Friday, August 21, 2009

The case of the biting dog

Getting bitten by a village dog is a common phenomenon. In fact you can’t say you’ve truly lived in a village until a bit of your flesh has been gouged out in this way.

The experience is one shared by pigs and buffaloes, though monkeys tend to be too nimble for the dogs. As for the poor hen, it doesn’t even live to tell the tale; scattered feathers in the wind the only evidence that a murder most foul has occurred.

The village is quiet when tourists leave, and on the evening it happens even the boys playing volleyball in the empty field are not to be seen. There are only the village dogs darting up to sniff you, and then running off as you cry out in shock at the pain and sight of blood.

Whodunit? you start thinking after you’ve been to the hospital and been told that the course of anti-rabies injections is going to cost a few thousand rupees. Whose dog was it?

One mean looking brown dog looks very like another. And given that all village dogs are either mongrels or pariahs (there is a difference, as any indignant dog lover will tell you), it’s hard to tell the strays from those that have been adopted.

Whodunit? Will you ever know?

The next morning the fellow who reads the electricity meter turns up. Inquisitive as only villagers can be, he wants to know about the wound on your calf. ‘Tcha,these dogs,’ he says, shaking his head in disgust and commiseration. And he tells how hard, how dangerous it is for men like him who have to go house to house reading meters.

Soon the whole village knows you’ve been bitten by a dog. Wherever you go, people ghoulishly want to see the wound.’ Tcha, these dogs,’ each exclaims, discounting his own dog of course.

Soon it’s common knowledge whose dog has bitten you.

It was Ganesh Electrician’s dog whodunit.

But Ganesh Electrician knows that every dog has his day,besides it's a dog's life and therefore he's quite safe from anyone demanding money for anti-rabies injections. It happens all the time with villagers. The money is never paid and once the angry villager calms down he quietly swallows an ayurvedic tablet if the wound is serious. Otherwise a poultice of some leaves is applied. Nobody has yet died of a dog bite.

At Ganesh Electrician’s, the entire family of seven is ranged on the veranda, hackles raised, teeth bared, snapping and growling. It wasn’t their dog whodunit. The village is lying. Their dogs never bite. Bark, snap, growl.

‘Tell me,’ one snarls, pointing at the dogs lying in the dust. ‘Tell me if any of these dogs bit you.’ From the back of the house the angry barking of a dog straining on a leash can be heard.

How to tell? One mean looking brown dog looks very like another.

‘Not our dog whodunit!’ the family barks. And snarling and snapping they drive you away.

How does one prove ownership, in any case? The dogs don’t have a license or collar. There are no papers.

You wish the owner had bitten you rather than the dog. At least then you could get the guy locked up in a mental asylum. But dogs? Dogs run free. Everyone loves dogs.


Radhika said...

you've disappeared!

Varuna said...

I know. Don't much feel like writing about the Simple Life anymore. Am thinking of giving it up entirely and concentrating on another kind of writing. Sorry to disappoint you!

NikVad said...

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Varuna said...

NikVad, I'm not particularly interested in registering on so do stop sending me reminders. If you'd like to carry some of my posts, feel free, but please mention that they are mine and that they appear on this blog.