Chunnu was our landlords’ pet dog in our Kachiguda, Hyderabad house where we stayed during the 1970s. They lived in the ground floor portion and we lived in a crazy house which had a room on ground floor, stairs leading to one more room on the first floor and then some more stairs leading to a huge open terrace with a kitchen and the washrooms on one side. From our terrace we could look down into our owner’s open backyard which had huge trees. Our landlords were a childless couple and very affectionate to us treating us sisters as their very own.
I still remember a young boy bringing a few days’ old pair of pups, both black, wrapped in a handkerchief. Our landlady whom we called ‘behenji’ (meaning elder sister in Hindi) inspected and paid for the male pup and named him Chunnu. For 10 years until we vacated their house, we grew up with Chunnu. Chunnu and I were great pals and got along famously.
He had a jet black coat with small patches of gold and white just above his eye-lined beautiful eyes. The tail wags would be so crazy upon seeing us sisters! If he were sleeping and heard a sound, he would open his eyes and raise just one eyebrow to convey he was not interested in anything except to get his quota of beauty sleep!
As a pup we would feed and look after him whenever our landlords traveled out of town for a few weeks. I enjoyed observing all the emotions that flitted across his face, especially his eyes – fear, joy, lethargy, mischief, curiosity, real anger, ecstasy. I knew I was his dearest friend as I would play the fool with him the most, imitate his barks just to see one ear perk up this way and the other that way.
Four years later all this ended when our landlord’s adopted son, Kishen, then in his early twenties, working in the army, started visiting them during his month long annual vacations. Din’t know what kind of fear he instilled in our Chunnu until much later. Chunnu would hide under a huge bed and never dare come out to even eat. In the beginning I would think his behavior to be strange and would joke that he was acting like a shy bride and started calling him ‘Dulhain’ (meaning new bride in Hindi)!
Then one day to my utter shock I found out why Chunnu was petrified of Kishen as we sisters would never visit Behenji’s house when they had any visitors. Kishen would be smoking in the open backyard and we could hear him loudly ordering Chunnu to ‘sit down’, ‘shake hands’, ..
The landlords had to go to Lunknow, Uttar Pradesh for a few weeks. Since Kishen and their 9 year old servant boy, Munna were there, they took charge of Chunnu’s food. We were all studying in colleges, our parents at work, so we were all gone out most of the day. On that fateful day, I got home earlier than usual. When I went up to get something from the 2nd floor kitchen I was shocked to see our dear Chunnu, a thick rope tied around his neck and hanging from the branch of a big tree. He was midway from ground and struggling meekly, afraid to even make any noise out of fear. And down below, this Kishen was having fun, smoking and joking at the plight of our dear Chunnu. The servant boy, Munna was also there to keep this brute company in all this. This sight made me so sick and so angry that I began shouting at them to let loose Chunnu at once or else I will inform the police about the torture. Luckily he asked the servant to bring down Chunnu from the tree immediately. I rushed down and comforted Chunnu for a long time. This sadist was at work when all of us were gone out to college.
The next day, Munna, the servant took Chunnu and left him near Charminar which is quite a distance away from Kachiguda, hoping to shake the dog off forever. But a few days later Chunnu had walked back home to more trouble than ever. It was a revelation to me that Chunnu could find his way back home and knew only this house even though his life was in danger with such a criminal minded sadist around. He would refuse food for days on end and became a shadow of what he was. He ate later, only after Behenji arrived from her native village and fed him like a baby. I told her yet she was as helpless as I was. I prayed hard that this fellow’s vacations got over quickly and he would leave us all in peace. Why are some so Taamasic in their behavior? Don’t they know or feel that such things are not done to any living thing?
We all go through so many experiences and those invariably shape our lives in some way. Those were the days when my mom used to take us for all the religious discourses held in the evenings at Keyes Girls’ High School, Secunderabad, where the good and the bad of life would be conveyed through interesting little stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. These were moral stories much needed to differentiate between good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable.
Those discourses on the Hindu mythology did help then and continues to help to this day to lead our lives as peacefully as possible.
Chunnu lived for some more years but was very weak when we vacated that house. I hope he died peacefully when his time came. RIP Chunnu.
On my last trip to Hyderabad I heard that the adopted son Kishen had also died young many years ago.