It was a mild morning in Bangalore, overcast and heavy with the perfume of rain when I stepped out for my run. The city was yet to wake. I turned around the corner, and that’s when I saw him. A black shape curled up against a car’s tire.
It was Socks, a street dog I had adored for more than a year. Must be sleeping, I thought, as I went past him. “No, he isn’t,” whispered a voice in my head. “Shut up,” I scolded that voice and carried on running. I didn’t want to face what I knew then. I finished my run and came back to the same spot. And there he was still. Unmoving. I looked at him, the dark fur that tapered into white at the base of each of his paws. It’s why we had called him Socks. This time, I couldn’t evade it. Socks was dead. And now, the voice in my head was silent. Perhaps, it knew that this time, it didn’t feel good to be right.
Socks was part of an army of street dogs that patrol the roads near my house. There are about 4 or 5 of them, although that number seems to ebb and change. No one really takes care of them. They are part of India’s landscape, serious and comical, sometimes hungry, and sometimes angry. At various times, they lounge around, usually sleeping or running after me when in the mood, snapping at my heels. Socks never did that, though. He was a bit of a lone dog, always trotting along on his little legs. He had the most worried look on his face. You may think you have all the worries in the world, but just one look at Socks’ stressed face, and you would think your troubles weren’t that many. I don’t know what kept Socks so busy. But busy he was.
Every now and then, I tried to win his friendship, offering him a biscuit or two. Only once he accepted. The rest of the time, the pack came running in, and that would set Socks off, quivering.
The evenings were when you would find Socks easily. He would curl up in a bed of leaves (his favorite) and be lost to the world. Once, I went as close to him as I could, almost brushing his whiskers to take a photo. No response. Once Socks slept, he slept. And no one was going to rob him of his hard-earned sleep.
Picture then this contrast. A dog who is always trotting along fast with a worried expression. Perhaps, he had to worry about the North and South Korea agreement? Maybe, he had to convince Modi about the vaccine policy? We won’t know, but that is Socks Part I for you.
Picture this too. Evening when the day has lulled itself into a slumber. And a dog that just knows how to sleep. Peaceful. Undisturbed. Socks Part II for you.
As I thought over this, those are the twin images of Socks I am left with. The contrast of the tottering busyness and the sweet slumber after that.
I laid two flowers at Socks’ feet yesterday. Flies buzzed around him already.
But I remember those twin images. Socks taught me to work hard. But he also taught me to sleep hard too.
And ain’t that as good a lesson as any?
May you walk along in the sky, Socks. And may you find a bed of leaves to lie down when you are done.