Ashish D. is not his real name, and this overweight disgrace to my neighborhood could thank me for my discretion in keeping him anonymous.
The man takes his morning walk an hour later than I do. This means that he’s just starting off on his perambulations when I’m on my way back. He’s a regular, just like I am, but I never paid him much attention over the years. You know how it is – we see people, yet their existence registers as more of an abstract concept than an actual fact.
I’ve never so much as exchanged thoughts on the weather with him, and the only thought I ever spared him was an idle wondering…. how can a man walk like that for years and never lose an ounce of that gross flab? And why, if these nominal saunters have proved so utterly futile, has the oozy blighter not done something more constructive about his improbable girth? I mean, he has surely got a clear title deed for a 3BHK flat in Heart Attack Country and he’s bound to take up residence there anytime. Doesn’t that BOTHER him?
Anyway, one day the fact that he does figure on the landscape was driven jarringly home to me. The realization came in the form of a loud, agonized canine yelp. Jerked from my pleasant dawn reverie, I cast about for the source of the sound. A weathered dog was making tracks for the opposite side of the road as fast as three legs would allow it. Three, because the other one was drawn up against its belly in a tortured spasm of muscle and bone.
Ashish D. threw me a brief grin of vicious triumph as he took after the injured animal, brandishing the heavy stick he has picked up to launch the morning’s festivities.
“Saala kidela _____ (worm-raddled %#@>),” he cursed, enjoying every second of it. “Come sniffing at me once more and I’ll……”
He emphasized this sentiment by chasing the dog and giving it another lash of the stick, which caught the hobbled beast squarely on the back. The dog was out of its mind with pain now and was squalling like a bagful of BEST bus brakes during the peak hour crunch.
I was stunned into complete, impotent inaction. D. delivered three more blows to the animal before a window flew open above us and an irate woman leaned out.
“Oye, stop this immediately. My husband can’t sleep!” she screeched in hellish accompaniment to the dog’s vocal efforts. The dog in question used the lull to crawl beneath a paan shop and cower there for dear life.
D. flashed a spitless grin at her, favored me with a fading version of the same and discarded the stick. Then he waddled off, his mind obviously already switching gears to the stock market or some other good-time stuff. The beleaguered mutt crawled out from under the paan shop, scanned the surrounding topography and found it fortuitously bereft of fat middle-management prototypes headed for Stroke City.
Fade to black…
No, of COURSE Ashish D. bears no resemblance to any of us. WE wouldn’t kick a defenseless street dog just because we feel so hugely superior to it, would we? Nor would we tell a street urchin to scram when he or she sucks up for a spare coin just because the sight reminds of too uncomfortably of how our own kids would look if the Powers That Be had not somehow transpired to set them above such a lot, would we? OTHER folks do such stuff, right? Sick folks. Folks like Ashish D. Right? Huh? Right?
What circumstances spawn such moral bottom-feeders in the first place? A desire to rid the city of unsanitary elements such as stray dogs? The trauma of having been bitten in the butt by just such a cur back in childhood? I don’t think so.
I close my eyes and see a different scenario – one littered with bugs that squirm and scamper for the shadows when sunlight hits them. Behind my closed eyes, I see a Ashish D. who is not as secure in his precariously overloaded skin as he pretends.
The economy is see-sawing wildly, inflation has eaten into his once unassailable bank accounts and he may just have to pull his bounder son out of that fancy ‘international’ school next year. His wife, no less bloated on excesses than he is, treats him like the last dirt on earth – just like his dad did before him. His boss has chuckled forlornly every time Ashish has hinted at that promotion. Ashish smells his essential powerlessness over the world he inhabits with every wheezy breath he pulls into his blubber-cased lungs.
He does not like this smell, and he needs to rid himself of it.
What old Ashish therefore does is treat each waking hour as another opportunity to bolster his sagging pride by taking pot-shots at the various hapless targets that the world has placed at his disposal. Therefore, the beggar on the road is cursed and waved away like a leper who has dared to cross the Holy Temple’s threshold. The street kid is treated to a look and words of utter loathing and revulsion. The maid is threatened with sudden unemployment every time she goofs up. And the street doggie gets a kick in his scrawny backside if he is presumptuous enough to make an appearance during Ashish’s fruitless morning waddles.
He does not have what it takes to tell his wife what HE thinks of HER. He doesn’t have the courage to tell his boss to shove his job up the old waste-pipe and look for a better prospects. His dad died of an apocalyptic, ghee-induced stroke years ago and is unavailable for settling scores with.
He is the overgrown schoolyard bully, even now desperately trying to salvage his self-esteem by preying on those who seem weak enough not to put up a fight. And, of course, he’s going to die in un-heroic circumstances before his time; he isn’t man enough to save his own ass. If that isn’t enough to sign the death warrant of every stray dog within kicking distance, what is…?