Swami
Tirumal Mundargi
Break
One sunny morning the house's main door opened and Kamal Singh stormed out. He looked around for Swami and on not finding him, he shouted, 'Where are you? Swami! You lazy fellow! Where's Lax?'
A big plump man in his early fifties, Singh would enquire repeatedly, 'Has Lax eaten?' or 'What's Lax doing? Sleeping?'
'Yes, Master. She's not just sleeping! Dreaming as well, of handsome German shepherds, or Dobermans or Pomeranians!' Swami wanted to say.
Swami staggered from his bed of sacks, throwing away the Pasha beedi he had been smoking, and scampered, looking for Lax, Singh's one-year-old Doberman bitch. 'These days master has started abusing me', thought Swami, 'how fast the things change.' Just at the rear corner of the compound, the black, shiny Lax stood with front legs propped against the compound wall. Lax gazed keenly at the march of six or seven dogs behind an amorous bitch struggling to shun the rush of lovelorn dogs. Another dozen snarled violently at one another in the distance, displaying all their teeth.
Swami, a lanky, graying man in his late fifties, almost the same height as Singh, had grayed temples, had spent all his five decades in Singh's house. Unmarried, he had neither a private life, nor any personal belongings. He ate two jowar rotis with every meal, and not more than three meals in a day. He wore a shirt over thin-striped shorts, and had just two pairs of clothes in reserve. He'd spent his entire life in the service of Singh's household. He drank occasionally, which Singh knew, but overlooked.
'Lax's here, master,' Swami said, with a show of remorse on his face.
'Swami,' Singh thundered, 'don't let Lax out, under no circumstances! I don't want another swarm of pups. Understand?'
'Yes, master.'
'Now chain her and put milk into the bowl. The poor thing must be hungry.'
'Yes, master.'
Swami pulled Lax away from the canine nuptial procession, chained her and filled the bowl with milk. He thought of the previous night. While going eating out with his family, master had given him fifty rupees, as they hadn't prepared food that night. Swami had gone to the bar, gulped two glasses of whiskey, munched a handful of peanuts and slept on an empty stomach. Now, hunger churned his innards.
In his sleep, Swami often dreamt of Lax, and nothing else. Lax on a peacock throne, under a royal umbrella, Swami himself flourishing the royal fan. Lax taken round the city in a procession on her supposed birthday on a palanquin, Swami himself being one of the palanquin bearers. Lax eating dog biscuits out of a golden plate and lapping up almond flavored milk out of a silver bowl. And Lax watching a canine porn video, reclining on a leather couch, with all sorts of kebabs arranged on a tea-table for time-pass.
He squinted at Lax and the bowl. Lax sniffed the bowl and turned away.
One hour passed, but Lax didn't touch the milk. 'What a waste?' Swami said to himself. Had he known beforehand that Lax didn't need the milk he would've had it himself. He sat near Lax and said, 'Hi, Lax. You're lucky to be born a dog in master's house. You're very lucky, Lax, you're very lucky. You've got food, shelter and lots and lots of master's love. You need not toil for your food, or shelter.'
He lit another Pasha beedi and drew in a lungful.
'Look at me Lax. How I envy you! I'd rather be a dog at the master's house than a slave like this. I'll surely pray to my god when I go to his shrine next month. I'll request the Lord to grant this slave a dog's life, at least next time around. In the master's house, of course.'
Swami went back to his bed of sacks. As he lay smoking and brooding and dreaming, Lax broke the chain, went near him and curled by his side. And Swami felt its gasps against his ribs.
Tirumal Mundargi lives in Bangalore and works near there. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Long Story Short, Boston Literary Magazine, Gowanus, Niteblade, Postcards from..., Thieves Jargon, and Shine.