Louis-Ferdinand Celine is one of the most important writers in French literature. I read his Journey to the End of the Night in my college days and it had a deep impact on me. In fact, whenever I read Celine, I can’t help but compare him with Jean Genet.
Genet was not just the darling of the Left but celebrated by others as well. It is easy to live with political correctness and get rewarded for that. So Genet bagged the “saint” title.
Whereas Celine, due to his anti-Semitic view, was marked as a “national disgrace” and got exiled. Life becomes an agony when you are a detested person. Maybe that is precisely the reason why Celine disliked human contact. He lived with half a dozen dogs.
I adore dogs. However, I do not know why most Indians hate dogs. Interestingly, in Mahabharata, when Pandavas and Draupadi were making their yatra to the Himalayas, they were accompanied by a dog. On their climb towards heaven, one by one, the brothers and Draupadi stumbled to death, unable to bear the exhaustion. Only Yudhisthir and the dog continued their journey. I often envisage Yudhisthir walking in the Himalayas with the dog.
I wonder whether “Saint Bernard” existed in the times of Mahabharata. This is the only breed of dog that is called “saint” and the reason it is revered is that it had accompanied the monks traversing the Alps mountains. The poignant 17th-century paintings of Saint Bernard dogs, who rescued people caught in an avalanche, are heart-rending even today. While Yudhisthir and the dog were sauntering in the Himalayas, Lord Indra arrived in his chariot and said, “Step into the chariot, I shall drop you in heaven.” Yudhisthir agreed but then Indra stopped him and said, “Dogs do not have a place in heaven.” Yudhisthir replied, “In that case, I do not want heaven.” And then the dog disappeared. Dharma had disguised himself as a dog to test Yudhisthir.
Dogs are God’s gift to mankind. In Europe, most houses have pets. People who walk their dogs have a piece of cloth and a small bag in their hands. When the dog poops, they duteously pick it up, put it in the bag and move on.
If born as a dog, it should never be as a street dog in a Asian country because they wander in the streets like orphans and get stoned by kids. They have to bear the spitting of women when they mate happily around the street corner. Isn’t the life of a street dog so impudent? Anyway, when millions of people are living below poverty line, why would anyone be worried about dogs?
I have two dogs. One is a Labrador (Pappu) and the other is a Great Dane (Zorro). The two follow me like two shadows. While I work on my system, they lie under my legs and when I go to the washroom, they wait for me near the doorstep. Zorro does not spare place even for my wife in bed whereas Pappu forgoes and sleeps under the cot. Like humans, dogs are possessive too. When I come back home, they fight each other to see who is going to cuddle me first.
Apart from my pet dogs, I merrily experience the love of stray dogs as well. One such lovable white mongrel, who liven on our street, dashes towards me and leaps as soon as he sees me, as if we have known each other for ages. I have named him Whitie. Just to repay his warmth, I sometimes treat him to biscuits.
Whitie surprised me one morning. My routine is to walk for an hour on the beach road opposite my house, starting at 5 in the morning. I started walking on that day too, when Whitie, who normally would be asleep under some car at that time, started following me joyfully with his usual jumps. He didn’t stop at the end of the road as was his custom, but continued following me even after I walked past the road.
Every day I cross the Santhome High road and pray for a few minutes in the cathedral where the body of St. Thomas is laid to rest and then continue with my walk. Only three places in the world have cathedrals raised over the tombs of the apostles of Christ: Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, Cathedral of St. James in Spain, and the third is the cathedral of St. Thomas in Mylapore.
The highway was heavy with traffic even at that early hour. Who really notices traffic signals nowadays? We just have to scurry to the other side of the road when there’s a lull in the traffic. But Whitie made me anxious and I didn’t cross the road for fear of Whitie getting hurt by speeding vehicles. I reached the light house in 10 minutes. Now there’s no other go but to cross if I want to take the beach road. I glanced at Whitie. He was looking at me curiously, wagging his tail. I returned home without completing my walk, with Whitie…
Charu Nivedita is a post-modern Tamil writer based in Chennai. His magnum opus, Zero Degree, is
considered one of the best in trangressive fiction.
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