Rani

Radha and Venkat along with their kids Devi and Chandra live in military quarters. Venkat works in army. As a matter of fact his whole family worked for military. Venkat’s younger brother works as telephone operator in navy. His dad worked for Indian army. Now Devi is trying to get into the family path by applying for military engineer services and Chandra wants to be a police officer. Chandra and Devi always fight. Devi is two years elder to Chandra. They have different opinions on common things. Devi is smart and career focused woman. Chandra started doing part time job along with his studies when he was just 18. Chandra and Devi can agree on one thing that is any decision taken regarding education. Chandra shares his opinions with Devi. Similarly Devi shares her views. Devi can keep secrets too. That is why Chandra prefers telling his secrets to Devi despite their fighting. Their fighting did not start now. They stated fighting ever since they were kids. Once Devi’s mom told that when Chandra was 9 months old Devi bit off his fingers. Radha, Devi’s mom has a habit of chit chatting with neighbors when it is 5 in the evening and that time has to be maintained. Mornings the neighbors do a little wave or converse 2 or 3 lines that is it. But a full conversation takes place only in the evening. So there is a daily routine for Venkat’s family and it did not change in decade and they did not expect it to change for another decade. But it changed one day when Devi saw a puppy in front of their gate.

The whole cantonment area is like mini India. Since they have transferrable jobs different kinds of people come together and work together. The cantonment area is also rich in greenery. One can find many trees and large play areas. Everything is well maintained. When one gets used to living in government quarters one does not feel like leaving it. It has to be either quarters or own house. For Chandra it is quarters more than an own house he wants to live in.

The morning rush for the Venkats starts at 7. Radha is busy preparing food for everyone. Venkat is getting ready for office. Devi and Chandra are getting ready for college. All of them drink a nice filter coffee before they begin anything. Coffee is like fuel for them. They drink coffee twice in the morning and once after everyone gets home. In the morning along with all other things is TV. TV also gets started. After some news and bhajans, radio is put on. By the time radio is on, everybody is gone except Radha. She does her remaining work listening to radio. She likes old songs and a nap in the afternoon. They also read newspapers and it is just not one particular newspaper every day. It changes day by day.

Devi is creative. She got different hobbies and one of them is painting. Nowadays she is busy with her practical records. But still she exhibits her painting talent by drawing rangoli in front of the gate. The gate is big enough to let in a car.

One day Devi came out for painting the rangoli, when she saw two puppies wandering aimlessly outside the gate. They seemed to be shy and scared. The one little brown puppy was immediately adopted by Devi’s neighbors. It was cute and was looking more like a pet. It was in playful mood all the time.

The other one was little younger and looked more like a street dog. It has brown patches and the left ear was pointing downwards. One cannot guess the expression on this dog. Whether it’s scared or careful. Anyway this puppy dog eyes melted Devi’s heart. She took him inside and gave him some food and water. Since the other puppy was also in the neighborhood, they played together. The puppies seemed at last happy. Before they were taken, the dogs appeared like they had tragic loss.

But after some time Radha, Devi’s mother refused to allow him. She closed the gaps of the gate with fence material. That hurt the puppy which tried to come in. Seeing all this has hurt Devi. So she removed the fence. But the dog was so loyal that Radha had to give up that idea. In fact Radha herself gave the dog the name. It was called Rani. Everybody liked it. But Chandra pointed out that the dog is a boy. But no one could think of a better name so they called it Rani. Rani grew up fast. It has learnt new skills and one of it is climbing the gate. When Rani grew in size it no more could come through the gate gaps. So it has learned this trick. Everybody watched Rani in amusement. No one saw a dog climb a gate. Since Rani was growing so did its teeth. In order to scrub its teeth irritation one day Rani chew off Venkat scooty’s seat cover. This made Venkat very angry. He almost chased Rani out of town. Radha and Devi protected the dog from Venkat’s fury.

Venkat used to share his lunch with Rani. When Venkat comes from office during the lunch break Rani would follow the scooty. Unlike other pets Rani had freedom, it was not tied at all.

One day there was a van in the cantonment. Many people, as many as 10 of them jumped from that vehicle. They were all tall and holding nets. The sight of van itself triggered something among the dogs. As if communicating all street dogs were barking and trying to find a place to hide. They were the dog catchers. They caught many dogs. But Rani and the brown dog were lucky today. These dogs in time came home and took shelter with the humans. But the dogs saw everything that was happening. Other dogs running ferociously, Men running with nets, Van with dogs and dogs shouting. This certainly has disturbed the little dogs.

One day the other brown puppy suddenly disappeared. Devi suspected the worst because that puppy was over enthusiastic and could have landed in trouble. Devi’s neighbors are searching for it everywhere. Rani was calm. Devi thought something was wrong and appeared like Rani knows the secret. Rani was keeping a dull face and it was not eating well. Devi did her part of searching but all in vain. She went to college and so did everyone to their respective jobs. In the evening when Devi came back from college she asked her neighbors if they found the puppy. They said she is dead and lying on the road. It must have so happened that in the night the puppy must have crossed the road in search of some food in the garbage that was lying on other side of road and got hit by some vehicle. Rani must have witnessed the whole incident. Rani did not eat for next two days. Rani was then normal but had no canine friends.

Devi suddenly became anxious about Rani. She would daily get up and see if Rani was there. Similarly Rani too developed liking towards Devi. Rani would follow Devi till the bus stop and when Devi returns Rani would literally jump on her. It becomes hard for Devi to carry Rani from gate to the main door.

Rani with its discipline and good manners won not only many hearts in the neighborhood but also many families adopted Rani. Now it has become Rani’s job to take care of them. Rani punctually visits the Venkats in the morning at 7 and goes to another house where kids play with her and Rani stays there till afternoon. Then she come back to Venkats and takes a look and goes back to another house stays there till evening. In the night Rani patrols the whole street. If Rani is not seen anywhere people in the area would come to Venkats house and ask them.

Rani generally sleeps outside. Like other pet dogs it does not roam in the whole house and climb on beds or sofas. During summer Rani gets under the bed and sleeps there. The Venkats does not realize that it is under the bed unless it comes out. It sleeps like a baby. Even when it has to pee it pushes the door and goes out.

One day Rani came to the house in an unusual time. A bug caught its eye and its killing Rani with pain. Rani might have caught up with that insect in some garbage or bushes. It came to Venkat and was standing there. As if it was asking help. Venkat tried to pull but the insect, but it did not come off. Venkat pulled it hard this time. But still the bug won’t come off. The bug was covering almost half of Rani’s eye. Rani was patiently standing when Venkat was trying to pull the bug off. Venkat thought for a while got forceps and pulled it harder. The insect came off but Rani was bleeding heavily. There is a hole above its eye now. Venkat and Radha has put cloth and bleeding has slowed down. That evening Rani was good again.

Devi and Chandra are playing badminton. Rani was there. Rani got scared of the shots played. It went away and came with a damaged badminton bat. Once the dog got ragged jeans. What the dog was thinking nobody can imagine.

One night around 10 o’clock Rani was barking heavily. This is not unusual. All the street dogs in that area start fighting during night. So everybody at Devi’s house slept in peace and did not mind it.

The next day one of the neighbor’s informed Venkat that the other night a thief tried to stole his bicycle and when Rani barked the thief had fled. Everyone knows how multi tasking this street dog is. But nobody expected it to be this efficient. Bread and a little love have nurtured this canine and everybody in the cantonment has been the witness of its journey from being a small cowardly dog and then bearing a loss of its friend. It has seen it all, all ups and downs of life at very young age and now a superhero and protector of everybody’s property day and night. And what does Rani want in return? Love! From that day onwards Rani became popular and the cantonment has its new alpha.

Like any working day everyone went to do their respective jobs. Radha was taking a shower. She can hear a van taking rounds in the street. It’s not the first time she heard this van. It’s the dog catcher municipal van. She can hear all dogs barking and running. She heard Rani scratching the door. Rani never got a collar. Radha rushed from bathroom got dressed. She can hear the gate open. She also rushed and opened the door. She saw Rani in the net and the man taking her into the van. She asked the van driver if the dogs will be killed. He said no and they will be released again after a small operation. Like Rani, many dogs have been caught and all of them are in van barking. Except for Rani who was just looking at Radha with her pity eyes. Radha was also looking at Rani. Their eyes did not blink and stayed on each other till the end of the road where the driver took turn.

It’s been 4 weeks. There is no trace of Rani. They asked the municipal people where the dogs are again rehabilitated. They went to that area searched for the dog. Rani was never seen. But there was not a day Devi and other families think about him.