Sunday, February 07, 2016

When my dog understood the answer to everything

By Gaurav Parab

If you have ever had a pet, you would have experienced moments when your dog / cat / cow ( any pet that does not slither or spit out poison) seems to be content in being completely lost in thought by itself. Oblivious to everything that surrounds it, including you. Like when it looks at the Sun setting in the distance - perhaps amazed by the magnitude and the consistency of the daily event.  Or those times close to a window or door when you catch it studying an animal not bounded by chains or walls, scampering about carelessly in the freedom life presents, yet aware of the dangers the human infested streets bring.

Joko our dog child has many such moments every day. Specially when anything happens at the house where his contribution is not required. Like a party, or repairs or cooking. Naturally gutted, he looks our way till he is sure he has been noticed, then turns around to plant his bum in our general direction, his face and chest letting go of a dramatic sigh designed to make sure his views are not lost on us.

The dog has some issues.

The other day after multiple displays of his disappointment with the way things are run, we started his daily walk. Scientifically, referred to as long ghoomi ghoomi. 

Enter Kaiser.

Let me tell you about Kaiser.

Kaiser is a Labrador that we often come cross during our daily walks. He is a self assured, confident, piece of work. If Kaiser could speak, I imagine he would do so with an English accent and say things like ' Hello old chap, what's with the dog face?' And then make chuckling sounds before walking away.

Kaiser does not think much of young Joko. Joko absolutely adores Kaiser. Joko absolutely adores everyone including the door, coconuts, and his departmental store scale stuffed toy collection.

So every time Kaiser and Joko cross paths during their evening walks Joko raises his front legs like a prancing horse, saluting all living things big and small,  while attempting to dislocate my shoulders - so that big boy Kaiser can notice big boy Joko. Kaiser doesn't even glance at Joko.

When if there is a miscalculation in my stride and the two are at snapping distance, Joko makes deep primordial growling noises that can make most dogs shit in their invisible dog pants.

Kaiser doesn't even glance at Joko. It is like it is below Kaiser to acknowledge the natives.

The other evening there was a miscalculation in my stride, and Kaiser's human parent - an old Uncle who seems to know what makes the world go around, why do we pay taxes and those sort of things, looked at me and signaled that it would be all right if Joko and Kaiser have a closer interaction.

Joko approaches Kaiser. Kaiser does not care. Joko growls. I shit in my very visible pants. The Uncle is also worried. Kaiser does not move. He looks at Joko like a disinterested teenage girl who says, 'whatever' at the end of every sentence.

Joko comes closer to Kaiser. Very close. Kaiser does not even react. Then Joko sniffs his face, nose, chest and starts backing up slightly towards me. That ended well, I think. And then Kaiser does something no one is expecting.

He barks at Joko. Short powerful barks. Uncle tells me Kaiser rarely barks. He had almost forgotten how he sounds like.

Joko absorbs the new information. Then he barks in reply. Short powerful barks. I tell Uncle that Joko also rarely barks.

Then they are at it like boxers. Kaiser barking. Silence. Joko barking. Silence. Kaiser. Then Joko. The conversation lasts for but a few seconds but it seems to be much longer. And just like it started, it ends. Surprising everyone but Kaiser and Joko like they knew this was coming. Kaiser looks at Joko for a second longer than necessary, pulling Uncle in his wake and then they are gone. Like he has said what he had to say.

Joko stands there for a few moments. And then he too starts taking me home. And as we reach a part of our daily route where the only light from the Sun is what the trees let go off, Joko looks back at me and grins that sloppy grin of his. Like in that short conversation that old dog told him everything he wanted to know. Like Joko now knew the answer to every question he had.

Why does night follow day. Why does human Gaurav leave for work every morning when he clearly does not want to. Why are cats evil and goats so clueless? Who is Joko. What purpose do chains serve. What do human Juhi and human Gaurav whisper about when they think good boy Joko is asleep. Why does his mind shut off every time there is food in the same room. Why does that beautiful golden retriever good girl Pearl jump around in circles when he is around? And is his beloved Baba, that human man who loved him like no one loved him,  really up in the ghoomi ghoomi road in the sky these days?

Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora by Gaurav Parab [Hachette] was listed by the Times of India and Business Standard as one of 5 weekend reads , The Hindu calls it a Genre bender, The Statesman ‘An Almost Perfect Debut, The Lucknow tribune calls it a debut to remember, The Pioneer calls it Cinematic, The Vistara Air inflight magazine a Good Book on the Shelf, the Sakaal times says its ‘sheer brilliance in storytelling’ while the Bangalore Mirror calls it an unforgettable story. It is available in leading bookstores and online here

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