Many Feats of 2020

The Dog We Stole is available for preorder!

In the middle of a minor family emergency that brought with it travel and a spell of quarantine, I turned 35 in November. In a year like 2020 when the world as we know it came to an end, I feel grateful to be alive and well. In a rare moment of clarity and friendliness, I wanted to share with you some of my accomplishments this year.

  • February: Along with my team, I organised City Scripts 2020—the three-day urban writings festival at IIHS. Pulling this off taught me that even without being a social person, anyone interested in planning and execution could pull off big events.
  • March: With 34 years behind me, I shaved my head. I’ve wanted to do it forever but I waited till it became clear that I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And there’s been no looking back.
  • April: Uncertainty and the lockdown brought with it a build up of nervous energy. I began with the simplest of team body project workout videos. I have kept it up, eating right and losing weight in the process.
  • August: I’m proud to have made the difficult decision to leave a job that I loved. I have often struggled with knowing the right time to let go. This decision really tested me.
  • October: I wrote my younger pup Pathumma’s biography (The Dog We Stole). It started as a fun project on my blog but turned into a 25 episode narrative that’s been read over a 1000 times.
  • November: I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I’ve known the storyline for many years now but I’ve not had the guts to put it on paper. *Drum roll* I started writing it (Every Thing We Are) as part of the novel writing month (#NaNoWriMo). 
  • December: The Dog We Stole is being published on 24 December 2020 as an ebook on Amazon Kindle/Mobile App in time for Christmas. (If you’re planning to gift this book, that option opens up once the book gets published.) It’s now available for preorder! Preorder The Dog We Stole

As I look ahead, I see a lot of writing in my future. But writers need readers. The traditional publishing route feels like running into a wall repeatedly. As a young writer I have a hard time finding new readers because I lack the legacy of previous works. That’s why I am turning to you for support.  

  1. Best support: Preorder The Dog We Stole now! And share the link with your friends.
  2. Next best thing: Sign up to get my writing in your inbox. It’s free!
  3. OR Follow me on instagram (@anjananju) to get updates.

Here’s wishing you and me the strength to make the most of 2021!

Happy holidays!

TDWS | E25: Out In The Real World

A baby no more

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

Annual work plans are so hopeful, aren’t they? They hide all the in-between months of sluggish hopelessness. While Pathu planned to take over the world as boss dog, the universe knew that she was going to be spayed. So did she in her heart of hearts. 

She has seen for herself how well we handle them both as adult humans. Skewed meal times, forgotten walks, delayed vet visits, lax grooming schedules. She knew that there was no way we could manage adding puppies to the mix.

As the night progressed, the rain grew heavier, pelting the streets with rubber bullets like a mob of plain clothed policemen.

Unknown to us, Pathu had gotten to the decision of sterilisation from a completely different angle. Pathu was born under the streets of bengaluru, quite literally in hell. It was a December evening in the city. Her mother, fully pregnant, had taken refuge in one of the storm water drains that surrounded the park, ready to deliver. The park would have offered a safer haven but her mother, with a belly full of babies, could not squeeze between the metal rods of the grilled compound wall to get in. In Bengaluru, parks behave strangely like some flowers, staying closed all day and all night, opening their gates barely for three hours at dawn and dusk. 

When she went into labour, it was raining outside. As the night progressed, the rain grew heavier, pelting the streets with rubber bullets like a mob of plain clothed policemen. A stream of water that had escaped the plastic blockade somewhere behind them, ran down the drain to her. She continued to lick her newborns clean, safe in the faith that Bengaluru rains were a blink and miss affair. Well, faith is not a scientific fact. Another five minutes in, her mother knew that she would have to leave the slowly filling drain.

Where could she go? She couldn’t think straight. Maybe to the store front where she slept occasionally? But that would be too cold for her babies. She needed somewhere dry. Maybe outside the ATM? But that was too far to venture with these infants. She would find a way as soon as she got them out of here. She had borne six little ones. She picked up two in her mouth and crept out, just as the all cleansing water god broke through the wall of plastic waste. 

Even as a puppy Pathu knew that she never wanted to have children. Not everyone is built to care for children. Most humans would count as examples. They make babies before they stop to think why. They were filling the planet up with two-legged dimwits who deny climate change and spread hate. 

She knew she wanted to get spayed as soon as it was possible. Pathu was happy when she met her minions because they looked like unstructured people who would definitely get her spayed. Also they didn’t have any children which was always a good sign. But then again, they had screwed up. No surprises there. But going on heat only strengthened Pathu’s conviction. She didn’t want to feel weird twice a year. It was her body after all. She would choose what it endured.

Pathu wanted me to clarify that she had nothing against children. She said and I quote, “I just didn’t want to have any come out of my body. Just like you say no to working with a bully or buying an unaffordable house on loan or marrying a person you barely know. Oh well, bad examples for humans I suppose.          

Infact, I’d be open to adoption, if it ever came up. There are so many orphaned pups in the world who would love a cosy home with well-mannered, subservient and cuddly humans. Instead of inbreeding dogs to create more bird-brained snouts with leaky guts and rotting ears, why not get yourself a smart and healthy Indian pariah like me?

You could send them to me and I’ll teach them a thing or two about the real world. Of course, they could add to their resumes with pride that they went to finishing school under the tutelage of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma.”

The End

Thank you for reading along on my first fiction series. This is series is soon going to become an ebook. I’ll keep you posted on that. Meanwhile, I plan to write another series as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting on 1 Nov. Hope you will follow along on that series as well by subscribing below.

TDWS | E24: Pathu Has An Action Bias

Don’t just sit there, do something!

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

As the new operations head, Pathu was going to make some tough decisions. Though the humans had veto as the majority stakeholders of this household, she was determined to make substantive changes. For one, she had to ensure a reliable revenue stream. Coding and communications were not real jobs and this wasn’t going to cut it! There weren’t enough treats coming through here. Neither were there enough outings. That simply had to change.

True to her role, Pathu has always had an action bias. Instead of labouring over something for epochs, she would, well, operationalise. Anything that needed fixing would be handled in subsequent versions. Perfection was a work in progress. She didn’t have to think much to realise the monetisable skills that she possessed.  

In the short term, she decided to turn her field notes on Echo into a pay-what-you-like ebook.  Though she had no faith in other beings, it showed the world that she believed in their goodness. Seeming altruistic always made you more money than being altruistic. She knew that her exhaustive research on the behavioural psychology of large hairy dogs was groundbreaking. Their lack of ambition and their inability to understand nuance, were only two of her incredible findings.

She would put her hard-won craft to good use with a workshop titled, ‘Puppy Eyes: The Art of Finding Your Own Signature Move’.

Why not publish as a paper in a leading humanities journal, you ask? Because they are all behind paywalls and as a free bleeding feminist, Pathu believes that it’s her moral responsibility to make sure that knowledge production is open and free for use. Humans, they like to think of themselves as intelligent but they have got all of it backwards! 

Within the end of the quarter, she planned to organise four workshops. She would put her hard-won craft to good use with a workshop titled, ‘Puppy Eyes: The Art of Finding Your Own Signature Move’. She would make her business species inclusive by extending her surveillance services to include clients from other species. Like the Shikra hawk on the neem tree across the street, that stares hard at something all afternoon. Pathu would provide a hawk-eyed solution to that problem. By the end of the next financial year, she would diversify. Dog humans were suckers for training. They love for their pups to pick up some ‘socialisation skills’ from older dogs. Since Echo couldn’t be bothered either way, Pathu would stake out this market. By then she would have built enough credentials to accept pups for apprenticeships.

Pathu sniggered as she thought of all the fun things she would teach the puppers. She would teach them ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘come’ as diversion tactics. Once the humans were floored by their good behaviour, she would teach them to play rough, pee in inconspicuous spots that staggered the stench and the delicate art of making anything a chew toy. The ‘real learning’ would obviously be surveillance. Truth be told, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. One needed to have a nose for these things.

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Next episode | E25: Out In the Real World

TDWS | E23: Pathu Is Dying

Pathu has been coned!

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

As many young girls do, the onset of periods made Pathu believe that she was dying. She was leaking from her chu-chu and her days were numbered. She even made Echo, her most trusted ally, check that this was the case by showing him her bum repeatedly. As always, not only was he not helpful, but he also made a tortured face that reminded Pathu of an assault victim.

Pathu had such lofty plans for her life. Plans fit for a queen. But now, they were all laid to waste. She wanted to sniff her way around the world, discover forbidden salty, sweet and spicy food from different cuisines and learn to play the jal tarang to distract the pigeons.

Pathu, never one to despair, knew that this was an opportunity for self-discovery. With limited time on her hands, she had to make something of herself before life leaked out of her vagina. Laying luxuriously on the human’s king-sized bed while he was safely secured in the bathroom, Pathu dreamt of a career she could excel in.

But for Pathu, surveillance was simply a passion. Something she did for leisure. She enjoyed it too much for it to be work.

She would be excellent at surveillance, of course. With her relentless notetaking and impeccably keen eye for detail, she could make a mark in this field in a relatively short time. But for Pathu, surveillance was simply a passion. Something she did for leisure. She enjoyed it too much for it to be work. Pathu knew that work had to be something that brought in good money and something that she only vaguely enjoyed doing. That way work would be challenging enough not to bore her.

As Pathu stared at the humans’ dinner, willing a piece of carrot to get up from its juicy bed of cucumber slices and fly through the air into her mouth, it struck her. She would be a wet waste recycler! As an advocate for climate change action, this would be the perfect job for Pathu. She loved going through garbage. The humans waste so much edible food. This apple is too brown, this chapati is too old, this curry died in the fridge. The garbage bin was a heavenly buffet of sorts. She loved eating vegetable and fruit peels, leftover rice with or without condiments and meat bones. Yummy! She was sold on this option when she saw the human dump a load of coffee grounds into the bin. “Urgh. No way! I cannot work with coffee grounds. Thanks but no thanks!”

Next day, like an alarm, Pathu woke up on time and supremely agitated. She had stayed up late thinking of other options—a voice trainer, a high jump coach, an apparel model, an acting coach, a twerking champion—but nothing seemed right. She woke up her wayward humans and barked at them till they fed her. She made sure Echo got his daily brain activity by doing circles around him and forcing him to play with her. She was settling into another great day of surveillance, and boom!

Of course, it had been before her eyes all along. How could she have missed this? How could she have been so blind? She would become the operations head. She was always overseeing these buffoons. She made sure that this household worked without glitches. From screening visitors, to round the clock surveillance, to deciding timelines, to building processes and even taking care of their garbage. Begum Pathu, the Chief Operation Officer. It had a ring to it, didn’t it? She was a natural fit.

Pleased with herself, Pathu waited for the clock to strike 11.30 am to make sure everyone took a tea break!

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Next episode | E24: Pathu Has An Action Bias

TDWS | E22: Pathu The Free Bleeder

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

Just when life began playing in technicolour, Pathu began her first period. On day one, we were as perplexed by this as she was. She was tense around Echo. She was also a weird mix of jumpy, cranky and inexplicably mellow. Much intense googling later, in true city-zen style, we ordered diapers online. This was akin to sending word to the police via snail mail during a robbery. Well, cleaning up after a free bleeder is no fun. In no time, we accepted defeat by pulling on some pants and dashing off in search of dog diapers.

Panicked, we also called the vet. Three dogs in, he is used to our panicked telephony by now. However, he was helpless. She could not be neutered until the end of heat. And you will never guess how long dogs stay in heat: upto 21 days. This was going to be a long haul.

The Begum loved attention but only when she wanted to cuddle or find a warm spot on our lap or during meal times. Otherwise she hated us fussing over her, trying to clean her ears or giving her a bath. And Pathu being on heat sent us off the cliff. We were helicopter parents, annoyances on steroids. 

It drove Pathu to her wit’s end. Her endocrine system was on fire, shooting her up with a heady cocktail of period hormones. She didn’t understand exactly what was happening to her. Why was she twerking in Echo’s face? Yes, she loved making him uncomfortable but she’d never before felt the urge to grab his attention like this. Hmmm, she was at a loss. 

Poor Pathu! She had no way of knowing that she was barking up the wrong tree with Echo. He was neutered just like she was going to be.

In the first few days of heat, Pathu was confused by her body. “I don’t want to wear this nasty contraption”, she said, pulling out her diapers. Within an hour of wearing a new diaper, she would pee in it. Or rip a hole in its bottom or take it off. Taking yet another step towards turning into my mother, I took to routinely reminding Pathu that diapers don’t grow on trees. 

Pathu took to standing in the balcony with her nose to the railing, participating in their argument.

By the time we were 15 days in, Pathu knew that we would break if she pushed us any further. So she turned to our neighbour.

Our apartment occupies a corner of the building. While we have an aerial view of the ninepins in the bungalow opposite, we have a window display of the apartment next door. A slice of their lives, a variety show if you will. 

In one of the windows that face us, lives a woman who routinely fights with a male member of her household. There is usually a lot of shouting involved, especially during the beautiful dusk hours as the day turns. Pathu took to standing in the balcony with her nose to the railing, participating in their argument. She would add her voice in solidarity just as the woman began making her point. As the argument heated up their blood, Pathu barked louder to match the woman. When the woman stopped, so did Pathu. I began involuntarily holding my breath as though that would stop the lady from ringing our doorbell and showering me with some of that choice loudness.

Soon, we imposed a 5 pm curfew on Pathu being in the balconies.

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Next Episode | E23: Pathu Is Dying

TDWS | E21: Pathu And Indigo In Food Heaven

Begum on her throne

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

With every subsequent meeting with Indigo, Pathu was inching closer to meeting her friendship goals. For instance, now Indigo talked to Pathu first before addressing Echo—a big achievement. Once, Indigo even took a picture of Pathu as she sat regally on her cane chair throne. A keepsake! Isn’t that the true mark of friendship? Another time, Indigo offered her Oreo biscuits under the table when the humans were distracted. With the cream filling, can you imagine? The humans never shared any of their good food with Pathu. They reserved for Pathu bland, tasteless crap. 

Pathu had, of course, offered Indigo many gifts during the course of their relationship. But the real upward mobility of their friendship came when Indigo brought her a gift, one rainy evening. Indigo had made Goli bajje to celebrate the rain. These golden, deep fried dough balls smelled like the heaven of Pathu’s dreams. “I’ve brought you something special”, said Indigo when Pathu’s nose led her to the dining table. Indigo promptly gave her the first Goli bajje out of the pack.

Pathu could not believe the speed at which their relationship was gaining traction. Early the next morning, the humans were up and about. Early morning human activity always puts Pathu on high alert. She has come to learn that this either means a visit to the hell the humans call hospital or in the least, a shift from scheduled programming. Pathu did not like this one bit. She liked to wake them up every morning with her noisy pacing and muttering.

The car stopped beside the most amazing smell in the world.

In no time, the humans got ready, Pathu was made to eat-pee-poop and was bundled into the car. On the street, Pathu spotted her soon-to-be best friend in another car. Pleased with this turn of events, Pathu sat up happier on her throne in my lap on the passenger side. As Indigo drove off leading the way, Pathu imagined herself sitting in that car, on a mini vacay with her friend.

The car stopped beside the most amazing smell in the world. Of fresh, hot dosas bathing in butter. As was routine now, Indigo did not forget to come over to Pathu and wave at her. She was introduced to Indigo’s human who asked, “have they eaten?” Pathu liked him immediately because a human with oota questions is a human you can trust. Also, any friend of Indigo’s was a friend of hers too. 

The humans took their time in the food heaven. When they came out, they were visibly exhausted from all the eating. She smelt masala dosa, chow chow bath, puri, uddin vada and filter coffee on them.

As she populated the excel sheet of their food intake, Pathu saw a parcel with Indigo’s human. As he approached the car, Indigo took the packet from him and opened it up. It had two warm, soft idlis like clouds from heaven. Indigo broke them up into smaller pieces and offered them to Pathu. Pathu accepted the offering and knighted Indigo, her best friend.

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Next Episode | E22: Pathu The Free Bleeder

TDWS | E20: A Trick Up Her Sleeve

A Trick Up Her Sleeve

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

It’s relatively easy to come to the realisation that one must apply oneself. But the actual process of applying oneself is pretty painful and unintuitive. But Pathu was determined to change. By day she took notes on Echo and by night, she practiced her lessons on the humans at dinner time.

When she felt her confidence ebb, she went back to the first exercise she had conducted on Echo. Without ever leaving the house, she had mapped their entire neighbourhood simply by observing 8 data points on Echo’s body. Each time he returned from a walk, Echo collapsed in a heap as if he had just run cross country. Country fellow! She would then proceed to meticulously collect data from all four of his paws, the length of his tail, the tip of his nose, his pee and poop holes. Sometimes, when he let her, she also parsed data from his ears. Additional data was collected from the human who went on the walk. On days when Indigo’s friendship felt like an impossible dream, this incredible feat of personal initiative gave Pathu the confidence to go on.

At dinner time, Pathu begins to sit on her mat without being asked. She waits her turn for dinner table scraps, even though they mostly never come. Once in a while, she practices her eyebrow flicks and is immediately rewarded by the humans. She is careful not to misuse her superpower. Not yet, at least. In the afternoons, she sits on her chair in the kitchen watching Akka wash dishes. When Akka drinks her coffee, Pathu moves closer and sits on the door mat. And soon enough, Akka sends a cucumber piece Pathu’s way.

The next time Indigo turns up, Pathu is prepared. She is not as good as Echo yet at containing her excitement. But when Indigo calls out her name, she brings her best wag. She wills her tail to wag vigorously, putting the latter half of her body at risk of detaching from the rest of her body. Once everyone is seated, Pathu brings out her secret trick. 

She sits on her cane chair throne opposite Indigo and presents, the powerful sidelong glance filled with cynicism, hope, judgement and love. 

“If this works”, Pathu tells herself, “I’ll make this my signature move”. Standing by her reflection on the glass-walled bookshelf, Pathu has practiced this look to perfection. Pathu has learned from her fieldnotes, that Echo does not have a signature look. She plans to capture this market. She sits on her cane chair throne opposite Indigo and presents, the powerful sidelong glance filled with cynicism, hope, judgement and love. 

Indigo laughs out loud. “Did you see that?”. She asks the humans but Pathu knows that she has nailed the trick. In a flash, she is by Indigo’s side, ignoring the humans and their ‘down Pathus’. And before anyone can stop her, Pathu plants a big, wet, slurpy lick on Indigo’s face. Indigo’s laugh rings out again, music to Pathu’s ears. She says, “Pathu, you can kiss me on the mask as much as you want, I love it!”

And in that moment Pathu knows that she is well on her way to making Indigo her best friend!

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As we end this week, I have some news. With Episode 25 at the end of next week, I will be wrapping up this series. Thanks in advance to everyone for reading along.

Next Episode | E21: Pathu And Indigo In Food Heaven

TDWS | E19: How To Win Friends

A successful human interaction

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

Pathu has always been a dog with a plan. She was determined to acquire Indigo’s best friendship. She decided to take notes on successful human interaction from her bumbling brown brother, Echo. Pathu took out a brand new notebook and jotted down her name and age. Subject: How to make a new best friend.

The most convenient research environment was of course with Selvi Akka. Every afternoon when Akka knocked on the door lightly in the dead of our post-lunch snooze, Echo ran up to the front door barking as if a crime had been committed. But when the door actually opened, he dialed down his excitement of seeing Akka. He didn’t discard it though. He simply transferred it to his tail which wagged like a windmill that could power a small village. He then began a dance set to an inaudible yet jaunty tune, stepping forward and backward till she acknowledged him, petted him profusely and showered him with many ‘good boys’. 

Pathu highlighted in neon that sitting (especially when not asked to) always made humans happy.

When Akka drank coffee, Echo sat at a respectable distance but stared at the mug all the way to her mouth and back so that the mug never felt lonely. And on days when Akka ate a snack or chopped vegetables, this patient waiting always got him a treat. Pathu highlighted in neon that sitting (especially when not asked to) always made humans happy.

One of the first tricks that she learned by observing Echo was the magic of eyebrows. She saw first hand how a miniscule flick of Echo’s eyebrows melted the human heart. Of course, Echo did not employ any nuance in when and how he used it. But Pathu could think of a couple of use cases from her life where this trick would come in handy. For example, whenever she gets busted with her head in a dustbin or that time when she was caught eating a giant slab of cheese from the fridge or even when she had bitten through an unopened tube of ointment. This magic trick could easily get her out of all these tricky situations. 

Before two weeks of fieldwork were up, Indigo returned one evening without notice. Pathu had no time to mentally prepare for this meeting. Also, Indigo was carrying something forbidden in a brown bag: a chocolate cake! The delectable smell of this illicit substance is the last thing Pathu remembers. When she comes to, she is being restrained again. She is also being reprimanded for assaulting at Indigo. And where’s Echo in all this, you ask? He is sitting next to Indigo, receiving some enviable petting. 

“Enough is enough! This is no way to make a best friend”, thought Pathu. 

“I must really apply myself!”

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Next Episode | E20 | A Trick Up Her Sleeve

TDWS | E18: Middle Name—Disruptor

Middle Name—Disruptor

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

From the patterns of their berserk behaviour, it was deduced that the bread seller visits on Tuesdays and Fridays. And now that I have an explanation for their behaviour, they get special treats on those days. Mostly a scraped coconut shell with islands of leftover white flesh. Or the largest carrots in the pack. This is of course in addition to their usual treats of chicken feet and quail heads. With Echo and Pathu becoming great friends, I worried that my stories would run dry. But I shouldn’t have worried. There is never a dull moment with these two. Especially Pathu. Recently I learned that Pathu has a secret grouse.

Everyday they meet Selvi Akka who is definitely more family than friend. And since both of them came to us during the Covid lockdown, they don’t have any real friends. At least that’s what Pathu had imagined. But that’s before she met Indigo Udupa!

While we were finalising the new house, Pathu and Echo stayed in the car, giving the world a sense of the fireworks to expect. Then one Saturday morning, Pathu was prepping her chords to start recital when we brought them along with us to the house. The house had newly come into our possession and was subsequently, empty. Echo and Pathu ran from room to room, sniffing the new coat of paint liberally, getting high.

Pathu, never one to back down, made a split-second decision to act friendly with this human. Sadly, she overdid it.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. When it opened, Indigo Udupa stepped in and Echo sped across the room towards her, jumping like a colt and acting unsteady as though his limbs were made of jelly. She didn’t seem to be bothered by this giant slab of uneatable chocolate. They seemed to know each other very well! “Hello, my friend”, Indigo greeted him. Pathu was livid. “You have another best friend that I don’t know of?”, she turned to Echo. But Echo was beside himself with joy to answer her. Pathu, never one to back down, made a split-second decision to act friendly with this human. Sadly, she overdid it.

All Pathu wanted was for Indigo to be her friend too. But in her eagerness she scratched Indigo, tried to kiss her and nibbled on her ears. Little did Pathu know that these were all considered  inappropriate in the human world. Pathu was promptly restrained before she could unleash another assault. Meanwhile, Echo lay down like a life-sized teddy bear, next to where Indigo sat on the floor. He framed his face between his front paws and let his face melt onto the floor in his cutest pose. Indigo continued to pet him as she joined the nonsensical human conversation about the state of the nation.

Now Pathu really wanted this ‘best friend’. She turned green with envy but could not think of how to make this happen. Envy whispered in her ear, “Never mind about the solution. You know what to do for the time being. Just don’t hesitate.” Without another second’s delay, Pathu squatted and peed right there in the middle of their conversation. If she couldn’t ‘franship’ Indigo, she wouldn’t let anyone else ‘franship’ her either. Disruptor was her middle name.

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Next Episode | E19: How To Win Friends

TDWS | E17: A Quiet Street Flows North

Pathu is busy making notes on her Mr. P. Rao beat.

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.

In the world outside our balcony, beyond the tree, nonchalant Mr. P. Rao and the quiet street flowing north towards a deadend, lies a bungalow from the 1900s. There, in the bungalow where the past hides, live many kinds of tails attached to dogs. I’ve counted nine when the house owner, a man in his sixties, takes one of them along on his daily morning walks.

There is Little Lily, the white one with faint cream patches and the classic upturned tail. Look at her wade up the street in elegant, easy strokes all the way to the main road. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Tuxedo Parade, a quartet of black dogs with insignificant splashes of white on their tails. They are practicing their tightrope stunt along the low compound wall that’s given up on life, and sways like a drunkard under their weight. The Brown Sugar Siblings, Jaggery, Molasses and Demerara are what your mother warned you about. They behave like junkies, dangerously impulsive and yet enviably carefree. Their tails tell tales of fights lost and won. Finally, there is Pirate, the three-legged tailless German Shepherd who has retired from a lifetime of adventure.

Our balcony and the bungalow stand facing each other, desperate like lovers on either banks of this peaceful street. The sharp silence of the tarred street breaks each time someone veers off the main road into this cul-de-sac. Little Lily is at her station by the lamp post where the street joins the main road. With the incoming movement detected, she runs back to the house to alert the pack. At this point, Pathu is busy making notes on her Mr. P. Rao beat. Before Little Lily can reach her peeps, from the vantage point on our balcony, Pathu is the first to sound the alarm. But Echo is curled up under the human’s work table, dreaming of dehydrated neck discs of beef. And he is not keen to be the first to react. He waits for the momentum to build before moving a muscle.   

Meanwhile, Little Lily has gone up and over the compound wall though most of the crew is already out on the street. The Tuxedo Parade has lined up on the precarious compound wall. The Brown Sugar Siblings are charging up the street, unmindful of the nature of the problem. Pirate opens the gate and walks out peacefully, to be present when the problem presents itself. Little Lily, having informed everyone concerned, unable to contain her thrill, pole vaults over the wall and lets out a final call. That’s when Echo switches on. From his spot under the human’s table where he is warming his bum, he leaps out, sending the human’s laptop, table lamp and work screen into a giggling fit. He picks up pace running towards Little Lily’s voice, fur raised like a porcupine and a bark gurgling up his snout, ready to be released. 

When he hears Echo and Pathu deliver their duet, he looks up at our balcony to see the new entrants in the sky.

The scooter is fitted with a steel trunk painted green. The driver wears a green plaid flat cap. The bread and baked goods seller who turned the corner is in the least affected by their cacophony. He goes about his business as usual. The slow rhythmic whir of his two-wheeler suggests that he knows that these are just dogs protecting their territory. When he hears Echo and Pathu deliver their duet, he looks up at our balcony to see the new entrants in the sky. He stops to wave at them before offering up baked treats to the ninepins. The sky siblings go berserk with anticipation.

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Next Episode | E18: Middle Name—Disruptor