I have five dogs. And I need a trainer desperately. No, No, not the circus trainer. We are perfectly fine with them not sitting when told to, pouncing on the bowl nanoseconds before the food has even been served, and generally having five distinctive personalities. We are free spirited that way. The free spirit gets punctured when the buggers step outside the boundary of my home, though. That is why a specific need for a special trainer has arisen. They do pull the leash, making it seem like we are being taken for a reluctant walk. But we bear that too. All in the name of free spirit. So the trainer need not bother about manners either. We are a happy, ill-mannered bunch.
See, the problem arises when they bark. The neighbours haven’t complained. We hardly have any. It is our over-zealous guardian of all things Holy who has a problem. Last evening, the helper decided to take Buddy out for a walk. Buddy is a Labrador, a young one at that. Add to it the free-spirit – you get the picture. I was sipping my evening cuppa, and watching them from the balcony. Buddy first barked at a bird, which indignantly flew away. Then he barked at the bunch of weeds that were swaying in the wind. The weeds stayed firmly rooted. And then some stray dogs pulled their tails between their legs and took flight. Everyone misunderstood the bark, for they ignored the furiously wagging tail. But we do not care for the bird, the weeds, and the dogs. There would have been no trouble had he stopped there. A cow. He barked at a cow. The cow wasn’t offended, at least not visibly so. She continued to chew her cud, choosing to ignore the calls to play tag.
I saw a man slow down,pass them by, and then turn his bike. He seemed to be telling the helper something. Our helper to seemed to be saying something. I hurried downstairs out of fear of losing the helper. Help-napping is a commonplace thing in our part of the world – better pay, facilities, the bait could be juicy. By the time I came down, Buddy was happily pulling the helper back indoors. After greeting me with a generous slurp across my face, Buddy joined the rest of the pack.
‘What happened? Who was that? What did he want?’
‘Didi. Buddy is a dog, right? He will bark, no?’ I glanced over my shoulder to make sure he hadn’t transformed into the slug that he was. He was still a tail-wagging dog, now floored by three pugs. And he wasn’t barking anymore. It sounded more like a yelp.
‘That man scolded me for letting him bark at the cow. ‘
‘Huh? Was the cow his?’
‘Tch. Arrey nahi. She comes everyday to drink water outside, and sometimes I feed her too. He said she is holy. And I should hit Buddy for barking at her. So I told him, yesterday I had a tough time pulling a polybag out of her mouth. And I feed her everyday from my plate. If she is this holy, he should take her home.’
He didn’t look like he was done with the rant, so I asked, ‘And?’
He looked down, and said, ‘He shouted, ‘What kind of a Hindu are you?’ And then I had a bit of an argument with him.’
That’s when I heard a faint alarm go off inside my head. ‘Next time, you come straight home and tell them to talk to me if there is an issue.’
‘Was I wrong? I am a Hindu. But I love all animals. Who is he to tell me what to do and what not?’ He was not looking for an answer.
I am not looking for answers either, for I know exactly who he was to question the poor man’s religious fervour. He was the blind bhakt, who in recent times has decided that being Hindu gives him the sacrosanct responsibility of protecting the cows, especially from barking dogs. More so, if the dog comes attached with a human on a leash. The cow could be emaciated, feasting on polybags in the garbage dump, or trying to flick flies away from the wound on the leg, she was to be worshipped. Not cared for, but worshipped. There could be graver issues at hand, but maintaining religious superiority was of top priority.
Coming back to the tutor, I’d rather train my dogs to pay their obeisance to the holy being. They should be more respectful to the mascot. The dogs needs to learn. We are a secular nation after all. On the face of it, at least. All religions need to be respected, more so if there is a certain white, four-legged revered creature involved. And also, I don’t want the poor man on the bike take the trouble and show the helper his place in the religious world for favouring all animals.
The helper wasn’t satisfied, so he came back with a cup of green tea that I hadn’t asked for, and continued, ‘Why do I need to prove that I am a good Hindu? If I had kicked Buddy, that would have made me a good Hindu? Ye theek nahi ho raha hai.‘
He needs a tutor too. What’s not right? The ignorant fool that he is, he doesn’t understand. It might seem like religious extremism, but it is all being done to contain bigger evils like corruption, unemployment, and err…women’s rights. I am sure I have missed out quite a few important agendas here. There are too many. And what does he know? Secularism comes at the rock bottom, right after the urgent need to make sure everyone wears colour coordinated clothes. So he should not have questioned the man. A swift kick to the disrespectful dog was all that was required, and his religiosity would have remained unquestioned. To score extra brownie points, he should have brought up the whole need of the hour to ridicule secularism in the name of the greater good. After all fighting corruption, sweeping the trash from the left side of the road to the right was far more important than looking at people independent of the prayer (or the lack of it) in their hearts.
Hence there is a desperate need for an educator. Someone who can teach us what is and what isn’t the need of the hour, and also enlighten us about the religious significance of other animals. I shudder at thought of shooing a fly away, only to end up ruffling some holy feathers. So, if any of you know of any trainer who could teach my dog holy manners, my Help the meaning of Hinduism, and me some astronomical levels of patience, please message. Till then, we will try not to bark up the religious trees.