Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Only a Dog

Kalindi Charan Panigrahi

(A Story)

(Rendered by the Author from Oriya)

JOLLY and Dora were chums from childhood. On no account would they remain apart from each other. Dora was an English greyhound, his ancestors hailing from the great metropolis of London and hence his name. But Jolly was an antelope of the wild forests of Orissa. Dora was thoroughly carnivorous and Jolly an austere vegetarian.

Jolly fell ill and Dora stayed near her day and night so much that he had to be given food there by her side.

Dora once broke his leg. Jolly, though perfectly aware of his immense physical strength, was at a loss to make out the reasons for his long confinement.

Jolly lavished all her affection on Dora. Dora came round at last as if through Jolly’s caressings and began walking slowly. But on the advent of spring and floral wealth, the two pals played about and ran like mad in the direction of the southwind to discover as it were, the mysterious world whence this stream of delight came flooding. As he ran Dora appeared like a thread straightened on the ground, with his limbs hardly to be distinguished from his body. But Jolly’s race was a veritable Paris dance. Her legs seemed to float over the surface of the ground. She was simply dancing in the air.

The Zamindar was intensely fond of the two animals. When after the day’s heavy work, he came out for a stroll on the extensive lawn in front of his office, these two creatures amused him with their sweet company and sportive movements. As the master trotted on, Jolly rubbed her long neck against his legs and licked his hands. If ever Dora remained behind, he came swiftly running ahead, prostrated before his master, waving his tail submissively. Sometimes he found his way in between his two legs and thus slackened his walk.

If other dogs appeared with a greedy look at Jolly, she squeezed herself with fear and took shelter by her master’s side. Then, Dora would come forward, readily prepared to fight when his kinsfolk would meekly retire, with tails tucked in between their legs. For they were nut unaware of Dora’s supreme strength. His sense of prestige was definitely superior to that of ordinary stray dogs. He would not stoop to the unchivalrous act of chasing a fugitive.

Another friend of Jolly and Dora was the Zamindar’s beloved daughter. She passed most of her time with the two animals. With an Ayah in her charge she plucked soft blades of grass from the garden when Jolly came in slow steps and gently presented her mouth before the girl. Dora too swiftly followed his mate and displayed some tricks to please his little mistress.

Swinging in his easy chair in the veranda the Zamindar watched the sportive movements of his pets and his care-worn heart filled with joy. The Zamindar was a man of up-to-date ideas, pleasant and polite in his manners. He appeared as a pure Swadeshi, with a Punjabi and Chaddar before his countrymen and as a perfectly Europeanised Indian before foreigners. European officers of rank would come during holidays for shikar in the jungles of his estate, for whom his generous hospitality was ever open. A well-equipped guest house had been specially erected for the purpose. He was equally hospitable towards his educated and respectable tenants, who never failed to receive befitting treatment from him. Notwithstanding this, the opinion of the public in general did not go in his favour. He was degraded and irreligious according to the orthodox, and he was accused by others as a reckless and extravagant oppressor. Above all, his close contact with Europeans and his adoption of some of their customs impaired his many virtues. In fact his food and dress were greatly influenced by European habits and he lacked the moderation necessary in this respect.

The D.I.G. of Police, an old friend, had sent word that he was coming during the ensuing Christmas for a shikar excursion with his wife and children. So the guest house was kept tip-top and tents were pitched in the forest four days ahead of their arrival. Men were sent to Cuttack to purchase the necessary articles. The servants and officials of the Zamindar were all up with work. Nobody had even a moment’s respite, and showers of abuse from everyone poured on the Zamindar, behind his .

The Zamindar motored some way to receive the distinguished visitors. The Sahib arrived in time, the host appearing mightily pleased as he joined his friend and his wife and daughters.

The programme was fixed up. The visitors spent the night in the guest house and proposed to start for the forest after breakfast next morning.

The place for shikar was about fourteen miles away from the Zamindar’s house. There was scarcely any human habitation in the neighbourhood. Khansamas and servants had left in advance with articles of food and other things. The guests, the Zamindar, the D. I. G.’s two hunting dogs and the Zamindar’s Dora and Jolly went in a motor car after them. It was apparently unnecessary to take Jolly along with them, But Dora would be of great help during shikar and she was taken only to keep him in good cheer. For he would always seek to run to her whenever he got an opportunity. As a matter of course, the little mistress’s consent was also obtained for their removal. She had strictly ordered her father that her two playmates might not be detained for more than three days.

But five days passed quickly amidst the mirth and jollity of merry Christmas. In that solitary jungle the guests were so well served that they were happier in that seclusion after the din and bustle of the town.

After luncheon, the Zamindar and the D.I.G. started for the shikar. For the last four days the ladies had dances and songs. This day they were not in a mood to accompany the men. The servants were almost worn out with the few days’ toil, even though they had not killed a kitten. However, some two or three of them had to accompany the shikaris.

Having missed aim once or twice at birds, it became wellnigh impossible to attempt on them any more. To give the birds time to come and sit again, the shikaris entered the adjoining forest. They wandered about for some time but to no purpose. The servants were sent out in quest of prey. But who knows whether they sat gossipping or lighted their cheroots or prepared tobacco powder with their thumbs pressing on palms? The two friends stealthily and cautiously searched jungle after jungle. And all unawares, they had come to a distance of four miles away from the camp.

The day was at its end. The sun had hidden itself behind the nearest hill. But its crimson streaks were diffused across the western sky, unnoticed by the shikaris. For they were greedily seeking to see red blood in the body of some living animal. A huge dark cloud appeared over the eastern horizon. With their eyes fixed on the ground what concern had they with the sky? The servants saw the impending danger and set out in search of their masters. It would have been hard to find them even in broad daylight amidst that thick forest.

The two friends were lost in the darkness. They turned only when the cool breeze of the approaching rain blew in a gust. Clouds were gathering thicker and darker around. It was impossible to cover four miles and reach the tent before the rains set in. Helpless as they were, they started a double march, with the rifles on their shoulders. Now they could not realise the happy mood of a shikari chasing a terrified deer. The storm came upon them with all its fury. It was dark all around and the whirlwind caused a cry of havoc in the jungles. They traced their way with much caution and difficulty. Sodden to the marrowbone, and panting for breath, they entered the tent at last. It was eight o’clock in the night.

There had been no arrangement for the dinner. Not a bird was shot. It had been settled, moreover, that they would leave the place on the morrow; for there had been little doubt getting a prey. The Zamindar’s home was about fourteen miles away from the camp. Was it at all possible in this howling storm and rain to get food from such a distance? The motor-track must have been quite inaccessible with rain water. There was no place near by where suitable food for the Sahib and the Zamindar could be available. For meat they must have to fast that night. And the danger and hardship undergone this day! Everybody grew impatient as to what should be done. Before starting in quest of prey the Zamindar had made some arrangement about the meat for the dinner. But the Sahib had dissuaded him and assured him that they would not fail to get some sort of prey. But what was to be done now? For nothing the Zamindar made the poor servants the target of his anger.

The Sahib beamed, “Well, let me then devise some means for the dinner.”

“Well?” rejoined the host with a smile.

“Will you mind?” came the suggestion slowly. “It’ll make sumptuous feast and you can have a lot of them from the jungles. Don’t you like the idea?”

The Zamindar could not catch what the particular idea was. He shuddered when the Sahib finished his speech, and replied in a hurry: “Oh, yes, ’tis a fine idea.” He could not disagree to the proposal of his esteemed friend and guest, but at the utterance of Jolly’s name his heart began to pound violently.

Jolly had a pathetic history for which the Zamindar was extremely attached to her. He happened to get her once while displaying his skill in shooting before another European friend. She was then sucking her mother. The mother fell at the Zamindar’s shot and the helpless little orphan stood dumbfounded. The Zamindar’s man approached her and she did not stir. For she was sure that her mother was at her side. Her innocent look went to the Zamindar’s heart and he became attached to the creature. Never had he dreamt that a day would come when he should have to slaughter her for his own food. But should such a noble guest be refused?

The Sahib rejoiced at his host’s approval and was exceedingly glad at the thought of killing the animal himself. His mind would never be at rest had he not killed any day. He was known to have possessed reputation as the destroyer of many human lives in the Great War. In the absence of shikar he would at least kill some of his own fowls to keep his brain cool. Admiring this habit of her husband the Memsahib would say proudly that once he was about to cut his own throat as he could find nothing to kill!

Dora and Jolly slept snuggled against each other’s face. It was not an easy job for a stranger to approach Dora especially when he was by the side of Jolly. None but Madhiya, the servant, could do that.

Madhiya had to fetch Jolly at the instance of his master. Dora woke up and barked at the sound of his footsteps. But Madhiya’s voice was enough to silence him. He roused Jolly and as he dragged her Dora would not keep quiet. He worked himself into a fury. He wanted follow Jolly. At last Madhiya had to yield and lead him by the chain.

Incredibly clever though he could not guess at once the object of forcing Jolly away from him at such an unusual hour. Madhiya himself held Dora and handed over Jolly to the Khansamas. This excited suspicion in the mind of Dora but he did not budge an inch. The Sahib got himself ready to mitigate his savage instinct. His knife glittered against the lamp light. He loved to cut the animal alive instead of spoiling a bullet.

The Khansamas tied Jolly’s feet and held her tight so that she might not move to disturb the Sahib’s execution. What fear had Jolly? She stood still. The Zamindar, her loving master and keeper of her life, and Dora, the friend in need, were by her side. As her feet were tightly tied down she looked at her dear partner and at her ever-trusted master in turn. The Zamindar tried to keep himself engaged in gossipping with his friend’s wife and daughters. Something in him was still insisting him to turn his eyes on Jolly. He occupied himself in laughter and mirth and seemed heedless of Jolly. At the slightest turn of his eye on her, he feared the animal would expose his innermost secrets and accuse him with human speech.

Dora’s suspicion was strengthened as he saw the knife in the Sahib’s hand. The D.I.G. cleaned the knife and rose from his seat. Unwittingly the Zamindar’s eye fell on Jolly, and it struck him that she had long been praying for mercy. That wistful, pitiable look! Suddenly he got up and went inside the tent on some pretext.

But Dora could understand Jolly’s entreaties. When she turned her disappointed look from her master to her beloved friend it touched him to the quick. The intention of the Sahib as he advanced with knife in hand was at once realised by Dora. He had seen the slaughter of many a goat and deer on that very spot. His dearest one was to meet with the same fate!

Dora gave a strong tug at the chain and in the twinkling of an eye freed himself from the hold of Madhiya and attacked one of the Khansamas. The Sahib and the servants ran helter-skelter towards the tent. The Zamindar was sitting absent-minded inside the tent. He hastened up to beg excuse of his guests, and flew into a rage at Madhiya. But his words were clearly indicative of the inexplicable anguish of his heart.

Madhiya himself was hurt by Dora and he fastened him tight to a tree. Again the D.I.G. came smiling, with knife in hand. Mockingly he held the knife at poor Dora and then advanced towards Jolly. Again the Zamindar stole a glance at Jolly and found her praying for help with the same entreating eyes. He got up and was about to speak out something to his host. “Alas!” he said to himself, “ am I mad?” He took his seat again. He thought of running away from the scene, But lest the Sahib should take it amiss, he gave up the idea and quietly sat as before.

To avoid the sight the Zamindar hid his face with a kerchief. Dora’s heart-rending cry assailed his ears. Through this cry a doleful moaning of a choking voice was heard. It penetrated into his heart. It was Jolly’s voice! He took off his kerchief and found everything finished.

At the dinner table his soul cried out a bitter No to take Jolly’s flesh. He made a life’s struggle to join the conviviality and with great difficulty swallowed a bit.

Absorbed in thoughts he stepped into the bedroom but had no sleep. Lying on the bed he dreamt of heaven and hell–he was wandering from one jungle to another–a storm and darkness coming on–that memorable noon–the mother falling down with the bullet wound and the innocent young one standing stone-still, least afraid. Then again that pitch darkness–the friends starting towards the camp with rifles on their shoulders–the devilish laughter of the Sahib, with knife in hand, and Jolly’s prayer for life!

They returned at daybreak. The Zamindar with his guests drove in advance. He tried to drown himself in laughter and talk with the ladies. But the melancholy cry of the poor dog haunted his ears and heart. And exceedingly happy with the entertainments the guests took leave the same day.

Madhiya came breathless, dragging Dora all the way, to report to the master that the dog was vehemently resenting to leave the spot. The master was sitting alone in a pensive mood. Without another word Madhiya left quietly. The Zamindar was undergoing a deep penitence. He had sustained himself with an immeasurable quantity of endurance. People would have otherwise taken him for a mad man. Someone was, as it were, urging him from within to fall flat at the feet of this common cur and ask for his pardon! He felt himself meaner than Dora. “Alas! is my heart so murderous and vile! Am I more heinous, more abominable than this carnivorous thing! Fie–fie on me! Is the strong meant to keep the weak in bondage and to destroy it for his own existence? Does it follow as a matter of course that one must necessarily be killed because the other is to live?

A horrible self-contempt tore the heart of the Zamindar. The tongue that had tasted Jolly’s flesh drooped languid. The throat that had swallowed Jolly’s heart contracted.

A voice called aloud from behind, “Where’s Jolly?”

He turned round to see his four-year-old daughter! He could not find an adequate reply to her query, he got up in haste and pressed the child to his bosom, while imploring her, “She is there, my darling, she is!” But the child would not listen. She pulled a long face and said puckering her lips, “ You lie! Madhiya says that Sahib has killed her. I shall kill the Sahib.”

The father could not suppress his emotion at the anger and sorrow of his little child and the tears ran down his cheeks. Throwing himself upon the bed he began to weep bitterly. But the query “Where’s Jolly?” arose in his mind times without number. He put the same question to himself and looked at his own person. The painful moan of each piece of Jolly’s flesh he had swallowed was shooting through all the pores of his skin. He fell seriously ill.

He was laid up with fever for two weeks, without food and rest. His condition grew critical. But he recovered–it was rather a resurrection!

The guest house built for Europeans was turned into a shelter for the sick and the destitute. Animal food was strictly forbidden in the Zamindar’s house and orders were passed prohibiting any person to hunt or kill a deer within the borders of his estate.

Dora would not touch anything. He fasted the whole day and when the Zamindar fell ill he managed to get away. Madhiya went in search of him and found him nosing the spot where Jolly had been done to death. It was there that he had lost his dearest companion. He was brought but all cares taken of him were of no avail. Once again he spirited himself away and was not to be found anywhere.

Some say he went in the direction where the tent had been pitched; but the wood-cutters say that they hear the wail of an animal while felling trees in the forest. But whose was the voice? Was it Jolly’s or Dora’s?

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