There is this old house I pass by every morning on the way to the main road. From amidst the trees that grow in the house a lilting warble of a bird can be heard sometimes. I have strained to see the bird but have never got a glimpse through the dense canopy. One day, I opened the gate and went into the house. I thought I would take the owners permission to look around. Suddenly from nowhere a Neapolitan Mastiff (NM) appeared and came lopping towards me. I was terrified. A voice from inside the house called out “Appu..NO!!!!”. The dog stopped in his tracks and looked extremely disappointed with a “what will I sprinkle on her-pepper powder or tomato sauce before gobbling her down” look.
A small and wizened lady came out of the house. She would easily fit under the dog. But the dog clearly knew who the boss was, because he slinked to her side and gazed at me with another “maybe I will eat her with mayonnaise but mayo is so fattening" look.
Old Lady: Don’t worry Appu won’t do anything, he is just a baby!
‘Baby’ was still drooling and looking at me with a “maybe a dash of Paprika will be good but not too much as she is rather skinny” look.
“Appu go and shake hands with her” ordered the diminutive 5 feet nothing Aunty. ‘Baby’ came rather reluctantly with a “oh so now I have to be friendly with my Lunch” kind of look. He refused to shake hands and we both faced off with each other..err it was more like me facing off with his knee caps. I was like a Lilliput in front of him. For the first time I felt sorry for the Lilliputians whom I had roundedly cursed for tying up Gulliver and making him a pin cushion, though why they wanted a pin cushion in those days beats me. But then I was 5 years old when I heard the story and didn’t know back then that people had not looked at the Spear and thought “why don’t we shrink it so that it may come of use when paper is invented?”
“Shake hands!!!!!’ said aunty sternly and ‘baby’ proffered a paw the sight of which would make an elephant take anti depressants. ‘Baby’s paws were HUGE!!!! I gingerly took one nail and we shook hands solemnly. Was it a glint I saw on baby’s face? Because… before I could say “ Howdy dude” he kept his entire paw in my hand with an evil look on his face. Now an NM is born with an evil look. If you see one with a not so evil look you know where he is been….yes, you are right…to a plastic surgeon! (yes sadly there are some plastic surgeons doing work on the sly for dogs who wanna look good. Look out for doggy hair when you go to a clinic next).
My hands sagged under the weight while ‘Baby’ had this look which said “I would be enjoying this if I could only gobble her after the introductions”.
Removing my hands with a baleful look in his direction I turned to speak to aunty. Aunty had just moved into our neighborhood and was pleased to make friends with me. After the usual pleasantries I left for work. As I walked away from the house, I could almost feel Appu’s gaze, burning into my back trying to Tandoorify me.
From then on Appu would wait patiently for me behind the fence and jump up with a resounding “WOOF!!!!” just when I passed by, scaring the daylights out of me. Then he would slink away with a satisfied look. He always managed to startle me due to the sheer volume of the ‘WOOF’. A sort of unspoken war was declared between us and for every ‘woof' I stuck my tongue out at him and called him “Appukuttan Ungle” (the Radio City guy). This seemed to enrage him and he would whine in sheer frustration because the fence prevented him from a quick mid-day snack.
One day as usual I was trying to tip toe past his house when a pack of stray dogs came snarling at me. There were four or five of them. People living in my area are familiar with these packs of hounds that snarl at unsuspecting passersby. Before I could bend down to pick up a stone, Appu appeared from nowhere and gave the dogs a piece of his mind. Oh the language, the profanities he used against the dogs!!!! Makes me blush.!!!
The dogs realized they had met their match in cuss words and took to their heels. Talk about a dog’s bark being worse than his bite!!
To cut this rather long story short, Appu and me have become friends. I made it a point to be civil to him and get to know him. Appu has realized that he can tolerate me and nowadays, whenever I have the chance I take him for a walk…err I mean he takes me for a walk. He zips around the block with me hanging onto the leash for dear life. If you see a Brown Neapolitan Mastiff zipping past at 450 mph with a girl flapping in the wind behind him, please don’t call out “Appukuttam Ungle”. It might just be the excuse he is looking to sample some road side fare.