Guwahati,

Feature3

The Old Man and the Dog

 

 

When I first came to Delhi in 2012 and roamed around the quaint and enigmatic Connaught Place area, the nearest place from my official residence, the most ubiquitous sight that caught my attention was a whole bunch of security guards and a pack of dogs surrounding them. Their presence was most formidable in the early mornings in faint daylight when everything was quiet and still, rather than during the day time or the busy evenings when their wobbly existence seemed to be lost in the labyrinth of lights and sounds. In the chilled winter mornings, I got to see the omnipresent haggard red-eyed night-watchman with his blue security uniform in front of a shop, or an ATM or a restaurant, still yawning in his sitting posture, a dog curled up against his feet lying on a sheet of cloth or mattress, the dog's body was mostly covered with warm clothes. 

Keshav was one of them with a stern, craggy face and droopy eye-lids, who always sat cross-legged in front of the ATM where I went to withdraw money in the morning time. Though pretty old, he seemed to be alert but in sharp contrast, his dog, an obese, desi one, was invariably found sleeping on a fat mattress coiled under a warm, multi-hued blanket during winter. During summer, the blanket was gone but a mattress would be there and he was still sleeping. I knew most of the night watchmen adopted a street canine for protection and companionship. But Keshav's dog was an exception in the sense that he was too pampered, he was allowed to be too lazy. One day I asked Keshav the name of his dog. Without batting an eye-lid he said, 'Syphilis.' 
Syphilis? I was bewildered. 'Why Syphilis? Do you know the meaning? It's the name of a disease.' 
'No. Why should I know? Even if it is the name of a disease, how does it matter? I heard it somewhere and liked it. Much better than those Jimmy, Tommy type-of-names.'
I had to concur. Yes, even the famous bard told us long time back 'What is there in a name?'
Most of those mornings, I got to see a very cute college kid Agni (I could hear his name from one of his friends who was calling out his name aloud). The sweet boy was visually impaired but was always smartly sprinting ahead with the help of a walking stick to catch the metro in Rajiv Chowk. That particular December morning was too chilled; the fog was assuming the form of a thick-arrogant blanket over a wet surface. I was, as usual, taking my morning walk. Agni was also going to the metro station like all other week days. Suddenly that mishap happened. In that poor, faint sun-light where nothing could be clearly discerned, Agni's feet fell on a sleeping Syphilis. Oh God, I closed my eyes in horror. The fat dog was not going to spare poor Agni now. Agni screamed in fear and tried to flee from the scene, but to my relief, the confused Syphilis also let out a loud scream and hurriedly scurried away to the other direction. Keshav seemed to be very concerned for Syphilis. He ran towards the dog, bent himself to encircle him in his arms for sometime as if he was holding a cuddlesome baby and patted his entire body. 
'Your Syphilis is a very gentle dog. He didn't bite that blind boy.'
Keshav was still busy fussing over Syphilis. 
'My Syphilis is also blind. He can't see, he can only sniff and feel.' It was my time to be taken aback. The elderly man continued. 'He was a very active dog when I adopted him from the street. But with age, he lost vision. Some disease I suppose, age-related….'
'If he is that old and not able to see, he is hardly going to be any help to you. If you are attacked by someone in the night, your dog will only be a liability rather than a help.  Why are you still keeping him like a prince?'
'What do you think? Should I throw him out to the garbage-bin just because he has become old and useless? Why should I forget that he has been my faithful companion for years together in those desolate nights of Connaught Place when not a single human-being was around? I am just waiting for him to go. Then it'll be my time to go.'  He was taking a deep breath. 'My employer also feels that my utility as far as this job is concerned is about to be over....'
One day, Keshav was not seen in his usual place. One day, two days, three days…. the man seemed to have suddenly evaporated. A new, young person with a blue uniform was sitting confidently in his place. 
'Where is Keshav, your predecessor?'
'That old man? Left for his village, for good.'
'Where is the dog?'
'No idea.'
I could see a new playful dog there jumping up and down.
The new dog has been seen there with the new owner since then and a new saga of camaraderie and love has just seemed to have sprouted.