Granny Dona’s spent most of the day lounging on her huge terrace all afternoon, basking in the shallow sun, and knitting different pieces of clothing for all her grandchildren, the neighbour’s children and donate the extras to the nearby orphanage. She had an amazing eye for her detailed work, and no one could beat her at what she did. The kids did suggest her a couple of times that she should run an online business for her knit-wear but she never showed any interest, she was happy doing it for her loved ones only, and the idea of selling her “artwork” for money didn’t settle well with her and it would always upset her when she was suggested to sell her lovely pieces. And with the kind of weather in Kullu, she had a good market, but she only said, “I do it for the kids. I ain't no businesswoman! I don’t want to sell it; I rather donate the ones to the needy. And if I start into selling them, I wouldn’t have the time and leisure that I have.”
There was no counter-argument to this ever.
Once the adults of the household left for work and the kids to school, she would settle herself on the comfy yet sturdy, large swing and get onto with her knitting. If there was anything she liked as much as knitting, if not more, it was to look around across the garden, out at the straight sloped street and the hills all around. It was her haven. She would sit with her large pot of tea and sip it all afternoon until it was time for kids to be back, which was her reminder to have lunch with them. The 3 grandchildren would rush towards the terrace and start telling her stories from the day, walking down with her to the kitchen and help her in serving lunch for all.
So, it was this one cold morning, the sun was shining through the clouds and the winter had fallen; it could be felt in the cold breeze. Granny Dona was working on the sheep wool red cardigan for her eldest grandson and it was the last bits she planned to finish today.
She could knit without even looking at her hands or the wool, that was the magic in her hands; years and years of experience wrapped up in those wrinkled hands, her eyes wandering out on the streets, looking out for the street Pariahs and what they were up to today.
She wasn’t much of an animal lover but her grandkids loved them and fed them every night. She loved to look at them playing around all day, scavenging through the garbage, sometimes fighting for food, cautious of new faces on the street and ferocious if they see a new dog trying to hunt in their street. She recognized the current pack of 5 dogs on their street very well, perhaps it was their distinguishable fur pattern and their individual temperament. Though there were some people who were pressing on bringing in a dog catcher and sending away the dogs to a rescue home but most of the others were of differing opinions. They had been sterilized a couple of years ago which kept a check on their population and there wasn’t any trouble for the neighbourhood.
But one thing was certain, no new dog could even wander around in “their” street these dogs lived, it would call for a bark war, although rarely turning violent. Many such bark wars had been witnessed by Granny in the last couple of years and she wondered how anti-social and unaccepting these dogs were, perhaps it was the food that concerned them which would need to be divided into more members if the gang increased which kept them very cautious. Nevertheless, it was fun just observing these little creatures doing all sorts of funny acts all through the day! Sometimes chasing a cat, sometimes being chased by one. During the day they usually wandered aimlessly or so it might seem, while they are scavenging for some food around the narrow alleys. Some households religiously fed leftovers to them once around midafternoon and then later during the night.
One of the favourite times for the pack was around 3pm in the afternoon when Ray returned from school.
The 7-year-old would never finish his lunchbox; he would empty it out on the corner of the street and the 5 Pariah dogs would be eagerly looking forward to it. Now it was a ritual for Ray; he would rather share his friends’ lunch when he would be hungry at school, but he would keep his lunchbox untouched so that he could play and feed the dogs on his way back home.
He didn’t know that Granny Dona watched him every single day but never scolded him or complained to his parents. Rather she ensured he was having a hearty meal once he was home!
One day she noticed a young dog lingering around the corner of the street. It seemed too shy and perhaps scared to enter the lane. It was also walking in a very weird fashion, as she could notice that its hind legs were crippled and twisted. It was although limping but didn’t show any signs of pain or grief. It only looked a bit scared to enter the lane which was not his “zone”
When Ray came from school, he saw the little young dog and knelt on his knees to play with it.
He usually opened his lunch box only at the corner junction of the street where the dogs wait for him eagerly but today, he opened his box a couple of steps before the junction right where the crippled dog was roaming. But one of them noticed Ray, barked to inform the others that their favourite kid was here and they all ran towards him, stopped only to vigorously wag their tails, but as soon as they saw the new dog next to him being fed from “their” lunch box, all of them started to bark like it was the end of the world and did all they had to do to shoo it away. Ray tried to intervene and protect the little crippled one, but they didn’t let it stay, it had to be chased far away from their “area”. The young one was too scared and slowly limped away from their sight as soon as it could.
Ray ran home after feeding the remaining to the dogs and couldn’t help but blurt out whatever just happened, unaware that Granny was watching him all this while. He had already named him as Newie.
The furry goons started to get very cautious of the newcomer trying to make its way into the lane, their pride, their kingdom! Just the smell of its presence around made them drop whatever they were doing and get together to bark and shoo it away. By no means they were letting stray young into their pack, that too a crippled one, it would only be more of a burden for them and wag around to get its share of food from their hunt. It would be the last one to be able to get a catch, they were sure.
This went on for the next couple of days. Newie was chased away from the edge of the street itself, there was simply no negotiation, it didn’t belong with them!
Then one afternoon after about a week, Granny noticed a very strange act; Newie brought in some food, probably something which was offered to him at the adjacent street, and put it at the corner of the lane - seemingly offering food to the local pack of the street. After putting it from its mouth down on the street, it went away and stood at a distance. As it watched the other dogs come and feed on it, but on seeing Newie they started to bark as usual and shooed him away.
Newie repeated the same in the night and again the next day and kept doing it for about a week.
As Granny and Ray observed during their night walks that the food it was bringing sometimes had some dead mice and birds as well along with leftovers from the dustbins in the nearby streets.
Ray ensured he fed Newie far away from his own street so that others of the pack wouldn’t trouble him, but Newie wouldn’t eat it all, it would save some and go and leave it at the corner of the street. This strange behaviour surprised him a lot.
The dogs did notice what was happening, they realized it was not raining foods from the sky but that little crippled fellow was getting it for them. It was evident from the fact that they had stopped barking on seeing it across the street but not yet comfortable to let it join them. They shooed Newie away at the sight of him.
Newie was looking weak and not properly fed though, but it managed to bring quite a lot of food and offer it to the unfriendly pack. It was not to be found around anywhere near during the rest of the day but magically appeared with food a couple of times in the day.
Then one fine day when Newie brought in food, dropped it around the street corner and stayed put at a distance, Granny was surprised to see the pack slowly moving closer to Newie and examining him, sniffing all around and having a closer look at the young fellow but at the same time maintaining their caution. One after the other, they all sniffed and examined Newie. At first, it looked scared but confidently stood while it was been examined.
They then returned to their food, had it and left. It sadly stood there but did not dare to follow the rest.
The next day it was a repeat show again, but this time Newie slowly follow ed the pack while they made their way into the street and to Granny’s surprise, they didn’t stop it either.
And before Newie could realize it had become part of the gang.
Now they were always spotted together and in fact, it turned out to be the most friendly dog on the street, it would wag his tail at everyone passing by and look at people with so much love and his adorable eyes were not easy to ignore. Soon it became the most popular dog on the street and even the ones who resisted them would be melted at its puppy face and genuine love showered to all passerby. It was soon everyone’s favourite.
It also earned his lots of treats from kids and adults alike.
He didn’t eat all of this alone but saved most if not all for his wagging friends.
It would just take a nibble or so and then grab it all in his mouth and run to its friends even if it meant multiple trips. It was soon a hero and transformed into the leader of the pack of rabid dogs turned super friendly.
It was not only gladly accepted in the group with time but also turned out to be a good leader. Its crippled legs were no excuse.