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Sri Vegan’s disobedience

‘How will Vegan be prepared for the future if he doesn’t understand Hindi, pa?’ said Mama, sniffling. ‘I am deeply worried about him. I don’t want him to be left out.’   | Photo Credit: Sreejith R Kumar

My favourite neighbour, contrary to popular perception, is not Ambujam Mami. It is Sri Vegan, Mami’s pure vegetarian — apparently, entirely by his own choice — sand-coloured Labrador. Truthfully speaking, the young fellow comes more under Sundaram Mama’s jurisdiction than Ambujam Mami’s. Because, on his daily walk, he is prone to exploring not entirely vegetarian things on the neighbourhood roads with his twitchy nose. (I speak of Sri Vegan, of course, not Sundaram Mama.) And this exacerbates Mami’s hyperacidity — which she insists has nothing to do with the nei murukku she buys in family packs — which in turn gives Sundaram Mama severe migraines.

Anyway, the other day, I saw the usually frisky, waggy-tailed Sri Vegan looking sullen, standing in the middle of the road, firm and immovable as a club president clinging on to his post. And a harried Sundaram Mama, in his bright orange T-shirt, pulling on the leash without much success.

After fondling his jowls — Sri Vegan’s, not Sundaram Mama’s — which is the entry fee for dealing with any Lab, I had to ask, ‘What’s the matter, Mama?’ while trying to wipe a cupful of drool with the distinct aroma of something not quite curd rice off my hands. ‘Why is Sri Vegan looking unhappy? Did Mami have Bharatanatyam practice today?’

‘No, pa,’ said Sundaram Mama, giving Sri Vegan’s leash another futile yank. ‘That’s tomorrow. It coincides with my attending Guruji’s three-hour discourse on sahanam.’

This, we all knew, was code for his weekly undercover trips to Pandian Military Hotel with his school buddies.

‘What ails the poor puppy, then?’ I said, giving his jowls another go. (Sri Vegan’s.)

‘You know how obedient Vegan is, no?’ Mama said, as I nodded. ‘Come means he’ll come. Sit means he’ll sit. Roll over means he’ll roll over. Just like me with Ambujam. Suddenly, he’s decided to be insubordinate. He’s not obeying a single command.’

‘That’s odd. Let me give it a go... shake hands,’ I said, quickly gesturing to Sundaram Mama that I was addressing Sri Vegan.

Sri Vegan lifted his formidable right paw and dropped it heavily into my proffered palm.

I walked 10 paces and squatted on the road.

Hands outstretched, I said ‘Vaa, da.’

The overgrown pup gambolled right into my arms, dragging Sundaram Mama in his wake.

‘See,’ I said to him (Mama, not Vegan). ‘He’s fine. Now you try.’

Mama left Vegan with me and walked away. He turned around, stretched out his arms and said, ‘Beta, pitaji ke paas jaldi jaldi aa-jao!’

Sri Vegan stayed put, examining his nails.

Sundaram Mama tried again. ‘Beta, Krishna chacha ko videshi namaskar karo!

Vegan remained as unimpressed as my editor when she receives my pieces.

Mama tried several commands, all in Hindi, adopting poses reminiscent of Ambujam Mami’s recital ones, on a thoroughly unmoved Sri Vegan.

‘Why Hindi, Mama?’ I said, as a defeated Mama sat on a culvert, exhausted, and ready to break into sobs.

‘How will Vegan be prepared for the future if he doesn’t understand Hindi, pa?’ said Mama, sniffling. ‘I am deeply worried about him. I don’t want him to be left out.’

‘Er... when did you come to this conclusion, Mama?’ I said.

‘Two days ago, my son called on WhatsApp,’ he said. ‘The older fellow, pa... the patriotic one from Seattle. He is very well-informed. Vegan must learn Hindi, he insisted. Guess I should start looking for a tutor now.’

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 7:50:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sri-vegans-disobedience/article27520194.ece

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