This was originally supposed to be my entry to the Non Human Love Story for my team in BPL’s Super 6 Round. But I found it a bit too ‘conventional’ and to be frank, quite long, for my own liking, and decided to go ahead with ‘She, Me and a Love Story‘ instead. On hindsight, that turned out to be a good decision, but I couldn’t resist posting this anyway… 🙂
As the harsh Summer Sun dimmed down over the horizon, life that was sheltered inside concrete buildings and air-conditioned rooms, gradually started coming out. Cries of children playing in the park waded through the air. Men with their cups of coffee stood on the balcony and watched the world. Bikes and cars zoomed on the street, perhaps ferrying eager occupants of them, to places of amusement on that warm Sunday evening. 1st Cross, Vivekanand Nagar – That’s what most called this place. But some… called it home.
One among them was a sprightly, young canine who lay on his side across a thick patch of grass before a rickety old gate, visibly tired and deep in thought. His fur wasn’t as shiny as some high pedigreed breeds brought up in luxury, but his athletic build and pointed ears introduced him as a very intimidating creature that could be fierce when defending his territory. And yet, those quiet eyes, brought in an air of charm around him. His brown colored body, lay there breathing heavy, with his tongue hanging out and eyes half closed. He was perhaps, in pain. His old, leather, collar read RAJU across it, amidst chipped edges and bite marks.
A stranger passing through the picturesque Vivekanand Nagar, chanced upon Raju’s street, and found the line of shady trees and a gentle breeze blowing through, immensely inviting. He decided to stop here for a break and walked towards an emotionally occupied Raju.
“Hello Partner!” the stranger barked at him, as he raised his neck up to see a dark, ragged, old, street dog, with a patch of white just above his head. He wore no collar, and his coat was dirty. However his eyes glowed with wisdom that could have only come from experience of having seen life, and whose legs bore scars from his journeys across the lands. “Hope you don’t mind me resting here for a while. I have a long journey ahead.”
Raju just nodded…
As the stranger settled himself down in the shade near Raju, he introduced himself. “I am Guru, dear friend. Guru da, is what people I love call me. I am a traveler. I love moving on and meeting people. The world, with the risk of sounding clichéd, is truly my home.”
Raju acknowledged with a customary bark. “Welcome Guru da. I am Raju. I stay with my master in this shack behind us. This area between that lamppost and this bin on the other side, well that’s my territory.”
“I see a collar around your neck, but I can spot a lean, mean, street dog when I see one. Been here all your life?”
“My mom, they say, was the meanest street dog to walk these streets. She died shortly after my birth, and Ram Singh, my master, who is a Goorkha here, has taken care of me like his own son. He gave me a name, this collar, and shelter in this old shack behind us. This is my world.”
“But… If I may say so… I see there is something eating you. I can see it on your face. I am an old timer my son, I’ve seen the world. I may be able to help you. Come on, tell me. What is the reason for this gloom in your heart?”
Raju raised his head to look at Guru. Nobody said anything for a while. Then Raju buried his face between his paws and let out a soft bark.
“Ah… young love… Tell me all about it.” Guru settled in close. This was going to be yet another love story.
“I was your regular neighborhood dog, Guru da. People were scared of me. Strangers could never walk past me. The milkman, postman and the newspaper guy, all of them almost quit their job when asked to deliver to this street. I’ve chased cars and bikes, scared people away, got pelted stones at by innocent kids, got into brawls with the rival gangs of the nearby street, extorted meat and bones from the butcher down the road… and yet managed to be called a good dog by the people in this street. 🙂 I was blessed in that way, having Ram Singh as my master. I belonged to the street. I could do anything I want. I wasn’t like those wimpy rich dogs who barked their loudest behind the tall gates of their masters and never even let out a purr when they saw us in the streets. I always liked to leave my mark, if you know what I mean. 😉 This was my street and I enjoyed that power.
But then all this changed after she came to our street, Sheela. That cute, feisty, beautiful animal – Sheela.”
“Love at first sight eh? Typical at your age, boy.” Guru chimed.
“Woof!” Raju’s mood changed from introspection to excitement. His eyes gleamed with joy.
“They told me that the mean streak in me was from my mother. But I’ve been told many times by Mani, that my mom had a heart of gold. But I realized that a heart beats within me only after I saw Sheela. I still remember the day when she and her masters moved into that posh bungalow 3 houses down some time back.”
“Who’s Mani?” enquired Guru about the new character in the story.
“Oh he’s a very old, wise, family friend. A ghost is what I think people call him; He’s been haunting these streets for decades now. He knows these streets and the people in here like the back of his palm. He’s perhaps the only one who’s been in every house and knows everyone in and out. Perhaps as learned as you Guru da. Perhaps even more…” replied Raju.
“Oh no. These ghosts are far wiser than us canines. They’ve seen world differently. Pity we are the only ones who can see them in that light. The rest of these humans fear them.” said Guru. “Go on.”
“She arrived here, and my whole world changed. Word had spread to all the neighboring streets about her beauty. The other dogs from nearby had an eye on Sheela as well, which had to happen. But I wasn’t going to let go without a fight. Love is truly, survival of the fittest. And she was in my area boss. You see, I have a reputation here of being quite a ‘bad-ass’. There were a few rough fights. Bittu, that mean hound, from the 3rd cross, was one mean competitor. You see these scars on my neck and limbs. Some of them were from that fight. But then, yours truly came out tops. And hence I became the only eligible bachelor dog of this area, who was the only one fit for Sheela… Well that was until that ‘Tiger’ arrived at the house opposite to hers.
Sheela mostly kept to herself, spending time inside that posh bungalow. I spent hours before her gate to catch a glimpse of her, but with little success. Her master was an aging, balding gentleman, who took her outside only during mornings and evening for a walk. And what a walk that was. Believe me Guru da, you should’ve seen her. Damn she was beautiful.”
“I can see that in your eyes, son.” Guru chuckled.
“Yeah, and it was in one of those walks that she saw me and said ‘Hi’. I swear on the Dog Star Guru da, that was the sweetest sound, I’d ever heard a canine make. I was head, over heels in love with her. And I think she knew it too. But a big ‘Tiger’ was in the way.”
“Tiger sounds bad…” Guru said.
“Yeah, he felt bad as well. He was a huge Doberman, the size of a cow. His bark could wake up the ninth street. Good thing he was on a leash, inside a big, black gate which seemed to be built with a purpose of keeping him inside, rather than keeping others out. I would’ve been history, if he was on the streets. He was terrifying. And coming from me, that’s quite a complement. a clear threat to me. Once he confronted me and told me to stay off Sheela’s trail. His Master and Sheela’s bald guy were thick friends as well. Hence his arrival was like a villain in my love story.”
“So he got Sheela in the end?”
“Nah, not really.” Raju smiled. “I decided to use brains than brawn to deal with Tiger. I went to Mani for help on how I could woo Sheela. He was a master in these situations as he himself had spent considerable time wooing the pretty and scary Mohini who haunted 8th Street. He told me that I had to gift her something she loved if I had to create a first impression. He promised to take care of Tiger. I stole a new tennis ball that the kids used to play in the ground, and gifted it to Sheela one day. She was delighted. I was well and truly away. Sometimes she would sneak in some dog food that she was served in her household. It was delicious, but nothing could match the large bone from Ahmed Bhai’s shop. I brought it to her one day, and she loved it. We were in love.”
“But what happened to Tiger?” asked a curious Guru.
“Aww that was a masterstroke. Mani bhai paid a very visible visit to Tiger’s master’s bedroom that night. I heard he left the locality with his dog the same night. :D” replied Raju.
“Woof.” Guru shrieked in appreciation. “But I’m curious, did you ever tell her how much you loved her?” Guru enquired drawing himself closer to Raju.
“I did. One day, I mustered all the strength that I had and decided to confront Sheela with what was in my heart. I waited for her during her evening walk. She came out with her balding master around sunset and took the usual route. I jogged up to her with my tongue hanging out in expectation. Her master spotted me and shooed me away. I didn’t give up and kept chasing her. She seemed a bit uncomfortable. I barked out to her. That bald guy tried kicking me out, I got irritated, was about to charge at him, when…”
“Sheela barked at me. Asked me to get out of there.” said a crestfallen Raju.
Guru shook his head. “That’s it. I know what would have happened next. Young one… Take my word. That’s how the opposite gender are.” Guru said in a condescending tone, getting up shaking himself. “They might show interest in you and throw you off balance, and turn your life upside down. And then when you’ve changed into someone who can’t live without them, they’ll wag their tails at you and leave you forever. You should’ve moved on dawwg. There are a lot of good looking pooches out there to pick up and hang around with. There are always choices.”
“Well that sounds like a great idea… But wouldn’t Sheela have bit my neck off if I did that?” Raju enquired?
Guru stayed silent for a while trying to understand what Raju was trying to say. He opened his mouth to say something, but all he could manage was a cat-like purr.
“Well I never gave up you see. I was way too tough for that. You need to be tough for love.” Raju growled, with a touch of pride in his voice.
“So Sheela…?” asked Guru.
“…was always in love with me. She was just playing hard to get. I bet you know these girls much better than me. Don’t you? I never missed Sheela’s morning walks after that. I realized Sheela’s bald master was sleepier during mornings than the evening walks, allowing me more time with Sheela before being shoo-ed away. During my conversations with her, I found out that she had barked me away earlier, because she was scared what her master I might think, and that I might hurt him. She always had loved me. Now imagine what would’ve happened if I had moved on leaving her behind and move on as you had said.” Raju clarified, Guru silently nodded.
“I kept following her. One day, when I helped nab a thief trying to break into Sheela’s household, I became her hero. The bald master grew very fond of me after that. And slowly I became a part of the family. Sheela and me are together now. And that’s how our love story goes…”
“But why the long face then? You are happy aren’t you?” enquired a puzzled Guru.
“Of course I am. But then no-one said lovers always keep smiling, did they? There are challenges in our everyday life. Having each other for company, just gives us more strength to face them. We’ve had our fights and our disagreements. I’ve screamed at her, she has screamed at me. But that doesn’t mean we are any less in love with each other.”
Guru nodded in agreement.
“And about now, well Sheela’s in labor. I’m worried about her…”
Guru was taken aback.
“Holly Scooby Dooby doo… And I had almost thought you were a love failure, you dog.” exclaimed Guru with a wink.
“You see Guru da… Any fool can fall in love. But it needs dogged determination to stay there.”
Guru waited till he got news of Sheela’s delivery. He wished and blessed the new pop of three wonderful pups. He wanted to meet Sheela, but he had to continue his journey. He bid goodbye to a madly excited Raju and as he crossed the street, carefully negotiating the tricky, traffic filled, intersection, he kept thinking about what he had heard from Raju. “Any fool can fall in love… But it needs dogged determination to stay there.” He could only smile in agreement. “Love stories never have endings” he told himself. He kept on smiling. He kept on walking. 😀