Delhi will be celebrating Eid tomorrow. Last evening, I was walking the bylanes of Nizamuddin Basti and there was a goat tied to almost every door. This is a time when many of my Hindu friends click their tongues and shake their heads before venturing out to say in a sad tone, “Look, we’ve nothing against Muslims but just how could you people be so heartless to kill the very goat that you have raised?”
What’s my reaction?
I get pretty upset but I stay quiet and tell myself, “Ah, you ignorant people. What do you know of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son in the name of God? And no matter what you tender tandoori chicken-loving souls pretend to feel, I’m going to enjoy my meat.”
I know so many people who lovingly raise their goats in their courtyards. The children feed them leaves; the fathers pat them affectionately. And on the day of the sacrifice, the bonding is still there and yet, God’s will must be obeyed.
Talking of animals, I’ll tell you about two instances of love for stray animals that I recently came across in Delhi.
One night last week, I was walking in Mathura Road, central Delhi, when I reached a pavement where a couple of homeless people were sleeping. One man was awake. Lying on a woolen blanket, he was lovingly patting a black dog. “She is Kaali,” the man said and identified himself as Ramesh. “I have no one in Delhi except her. I met her six years ago in this very place and since then she is living with me. I may go hungry but I make sure that Kaali gets her roti every night.”
In the morning, Ramesh buys her bread and milk. During the day, he has to be away in Bhogal, a nearby market, where he works as a labourer. “I tell Kaali to stay in this pavement when I’m off to duty and she obeys me.” When Ramesh returns in the evening, Kaali never leaves his side. Patting her again, Ramesh said, “I have been betrayed by insaan (human beings) but she has always been nice to me. She is my family.” At that instant, Kaali turned her head towards Ramesh and wagged her tail. It was a beautiful moment.
Like Kaali, Kaloo was also a pavement dog. But now he has found a home in Jorbagh, one of Delhi’s most posh neighborhoods. But the problem with Kaloo is that he bites. “But he doesn’t bite everybody,” said the new mother of this black mongrel, an expat woman who is living in Delhi for three years. “Kaloo is very selective. He chooses his victims in a seemingly random fashion.”
Though living in an upscale neighbourhood that is home to authors, publishers, artists and foreign correspondents, Kaloo knows no class divide. He has bitten his owner as well as the grocer’s deliveryman.
Patting his head, Kaloo’s mother described him as “part German Shepherd, part Jack Russell Terrier, part wolf.” Sitting on her white sofa, she called out to Kaloo, saying, “Engage, engage, engage with me.” Wagging his tail, he looked up at his mistress before being distracted by me. He growled with suspicion. Just then the woman’s husband, the dog’s new father, entered the living room. “Kaloo has come a long way since he nipped me on my left ankle,” he said. The dog wagged his tongue, as if in agreement.
Kaloo has lived in Jor Bagh longer than his new parents. He roamed the streets, barked at the residents and slept under the cars parked outside the bungalows. Infamous for being a biter, many people were scared to walk in front of him. However, Kaloo also succeeded in establishing friendships; to the colony’s chowkidars, he is a darling.
“Kaloo was obviously mistreated,” said his mother. “That’s why he is so mistrusting of people and that’s why he bites.” Ironically, the best thing that Kaloo did in his life was to bite the man who would become his father. “After that incident, we decided that the safest thing for us to do would be to befriend Kaloo,” his mother said. “We wanted to get near to him and get him his shots.”
Then the courting started in earnest. The woman won Kaloo with two pieces of chicken. He stopped barking and snapping at her and became a visitor to her house. She arranged for a vet to give him the shots. By looking at Kaloo’s teeth, the vet estimated his age to be six years old. Next, his new father got Kaloo a dog license at Motibagh NDMC Vetinary Clinic. It hangs around Kaloo’s neck like a medal so that municipal services do not mistake him for a stray and whisk him away.
Early this year, the black mongrel was made a fully-fledged member of this Jorbagh household. “I think Kaloo has lived in someone’s house before,” the mother said. “I did not have to teach him how to lie on his bed. He was happy to have a collar and a leash. He also responds well to the affection.”
But despite being a good housedog, Kaloo hasn’t kicked the habit of snapping at strangers. So his new life has come with a life sentence. While Kaloo is free to move around the house and the garden, he is taken out for walks in Jor Bagh lanes or in Lodhi Road only on a leash. “Some people run away from Kaloo, some run to him,” Kaloo’s mother told me. “People who don’t know us greet him by his name. He is so proud, grand and loving.”
And now I must inform my proud, grand and loving lamb that tomorrow she will be sacrificed. Eid Mubarak.
Mayank Austen Soofi lives in a library. He has one website and four blogs. The website address: thedelhiwalla.com. The blogs: Pakistan Paindabad, Ruined By Reading, Reading Arundhati Roy and Mayank Austen Soofi Photos.