This is Bumpy Dog who died over a year ago on this day of natural causes. She lived in the compound of an apartment house in leafy Alipore which, as anyone familiar with Calcutta knows, is the posh neighbourhood of an otherwise squalid city. When we moved into our flat in 2005, my son was three and Bumpy Dog two-plus or minus a year and a half. No one knew where she came from but as Bumpy knew her place in the Great Chain of Being she was tolerated. She would sit in the car park but slink away when cars came and the lordly sahibs and memsahibs disembarked, shouting into their expensive mobile phones and cradling their designer bags. She grubbed quietly in the rubbish bins and kept well away from the dachshunds, golden retrievers, pugs and labradors that went for sedate walks twice a day with their trainers and orderlies. She had three litters and watched helplessly as each one of her pups was crushed under the wheels of the imperious cars that dashed into the car park till I called in the RSPCA and had her spayed. After that she was safe, and watched gratefully as my son sent down bones and biscuit crumbs twice a day. He named her Bumpy because it was the Enid Blyton stage of his life.
A memsahib with time on her hands and a cruel, cruel heart lived on the top floor. Propriety dictates that I keep her name a secret. This memsahib fancied herself to be a landscape-gardening expert and set about to take over our little front garden. She would bring in flower pots, bury them into the soil with the flowers peeping out of the ground and pretend that she had grown them. She forbade any of the children from playing on the grass. And she decided that Bumpy Dog was a threat to her flowers, so one night she kidnapped Bumpy Dog, put him into a sack and instructed her driver to hide the sack in her car boot and throw it somewhere far away. All was done secretly. I had heard strange squeals at one a.m one night but could not connect it to the disappearance till much later.
For three weeks we hunted everywhere for Bumpy. I drove despairingly around Alipore, then moved to the riverside, the railway station, all the major rubbish dumps and the three animal shelters in and around Calcutta. There were dappled dogs and brown dogs, black mongrels and white ones, lean and starving ones and well-fed ones but no Bumpy.
Finally I had exhausted all my options save two. I offered a reward for Bumpy of about 200 dollars. And I prayed to the God of forgotten creatures to return her and restore my belief in the hope that we live in a moral universe.
Three weeks later my driver burst into the room. “She’s back.”
He had seen her limping in through the gate, spattered in mud, ribs showing, wounded in her front paw but alive. She crept in, went to her place in the corner of the compound wall and sank down amidst the dry leaves and tattered newspapers.
No one came forward to claim my reward. But a whisper went round the neighbourhood, amongst the maids and drivers, that I had performed black magic and tracked her down.
Bumpy lived five years more. Although we left that apartment and moved elsewhere, kinder souls continued to feed her till she died, as quietly as she had lived.
And though the kidnapper was, I am told, furious, she must have realised that it was no longer about a garden and stray-dog poo. It was about wanton brutality on the poor, the defenceless, the forsaken.
And this time we won.