At first sight I felt his anger towards the past. If he decided to look at someone, he only did it with untrustfullness. That being said, he chose to keep close to myself and five guys, also Graphic Designers, who worked for Prem like me.
I called him Cinnamon.
He had red fur, but besides that he looked like every other Indian dog. Genetic evolution made it’s own result: thanks to long legs, dogs there can run fast, their trunks are supple but not massive, so they don’t need as much food, short and thick coat protects them from the scorching heat. That particular body type seems to be the best to survive.
During my first days in India, I was surprised seeing thousands of street dogs, looking like they were all bred from one father. The only difference between them is the color of their fur: white, black, reddish… That’s if they have hair, of course. A lot of Indian dogs have been eaten by parasites for so long that they look like one big brown scab.
Cinammon wasn’t the first dog in the neighbourhood. Butter was already there before I came to India. At the beginning they were fighting for territory and human attention. Later they began to tolerate each other and even started to enjoy spending time together, but this never happened when a bowl of food was between them; in this case they fought for life and death.They also fought over females, who if they weren’t already pregnant, they quickly became so.
This relationship between them soon broke down. The blossoming of friendship is very difficult in an unfriendly environment.
“How are you?”, “How’s your day?”, these are the sorts of questions asked to people you are familiar with. In India, to show kindness, people most often ask “Did you have breakfast?”, “Did you eat something today?”.
This place on Earth is full of contrasts. Extreme poverty exists on littered streets, which are also crossed by Bentleys. Pseudo-tents, built from billboards, are surrounded by five-star hotels. I saw men were risking their lives for a bowl of rice, whilst working on supposed ‘scaffholding’ to make new apartments with big refrigerators available for purchasing by tycoons.
Dogs, similarly to people, mostly experience there the first reality. During a few months I saw several fat dogs and several thousand suffering from starvation and sicknesses.
The first time I saw the CDS Villa Complex, I was impressed by the place, full of beautiful houses surrounded by the greenery of palms and the colours of flowers. All gardens were trimmed by Indian cleaning ladies, who spent long hours sitting on the grass, pulling out the blades which had grown too long.
I liked walking there, although there was something sad in that beauty: emptiness. Barely, a few houses were inhabited. The rest were left under lock and key, covered by the green moisture of wind, crossing just a few hundred meters from the Bay of Bengal. Thanks to that the plants luxuriantly grow whereas villas deteriorate quicker. Broken fencing or glass signified that nobody has lived there for the last few years. However, they still retained a charm and I regularly gasped at big rounded terraces, long stained-glass windows and swimming pools, imagining that I am about to move into one of the architectural miracles.
Dogs roamed about everywere in the CDS. For them fences didn’t exist. I think there were about forty houses, and for each one there were more or less two dogs. Just during my stay, a dozen were born: identical, but different colored puppies.
Cinnamon often acompanied me during walks in the area. Other dogs didn’t tolerate him. His character was tough, I suppose shaped by painful experiences. Militant and ready to dominate. However, the nearby dogs had their leader already. Butter ruled among them. Decisive but gentle, he quickly gained the favor of the pack. Cinnamon became stuck in loneliness. Me too: boys working at the place, more or less voluntarily, left their job positions. We stayed alone thus we gave each other company. The need for closeness strengthened our bond. However, I knew that above all, he was faithful to me for a regular bowl of food.
In any case, we both felt we needed each other.
I knew that soon I would leave the place. What will happen to Cinnamon? How will he get food? The other dogs do not accept him, now that the brigade is ruled by Butter. If he decided to leave the walls of the CDS, dogs from the outside world would quickly chew him up. One thing for sure: he will stay on his own.
Maybe it would have been better for him, if I didn’t interfere in his life? Would he have built his own position amongst other mongrels? Did I harm him with my love?
India without a motorbike or car is like a cage. Especially if someone lives outside the city, like I did at that time. Everyone drives a motorbike there. Four-five people going on one bike is normal there. They transport everything on it: gas cylinders, livestock like goats or rams, all goods from stores… Drivers are almost invisible, covered by plastic colored buckets, piles of various vegetables, fruit, banana leaves or...even a horde of children.
My first attempt to drive a motorbike failed after a few meters. I tumbled down and scratched the vehicle. The next occasion to try driving came a few weeks later, that time succesfully, but untill then my liberty was very limited. Most often I rode as a passanger on a motorcycle.
I loved that.
I had the opportunity to look at India from a near perspective, almost participating in the daily lives of residents. I watched the multitude of colorful saris and grey heaps of rubbish, poverty and luxury, shops built from cardboards and five star hotels, shining in gold. I observed crowds on the streets, surrounded by ubiquitous cows.
And, of course, dogs.
One day I was on a motorcycle behind Anand, Prem’s personal driver.
I saw her and immediately started to feel pain in my solar plexus. I knew that she was dying, breathing fast, blood dripping from her muzzle. She must have been hit by a car. More than once I have seen dogs in a terrible state on the streets of India, it is normal there. But this time the drama was multiplied. She was heavily pregnant. Six or seven puppies were dying with her. One dog stood next to her, a helpless witness of the suffering.
I froze. Anand kept going. Rapid seconds, too fast to make any decision.
What could I do if we stopped? Would I cut her stomach and get the small ones out from her? And what would I do with the puppies then? I could not take them with me. Is a vet in the area? I have no idea!
We were still moving. But I stood there with her. The image that I saw for a second crept into my skull for a long time and did not want to crawl out of it.
Maybe Cinnamon, as well as me, had luck that our ways were crossed. If only for those few months his stomach and heart found peace.
Author: Mo Green (Monika Skarzyńska, www.pinkhat.live)