Sunnu a novel by Suman Kumar

Chapter 16

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We had always wanted to have a dog at home, but Dad wouldn't approve, as there was not much room. That problem was now solved as we lived in an independent house and the colony was a great place to walk your dog. But still, it was difficult to convince dad. Getting a dog was no problem for him as he worked in the veterinary department and most of the vets were his friends. After considerable pressure from Suresh, Mom and me, he finally gave in to our pestering.

" Meet Uncle Salim tomorrow. His house is near Darga Circle. His dog has littered, so choose a pup," announced dad one morning.

My joy knew no bounds. I was supposed to pick the pup up after school. I was restless in school, as every minute seemed to drag on. The torture ended when the final bell rang. I had asked Siva, my desk mate, to come along, as I wanted someone to hold the puppy when I rode on the bicycle. I pedalled hard under the late summer sun. It was one in the afternoon. We reached Uncle Salim's house that was situated in a small side-alley.

The moment I saw Mickey, I knew that he was the one. He was bouncing around like a ball of wool. His body was tan all over and he had a shock of black fur around his cute mouth. He was four weeks old and he was chubby. His Mom was an Alsatian and his Pop was a street dog. A wonderful combination!

"I'll take him, Uncle," I announced.

"Take him, he'll all yours!" said Uncle Salim, beaming a huge smile.

The pup was a bit scared. When I tried to grab him, he ducked and ran under a stack of old furniture. We waited for another thirty minutes before he finally emerged, cocking his ears and hanging his rose-pink tongue out. He bounced along towards his Mom and Uncle Salim caught him and handed him to me. I asked Siva to ride the bicycle and I sat behind, holding the puppy close to my chest. I was talking to him and cuddling him while he was terrorised by the noise of the motor vehicles rushing past. Every now and then he let out a squeal - a desperate outburst at his rather helpless situation I guess.

A big plastic bowl filled with a soft bed sheet was ready to cushion our cute canine arrival. Mom was so excited about him. Everyone loved him. Sethu, Biju and Basha took turns at cuddling him. Mom shouted at us.

"Leave him alone. He just had his milk and he needs to rest."

We left him alone and he managed to drift into a deep sleep. His small head was resting on the edge of the plastic bowl. I couldn't help staring at him every now and then. The boys were arguing over the name for the pup.

"It is Mickey. I have already decided." I said.

All agreed, including Suresh and Mom. "Nice name," they all exclaimed.

We waited for Dad to come home. He arrived at six, in the evening. He liked the pup as soon as he saw it. It curled around his legs and Dad lifted him up and stared at him. Mickey licked Dad's nose.

"What are you calling him?" asked Dad, delighted by Mickey's show of affection.

"Mickey!" Suresh and I shouted in unison.

We thought that Mickey would grow up into a cuddly, chubby and a cute doggy. He had a surprise in store for us. Dad and Mom treated him like a son. We took turns walking him. Dad walked him in the mornings and I did it in the evenings. After two months, Mickey learned to hop onto my cot and sit on my chest and wake me up. We bought him a collar, but he perennially tried to get rid of it, so we removed it. He grew very fast into a big dog. Within five months he outsized all the other dogs in the neighbourhood. He was very naughty as well. He chased the birds that visited our guava tree. He hated flies. It was amusing to watch him try to swat a fly. He would wait, with his tail between his legs, for the fly to settle down and then with one amazing swift movement, he would try to catch the fly. The fly would escape and Mickey would growl to himself, irritated. He became famous in the colony for his high octave, deep throated, rumbling bark. His yelps sounded like canon shots. He didn't bark like the street dogs, which sounded more like a wolf's howling. His barks were distinct, each bark echoing and resounding. He barked at the milkman who delivered the milk to us in the mornings, at the kindergarten kids who passed by our home.  And at the hawkers.

I was proud of Mickey. I walked him with my chest up and we never put him on leash. He never misbehaved on the road. The street dogs respected him and were very friendly to him when he passed them by. He never bothered to give them an acknowledging glance or a nod. That evening, I was walking Mickey as usual. I took him to the open space in front of the Turtle Neck. I settled down on my favourite boulder just below the hill from where I could watch the highway below. The shepherds were, as usual, calling out loud to their homes. The cooking fires began to appear slowly, down below at the granite quarry. An evening of calm and serenity! I rested my back against the boulder, devouring the tranquillity. A few minutes later, all hell broke loose. From out of nowhere, a kid appeared and was calling Mickey, who was resting at my feet, that was normal, kids always barked at him, trying to mimic him. This kid, who must have been around six or seven, started striking stones at Mickey. Even before I could warn Mickey, he was on his feet and he lunged in the direction of the kid. The kid was shocked and he took to his feet. I ran after Mickey, who was after the kid. The kid ran like crazy and hopped onto a boulder, screaming. Mickey was on the boulder in one simple leap. He barked at the kid and the kid did the inevitable. He wet his pants.

"NO!" I shouted at Mickey. He obeyed and sat near my feet.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" some female voice boomed from behind.

I turned around and there was this girl, standing with her hands on her hips. Her eyebrows were locked together in an expression of absolute anger and her nose twitched every now and then.

"You teach your stupid dog some manners!" she continued.

"He is not a stupid dog, otherwise he would have had this boy for his evening snack. Ask him and he will tell you the whole story," I said.

"Akka, it was my fault."

The kid explained what had happened. Mickey kept out of this enjoyable tussle. He cocked his ears as if trying to figure out whatever that girl said.

"Sorry for the trouble, and I take back that remark I made about your dog," she said.

"That's ok, happens all the time. I am Sunnu, by the way."

"I am Vandhana."

"He's a cool dog. You can shake hands with him," I said, smiling.

They were scared, but after my assurance that he would not bite, come what may, they shook hands. Mickey initially refused to shake hands with Nikil, her brother. But I insisted and he obliged. He turned his face away and extended his foreleg to Nikil.

"I am sorry, Mickey." Nikil said.

I loved Mickey for what he did for me that day. Vandhana was a beautiful girl. She had a glowing complexion. She had a boy cut and the shock of raven black hair bounced around whenever she moved her face. I liked her. We exchanged the usual information. Which school? Which class? Where do I stay and so on. She was in my school and she too was in the eighth standard, but in Section 'C'. We became good friends after that. We rode back on our bicycles from school and I went to her place to watch T.V. Her dad was in the commercial tax department. She had no elder brother, much to my relief. We got along fine. We went for walks in the evenings with Mickey trailing behind us, knowing not to invade my privacy. I now had what most thirteen-year old guys only dreamt of. A girlfriend, though not in the true sense of the term, but whatever it was, she was a girl and she was my friend.

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sunnu 2001©Suman Kumar.R.