The Insignificant Stray

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Dear stray puppy,

Give up. You should have given up long back. Your life is of no value. You should have heaved the last breath out the moment you were hit by that car. That car which was driven by some one drunk on alcohol, fatigue, or simply the sight of a long lonely road which gave him a much sought after chance to step on the gas, or perhaps he was drunk on his position in the hierarchy of nature. You figure nowhere. That is why he never stopped to check what he had hit. And you? Oh, so insolent! You just lay there in the middle of the road whimpering? You should have given up.

The best time to go would have been when you came into this world. You had the perfect excuse. You were born under the bushes at the corner of the street. There were no ‘oh-so-cute’ pictures of you shared on social media. Hell, you didn’t even have a father around, at least not the one who could make your papers look good. Ha! Papers! Of course, you didn’t have anything to prove that you were born. You don’t even have a breed name. No floppy ears, silky coat, large eyes. Nothing. That was your first cue to leave. See, you should have given up.

But you clung on, and look what things have come to. So many of my species must have passed you assuming you were dead. Did anyone bend over you to see the faint rising of your stomach? And the tiny whimper that escaped your mouth every time you clung to what should have been your last breath? Of course they didn’t. Yours is not a life worth saving, silly. Give up.

You will not find many fools like me and my poor helper. We picked you up, and brought you inside. You still clung on to that trace of a breath you had. Then, the madness set in. One after the other, the veterinary doctors hung the phone up.

‘Stray? It will not make it.’

‘My clinic doesn’t open till 11.00 a.m.’

‘Take it to the government clinic.’

‘Puppy? Yours? No? A stray! You are wasting your time.’

Why do you think I am telling you to give up? If you had been one of mine, with a neat certificate, and a mild cough, these very doctors would have treated you like an emergency. But you, the one with no lineage, are not an emergency.

Fine, we did find you a doctor eventually. So what? To what end? He shook his head gravely, and said, “Pneumonia. It is not the injury that is more serious. He was out in the cold a good part of the night, and has developed Pneumonia.” After a shot of an antibiotic, he too whispered to you to give up. You are stubborn.

We sat there, watching you cling on. Seriously, give up. What chances do you have? The man outside the doctor’s office just scoffed and said to me, “there are people dying in this world and you are wasting time on a stray puppy.” You must pay. There are people dying in this world hence, you must die. For your death will set the balance right somehow it seems. You do not deserve to be saved.

There is no pretty collar around your neck that jingles every time you walk. You do not own a cosy bed right next to the heater that makes sure an ambient temperature is maintained. You are out there on the street. Even if you make it through today, who will find you again tomorrow? Another car? Or, perhaps a kick?

There. See? It is much easier this way. The breathing is more laboured now, and the whimpering has stopped. Thank God you are listening to me now. Let go. There is no hope for the likes of you. Next time, if you do decide to be reborn as a dog, make sure you have a pedigree, and humans on your side. As for now, you must give up.

I shall lay you down now. Was that the last breath you just took? Don’t worry. I am not abandoning you just yet. Don’t be sad. Find solace in the fact that you’ll not end up stuck to the tires, picked on by crows, or dragged by your own kind. Yours was a short life. There are others of your kind who go through their worthless existence out in deplorable conditions. They get kicked, run over, maimed and yet they drag on. Not worth it. Does that comfort you, now that you have given up? It should. Would it give you any peace in knowing that you are not the only one? We, the superior beings in the hierarchy of the world, too have pedigree-less ones amongst us. They too perish like you. So, trust me, it is good that you have given up. 

No, I’ll not fling you out with trash. I’ll go out and dig you a grave. You’ll get a burial. There will be tears. I just saw the helper shed one. Trust me, your end was better than many. Next time do not indulge in this silliness? Do not cling on. For there are fairly few hearts out there with space enough for you. So next time, if you find yourself sitting on the roadside, eyeing that decaying leftovers someone dumped on the other side of the road, just give up.

Sincerely hoping you have better sense next time,

Your human.

I am a flaw in your eyes

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What defines me? What is my score on the character scale? What all am I allowed? Just tell me once and for all. So that I know exactly which barriers to crush and bones to break. Or perhaps accept and give in?

If I wear a sari, will you spare me? Or a burqa perhaps? Please tell me the precise length of the skirt above which I become characterless and you get the license to teach me a lesson. What about make up? Does that count too? Any particular shades that raise a red flag? I shouldn’t even mention the choice of beverage, right?

When I go to the market, do I have to always look purposeful? Do I have to walk with my gaze firmly fixed on the road lest I miss a pebble? And the frown? That has to stay, right? When the rain hits the ground and an intoxicating fragrance makes every cell of my being tingle, do I pretend to not notice? Can I not raise my head, close my eyes and feel the breeze on my face? And smile?

While driving, when my favourite song plays, can I sing along without you staring? Am I even allowed to have a favourite song? And drive? For when I drive I see challenge in your eyes. Sometimes I see a satisfied grin in your rear-view mirror when you force me to jam the breaks to protect myself. I deep breathe then and resist the urge to scream and ram my car into yours. Should I be thankful for just being on the road? That you decided to just put me in my place and not a ditch?

You scoff and say that I sip my coffee in a high-end cafe. I have no business complaining. Should I ignore all the stares for having the coffee alone? Am I supposed admire the table, or can I look up? Are you wondering if I am divorced? Widowed? Unmarried? Where is my character-stamp, the man? Are you wondering?

The whistle is my fault, right? The man on the bike who tried to pull a dupatta was putting the girl in her place. She got sent to the hospital with friction burns because she earned it. Let us not even start about acid attacks. What the hell were those girls doing outside in the first place? The girl whose entrails are still plastered somewhere on the road, it was her fault. She tested her boundaries. She stepped outside. She deserved it. Didn’t she?

What about the girl who hesitates going back home from college alone, although her village is next door from college? The village men accuse her of doing “dhanda” when she comes late from college. She wraps her head in her dupatta, hangs her head and hurries home while the boys shout, “kitney kamaye (how much did you earn)?” She is stupid. She should have stayed home. Education is not for her, right?

What about the girl in an upmarket private school? What does she do when she is told to take home science instead of electronics club? Should she give up on the soldering iron? When she comes home, the helper at home opens the door with a bruised arm. The drunk man beat her up and she fears that going to the police will worsen things. What do they do? Definitely not look you in the eye, right?

What about the woman who gets beaten up despite being educated? Despite living in a first-world country? What do you want to say to her pleas, begging to be spared? The muffled punch, the brazen kick? What is she doing wrong? She needs to know.

On most days, I have a thick skin. I sing along, I smile when the first spray of rain hits my face. I ignore your gaze that moves from my head to toe. I know you don’t care what my age or shape is. It is me that matters. It is my flaw of being a woman. And a woman who refuses to stay indoors. Every day we skip through a landmine. We look over our shoulder, we judge every step. Is this route safe? Those men standing over there look like bad news. Maybe I should turn and take the longer route. Oh, crap. It is dark and I need to get home. I skip a heartbeat every time a car drives by a tad bit closer than usual. Or the driver steals a sideways glance. Or a stare. The fear chokes the rage that I feel every day. Every minute. The rage that makes me want to grab you by the neck and ask, “Why? Where am I going wrong?” But that will have to wait. In my rear-view mirror I can see a car. It is drawing close. I can see your silhouette. There are four of you. I need to go. Fast.

First published on huffpost