with stray dogs, these days?
I remember my old friends. We used to be a big gang.’
‘There was Ernie and his loving wife Slow. They were always together. Even when the corporation guys came with their sticks and nets, Ernie wouldn’t leave poor Slow behind. Both of them were rounded up and put in those evil, stinking vans. And I’ve never seen them since.
There was wise old Parkinson, he kept shaking and whimpering uncontrollably. But he was a proud dog. Too proud to let go of the bread he found in the garbage dump. Fought with a street kid for it and unfortunately, lost.
I must eat something soon or I will be very sick. And these ticks are driving me nuts!’
‘I know where I can get some food and be safe! At the University. Those be-spectacled young-uns are always good to us. And the ones that are not, are too scared to do anything about it. There will definitely be some bread rolls and milky tea for me there! If not, I can at least sneak into the girl’s hostel and sleep in peace in the corridor. Those kids always leave clean water for us to drink, here and there.
Ah, I see Dracula, the ugliest dog in the world, and Sujji, the smelliest dog in the world, have already beaten me to lunch at the University canteen. I’d better go around to the smoker’s zone, someone is bound to buy me a bun or some biscuits. Success!’
‘The hot burning sun is making me sleepy. I’m going to crawl under this big car for a nap. The college principal is not going home till evening and he has a nice big car. Let me cool off in its shade and sleep my worries away. I will probably be hungry again when I wake up, but it should be dinner time at the hostel mess so it might work out for me… Let me not worry about that now and take a power nap. Yawn!’
Straying on the wrong side
‘How do you like living a dog’s life?’
‘The people at Mumbai-based animal rescue, foster and rehab shelter, World For All, have already tried to do what I just did here. They made a video giving a bird’s eye view of the life of a stray dog on the mean streets of Mumbai. It has been doing the rounds on the Internet for the past two weeks. And it features all of you – everyday people who drive by without a care, angry aunties who chase away these dogs, pet parents who beat them away with a stick for being ‘strays’ and violent drunks who take out their frustrations on the poor defenceless animal.’