The enigmatic smile decorating the wizened face of my Dad puzzled me to some extent. It was alarming that he should smile, more so at the fact which I had divulged to him a minute earlier. That was, I had started to work out, just general calisthenics and crunches among other things, and an early morning jog preceding all the things mentioned above. One hypothesis of mine to quell the enigma of his smile was that he might just have been reminiscing my childhood, wherein I starred as The Great Lazy Bum Biswas.
This incident took place inside an AC coach of the Tamil Nadu Express. I was returning from a two year stint in Delhi, which had saw me rub my nose raw on the grindstone preparing for IITJEE from FIITJEE (hey that rhymes!). The world was a steady blur from the moment the train arrived at the station, Mom rushing out of the kitchen to greet me, then proceeding to smother me in motherly love and Chicken Masala. The first fight with my brother took place that very same day, something to do with the possession of remote control. He rent a war cry “Partiality” into the air and stormed inside, when my Mother intervened and handed me the remote.
That night, as I dropped off to sleep, panic seized me out of the blue as the incident recounted before flashed before my eyes. I was a fucking idiot. All those dreams that I had nurtured in hostel of being heralded the biggest couch potato in India shattered. If I had any self respect, I would have to work out tomorrow too. And then realization burst forth from the water, bubbling and frothing. This had to be the reason for my Father smiling earlier. I set the watch for 6 ‘o’clock and nodded to sleep.
The first set of vibrations shook me awake. I brushed, and wearing the same set of clothes that I had gone to sleep in, climbed into my Puma shoes, feeling like an anglicized dehati. I climbed down the steps of my apartment complex and broke into a trot en route to the ground behind Saint John’s School. The road leading to my destination held on its either side the lower middle class faction of the society and some below them.
I crossed a makeshift warehouse where they stored all the raddi from the entire locality, and it stinked.
I dodged a puddle of gobar.
I jumped over an open manhole cover.
I ducked to avoid a live electrical wire floundering beneath a pole, some hooks discernible at the top.
And just when I thought I had completed the cycle of Fartlek’s method of Physical Training, I saw it.
Saliva dribbling over its mouth, its stink permeating and polluting the early morning ambience, trying to dislodge the wing of the crow it had caught, its spindly forearms clawing at his prey, was a Black Dog. It was still a good 10 yards away, and I didn’t intend at all to disturb him in the middle of its early morning snack. I tried to make my footsteps as light as I could. A man wearing a tattered shirt and a lungi was watching me from a distance atop a rock. I ignored him and went on jogging.
Presently the sound of a whine, which morphed into a growl made its presence felt amongst the chattering of birds and the treading of loose gravel. Then mad barking ensued, from inside a house. This was followed by another cry and madder barking. I continued on my way. I heard rapid footsteps, and swerved my head to look behind me. Two dogs were in hot pursuit. I stopped, molten lead flowing into my leg. They stopped too, and though it had nothing to do with the situation at hand, I was forcibly reminded of Joker’s dialogue in the Dark Knight, in which he draws a corollary between himself and a dog who runs behind a car but has no clue whatsoever to do with it once he catches up. These dogs did have a clue. They started barking vehemently at me, maybe reprimanding me for stepping into their province. Another yelp behind alerted me to a presence of a bitch.
I was trapped.
The man in lungi came running, a hand grasping the knot of the only entity that preserved his decency. He shouted at the dogs, who returned his greeting with an equal fervor. The Black Dog eating the crow was now bequeathing an Interested Eye towards the proceeding. It barked something. Immediately the others retreated, giving me one last undefeated look. The man in lungi shouted at the dogs in Marathi, who paid no heed to him. He shouted something at me in Marathi, which could have been “Run along as fast as thine legs carry thou” and just as easily “Beat it, motherfucker.” Not letting my ignorance of the language that he spoke to be an obstacle in my obeisance of his command, I sprinted and didn’t stop until I was within the safe confines of my Home Sweet Home.
I stopped jogging the next day onwards, and a week after terminated working out at all.