The little boy, about 12 years of age, throws the muddy and worn tennis ball to the dog.
The dog used to be a stray, God knows how old, till the young boy found a half torn dog collar by the roadside, fixed it with wire, and put it around the dog’s neck, as if to give the dog a home, though it still lived on the streets.
The boy did not claim ownership, but gave the dog a token of friendship. He lived with the owner of the tea stall, his distant uncle and benefactor.
The tea stall was at its usual place under the shade-giving old banyan tree till mid morning when the platoon of policemen came and razed the rickety structure made of half-rotting wood and rusty corrugated iron sheets.
The stall was not on a main road footpath blocking the way of the pedestrians (or the motorbikers who ride on them as is their wont); it was a secluded corner of a street near a water-body.
The tea stall owner and his wife, with the young boy with the dog standing nearby, were given five minutes to clear out.
It took the middle-aged couple half of that time to comprehend the command given to them and by the end of the fifth minute they had removed the plates, the glasses, the cups, the two benches with wobbly legs but the tea kettle, the cauldron that spewed hundreds of cups of tea everyday from the spout, fell victim to the assault of the batons.
The street beside the stall was strewn with biscuits, cup cakes, sweet buns and the ubiquitous bananas; the bananas spilled whole instead of the usual case of their skins being thrown wherever, making others sprawl.
The bemused couple and the onlookers were told by the officer leading the platoon that he had orders for immediate eviction. Maybe the elderly couple’s business venture was an eyesore to the panoramic view of some rich man’s afternoon belching time after a meal of rich foods to be followed by a “richly deserved” nap full of dreams of more riches to be made. No one knew.
The boy runs after the bouncing ball with the dog in a competition of innocence. He catches the ball first and then makes the dog hold it with its jaws; he wants it to take the ball to a location his index finger pointed; rudimentary dog training.
The dog, with a muddy ball between his rows of teeth, looks confused and is unable to decide on whether to listen to his friend or to its grumbling stomach which grumbles more at the sight of the still strewn goodies on the street. It drops the ball and runs and shreds a cup cake, still lying untouched near the sewer, to pieces before eating it ravenously. Hunger wins, as it always does.
The tea stall used to be frequented by the common man. It was a place for a quick snack or a cheap lunch.
The rickshaw-pullers stopped for a breather under the shade of the old banyan, drank a glass or two of water, had a sweetened and buttered bun for 10 bucks (the butter with a sandy crunch from all the dust in the air), finished off with a cup of tea sweetened with condensed milk and sugar while smoking a cheap cigarette that billowed a smoke which seemed acrid to a non-smoker; cost him 20 bucks in all.
The tea stall owner and his wife, with the young boy with the dog standing nearby, were given five minutes to clear out. It took the middle-aged couple half of that time to comprehend the command given to them
A man with little means but still requiring a lunch would make do with a banana, a glass of water, and a cup of tea. He would have to spend 15 bucks (eight plus one plus six).
But today he would have to go to one of the “regular” shops nearby and fork out 20-50 bucks for a measly sandwich; he might have to leave without any water since a bottle of water would cost him another 15 bucks, he might prefer a parched throat and the money in his pocket.
The students would miss their favorite place of adda, and would settle for a day without real social networking and depend on the virtual ones.
A little away on the same street where the tea stall had stood till mid morning, there was construction going on to add another behemoth to the existing ones. The sand, stone chips, bricks, brick crushers, cement mixers, mild steel rods were heaped on the street, effectively cutting the path for vehicular traffic.
On the other side of the building, under construction, stood another high-rise that accommodates numerous offices and was in need for parking spaces for scores of cars and motorbikes of the office goers.
The cars and motorbikes are parked pell mell in front of the office building vastly constricting the “flow area” of the street. The police had no qualms about the bottle neck thus created.
With the cupcake good enough to calm the grumbling stomach, the dog joins the little boy in their regular fun and games.
The boy has no complaints that he has missed lunch; maybe he will pick up a pack of biscuit, still not picked up by the owner of the tea stall or a passerby, and lying on the street, sometime later.
The boy, oblivious of any injustice being done, and not feeling the effects of it, for now, starts his running-jumping-catching act with the dog, an animal who will never be privy to the vagaries of the human condition.
Life goes on.
SM Shahrukh is a freelance contributor.