TDWS | E16: A Dying Breed of Rationalists

A surveillance state

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

Echo and Pathu left from home as sworn enemies but returned as best friends. Since I believe in magic and he believes in ‘packets landing in buckets’ we didn’t question the whys and hows of this miracle. Understandably, as cynics we are amazed at this unimaginable transformation. For the first week or so we don’t believe that they have actually become friends. We wait patiently for ‘normalcy’ to return. 

Meanwhile, if I call either one of them, they have begun turning up together! They sit next to each other on the couch peacefully, respect each other’s playthings and share custody of us amicably. But it is when we see them do things together that our faith in the indescribable is restored. 

Their idea of quality time spent together is chasing Mr Parivala Rao, the pigeon. It’s their favourite daytime activity. Only because Mr. P. Rao roosts in the nighttime. The siblings begin their surveillance early. As we wake up our brains by injecting black coffee into our veins, these two stalk Mr P. Rao who lives in the tree beyond the balcony. Mr P .Rao is an elderly gentleman with a dash of grey in his wings. His life seems uninteresting to the untrained eye as he sits on a branch day in and day out, staring into the vast expanse of the universe, muttering to himself “guttr, kuttr. puttr”. 

But to Echo and Pathu, his constant chanting is a valuable source of agitation. An agitation that gives their day a sense of purpose and vengeful drive. Mr. P. Rao comes a close second to the aunty next door who rubs them the wrong way with her periodic ‘Om’s accompanied by a cacophony of bells. They spend hours watching him, surveilling his movements and the lack thereof. Pathu does two shifts pacing this balcony: mid-mornings and dusk. Echo takes over from her in the afternoons, spreading himself on the balcony table, like chocolate on toast.

My theory is that Mr. P. Rao is a dying breed of rationalists who hears out the opposition and uses his judgement to reserve comment.

When it rains, Mr P. Rao puffs up his feathers and takes refuge closer to the main trunk of the tree to keep dry. The main trunk is closer to our balcony than Mr. P. Rao’s branch. And something about him preening drives Echo and Pathu crazy. She paces the balcony willing Mr. P. Rao to notice her. When he doesn’t, she barks out expletives and encourages Echo to join her. To Mr. P. Rao’s credit he is never perturbed by their sentiment. 

My theory is that Mr. P. Rao is a dying breed of rationalists who hears out the opposition and uses his judgement to reserve comment. And though he can hear every single word these two are shouting at him, he chooses to ignore them. That or he routinely forgets to turn on his hearing aid.

Another theory I am commonly known to propound is that through hate my wards have come to understand Mr. P. Rao’s circumstance very well and this has led to them empathising with his motivations and are on the beautiful path of learning to co-exist.

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