Sunday, 1 September 2019


Rustam had never seen the dog in the neighborhood before.
The weekly bazaar was still buzzing as the sun went down behind the tall trees up the slope. There were garbage heaps at a distance created by the locals who had squatted down to sell their wares in a clearing. It was the weekly bazaar around the small neighborhood. He saw the dog going from one heap to the other, stealthily and cautiously-- looking for morsels of edible items. As it wandered about warily from one heap to the other, people ran away from it. Its size frightened them, and some just ignored it.

A Labrador, feeble and old, it looked hungry and forsaken. Obviously abandoned, he thought. It could be part of the holidaying gangs that visited the riverside, miles away, every year around this time, to celebrate the sighting of the moon. But the revelry was over some days back. He noticed the blue collar that peeked out every now and then through its dusty golden coat -- now dulled with neglect. Sitting on a big rock when Rustam, didn't move away from the creature, it came close -- its eyes fixed on the orange-stick in his hand that he licked with great gusto.

He looked at the dog and stopped midway. The look in its eyes struck a chord in his heart. Those eyes were lost and tired. Perhaps famished.
Do dogs like ice cream? Rustam wondered.

He dropped the unfinished stick to the ground anyway. The dog moved away alarmed as though it was going to be pelted and shooed away. Looking for a sign from Rustam to allow him to taste the delicious melting item wasting on the ground, it waited. Instead, when Rustam gave a slight nod it moved closer and gave it a tentative lick first. Then the hungry beast devoured it in no time. Rustam found it quite funny. He laughed. But he needed to head home. There was work to do.

When he got up to leave, the creature followed him. But he was in no mood to care for it any further as he had other things on his mind -- like the thought of his sweetheart he wished to wed, as soon as he could make some more money. He was lucky today. He had sold everything that he got. Well, almost. Making a mental note of how much more money that he needed to make, he walked on wistfully. He knew that the dog was right behind him as he saw the shadow of the two cleverly through the corner of his eye on the side of the uneven cobbled path. The sun was setting somewhere behind them. He didn't stop and whistled along as he thought of his girl.

Rustam shut the wooden door behind him that creaked and rattled. He forgot all about the dog that followed him. It sat patiently outside his door all night. He could hear it moan and whine at intervals. But Rustam was tired and wanted to get some rest. Lying in bed he thought of his two-room cottage which he realized was not enough for his future plans. He must try and start an extension, especially a 'godown' where he could stack his collection before he could lose all that to the 'looteras' that watched him collect his lot to sell at the bazaar.

"Bastards,'" he grumbled. "Why don't they learn to do something constructive instead of robbing others who are working hard to make a living?" It was a menace to live with. He rolled over and shut his eyes. He thought of his little cottage that was surrounded by clusters of coconut and eucalyptus trees his forefathers had planted on their bit of land -- for generations to thrive on. Today, having nobody to share his load of hardship with, he found it tough to care for the land and the trees. He doubted if Shabnam, his lady love, could also help him out in that respect. After all, she was only a woman. He must seek some help and advice from his uncle in the next village.

At daybreak Rustam was startled by the noise outside his little dwelling. He rushed to the window and got a glimpse of the neighborhood kids, the 'coconut looteras', jumping over the fence around his land to escape as the furious dog barked them away. They had come to steal the coconuts piled up in his small rundown cart in the backyard; his only place to stack them in. At his wits end, Rustam ran his fingers through his hair and charged out. He was pleasantly surprised to see that not a single coconut had fallen out of the cart. He also noticed that the dog stood at a distance looking at him with its head bent low, asking to be pardoned, if it had done anything wrong. Rustam laughed. He went and sat next to the animal and stroked its head.

At length, he brought some stale bread and a bowl of water and placed it at the door. The dog watched his moves carefully. He could only take orders from his master. Rustam whistled and waved. It came bounding. It was the first time that Rustam saw its tail wag. There was expectation and hero-worship in its eyes which filled his heart with a twinge of sadness. He placed the food in front of it and in minutes the dog gulped down its reward looking cheerful.

Rustam watched with great interest how the dog enjoyed his gift of 'manna' from heaven. Its joy was palpable. It ran around in glee and licked his face and hands in gratitude. Rustam sat there taking it all, overwhelmed -- pondering if he should get a leash.
But first, he must give it a name. How about 'Ghulam'?

-Calcutta, Nov 3, 2018


Photo By:
Submitted by: DOLA DUTTA ROY
Submitted on: Sun Aug 11 2019 12:28:44 GMT+0530 (IST)
Category: Original
Language: English

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