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Dad, dogs and lesson number 2

Dad, dogs and lesson number 2

1983. Me in class 2. Dad and me. Off to meet mom. Three legs to the journey – Shahjahanpur to Lucknow, Lucknow to Gonda and Gonda to Siddharthanagar (then called Naugarh). We in the middle, Gonda station (or was it Lucknow?). At a puri sabzi stall on the platform. Both eating.

And suddenly, a pack of dogs, 3-4 of them come sniffing (yes, dogs roamed railway stations back then, both Lucknow and Gonda were big stations, that notwithstanding). I cry to Dad. SOS. “Papa, kutte.” Something like that.

He keeps eating. No response. I rush from one side of his leg to the other. I try to hide behind him but the dogs come from the other side. I thought he hadn’t heard. So, I cry out louder. He still doesn’t listen. And it dawns. He is listening. Just not doing anything.

I, scared for my life, scurried here and there, around his legs, holding on to his pants, trying to save myself and my puri sabzi from the dogs. That moment stayed. I don’t remember how I managed to ward them off. Infact, I am sure I didn’t do that – there was no cinematic moment where the hidden tiger in me eventually woke up and roared. Most likely, he eventually stepped in and shooed them away. I know this because I continued fearing the dogs till much later and that combativeness didn’t sprout in me for a long time. That’s not the point.

But that moment – of me frantically crying for help, doing all my little hands and legs could do to save myself and my dad, standing next to me just eating his stuff –  unperturbed, nonchalant, chilled out – that never left me.

First reaction was – this is unfair. You are tall, they can’t reach you. And you expect your level of ‘bravery’ from me? The beasts will chomp on my face in just a while.

But even at that tender age, even with that initial resentment (how could you just leave me to fight the dogs on my own?), and even with my continued fear of dogs – it felt good. That he trusted me to be able to fight my own fight.

We never talked about it. Am sure he doesn’t even remember it. I know for sure he never studied psychology books on parenting. But it impacted me deeply. He trusted me to fight my own battles. Howsoever little I was. That somehow got embedded deep within. This when the money shot – “Come dogs, me the little warrior will kick your lily asses now” – never happened.

He trusted me. He thought I could fight and beat those dogs. I couldn’t, but that didn’t matter. He felt I could.

It was instinctive for him, but it was too fucking smart. Guess the best form of protecting – no matter who it is. Step back. Let them go out in the world. Let them explore. Make mistakes. Mess with danger. Just be within range. Step in only when the shit really hits the fan.

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Why did the dog die?

Why did the dog die?

Circa 1983. Me and Dad. Me in class 2. Shahjahanpur. DM Colony. Quarter no.81.

He would get up early everyday and go out running. He would take me along, a kilometer away was a college ground where he would complete a couple of rounds and then we would walk around the city and reach home from the other side. A railway line which went very close to our place, crossed the road midway, So, in the entire morning walk routine, we would cross that railway line twice. Imagine a straight line cutting a circle midway.

So, we are at the far end, where the railway line crosses the road. A long goods train, approaching fast. And a dog on the tracks. The train hoots, the dog busy eating. Doesn’t listen. The train resigns. The dog has to die.

We are on the other track some 30 meters away from the train. The train chugs along, the dog doesn’t hear it and in a minute, the train is over him. Over. The dog, smarter than I thought, lies low, in between the rails, between the marauding iron wheels of the train. I smile. The bugger will live. Coaches after coaches of the train pass over the dog. And he lies still, between the wheels. And then, he panics. Something stirs in him. Perhaps the long time the train has been over him gets to him. He moves on his legs and tries to creep out across one side. And, the next approaching wheel severs its head. Sadder still, it was the last coach. The gloom haunted me for days.

We came back home. But the incident didn’t leave me. Not the grotesque sight of a severed dog head. But that the incident had something more to it. The dog had almost survived the calamity. A fast approaching train was certain death. And he had averted that. And then he panicked. Didn’t keep the faith. Thought he had to do something. Messing with a working system trying to better it – Taleb would be angry.

But we all do that. Well intentioned interventions that destroy fill the history pages. Why do we lose faith midway? Why do we feel the need to do something? Anything. Kuch karna hai. Perhaps the lure of instantaneous results. Or the desire to control. Or perhaps the chaotic nature of the world where we flail dealing with the uncertainty.

The dog didn’t have to die. He had survived 19 out of 20 coaches.

 

 

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