A Black Dog,
Mummy, Dinoo ko kale kutte ne kaat liya
‘Mummy, the black dog has bitten Dinoo’, I said.
She drew me close and putting her hand on my head and showing great interest in the news that I delivered said, “Be careful of the dogs in these dog days.”
What are dog days?
‘The days, when the dogs go crazy.’ ‘They can’t tolerate the intense heat of the summer days.’ ‘They go mad and start biting the people.’ ‘You should not tease them.’
Main to unke pas kabhi jata nahin
‘I don’t go near them.’
Kal goge ne kale kutte ko pathar mara tha.
‘Goga had thrown a stone at a black dog, yesterday’.
Bhole, kala kutta Police lines wich aa gaya
“Bholeeeee. The black dog has come in the Police Lines.”
Goga’s call riding the sound waves reached my ears and I bolted out of the house to be with him.
‘Don’t go near the dog, my mother’s caution followed me.’
There a was wooden railing marking the border of the Police Lines, but anyone could easily slip through it. In place of going around the canteen, we crossed over from the fence in to the Lines. A bunch of policemen with sticks of every description, even hockey sticks in their hands were chasing a skinny dog, who was trying to hide from them. A small flat patch lay between the end of the barracks and the canteen. They managed to trap the dog there and forming a ring around it, they continued to close in from all sides. The dogs retreated as far as it could, slinked, yelped, and then snarled, baring its teeth at them.
One policeman pounced at it and struck a blow with a stick. It missed it completely. The dog charged towards a flock that had us among the front liners. We had worked our way through the gaps between the legs of the people standing in the group to have the best view of the drama unfolding there. It was all very exciting till then. The group exploded like pallets from a grenade as the dog darted through the gap. Goga let out a piercing cry, but the dog had brushed past him. It was more concerned about its own life. The policemen chased it from all sides screaming and mouthing invectives. It was encircled again before it could run up the stairs and getaway. It came back running towards us. Once again, we were lucky that it didn’t sink its teeth in our bare legs but instead tried to hide in the stairwell of the barracks. A blow from the hockey stick landed squarely on its back. It let out heart-wrenching yowls, but there was none to take pity on it.
Other policemen with blood in their eyes had surrounded it. They started raining blows on it that broke every bone in its body. It couldn’t run anymore. Even its cries had ceased. A massive blow had broken its jaw which was hanging loose and blood mixed with saliva was dripping from it. It limped and came out from under the stair to the flower bed next to the edge of the raised cemented floor of the barracks, perhaps to catch some fresh air as it gasped for breath. It was choking on the blood that was profusely flowing out of its mouth. Blood was also oozing out from wounds and cuts all over its body. It lay there exhausted but the anger against it wasn’t spent yet.
One person came forward and gave one massive blow to it. The poor creature jumped nearly eight feet in the air as in one last bid to escape its tormentors. Streaks of blood from its mouth trailed it as it fell down on the ground in a dead heap. The policemen poked the carcass to check if any life was left in it to be beaten out. They were complimenting each other as if they had overpowered a devil. We were not much amused as we had seen a poor, helpless mongrel struggling to get out of the jaws of death.
After reaching home, I narrated the whole incident to the mother.
“Mummyyyyyyyyy, police walon ne kale kutte ko mar diya”, I entered the house announcing the news, overwhelmed with excitement, unable to hold back my tears any longer. The sun had set and the shadows were gathering together in the darker corridor that I had to cross to reach the safety of the living quarter. The guilt of being counted among the sinners and the belief in the truth of all-seeing god’s justice system of retribution for the sins worried me. The dialogue was a link with my epitome of God, whose approval and disapproval was all that classified my acts as sins and virtues and it was necessary for calming my agitated soul.
“Unhone ne kutte ko itna mara ki wo mar gaya.”
“They beat the dog so much that it died.”
She listened with concern but kept mum because it was contrary to her preaching of showing pity towards all creatures.
‘God sanctions killing of those who don’t follow the path of religion’, her preaching ringing in my ears.
“Mummy jab police wale use maar rahe the to aine apni aankhein band kar li thi.”
Mummy, I had closed my eyes, when the policemen were beating it.
She held me close, caressed my ruffled hair and wiped the sweat from my face with her dupatta, but didn’t say anything.
“Ab mujhe paap nahin lagey ga na?” I probed her silence for an answer to my query.
“Nahin”, She said. I was happy that I had escaped from accumulating sin collaterally.
But who decides what’s sinful and what’s not? Was killing a mad dog sinful?
It had gone crazy and had bitten many people who had to take painful anti-rabies injections in the abdomen to safeguard them against the dreaded fatal illness.
There were stories abound of the people, who had developed hydrophobia a precursor to death in the advanced cases of rabies developing as a result of not taking the anti-rabies injection after the dog bite.
After a few days, we heard more stories of people being bitten by the dogs. Mom used to go for Kirtan (devotional singing) on Tuesdays. She was a part of the group of the women who would perform Kirtan turn by turn in their houses. It also was her weekly outing and a source of getting the news from upper and lower kaithu and from the rest of the town as the women from far and wide were the part of their Kirtan Mandali (coterie). She had a sad news to tell us when she returned home from Kirtan outing next Tuesday.
“The mad dog is not dead”, she said. “It is going around the town on its biting spree”. “It’s in lower kaithu now.”
“It has bitten many people there”.
To phir policwalon ne jis ko mara wo pagal nahin tha? I asked.
“Pata Nahin”, she said. “Tum zara kutton se door hi rehna”, she said in a voice mixed with caution and concern.
At night, for a long time, I kept thinking about the black dog that was killed by the policemen. Then, I turned towards my mom, put my arms over her and went to sleep.
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