On one memorable occasion during my college days, I remember being hauled up by a professor for no fault of mine. Actually, this was something that happened quite often, but only one story is relevant to my post today. Dear Reader, will you bear with me for a moment while I slip back into memories of then?
Picture this. A building, with cobwebs so ancient that even the spiders were dead and gone, with plaster peeling off the walls, and in certain corridors the lingering smell of plumbing gone wonky. And stairs all over the place. The first time I stepped into the place that would be my home for five years, it looked a bit like a dusty labyrinth bereft of its Minotaur. But, leaving aside the exaggerated metaphors, to return to my story. I was a post-grad student at that time. PiGs we were called by the undergrads, mostly lovingly I might add. This nomenclature was merely a fine demonstration of the sense of humour that people in my department were famed for. We in turn, called the Under-Graduate students UGhhs; so that was alright. But, I digress.
So, there I was going merrily down one of those ancient, dusty, labyrinthine stairs, with the easy conscience of one who has bunked a class she had no intention of attending. When suddenly, I saw a dog. Or, to be precise, a dog which had knocked over one of the judiciously placed dustbins in the corridor and was feasting gloriously on his unrighteous spoils. In other words an Unrighteous Dog! As a responsible member of the student body, I felt it was my duty to rebuke this deluded creature. So I ran down the remaining steps with every intention of sternly reprimanding the UD. And just as I reached the Dog, out of nowhere appeared Herr Professor. Who promptly proceeded to berate me! Why? Because he assumed that I was encouraging the Dog! Oh, the irony of the moment. To think that I, a PiG would encourage a Dog! I tried to gently point out the error in his assumption, but like the best of professors, he would not be stopped in the middle of a lecture. And he went on and on about how the students who showered the campus dogs with love and affection and (most importantly) food, were encouraging said dogs to walk into the buildings and interrupt the peace and tranquility and cleanliness (insert pre-recorded laughter soundtrack) of the hallowed sanctum of education. And yada yada yada while I stood there with my jaw dropping and a sense of being grievously wronged by the universe. It was only when he stopped, after about three and a half minutes, for a breath pause that I got the chance to gently correct him. Whereupon he had another apoplectic fit and was quite profusely apologetic. Honour restored, we then worked together to chivvy the dog down the stairs and out of the building, and went our own ways. So that was a happy ending for everyone, except the dog of course. But when I next saw him, he was happily being fed by someone at the canteen, so I don't suppose he held a serious grudge against me.
That was then. Somebody mentioned college life a few posts back, and that's partly why I'm drowning in nostalgia out here. But the other reason for this post is that it's a farewell of sorts. For another dog, or rather a puppy.
Anyone in the office who has stepped out in the past few months for a smoke break or tried to get their bikes out of the parking area, has come across this little pup. His is a short story, but a bit of a sad one.
There was a dog, who had three puppies. And then she died. Some say she was crushed under a car, and I will take no names, but I hope the dog murderer's conscience caused him many a sleepless night. One of her pups met the same fate. And then there were two.
They were a pair of contrasts. The male was over-flowing with life and affection. He would cuddle up to anyone who stopped for a smoke, and caper and beg and get up to all kinds of tricks for a biscuit. The female was more quiet, shy and maddeningly finicky when it came to food. He lapped it all up, and she got the leftovers. It's not a new story really, it happens to a lot of human kids too. Anyway, to cut a short story shorter, I was away on a tour for over a fortnight once; and when I came back I heard that she was gone. She had been sick for a while, and I guess the winter wind was too bitter. Still I hope she's warmer in the Great Doggy Haven in the Sky.
And then there was one. This guy is a real fighter. So far he's been winning against all odds. Part of the reason for his survival is that a lot of people chip in to make sure he gets a little food, a little love and somewhere warm to stay at night. Over the last month or so, he had been growing nice and plump and what with all the fancy living, he had even begun to look down on plain old Parle G biscuits!
But then someone told me a day or two back that the little chap had been banished from the office premises. I don't know why, maybe he was lowering the tone of the place or something. And now, whenever I go to feed him, there are guards telling me I shouldn't be doing it. Fortunately there isn't any commandment in my appointment letter that says Thou Shalt Not feed the Dogs, so usually I sneak a little away from the office and feed him stealthily anyway. But he looks at me yearningly and at times it's easy to imagine that he's asking why he's being chased away from the same place that sheltered him. I tell him, 'It's the recession, Old Boy'; but he doesn't look as if he understands. He's only a pup, you see.
I started by talking about college, and because narratives can be viciously circular, I'll end by saying one thing about then. Five years of university life taught me a lot of things. Many of these will have to be unlearnt over the rest of my years, but I'll tell you one thing the old place taught me for sure. There's a reason why street dogs are called strays; they just stray into your heart.but much like the elegiac wanderer, An exile's fate is decreed for him.
Delirium, once Delight