TDWS | E4: A Goat Dog

How dare you disobey me?

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. This is the fourth episode of the series. Read E1, E2 and E3 before reading further.

We thought there wasn’t a better name for her than Her Majesty Begum Pathumma (paa-tum-ma) alias Pathu. There were a couple of reasons behind choosing this name. 

The first memory of our meeting stood out like a goat in a raintree. Pathu used her spindly legs not only to jump but also to kick with an unwarranted vengeance. Like an olympian goat Pathu jumped over the coffee table onto the couch as I tried in vain to catch her. In doing that, she made our white and blue ceramic lamp shade quite dizzy with her agility. She pinched our laidback couch with her sharp nails and made him wince.

Her action sequence reminded me of Basheer’s novel Pathummayude Aadu, about his sister’s goat that had a free reign in his house, eating anything in sight including his noted works. Pathu too ate anything that her mouth encountered. Many articles that we considered uneatable fell prey to her sly snacky appetite. Among these newly discovered eatables, she preferred snacks priced over Rs 2000 and in pairs. We were no match for her skill when she found and devoured a pair of spectacles, a pair of earphones and a pair of back covers of Unni R’s stories. As a legally bound pair of humans, we shuddered at the thought of Begum’s snacktime ending our lives. 

Her displeasure would curl her lips downwards, making a tunnel of her snout.

Another reason for calling her Pathumma was that she reminded us of a grumpy old woman. Pathu was a feisty one. If she did not get what she wanted, or felt wronged, which was most of the time, she would pace around you in a semicircle, staring you down with judging eyes making accusatory noises that were unlike any dog we had previously met. Her displeasure would curl her lips downwards, making a tunnel of her snout. Her one foot high body would then produce a long, high-pitched yodel to the tune of, ‘How dare you disobey me? Who made you my minion? Minister, burn this one at the stake and get me a new one’.

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Next Episode | E5: Pathu Has A Brother

The Dog We Stole | E3: All Okay

Couldn’t hurt a fly!

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. This is the third episode of the series. Read E1: A Sunday in June and E2: A possessed teenager before reading further.

As the narrator, I could take the liberty to say that we did our due diligence finding her parents. But that would be a thick coat of lies over the knowledge that we were going to keep her. Rewind to Sunday when we found her. When we interrupted tea to go meet Her Majesty, we had had a discussion. An indie dog is unlikely to be claimed. Okay? Okay. 

An indie dog is unlikely to be claimed. Okay? Okay. 

Since it was Sunday, he took her to CUPA’s Animal Hospital to get her checked out. Her leg was not broken but her fever was from an infection. The vet had sent her home with a cone to keep her from licking her wounds. She was around 6 months old. I arranged this jigsaw of information into a poster with her photo. The giant cone around her slim neck resembled an avant garde ruff. She walked around like a drunk ruffian. In the cone she had little peripheral vision in this strange house. She banged into furniture and scraped the walls as she walked.   

We circulated the poster in two community WhatsApp groups and a facebook group. Why did we trust the efficiency of English posters without question? Did we really think that we would find in our WhatsApp circle, the person who had used laundry rope as a leash? Now that you have a peek into our privilege, you know how hard we tried. After a week of that charade, we asked a dog rescuer to help place her for adoption. Meanwhile, we named this dog we stole, Her Majesty Begum Pathumma.

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Next Episode | E4: A Goat Dog

The Dog We Stole | E2: A Possessed Teenager

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. This is the second episode of the series. Read E1: A Sunday in June before reading further.

The scurrying dog turned out to be a female indie pup with beaglesque ears. A scared yet friendly little pup who belonged to someone. She had a metal link collar with a bright green plastic rope used for laundry lines around her neck. She had hurt her hind leg and was limping as if it were broken. Of course we assumed it was broken. After all that’s the most common injury you see in street dogs. Have you ever stopped to think why that’s the commonest injury? It’s because they are hit while they are trying to run away. Humans are the absolute worst. I should get a t-shirt made. While I concerned myself with merchandising my thoughts, our hearts were turning to puddle. She was so trusting that she ate the biscuits we gave, sat with us for a bit and then came right home with us.

Once she got home all hell broke loose. She ran around the house like a possessed teenager. We tried to contain her but then decided against it. I sat on the ground, my heart weak and leaking into my organs. My sense of cleanliness that I had misplaced once our house help had been sent on paid leave thanks to the pandemic, popped its ugly head out of the kitchen. How long is this creature going to be around, she asked. Do you know how long she has been on the streets? Or where her legs have been? Are you going to allow her on the couch? I was channeling my nastiest response when I felt a warmth in my lap. 

Her legs had pulled up their white ankle socks of fur like a renewal of her faith.

The little runner had finished her marathon practice and was climbing into my lap. She sat down, positioning her head in the crook of my arm, as if she had done this many times before. She was warm, running a fever. But it felt like her glossy, caramel coat would always be warm to the touch. I stroked her milky white snout and forehead as her eyes fell asleep. She was shaking. I applauded her bravery with even strokes to her pure white belly. Her legs had pulled up their white ankle socks of fur like a renewal of her faith. I stroked them for good measure. And there we sat in the middle of the room, watching her sleep.

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Next Episode | E3: All Okay

The Dog We Stole | E1: A Sunday in June

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. This is the first episode of the series.

It was a Sunday evening in June. Sometime during the Covid Lockdown, evening tea had become our ritual. Work had grown between us like vegetation. Untended. It had spilled over beyond daylight, toppling dishes on the lunch table, climbing up the tall promise of evenings and extending its tendrils well into the crevices of the night. We barely saw each other. We slept at different times, ate separately and lived separate lives under one roof.

Once we realised that something needed to be done to save time from the transgressions of work, we set things in motion. First, both of us marked time on our calendars for tea. 4.30 pm was to be sacrosanct. Then we decided on the garden chairs and table in the balcony overlooking the raintree as the venue and cleaned it up. To make teatime more of an occasion, we began indulging in elaborate snacks. At 4.30 pm sharp, we would head out to our balcony with our mugs of tea and sundal or roasted peanuts or poha or upma and sit there talking about our day, judging people who were out and about, ignoring the pandemic.

She worked her way down to our cold hearts, warming them, sprouting the idea that we are the society we often accuse of being apathetic.

It was during one such teatime that we noticed a dog scurrying up and down our lane, as if in search of something. From our perch upon the branches of the grand old raintree, the dog seemed to be limping and scared. It’s tail in between its legs, its head hanging lower, it was looking back repeatedly with an unmistakable hurry in its steps. Like proper city people, we ignored it all through tea time. As you know, in the city, if you see something, it becomes your problem. As composed as we were about ignoring this dog, the tea we drank had other plans for us. She worked her way down to our cold hearts, warming them, sprouting the idea that we are the society we often accuse of being apathetic. And just like that, our sacrosanct tea time was unceremoniously cut short. Armed with the bravery that now coursed through our veins, we grabbed a supply of Marie biscuits and water and headed down for the rescue.

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Next Episode | E2: A Possessed Teenager