Saturday, December 22, 2012

A dog's life

It was the late hour of night. The hour when nothing holy or human stirs. The hour of owls, bats, ghouls and a multitude of other creatures that see less and feel more; a multitude of creatures that we, humans detest because we see more and feel less.

And in this hour that belongs to neither God nor man, our scene is set. A better poet might have set in a golden dawn or a copper evening. But a poor poet must settle for the coal of the night. And the characters too cannot aspire to be anything great. So we have to settle for a couple of dogs. Dogs, not of pedigree, but mangy, filthy curs with fleas on their skins and a filthy odour emanating from their body.

So, in the unholy hour of night, we have these most disgusting dramatis personae acting out our play. Let us then begin with their positions. They are two in number, not more than that, so that the reader is not put off more than necessary. One is a dark, rotund dog, who lies supine, his head resting on his paw, which bears a virile red rash. He has a black coat, which is not a pleasant glossy black, but a dirty black coat that has accumulated many marks of poverty and abuse. On his forehead there is a pale white tuft of hair that runs straight, a possible remnant of some old disease. The other dog is quite the opposite. White like bone, lean like bone too. He stands near the black dog, like a ghostly spectre, something that has risen from the grave. His eyes are red and mimicking the black dog's strange mark, this one's forehead has a red rash running, as though his forehead had been split open with a stone (which is possibly the case).

A brave reader must it be indeed to read beyond this, for nothing pleasant, nothing beautiful has yet risen in this story. And since the poet already knows that there is no hope for any beauty or glory in this tale, to encourage the reader who has come so far, he names the dogs with names of beauty and glory. Hari, the dark dog and Hara, the white one.

This, some might call sacrilege. But to them the poet appeals, 'Like the beggar mother decks her child with pieces of mirror stringed up, aping the rich mother's child who is decked in diamonds have I too named these characters.' Therefore, the reader being large-hearted, grants the poet this mercy and reads on.

So what transpires between these filthy, diseased curs Hari and Hara? A conversation of the most mundane nature.

Hari (lying sprawled n the mud): Oh so you too are here Hara? I thought the trouble has not yet started in your place.

Hara (sitting down and trying hard to scratch his right ear with his left leg): That's what I was hoping for too. But you know how the two-legged ones work. Or rather, nobody knows!

(They both laugh at this joke)

Hari: So what is it this time? Tonnes of those strong nauseating flowers? Ear splitting noise?

Hara: All of it together. I cannot sleep any time of the day or the night. Thankfully they stopped the ruckus early.

Hari: Strange. I don't see why they do this. Their loud brazen bells pealing hard enough to shatter ear drums, the hot blazing fires and the multitude of odours that assault the nose. It seems painful to go through all of it. And they do it so willingly!

Hara: The worst of it all, if you ask me is their insistent efforts at trying to feed those stones food. Why waste good food on stones that are never hungry, I will not understand.

Hari: Well, at the end of it, they at least share some of the food. I've seen a great many of them eat in their big halls and a lot of food being given away as well.

Hara: True, that we must grant them. But still, look at how it is shared. The ones who wear that band across their chest, they eat first, then the rest and last eat those who are the thinnest and hungriest. Why, if we tried that amongst us dogs, there would be murder. The hungry ones would tear and eat us up.

Hari: Well, perhaps that is why the two-legged ones despise us so much. Because we have no order, no rules.

Hara: Hmm... you do have a thought there. Perhaps you think we must aspire to be more like them?

Hari: Perhaps.

(They both ponder the possibility for a while, seriously. Then, they break into peals of laughter.)

Hara: That was a good one. I can imagine rows of dogs standing in front of a stone protected by a special dog in a dark room, crying in hoarse voices with the special dog shouting the loudest and giving those nauseating flowers to a select few dogs.

Hari: That makes me think. It is not just the two legged ones with bands across their chests that get treated special you know. I've seen some others, one with lots of shiny yellow things on their body, riding in one of those hideous beasts that spit poisonous fumes, get special treatment too. I've seen them walk away from the bony two legged ones through separate passages, almost as if the bony ones are like us.

Hara: That I too have seen. The difference seems to be that these special two legged ones give the special one at the hall some kind of paper. Though I fail to see what is so special about paper. Our Mr.Donkey eats it everyday from garbage!

Hari: Perhaps like us, they too have a special love of garbage? But honestly, I would bother with none of these questions, if they would only let me sleep in peace. Their horrid songs start before the stroke of dawn and keep me awake till late in the night.

Hara: Well, you at least get a break in the night. In my hall, they raise their din all through the night on some days. I wonder what it is with these two-legged ones, their halls and their noise. I tried once you know. To understand what mystery lies in those halls, in that dark chamber in which they keep their treasured stone.

Hari: Did you? What did you find?

Hara: Oh quiet nothing really. I was roaming the street as is my wont when I heard someone call my name, loud, many times. Now you know how we understand very little of the two legged one's speech except our names.

Hari: That is true. Little is common between our speech except the names.

Hara: So, I thought I was called for, perhaps for a bit of rice or some leftover that one of the bony two legged ones thought to share with me. And in one moment of madness, I went into the hall, almost near the chamber.

Hari: You did not!

Hara: I know. I was shivering in fright there, realizing my folly, waiting for the stone or the stick or both. But luckily there was no two legged ones there at the moment. The one who called my name must have walked around somewhere. So, I stood there for a minute, looking at the dark chamber where the stone lay. It was afternoon and the summer sun was nigh. In that stifling heat, I could see something, something nebulous and yet clear stirring inside that chamber. Something that seemed to have awakened to the


music of silence.

Hari: The music of silence? You mean that very same ancient music that our ancestors heard ages before the two legged ones arrived? How do you know it was that?

Hara: Oh it was just a feeling. I don't know for sure if it were that music. But I did feel something stirring inside the chamber. Perhaps it was just an illusion created by the noon sun, my hunger and the play of the light.

Hari: That's possible. You can never say for sure.

Hara: I was drawn to that movement. For I cannot describe it any better. It was as if the wind was trying to get a shape while moving. And one thing I was sure. Whatever it was that stirred in the chamber, stirred because of the silence. Don't ask me how I knew or felt it. I just felt it.

Hari: If you felt it, you felt it.

Hara: Yes. So that one moment I thought I would go in and see what was stirring there.

Hari: And did you find what it was?

Hara: Alas! No. The moment I put my foot forth to step in, a two legged one, possibly the one who called my name screamed a curse and flung a stone to my head. The wound as you can see is yet to heal.

Hari: Poor you. I hope you don't get an infection and die.

Hara: Well, if I die, I die. But the wound did not bother me much. It's nothing new and we cannot expect better from the two legged ones. But what left me feeling empty was, that thing that stirred in the chamber, it disappeared the moment the two legged one's voice rose. Almost as if the utterance destroyed it.

Hari: So you are saying there is indeed something in those chambers that these two legged ones guard so ferociously?

Hara: Perhaps. But there is another possibility.

Hari: And what is that?

Hara: Perhaps the two legged ones do not want anything in that chamber. They scream and raise a din, smother the chamber with various odours, all to ensure that nothing stirs there? Perhaps that thing that I saw there is something that the two legged ones are afraid of, even as we are afraid of them.

Hari: Hmmm... I think you are on to something here.

And at this juncture, when it looked like our filthy mongrels were close to something a little more than the mundane, there walked in a mendicant, equally filthy. He wears just a loin cloth around his crotch, which does nothing to cover his scaly privates. His hair matted runs from his head to his shoulders like enormous centipedes. And in his hand, he carries a bag that has some rice in it.

Hara: Oh forget that. Look there, it is one of the two legged ones. And he has food.

Hari: And he has no band on his chest nor metal on his body. Which means, he might share it with us.

They both look at each other in mutual ecstasy. They run to the mendicant, wagging their tails, their tongues out eyes looking up placatively. The mendicant looks at them and smiles.

Mendicant: You poor dogs. Did you too get chased from the feast at the temple?

He sits down on the ground. The dogs too sit next to him, expectant. He scoops out rice and feeds them one by one. And then, using the same hand out of which those filthy dogs ate, the same hand which now has their disgusting saliva oozing in it, he scoops out some rice for himself and eats it. And this he does till all the rice is eaten. Then they all lie down there, mendicant, Hara and Hari, there on the dust of the road and sleep.

Far from the two legged ones.

Far from the temples.

In peace.