July 22, 2014
The twenty-five floor skyscraper was the tallest building of that town. Being close to city limits, the occupants were given state-of-the-art comforts, facilities and amenities. Apartments were bought at a hefty price tag. A cabin was provided at the gate for the security staff. At nine in the morning, Mahesh was on duty. He was about to call someone by cell phone, when his attention was drawn by commotion at the gate. He sneaked a quick look. Mahesh was left speechless for a while. Stunned, he realized the gravity and hurriedly walked out.
A crowd of 40-50 had gathered at the gate. His wife Ragini and their dog Good Luck had turned out to be the center of attraction. She violently spanked the tied dog with a wooden stick. Good Luck cried and howled. The dog had been Mahesh’s wonderful companion for the last three years. She shared an amiable relationship and was the running buddy for the entire family.
"Have you lost your mind?" Mahesh rushed to Good Luck’s help and stood in between. "She is our Good Luck. For God’s sake, control yourself. She may die."
"She is not our good luck. She is our bad luck." Ragini viciously swung the stick.
Good Luck screamed, helplessly swerved and leapt to avoid being hit. Bystanders found it harrowing to watch. Good Luck was quite well known in and around that town. Lavish parties were thrown while rejoicing the dog’s birthday for the last 2 years. History was created in town by dressing her in tailor made suits for the celebration. That was past. Today on her third birthday, Good Luck was taken to task with merciless thrashing and public humiliation.
"Stop it." Mahesh pushed his wife. "I will kill you."
"Fine, kill me." Tears ran down on her cheeks. "I would prefer to die rather than living such a pathetic life."
Mahesh’s heart dropped in anxiety. His dear dog was subjected to nasty assault. He thought for a moment and swiftly unstrapped his Good Luck. Startled by the commotion and the beating, she ran for life with tail down and disappeared from the scene.
"Let her come home, I will teach her a lesson." Ragini huffed and puffed in anger.
"What are you looking at? Are you jobless?" Mahesh addressed the gathering. "Please go away."
A furious Ragini did not look at her husband. Chin-up, unrepentantly she walked back home with the stick in her right hand. The whispering crowd dispersed and leisurely vacated the place. Mahesh was unnervingly worried while returning to his security cabin. Good Luck was his beloved pet. Once unleashed, she had vulnerably run away. He prayed for her safety.
The dog was smart and intelligent. After tasting Ragini’s extreme aversion, Good Luck’s instinct kept her away from home until late evening. Soon after Mahesh’s arrival, she too appeared outside their house. Ragini declined to provide food to dog. Mahesh shared his evening meal with his dear dog. Today was Good Luck’s third birthday. Mahesh had bought a piece of cake from Qasim’s bakery on his way back from work. That was furtively given to Good Luck.
Good Luck was battered physically and emotionally in Ragini’s brutal attack. Mahesh had felt the pain. He always had passionately adored his pet. Why did Ragini display her anger at their dog?
Mahesh could not sleep that night. Terrified by violent images of his wife, he felt unsafe of his dog. He came out to the veranda and slept close to his Good Luck. Too many things had changed in such a short time. They had a much better house than this lousy hut. In the past few years, life had drastically wavered.
Twelve years back he had married Ragini. Five children had descended within eight years of their wedded life. An illiterate farmer, Mahesh had managed to raise a living from four acres of inherited land. Their cultivation comprised crops of rice, sugarcane and vegetables. He never allowed laziness to creep in and always worked hard.
The small farmer had big dreams. He had seen modern world through the world of television. Living in a posh villa was his goal. Providing best education to his children was in his agenda. A joyful overseas travel, preferably European vacation was in list. However, the buzz of land acquisition by government for special economic zone was in air. Obviously, Mahesh and his family were shaken. Negative rumor was constantly in circulation.
Farmers feared that unfair compensation could destroy them. While passing through this turmoil an opportunity came up on its own. The prospect to convert his dreams into reality appeared in close proximity. Group of men in dark suits came from nearest city in their luxurious cars. They met Mahesh and other farmers. Tempting proposals were made to buyout their land.
Mahesh was offered ten million.
Men in cars showed they mean business. He could not believe his luck. God was kind. Time to live his dreams was in grasp. Without thinking any further, his friends Shankar and Umesh moved to city after selling their lands.
"It does not make sense to sell agricultural land." Ragini had objected. "Once the money is over we might end up as destitute. Today at least our basic needs are covered."
Mahesh was grade 5 dropout. Ragini had discontinued studies after failing in grade 8.
"You always claim that you are more qualified than me." He mocked her. "Do you know how many zeros a million have?"
"I am worried." Ragini expressed her anxiety. "The land is our cash cow. It does not make sense to sell. It could be a trap. We may end up in zero."
"Your thoughts are irrational." He brushed her aside. "What if land is acquired by government for special economic zone? Ten million is always better than losing land for peanuts."
The rumor of land acquisition for special economic zone had made an impact. The town was appropriately located with suitability for industrial development; nearby seaport, internal roads, water network and power supply. A counter rumor also floated stating land developers advocated the fake news of land acquisition. No one knew the truth. Ten million was always a bigger value than government’s paltry compensation.
Ten million was a tempting offer. Mahesh had decided. The deal was done. His bank account was swollen by a large deposit. Time had come to bid adieu to ordinary lifestyle and to realize his dreams. They shifted to a posh rental villa in high-class outskirts of the city, close to their town. Donations were paid to enroll children to English medium school, run by Christian priests. A luxury car was bought. Mahesh thought it would elevate his prestige and status. Application for passport was processed. They went for European vacation during summer holidays. Disneyland was delightful experience. They revelled in London and Rome, climbed Eiffel tower in Paris and played with snow at Titlis Mountain. Mahesh was amazed by love and respect given to cats and dogs in Europe. Tour operator offhandedly said such attitude toward pets safeguards good fortune in life. Somehow, the words left an impression in his mind. Soon after returning from European vacation, he bought a hybrid female puppy at hefty price. He named her Good Luck.
Mahesh truly believed that his good luck would continue and merry days will remain forever. Subsequent summer was spent in Malaysia and Singapore. During winter, they went for holidays within the country. Lavish parties were thrown while celebrating first and second birthday of Good Luck. Extravagant merriments at high cost continued for family birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
His overindulgence in lifestyle cost him dearly. The money just ran out leaving their family high and dry. The car was sold. They relocated back to their old town to live in a rented shanty. Children returned to their former government school. Their flashy parties became tales of past and ephemeral glory.
Mahesh’s friendship with Good Luck remained intact. She delivered three pups on her first delivery. Great care was taken. He kept them clean and warm before presenting to his friends. Despite hard up condition, thoughts of abandoning the dog never occurred in his mind. She reminded him his short-lived sugary past. He firmly believed someday life would turn around. Mahesh had faith in his Good Luck.
His Good Luck was publicly battered on her third birthday. The news about Ragini’s deliberate pasting on helplessly tied dog spread like wildfire. Distorted news passed across within and outside the town. The incident being strange and unusual in nature, triggered immense curiosity. Someone captured the scene in cellphone camera, which went viral online. On third day following the incident, an animal right activist arrived from city in search of Ragini.
The activist alighted from bus, hired an auto and reached the place where Mahesh lived. Mahesh had gone for duty. Children had left for school. Ragini worked as garden helper in a private school. She came out from house to lock the door. Meantime an animal rights activist appeared at doorsteps.
"I represent an organization that protects ethical treatment to animals," the activist informed.
"If you are here to meet our dog, you can find her at my husband’s workplace. My husband has taken her along with him." Ragini hurriedly replied.
"I have come to meet you." The activist made it clear. "Your coldblooded attack at dog is all over the place in newspaper, TV channels and internet. You could be legally charged. I am on a fact finding mission."
"This is ridiculous." She voiced. "Do you mean, in a country where rapists and killers roam scot-free I would be punished by law for beating my pet? I agree it was my fault. My husband named her Good Luck. However, she has been our bad luck from day one. We steadily and surely went crumbling down after her entry in our lives. I sought deliverance from ill fortune by publicly beating her."
"Poor dog…" Activist shook his head in disbelief. "How can you explain pet’s connection to your financial downfall?"
"I agree I should not have had whacked our dog." She remarked with some kind of sanity. "I should have tied my husband and openly beaten him to pulp. Our lives are awfully affected by demons of his ill luck. Today my husband is working as security guard to the piece of land that once he owned. Now can you explain the reason behind this dreadful fate?"
Ragini cried her eyes out and sobbed in grief. The animal activist scratched his head while trying to comprehend her frustration.