I hate dogs!! a short story

A movie was blaring away on the TV. It was a modern-day version of a supposedly true story from Japan of a dog called Hachiko. The story goes that Hachi used to follow his master to the railway station every day as he left for work. Every evening, Hachi would wait as the train would pull in. One day the master died while at work. Hachi kept a vigil at the station for nine long years, hoping his master would eventually return. The townsfolk immortalized Hachi by setting up a statue in his memory.

The story made my wife raise one of her long-standing requests.

“Let’s get a dog!” she said.

I argued with her. As expected, that did not work. All the same, I was in no mood to relent. My problem is simple, I hated dogs.

I was not born a dog-hater. In fact, I come from a family of dog-lovers. My father was in the army. Over the years, we had lots of pets, including cute and cuddly Pomeranian to stretchy dachshunds.
After my father retired, we settled down in Kerala. One day my uncle came over and bought with him a Pomeranian puppy. It was the size of a tennis ball. We immediately christened him Bobby. Years ago, when I was a toddler, we had a Sydney silky called Bobby.

This new version of Bobby was a month old when he joined our family. We put a cushion in the garage for him. Bobby did not like it at all. During the day, he loved to explore the house and everything inside it. Bobby had a knack for squeezing into the most impossible of places. One day he squeezed through the car tires and landed on the car seat. Another time he managed to be stuck in the grill built under the main gate. It was a full-time task keeping watch.

Night-time was different and a whole lot worse. He had not got over the separation from his mother and used to roam all around the compound, wailing. A couple of days of this and the neighbours started complaining.
My bedroom was the closest to the garage, and I was having a tough time sleeping. Then I found a way out.
Bobby loved to sleep in my room. Every evening, I would carry Bobby into my room. There he would sleep on the carpet near my bed. He was afraid of the dark. Once the lights were switched off, I would hang my arm off the side of the bed. Bobby would cuddle up against my hand and doze off.

This phase lasted a few weeks. Bobby became an expert at chasing birds that used to peck at the rosebuds in our garden. He also excelled at killing rats that dared enter the house. He lost his fear of the dark and did not mind keeping watch while we all slept.

Then I got a job and had to leave my home. This job involved a training period of a year and working at locations spread across the country. A year later, I returned on a short leave of two weeks. I reached home at one in the night. We have a bell right outside the main gate. I must have tried ringing it a thousand times. My parents, who were in their seventies, continued sleeping peacefully! I did not want to bang on the iron gates and wake up the entire neighbourhood.

I was trying to figure out what to do when I heard Bobby. He saw someone standing on the other side and was running around in circles, barking his head off. The gate completely blocked the view of the house from outside. The lower part of the gate still had the grill-like structure. This was the same grill where Bobby used to get his head stuck as a puppy. Now he was grown up, and I could see his nose poking through the grill.

He was barking fiercely, so even though I was a bit worried, I held out my hand for him to sniff. After a few minutes, the barking stopped. I could see him approach cautiously. A cold, moist nose started sniffing my hand. Something deep in his brain must have clicked at that point. He started wagging his tail vigorously and began clawing at the gates. He had recognized me!!
I threw my bags over the wall, climbed up the gate, and jumped in.
Luckily, there were no policemen around, else I could have landed in jail for this daring midnight entry! Bobby had recognized me and seemed to be very happy. He was running all around me, licking me, smelling me. Yes, it sure felt good to be home!

We always kept the gates locked so that Bobby had a free run of the compound. A day before my leave ended, someone left the gates open. Bobby ran out into the street and came under the wheels of a passing truck. None of the wheels touched him, but the shock proved too much. His tiny- heart stopped beating. I buried him in our backyard. That night no one ate anything at home. The next day, I returned to my post.

Now that is why I hate dogs. They wriggle their way into your heart only to break it when their all too brief lives end.
I did not want to share all this with my wife, so I changed the TV channel and started watching Godzilla.

Down memory lane

Sometimes the tiniest, briefest, minutest of incidents change your life. For me, it was the moment I saw the hummingbird flutter in the breeze outside my window.
It hung there, gently bobbing up and down, its wings hard at work. I was captivated by the beauty of the moment. I watched in awe, too scared to move lest it should fly away.
That was when my brother came bursting into the room. My brother was seven years old and three years younger than me. Those days he was going through a phase when he believed he was an aeroplane.
He ran around the house, roaring like the engine of an old propellor plane. We had seen one of those antique pieces at the aircraft show.
As I turned to hush him, he was already halfway inside the room. Arms spread wide, head bent at an awkward angle. He was creating a horrible racket.
When I turned back, it was too late. I ran towards the window and opened the glass panes wide. I looked in all directions, but the bird was nowhere in sight. I went to the only place where I could drown all my worries and troubles.
The library was a short distance from home. The old librarian was a friend. He saw me walk in and sensed all was not well. A few minutes later, after he had heard my tale of woe, he said, “Hmm, maybe I have just the book that will make you happy.”
He returned with a copy of ‘The book of Indian Birds by Dr Salim Ali’.
“Find out more about that hummingbird of yours, ” he said.
The librarian had judged correctly. Not only did I learn all about hummingbirds, but I also discovered birds that I had never seen.

“Uncle, can you tell me about that bird ?” the question and the tug on my shirt sleeve brought me back to earth. I put my binoculars aside and looked at the young girl standing and staring at me from behind soda-bottle glasses.
I smiled, “That one?” I said, pointing at a dark blue kingfisher perched on the top of a tree in the park. The girl nodded eagerly.
“Are you interested in knowing more about birds?”
“She has always been fascinated by birds,” a young woman holding her hand replied.
“That is a kingfisher. Take my binoculars and check out its plumage,” I said as I cleaned the lens and handed it to the child.
Instead, she had some questions for me.
She said, “Why do you watch birds?”
“I am an ornithologist.”
“You study birds?”
I did not expect a young child to know what an ornithologist was.
Now it was my turn to be impressed.
“Yes, indeed.”
She reached for the binoculars and said, “I am reading a book, ‘The book of Indian Birds. I also want to be an ornithologist when I grow up.”
I smiled. High up in the branches, I could see a hummingbird hovering in the breeze.

The Replacement – a short story

By the time I reached the village, it was dark. The bus dropped me at a dilapidated bus stop and speeded away. I was not expecting a warm welcome, but a familiar face would have been reassuring. Maybe, that was too much to expect. After all, I was but a humble postman.
I looked around but could not find any street signs or landmarks. Thick clouds covered the sky. I knew I had to hurry and find some shelter before the heavens opened. The village was famous for its heavy downpours. No one came there voluntarily. The previous postman, the man I was replacing, had disappeared. One fine morning, he stopped returning calls from the head office. They waited for a month and then sent me.
‘Do not go near the old graveyard,’ said my friend, ‘It has stories around it – bad stories.’
He told me tales about the village, which I had laughed away. The stories had passed hands the day my ex-colleague gave me a send-off. All that seemed a lifetime away.
In the distance, I saw a dim light and started walking towards it. The ground was slushy. I assumed it was from the previous day’s rains. Luckily I always travelled light. A suitcase and a holdall. One change of clothes and a lot of books. My entire life, packed in those two pieces of luggage!
As I neared the light source, I saw it came from inside a hut made of bamboo and mud. Rusted corrugated sheets pretended to be the roof on top. Big drops of rain started hitting me. I jumped inside the hut without waiting for an invitation. It seemed a wise move at the time as the sound of the raindrops drumming on the iron sheets on the roof began to increase. The light came from a hurricane lamp sitting precariously on a rotting wooden table. The glass on the lamp was covered in soot and was desperately in need of some cleaning.
“Sorry, it is a mess, but you have all the time in the world to clean it up.” The voice from behind made me jump. I dropped my things and turned around. It was a silver-haired man sitting cross-legged in a corner. I estimated him to be about seventy, but he could have been older. I had not seen him while entering.
“Is… is… this your house?” I said.
The man laughed. The laugh echoed around the room and seemed to come back from all corners. I thought that strange. An echo in such a small room? I did not have the time to follow up on my thoughts as my eye caught something written on the walls.
A sign on the wall spelt out “Post Office” in faded red and white.
“You must be joking! Is this the post office?”
Getting no response from the man, I turned around. There was no one in the corner. I looked around the room and found that I was alone. A nameless fear gripped me. I grabbed my bags and rushed towards the exit. Suddenly a gust of wind blew the door shut. I dropped my bags, grabbed the door handle and pulled with all my strength. The handle came clean out of the wooden frame. Another gust of wind blew the lamp out. The last thing I remember as I stood there in the pitch darkness was the sound of the man’s laughter echoing in the room.

The present future – a short story

The rocking at first was gentle. It only sent me deeper and deeper into sleep. Then the motion grew aggressive. Finally, I opened my eyes. The wall sought out the point of focus of my eyes and formed the image of a clock there. It was a clock with numbers. I never learnt how to read clock hands. No one expected me to. The world around us changed to our level of perception. Everyone grew up as the birthing tubes made them.
The clock said ten. Reading my mind, the player put out some music. It was soothing. The walls knew what I wanted. The walls always knew my tastes. It was all in the system, desires, thoughts, actions – all appended, calibrated and fine-tuned. It was a super-efficient system that thought for you. Instructions on what I had to do would play in my mind. There was no need to think, no wasting of time. The system thought for me. Life in the thirty-first century was easy.