It wouldn't be exaggeration for me to say that I love dogs, love with a capital L, which I've made quite evident! In fact it wouldn't also be wrong for me to say that I love most animals (except cats, there's something about them that creeps me out) and I have a feeling that genetics has something to do with this.
Like most Anglo Indians back in the days of the Raj, my paternal grandfather worked with the Indian Railways and was posted to a place called Bandikui, which was an old cantonment town in Rajasthan, very popular during the British rule for being a zonal railway hub. Bandikui was also where my father was born. I’ve never been there, but have heard that the town still bears strong signs of colonization; including a grand British era church and many abandoned buildings symbolic of British rule. As a young boy my father was drawn to animals and I believe the large house the railways had given them was teeming with a noisy brood of children who’d make a football team appear like a group of well behaved school girls (I’m assuming my grandparents were devout Catholics, because my father was a part of sixteen siblings) and animals. Apart from the numerous dogs and cats who populated the house, the family also had a large peacock who lived on the terrace and made it his business to swoop down on and terrify strangers who came knocking at their door! I don’t remember my grandparents having a guard dog and now I know why. I was also told of how my father once found a little fawn in the forest close to their house and how it followed him home and how he took care of it till it was old enough to go back to the forest.
Now coming back to the dog after which this story is named. My mother and her large family (they were nine children in all) lived in Saharanpur, a lesser known of city in Uttar Pradesh famous for its wood carving industry, along with a large troop of animals. The family had around fifteen mongrels, whose tails my maternal grandfather would obsessively chop off, for reasons no one knew why. This large pack of dogs included a black mongrel, rather inappropriately or aptly (depends on how you look at it), named Nigger. I guess it must’ve been one of mother’s siblings who though “Oh look a black dog, let’s call him Nigger”. To say that Nigger loved my grandfather would be an understatement; the dog followed him like a shadow. Running down the road behind him every morning Nigger would see Grandfather off to work, in the evenings when Grandfather came home, Nigger would yelp in joy and throw himself at him, wagging his little stump of a tail in a mad frenzy! Unlike the other dogs, my grandfather and Nigger shared a special bond and wherever Grandfather was you could be certain to find Nigger, sniffing the ground around his feet and looking up at Grandfather with adoration filled eyes. Grandfather and Nigger were always seen together, just like best friends.
Then one day Grandfather died. Nigger puzzled and upset followed the funeral procession down to the graveyard wondering what had happened. After the funeral everyone left, everyone except Nigger; he was waiting for grandfather. Nigger never went home after that day, he sat for weeks outside the graveyard, anxiously sniffing the ground and whining mournfully, hoping that Grandfather would walk out and the two friends would go back home together, just like old times. Mother and her siblings tried taking Nigger back home, but he was adamant, he didn't budge from his spot. After weeks of restlessly waiting and pining for Grandfather and without any food or water Nigger died sitting and waiting outside the graveyard for Grandfather.
This is something that never fails to sadden yet fascinate me each time I think of it and that’s the reason I decided to write it down as a small tribute to a dog who literally loved his master to death.