Let's Live And Let Live
Let's Live And Let Live10 mins 525 10 mins 525
As he sipped tea in his balcony, Venugopal placed his morning newspaper down on the table with a smile playing on his lips. The Government would now finally take some action to curb the stray dog menace after all; they were soon going to issue an order for culling the strays in Kochi.
Venugopal had been in the gulf for more than thirty years and had now retired to this high rise in Kochi. He was a rich man, with two plush flats in the same complex and many cars to boast of.
It was all very hunky-dory, his high society neighbours were all rich and sophisticated. With his power and influence, he was soon appointed the building secretary. His wealth and position earned him a lot of loyal followers, who would nod their heads to anything he said or any decision he took....following him around like pups.
And Venugopal liked throwing his weight around and his menacing personality somehow managed to intimidate many, young and old alike. He would slap overly strict rules about parking, cleanliness and even pets, showing off his power almost all the time and somehow people never objected.
Sniffy perhaps was the lone individual on earth who didn’t follow him, in spite of actually being a pup. Sniffy was a stray, the only pup left alive in a litter of four when his mother and siblings were carried away by the dog van. It had been Venugopal who had been instrumental in calling the dog van when he had seen a stray with four little pups just outside his building.
For Venugopal and many people like him, the dogs had been a disgrace to their building, spoiling the grandeur of their posh society. The mother would bark and pounce upon anybody who neared the pups and Venugopal had used this to his advantage, calling the dog rabid. Some shopkeepers who had their shops opposite his building had somehow salvaged one little one. In spite of lots of protest from some onlookers and a few kind residents, the van had managed to tie a noose around the dog and carry away her pups, a pitiable sight for many.
The solo survivor of the incident, the pup had been adopted by the shop owners and christened Sniffy. In a few months, Sniffy had grown into a healthy, off white dog and to Venugapal’s dismay, Sniffy was peaceful and loving. Not only the shopkeepers, but their customers, and even some residents of the building were extremely fond of Sniffy. Sniffy meant no harm to anybody and instinctively recognised all residents of the building, irrespective of whether they fed him or not. He would run around lovingly, play with kids and demonstrate his love to everyone who liked him.
It was strange but Sniffy somehow had a strong instinct to identify rowdy elements or miscreants. Anybody who loitered around the shops or the building suspiciously or perhaps rode his bike too rash would be rewarded with loud barks or a chase from Sniffy. The dog in him made Sniffy alert all the time, the shop owners knew he could watch over their shops at night, perhaps better than the watchman.
Venugopal had been tolerating the stray because it stayed on the other side of the road, not interfering with his life or his building. But it somehow always hurt his ego that this pup had managed to escape his clutches, in spite of all his efforts to keep dirty strays away from his society. And now he knew it was difficult to take Sniffy away, the shopkeepers would strongly protest.
But his anger had known no bounds when one day he saw some residents from his building feeding Sniffy right at the gates of the society, just near the watchman. He ran downstairs, fuming with rage. These pesky people had dared to feed a stray animal right on the building gates, in spite of all his warnings. As the secretary, he had made it pretty clear that no unlicensed pets would be allowed in his building, let alone a stray.
He fought now, he screamed at the family, a lady, and her little son. The watchman stood there, scared and shocked.
“I have warned everyone a number of times, nobody is allowed to feed or entertain stray animals in my building. They litter the place, enter the compound and create a nuisance.” And looking at the watchman, he yelled, “And you, you won’t be employed here anymore. I will suspend you immediately, how could you stand by and watch these people bring the dog inside.”
When the polite family reasoned with him that all they were trying to do feed a hungry animal and it was just out of their love for the cute dog, he shouted back, “Oh you just wanted to dispose of your leftover food. If I see this happening again, I will have to take action.”
Casting a chilling look at the family, watchman, and Sniffy, Venugopal marched back victoriously. Sniffy just stood there, oblivious to everything, wagging its tail.
Well now, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, his admonishment seemed to have an exact opposite effect on the family, and also on some other compassionate residents. There were some hundred odd families in the society; all could not be expected to blindly obey what their headstrong secretary ordered. Apart from the dog loving family, many other sensible families started feeding Sniffy. They would pet him, kids would play with him, always just outside the building gates. Venugopal’s decision to sack the watchman had met with strong opposition, everyone else seemed to be happy with the poor man, so the watchman remained in the building too.
Venugopal seethed with broken ego and fury. All his life, he had been used to having people obeying him, but his image was at a big-time low now, thanks to a wretched stray dog. He thought of all possible ways to get rid of Sniffy but then nothing was working in his favour. Sniffy had a greater fan following than him these days. Little did he realise that the dog wouldn’t patronize anyone for his affluence or power, his love or hate was unconditional.
God seemed to have found a way out for him when some residents started complaining of the garbage bins being toppled at night. Many residents kept their trash bins outside for the night and they would find all garbage strewn around in the morning. This became a daily routine soon and the corridors and the staircase started stinking. The sweepers complained every day and finally, the CCTV cameras helped to nab the trash toppling miscreant, which happened to be Sniffy.
It was hardly the poor dog’s fault, it could smell food waste from miles and all it did was crawl from under the gate when the watchman didn’t notice and snack on at night. But for Venugopal, the episode had become a blessing in disguise; he could now get rid of the irritating dog forever.
As the society secretary, he summoned the municipality dog van all over again, he now had the perfect excuse. He was in for a huge shock when a majority of the residents, especially the younger generation protested against the dog van entering their premises. The shop owners, their regular customers, school-going children, almost everybody joined hands to help Sniffy, they just wouldn’t let the van take him away. Venugopal’s ego stood shattered as the van returned without Sniffy and the residents and some of his own loyalists walked away from him.
People seemed to be fed up with his proud and rude behaviour. The talks were rife now that a fresh election for the post of secretary was to be held and Venugopal would be replaced.
Surprisingly, it was only Sniffy who still liked him, as Sniffy recognised him as a resident of the society, it would happily wag it’s tail whenever it saw Venugopal. But Venugopal hated Sniffy, he held the poor animal responsible for the present crisis in his life.
So today, when he read the news about the government’s decision to cull the stray dogs to rid the society of dog menace, his happiness was immeasurable. Finally, he could get rid of the dog legally.
He was a cautious father, his daughter was in the final year and that night, she was attending her farewell party. She had promised she wouldn’t travel alone by taxi but her friends would drop her till the building. Venugopal and his wife waited for their daughter in the balcony, they always made sure she was back home safe.
His daughter had called up just before starting from her friend’s place and he knew she would be reaching very soon. It was past midnight and Venugopal and his wife saw an SUV park on the road, in front of their building. Their daughter alighted, waved her friends goodbye and the SUV drove away. She was walking towards the gate, a metre or two away when a bike turned and stopped right beside her.
Her parents watched in shock, as what ensued was too fast for them to fathom. The pillion rider got down and covered the girl’s mouth, so she couldn’t shout. He had started pulling her towards the bike when she perhaps bit the man’s hand and managed to shout for help. The old watchman had been dozing and had just woken up but things seemed to be happening a bit too quickly for him too. She screamed but the shops were closed and the road was deserted.
Venugopal and wife shouted from the tenth floor, but then they could hardly be heard. Their daughter shouted holding on to a lamp post as the two men were pulling her to the bike, hitting the poor watchman who had run to her rescue.
It was with a loud bark that Sniffy pounced upon the man pulling the girl. Startled and taken off balance, he fell. Sniffy was on top of him, and the man called out to his friend to help him. But by now, the watchman was up again and he managed to attack the other man. Venugopal had reached there too, as his daughter ran inside the gate to alert other residents.
Sniffy had courageously held on to the attacker, biting him, mauling him. Soon many residents gathered and they nabbed both men who were identified as two of the girl’s classmates who had planned to abduct her and had followed her since she left her friend’s house.
The police arrived and took the two boys away and as they thanked the watchman and the residents for their help and intervention, they informed the police that the only one who deserved all praise was a stray dog, Sniffy. A stray dog hated by many, harmed by many, to be culled by the government, had proved that he was man’s best friend, after all, had saved a girl whose father had tried to kill him not once, but twice.
What was posted on the social media was a photo of Venugopal’s daughter hugging Sniffy tight, weeping with joy and a happy looking Sniffy wagging it’s tail, licking her in return, totally unaware of the enormity of his deed. The caption to the photo read, “Two legged devils nabbed by a four legged angel.”
Venugopal didn’t object when his wife and daughter brought Sniffy home and decided to adopt him legally. His daughter just cast a knowing look at her father and he looked away ashamed. Almost everybody in the society knew about his hatred for Sniffy, and all that Sniffy knew was to love in return.
It had been a month past that incident and Sniffy was now a part of the society and Venugopal’s family. And one good thing that had happened was that Venugopal was a changed man now. He seemed to be at peace, he doted on the dog and the surprised residents of his society would watch him take Sniffy out for walks or to the vet. An animal whom he had loathed all this while, for not respecting him enough, had won him with its affection.
And today, Venugopal actively works with many other animal lovers to fight against atrocities committed on stray dogs and against the Kerala Government’s decision to cull them. One single attack by a stray dog is blown up beyond proportions by the media, but millions of attacks on them go unreported.
In one of his interviews as a champion for the cause of strays and inspiration to animal lovers, Venugopal emotionally mentioned, “It’s not me at all, my pet Sniffy is my INSPIRATION, he has, in fact, set an example for mankind. When humans go against humanity, it’s he who taught me what unconditional love meant. I should also say, my protest against the government policies is inspired by the youth, many youngsters including my daughter, who have shown me that animals have a right to live and are perhaps far superior to us humans.”