TDWS | E11: This Is An Intervention

Hello World!

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

Hello world! Begum Pathumma here. And this is an intervention. I feel that I have not been represented well enough by this narrator. She has portrayed me as a cute little puppy with gravity defying ears and cute mannerisms. Be that as it may, I am primarily a fierce warrior who knows how to get her way in this human world. I don’t understand what is with humans and infantilising female individuals. The good fight cannot be won unless all female kind unite. And when I try to tell her this, she thinks I am behaving like a grumpy old woman and tries to videotape me!

First things first, she has no right to be writing my biography. She has no right to be a self-appointed representative of my truth. And she certainly should not be calling me ‘beaglesque’. It is 2020 and this kind of name calling is insensitive and in bad taste. How dare she!

Human, here’s what I want you to say about me. Start with, “there is something else you need to know about Pathu. She is not The Begum for nothing. She never sits on the floor. Ever. She stands or paces, if a suitable seat is not available. If the situation is not rectified to her liking and on time, Pathu will proceed to make her displeasure known and demand action. She never slouches. She sits up straight on her throne with her head held high. 

We have no doubt that she is the queen bee of this hive.

The night we got her, we made a makeshift bed for her. With enviable confidence, she fought Echo valiantly and conquered his bed. Echo is over thrice Pathu’s size. Her other victories include the Battle of the Carpet which ended in the killing of the psycho duck toy that squeaked. In record time, she has also single handedly cornered the lap market, establishing her monarchy. No other living being, dog, child or person, is allowed on any of the laps in the house at any time. By now, you know about her stellar EQ. Her IQ is so high that she has the entire neighbourhood mapped without ever having stepped out. She has managed this by analysing 8 data points on Echo’s body, post his daily walks. We have no doubt that she is the queen bee of this hive.”

Manipulating this human is child’s play compared to the bloody battles I’ve fought and won. I will now let her go on with the little plot she has planned out for you.

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Next Episode | E12: Humans Say, No Means Yes

TDWS | E9: Pathu’s Pee Protest

Thinking through the plan of action

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

“I am mad at being left alone at home with this useless big fellow. Not only are they denying me the right to go outside because I am still getting my vaccines, I am being told off for peeing where I want. Apparently, one does not pee in the house. One has to pee on a newspaper in the balcony or hold it in all day like that furry shithead. When they heard that he had peed on the staircase, they had applauded his audacity. But when I do the same thing?” The monologue in Pathu’s head was riling her up. 

Without much ado, Pathu peed right by the main door. The strategic position of the pee ensured that upon our return we would definitely step in it. She then proceeded to daintily dip all her paws ever so slightly in it and walk around the house. She knew exactly why this would trouble me. I would worry that we didn’t know for sure where all her pee-dipped paws had travelled and proceed to clean the entire house. But first she walked right up to Echo who had gone back to sleep with not a care in the world. Casually, she walked a circle around him. It had the desired effect. Like a spring-loaded male Labrador, he sprung up as if a grave injustice had occurred and leapt across the living room to Pathu’s tiny pee puddle. Lifting his leg with the grace of an entitled man, he let out his virulent stream with pride.

…she knew how to use subversion as a tool of resistance.

Pathu’s calculations were on point. She had assumed, rightly so, that her pee protest and Echo’s involvement would have given us enough time to walk away from the building after having waited around for her separation anxiety to manifest. Little did we know the drama that was going on upstairs. We were 87 steps away from home when she took a deep breath and began her wail in a sharp glass-shattering falsetto. As a politically aware dog in this oppressed society where women were expected to sing in a falsetto, she knew how to use subversion as a tool of resistance.

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Next Episode | E10: Fruits Of Her Labour

TDWS | E8: Where Houses Are Hunted

Pathu’s joy was short-lived

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

But Pathu’s joy was short-lived. While all of us feasted on an entire slab of ice cream later in the evening, to Pathu’s utter dismay, we were informed that Echo had also done us proud. He had peed against the staircase on the ground floor. A pulsating waterfall of pee had fallen head-first onto step number one of the staircase. On impact some of it had transformed into a rainbow-inducing vapour of ammonia and sprayed onto the doormat that lived outside apartment 103. The remaining urine had formed a river of peaceful protesters and proceeded to walk down the stairs to the basement in single file. Within the hour, the lobby to our building smelt like a public toilet. Echo had managed a more public and visible token of dissent. The excuse of ‘she’s a pup’ that we had used for the earlier incident, did not stand for this large adult male dog. The association decided to take his anarchist act rather seriously.

Miffed as she was about not being taken seriously, Pathu was not one to back down. She waited for an opportunity to take revenge on her humans. 

To Pathu’s mind, their protests were against the RWA for having added a byelaw that required us and other dog owners to pay an unofficial ‘pet fee’ in addition to the monthly maintenance. As young professionals who live happily in a bubble, we valued our peace of mind more than money. We were willing to pay a fee if it meant we could avoid confrontation. But once we paid up, our landlord decided to sell the flat and informed us that we would have to move out. We had never left Echo or Pathu alone at home but now it seemed unavoidable. Thus began a season of house hunting.  

On the first house hunt, our target was merely 200 metres away. We shut the door behind us, waited outside the door nervously and then took the lift to the ground floor. From her hyperactivity when she saw us get ready to step out, we assumed that Pathu would bark and make a scene. We walked to the gate sending our ears up to look for a sign of distress. But not a peep was heard.

He stared at us as if we were crazy to doubt our angelic catholic-school attending dogs.

We informed the watchman that we would not take more than half an hour and to call us if the dogs barked. He stared at us as if we were crazy to doubt our angelic catholic-school attending dogs. Them? Bark? Never! His expression told us off. Just to be sure, we waited outside the building for another five minutes. Eventually, proud that our parenting had worked wonders on our wards, we shuffled our feet away from home.

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Next Episode | E9: Pathu’s Pee Protest

TDWS | E7: Who’s A Good Boy?

Who’s A Good Boy?

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

Echo watched for a very short time, the human playing with Pathu. ‘I love being chased. Why should she have all the fun? I am bigger and more fun than her. And I came first. So I have more claims on the human. I should join this game’, thought Echo emphatically. Even as she zigzagged between the morose pillars holding up the basement, Pathu knew what Echo was thinking. Before Pathu could say, ‘You idiot! He is here to take us back’, Echo was running towards the human.

But that big loser! I don’t know why I thought he was a feminist ally who stood for freedom.

With Echo in the mix, their capture was imminent. Pathu knew this because Echo was conditioned by society to follow human commands. Where she ignored their lousy calls to ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘no’, Echo was the obedient sort—a good boy! When asked to obey, Pathu simply stared back at us with her large marble eyes and acted like she didn’t understand this language we were speaking in—kannada gothilla. And continued to do whatever it was that they had not approved of. ‘But that big loser! I don’t know why I thought he was a feminist ally who stood for freedom. Why did I have to include him in my plan? He just wants to please the man. I could have been free’, Pathu grumbled in anger.  

When they were brought back to the apartment, both of them looked defeated but he was grinning ear to ear. The Begum had done us proud. During her little escapade, she had left a pile of shit outside the door right below us. There lived one of those vile creatures who hate dogs. Other than being nasty, he was also the secretary of the Resident Welfare Association aka RWA, making our lives difficult with his anti-dog rules on the daily. The rules were not really enforceable but it made for many staircase confrontations and strenuous conversations. Though we cleaned up after her, we grinned all evening, praising our puppy’s emotional intelligence and sense of justice. Pathu was definitely a keeper. Who wouldn’t want a posh pup who stands up against patriarchy and its arbitrary rules with all ten kilos of her might?

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Next Episode | E8: Where Houses Are Hunted

TDWS | E6: The Search Mission

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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

As he trundled down the stairs stopping at each floor to double check if our wards were hiding in the shadows, panic quit pacing and sat down, politely hinting at refreshments. Echo is your puppy baby but do you realise that he is a big, brown dog to others? He couldn’t even manage to defend his spot on the couch from his tiny sister but strangers don’t know that! How would he survive in the world outside? You’ve not got a name tag on Pathu yet. How will she be found? Most importantly, where would they go? They don’t get along even under supervision!

As panic continued to peel my confidence and reveal my nerves, another scene was unfurling outside. When his meticulous search operation reached the ground floor, a sound came running up the stairs from the basement. He had never believed that all three of us knew he was home before he opened the door because we could identify the jingling of his key bunch when he locked the car in the street. But here it was, the unmistakable bell-like metallic ting of Echo’s name tag chiming against his collar. 

Pathu hid, tiptoed and then ran across the parking lot like a single thread drizzle of caramel sauce.

When he got to the basement the siblings were playing hide and seek among the cars. The cars smiled sheepishly, scratched their heads and avoided eye contact. Pathu was the first one to spot him. She clearly didn’t understand the rules of engagement here. Neither did she understand any of our commands. She walked over wagging not just her wispy dyslexic ‘C’ of a tail, but the entire lower half of her body. She must have assumed he was there to play with them. Because when he bent down to get a hold of her, she proceeded to step back, theatrically bang her front legs on the floor, lowering her upper body in a dramatised downward dog and running in the opposite direction, hoping he would follow. In the joy of having found them safe, follow her he did. He weaved between the parked cars, as they egged him on. Pathu hid, tiptoed and then ran across the parking lot like a single thread drizzle of caramel sauce. He followed like a man who had unexpectedly found his kidnapped children without much effort.

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Next Episode | E7: Who’s A Good Boy?

TDWS | E5: Pathu Has A Brother

Hello World!

The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. This is the fifth episode of the series. Read E1, E2, E3 and E4 before reading further.

Entitlement was her scent of choice, surrounding her in a whiff of superiority. Pathu walked with her head held high and a spring in her steps. The way she swung her hips, you knew that she knew she was beautiful. Grown men including her vet swooned over her shiny caramel coat and the artistry of the white markings on her face. Meanwhile, our indecision paled in comparison to her composure. The dog rescuer had found us a prospective adoptee. They were looking for a six month old female indie pup. What were the odds? However, before we were forced to make a choice regarding Her Majesty, a Covid case was detected in their building. They were out of commission and unable to travel for a fortnight. We retreated into the comfort of our indecision.

This is a good time as any to introduce Echo. No one would believe this. Not even the both of them. But Echo is Pathu’s elder brother. They act like living under the same roof is the biggest injustice of their lives. But it’s true. They are siblings. Echo is a big, friendly fellow who is quiet and well-mannered. Well, until when he is not! He has been known to be goofy, aggressive and wilful. Essentially Echo is a glossy dark chocolate cake with a surprise raspberry ganache. But that’s another biography all together. If Pathu knew that I was writing about him in her biography, she would make a snack of me for sure.

Echo! Pathu! I wasn’t sure if Pathu even knew her name.

A long day of work had us in its clutches. I was hanging from an online event and he was being strangled by the octopus digits of an endless call. Around dusk, someone rang the bell prompting a short canine duet from our brood. As I was video-trapped, he extricated himself to open the door. The sequence of events following this is still a mystery to us. Over an hour later, my event let me go and I came out of my room to find the main door wide open. The dogs were nowhere in sight. I called out for them in vain. Echo! Pathu! I wasn’t sure if Pathu even knew her name. I shouted for him. We panicked together. Rain and the raintree were having a stormy argument outside. He ran out of the house in search. The dog we stole has made a dash for freedom with her brother in tow.

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Next Episode | E6: The Search Mission

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