A man is walking his dog. It is jet-black, somewhat ugly. It belongs to one of those dwarf species that cost a bomb. The dog comes near a car. The tyre, much higher than the dog, draws its interest. The dog lifts a hind leg and sprays a shower of turmeric-yellow urine on the tyre. The man waits patiently for the dog to finish its business. The car doesn't belong to the man, but what is an innocent splash of urine between two cohabitants of a locality?

I enter the park. An old man is teaching yoga. Many elderly people, mostly women, sit in front of him. All sit with their fingers on their closed eyes. That is, all but one person. He removes the fingers and looks around. Satisfied that everyone has the eyes closed and fingers on them, he sits straight and places his fingers on his eyes. He has formed slits and looks through them.


The park has a tiled area near the entrance, marked 'Gau Seva' (serving the cow). It doesn't appear to have been cleaned in months. The water tub is filled with filth. I enter the park. A man walks from one bench to another, chanting 'Jaye Shriram, Jaye Sitta' (Long live Shriram, long live Seeta) in a classic tea-seller tone, coughs, spits, and begins the return journey in the same fashion.

A group of three men overtakes me. The tallest one declares, 'Lifecycle mein bohot sara time railway station, airport aur taxi mein beet jaata hai' (One invests considerable time at the railway station, airport and in the taxi during one's lifecycle!). His companions remain silent. He emphasises, 'Bohot Sara!' They still remain silent. The man repeats, 'Railway station, airport aur taxi mein!' I exit the park.


I hear the music of small bells. The tinkle approaches closer. No footpath being available, I walk on the edge of the road. I hear the warning of a man.

'Is it a bullock-cart trailing me ?' I wonder. 

A donkey emerges on the road. And then, another. Both have tiny bells tied around their necks. A man rides the rear donkey. A dog performs an excited dance in front of the donkey. The donkey takes no notice and moves on, business-like. 

I enter the park. A man is teaching yoga. A little ahead, an RSS shaakha is being held.

I continue walking. Just as the donkey did!


Clutching my copy of the daily Hindustan Times, I walk past the speed breaker. A bicycle waits here. It has black tyres with green border. The chassis is green. Two ten-year-somethings are on the bicycle. Both wear red T-shirts, and both wear shorts – one white and the other black.

One of them seeks my attention. 'Uncle, woh aage jo kutte hain, woh kaat tey toh naheen?' (Uncle, those dogs ahead wouldn't bite)?

I confidently reply, 'Naheen!'

Seeking reassurance, the boy asks again, 'Ek bhi naheen?' (Not even a single one)

As if the question is about me and not about the dogs, I reaffirm, 'Naheen!'

The boy whispers, 'Dekha, maine kahaa tha na' (See, I told you so), and starts pedalling.

The dogs watch them. As the bicycles comes near, an e-rickshaw comes between the bicycle and the dogs. 

The dogs lose interest. So do I.


The first step out of the building, and I notice the brown dog. It is a female. I admire it for the grace with which it accepted the death of its little one last year in a car accident. I also admire it for the ferocity with which it tackled another dog which unnecessarily went to the accident site to examine the remains. Clearly, the admiration is one-sided. The dog does not respond to my greetings. On my return I spot another dog, a white one. This one appreciates my greetings with warmth. We walk in opposite directions. A few steps, and I feel a nudge on my hand. It is the dog, bidding goodbye to me. I become happy and wave at it.


I enter the bathroom and stand under the shower. I enjoy the flow of cold water on my body and begin lathering with a bar of soap. I realise that I must shampoo my hair as well. I look for the shampoo on the bathroom cabinet. No, the fancy black bottle cannot be that of shampoo - it has Tresemmé conditioner printed over it. I look hopefully at the two small transparent tubes. They are of Nature's Fusion shower gel. The fourth large bottle, too, cannot have shampoo in it; it has the label of Nivea care shower. The shampoo must be in the dressing table drawer.

I call Rani. No response. Old age! 

I call her again. Again, no response. 

I try to whistle. Even I have difficulty in hearing the whistle. 

I shout her name. She is in the kitchen, frying fish, but still manages to hear me.

'What do you want?' she asks.

'Give me the shampoo, please!' I demand.

'That large bottle on the bathroom cabinet is that of Garnier shampoo,' she points.

I look at the cabinet. The shampoo bottle is right there. I start using it. 

Old age!

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Amitabh Varma

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