Doggy Prattle | All I want for Christmas is glue

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In this one, Mia and Molly get kind of political before the December holidays and realise that Santa needs improvement if he is arbitrarily favouring some kids over others.

“This used to be my home. Now, as this CAB drives me away, I can’t help but feel I’m being taken for a ride.”

“What are you two doing?” chirped Reem, bouncing into the room.

I winced at the high decibel level, the egg nog from the night before still glugging in my bloodstream. Everything seemed much too bright and loud this morning.

“We are making the naughty and nice lists so that we can plan our Christmas shopping lists accordingly.” I replied, handing Molly a red marker. She had just completed the “nice” list in green and we were getting started on the naughty.

Reem craned her neck and stuck her stubby nose close to the paper. “Why are you making the naughty and nice list? That’s Santa’s work isn’t it?” We looked at her and burst out laughing, “Oh Mum, you’re hilarious.” said Molly. “We know Santa isn’t real and that Sid and you are Santa in this house.” Reem looked crestfallen, her lip even quivered a little. “Oh, how can this have happened? You were just puppies and now you’re all grown up and don’t believe in magic anymore.” We licked her face and comforted her, “Don’t worry, you can still help us shop. Here is the list of people we want you to buy gifts for from our side. Oh, and here’s Sid’s credit card.” There was a loud explosion from the bedroom, “I knew it! These dogs have gone through my wallet again.” I signalled to Molly that it was time to beat a hasty retreat to the park.

An hour later, after a romp at the park barking at the pigeons, chasing cats and then rescuing Molly from the cats who chased her, we trooped back home. Reem was at the table with our lists, making notes. She looked perplexed. “So, I get why the cats, the milk man, the dhobi, the newspaper guy and basically everyone who rings the bell is on the naughty list. And Sid is going to be really pissed that he is on the in-between list. But please tell me who, along with Sarina and me, there are these new additions on your ‘nice’ list. Who are M and S?” Molly bounded on to a chair next to Reem. “Oh Mum, they’re our new favourites. Moody and Shaw! How could they not be?” Now Reem at the best of times had an irritatingly vacant expression, but this mouth agape, tiny eyes bulging, stubby nose flared look was exceptionally awful. “Umm, ahh…you mean…hmm, ok I don’t get it.” I rolled my eyes. This lack of eloquence in a writer was worse than that dumb expression. “What’s not to get Mum? You spend most of your waking hours on Facebook, you’ve been reading all this CAA stuff. You know the Citizenship Amendment Act?” She snorted in reply, looking insulted, “You don’t need to spell it out. I know what it is.” I raised my eyebrows at Molly saying looks like Sensitive Sally has arisen. “So, Mum, what don’t you get? They’re good chaps. For the first time they’re on our side!” Reem’s stupid expression was really starting to get to me. “Oh for goodness sake, Mum, for once all these pedigrees got nothin’ on us. We’re ‘Indians’, ‘desi’, ‘local’ — true citizens.”

“Oh now you two are into politics?” came a sarcastic drawl from the doorway. Sid was standing there listening. “Sorry chumps, but unfortunately both of you don’t even make it to Moody and Shaw’s ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nice’ lists. Dogs don’t count.” Molly looked shocked, “What dogs?” Reem had woken up and was nodding vigorously, “Your dad’s right, my loves. That’s not what they mean by Indian. In fact, their definition sounds like it’s getting a lot narrower.” I jumped off the couch, “Oh that we know. In fact, listen to this. A Hindu, a Christian, a Sardar and a Muslim go to a bar in Delhi to get a drink. Shaw is the bouncer. He lets in the first three and then tells the Muslim, “Sorry, can’t let you in. Let me call you a CAB… to Bangladesh!” Molly shrieked with laughter, she really was a great audience. Reem and Sid, on the other hand, were not. Sid was rolling his eyes and Reem looked shocked, “Mia, that is not funny! What is going on is not funny.”

Trust her to ruin the mood. “Oh Mum, take a chill pill. It’s not like any of this affects us. Life will go on. And even if it were, we’re on the list — see, Christmas and Diwali make the cut!” Uh oh, Reem had her exasperated-and-about-to-get-preachy look. And so her rant followed.

“Oh please, you think the list can’t change? Or that it’s fair? Think of it within your context. Imagine a bunch of doggies all up for adoption. You’re all out on the streets, living in danger of being run over, stoned, kicked, no food, etc., because you’re all strays or abandoned. Whether it’s a pure-bred Labrador or a scrappy desi doggy like Molly, that kick, that hunger, that misery feels exactly the same, the pain is the same. Now imagine there’s a chance for all of the stray doggies to find a home through a new law — the Canine Adoption Act (CAA). But wait, it applies only to the pure-bred canines, but not the mixed breeds like you two. Is that fair? Should the rules be based on your breed, or basically be there to help any of you who needs help in getting adopted based on your suffering on the streets? Molly looked thoughtful. “But Mummy, this CAA still doesn’t affect us. We’re already adopted.” Sid nodded, “That’s true Mollykins. But say tomorrow there is a law that all doggies, of all breeds, must have paperwork to prove your lineage and eligibility to be in the house, or you have to go back on the street. Now in theory, if a pedigree doggy doesn’t have their papers that’s ok because they could be protected under the CAA, which will allow them to stay because they are pure bred. But you don’t have papers. So you may just be booted out. There are so many grey areas, and by leaving out certain breeds that’s not being very inclusive, is it? And the whole idea of India is meant to be inclusive — where everyone has a space. And why go through this whole pointless exercise of determining your eligibility to have a home in the first place?”

I chewed my toes in thought, perhaps this Sid and Reem two weren’t as dumb as they looked.

“Look, my darlings, you’re welcome to send M&S a gift if you want and keep them on your nice list. We will never tell you to not be friends with anyone or not communicate with them. Just think, question and challenge as well, ok?” said Reem, patting us on our heads. “Now, finish your lists, I’ll go shopping tomorrow.” Molly and I worked quietly the rest of the evening, scribbling furiously. Later, as we settled into bed after handing over our lists to them, we listened as Reem and Sid read through them.

“Hmm, for Mia and Molly. Velvet bedz. Personal butt-lers. Party pics on pg 3 of deli times. 5 tiger toys? Oh wait, that’s a cat emoji! You dogs are getting a dictionary and thesaurus for Christmas!”

I let out a growl of displeasure.

“Oh look, Sid, you made it to their nice list.” shrieked Reem.

“Big whoop, I’m only getting socks. I may as well not feature” he replied.

The list was long and I fell asleep listening to them reading, only to be woken from a deep slumber by Reem shaking me. I groaned sleepily. “I Just saw your gift request for M&S. Glue?” she asked. I mumbled sleepily in response, “You know, to help them stick India back together.” I saw her grin from the corner of my eye and kiss my head. “Now that I can buy!”

(In this series, a pair of pet dogs cast their eyes about the world, taking turns to whine and woof about what they see, while wagging both tails and tongues before their favourite human companion, the author)

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