Ginger Digest

Conversation with Phantom – the stray who gatecrashed Obama’s Guard of Honour

Voices Category: 

Posted on 28th Jan, 2015: On the 25th of January, 2015, a stray dog was caught breaching Rashtrapati Bhavan’s tight security, minutes before US President Barack Obama’s guard of honour. Despite such tight security, this dog managed to cross the red carpet and reach the guards who were on standby for the parade. After a while, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation employees managed to catch the dog and take him away.

When one of our writers investigated the incident she discovered that this was no ordinary dog – he was the leader of the group known as Pack of Indian Street Dogs (PISD) who goes by the name Phantom and he did this on purpose to protest eviction of stray dogs in the run up to Obama visit. Given that we at Gingertail have always been interested in getting strays’ side of story, we caught with the dog afterwards and asked him why he risked his life and gatecrashed President’s guard of honor? And this is what he had to share.

‘I come from a big family. I have three brothers and four other dogs in my pack, who are family to me. I have a ma and pa who I vaguely remember because soon after we were born, they were taken away. All I remember is that it was a big, black vehicle and I remember the voices of other dogs just like my ma and pa from inside the vehicle. They were all crying. I think it was around the time when the same guy had come calling few years ago.

They call themselves dogcatchers and are given targets for each operation. They catch us even though we have been already sterilized and vaccinated and subject us to trauma. They mistreat us and swing us in the air several times before finally dumping us in their vans. Why do they do it? Aren’t we also a part of this country whose culture teaches us to revere all forms of life?

I remember when last time these dog catchers came, my three brothers and I hid behind a mountain of sand at the construction site where we were born and so they didn’t see us. We got saved but our parents didn’t. This affected one of my brothers so much that each time he sees a big vehicle, he runs after it, hoping to find our parents. The people inside the vehicle think that he is being aggressive, but they don’t know that most of us who chase their vehicles have lost one or more family member in an accident. An accident that could very well have been avoided, if the person behind the wheel wasn’t driving rashly.

We move around in packs, at night and during the day because we know how rough the streets are. We get into fights to protect our own. The municipal vans or NGO folks come to sterilize and vaccinate us so that we don’t breed and multiply and we have learnt to live with it. This is better than earlier when they’d just put us in a vehicle and dump us outside the city or kill us, but then they realized that that wasn’t helping. If they chased us away, new packs from other places would come and the cycle would continue.

Some people complain about being inconvenienced by our presence in their colonies and streets, but they don’t know is that not only we do not allow any outsider dog to come in our area but we also keep a close watch on humans who are strangers in the area and if they try and do some mischief, we teach them such a lesson that they never set foot in our area again. A lot of my companions have lost life fighting such rogue humans like Pepsy from Bangalore. Not only humans, one of my close friends Rocky in Mumbai, chased a leopard out of a housing colony near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park around four in the morning last year. I bet the residents of Hill View cooperative housing society feel extremely grateful for having this canine around. Some people are also afraid that we bite, but we only bite if you provoke us by kicking us or throwing stones or by endangering our young ones – we don’t want to harm anyone without any reason. What I don’t understand is why some people hate us so much – the other day I got to know that someone poured acid over poor old Fredo – his crime was that he had taken shelter under this human’s porch to avoid rain – Fredo kept crying in pain for 3 days and finally died.

Of course, I’ve made some friends too. There’s a lady in my street who feeds 10 of us everyday. She puts out milk and cookies for all of us and we guard her house like it was ours. Little children are afraid of us, but once again I reiterate we don’t bother those who don’t bother us. It’s really that simple.

So that day, on the 25th of January, when I tricked the guards and ran towards the red carpet, it was to give a clear message to the country waiting to watch the most powerful man in the world that  - We are here and this is our home. By dumping us beyond city limits you can’t wish us away. Don’t hate us, don’t kill us. Give us some love and we will give you back much more. Let’s try and coexist - for this is my world too!’

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