Friday, June 09, 2006

Canine Angel

Did I tell you about the army war exercises in Punjab that I covered last month? Anyway, after a hectic two-day interaction with tanks and troops and most importantly dirt and dust of every hue, our group of journalists reached Delhi at around 3 am.

In a scary no-taxi no-car scenario, I managed to get a lift from an NDTV reporter (Thank you - Randeep Singh Nandal) and he dropped me off at Khanpur crossing about 1.5 km from my pad. I started doing the best thing I could do to reach home - Walking.

It was at this point that a mangy dog with a limp appeared from nowhere and started trotting by my side. It wasn't as if this thin ragged-looking specimen, which looked nothing like the Hound of the Baskervilles, could pose any threat to my six-foot frame, but I started walking faster all the same. It was 4 am on a lonely stretch of road, so I guess you will understand.

(To deviate from the story, I had been bitten by a monkey at the age of ten and got a gazillion painful anti-rabies shots, including one in the bum, and have been morbidly scared of rabid canines and simians ever since)

But the dog managed to somehow keep up with me. I didn't have the heart to throw stones at it so I just crossed the road, divider and all, and resumed walking. To my surprise, pretty soon I heard it trotting beside me and a dreadful wheezing sound emanating from its mouth.

"Man, this dog is sick," I thought to myself and redoubled my efforts to outpace the dog. I tried crossing the road twice more but each time the dog successfully manouevred its way over the divider and crossed over to my side.

The funny thing is each stray dog has its territory marked out and this specimen by my side seemed like a newcomer in the area. Which explains why every 200 metres or so, a group of stray dogs would start barking and howling away at my canine companion, which would cringe and give off a few pitiful barks of its own before following in my footsteps.

I was just about to reach home and wondering how to get rid of the menace when stray dog group no 16 launched a fresh onslaught on my unwanted friend. Mangy Dog cowered under a nearby car before escaping on the other side.

At this point, I managed to give it the slip and rush inside my apartment gates. I watched as the dog, which had lost its bearings by then, tried to locate me and then trotted off in the wrong direction. I never saw it again.

Good riddance to unwanted companion, I thought. But when I reflect on the incident, I am kind of grateful to the dumb dog. Walking 1.5 km when you are dead tired and sleepy and carrying a heavy handbag is no fun. But I had been so engrossed in trying to escape Mangy Dog that I had covered the distance without even realising it.

Was the dog an angel in disguise? To make sure I reached my house safely. Maybe. What do you think?

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