I have always been afraid of dogs. People say it's because I'm a girl, but I don't believe that's true. I remember a few drunk friends of mine, female, ferociously attacking dogs when barked at, so I don't think that stereotype holds for most girls. Anyway, it does hold for me. I am almost paralysed when dogs come running to me. They might be called cute, but in my eyes they are ferocious creatures which have no shred of mercy in them. If you've ever experienced a dog running towards at full gallop, mouth open, teeth bared, barking a blood-curling howl, eyes fixed on you, ready to tear you to pieces; you know what I'm talking about. I've had a few encounters with dogs in my day. It usually involves a bunch of hungry dogs sensing my fear, and surrounding me, ready to strike. A passerby, or a bystander usually comes to my rescue, as I'd be frozen in place. For this reason, I never walk alone in isolated places.
I have this friend, one of those people who gets lost from time to time. He is usually quite coherent, but there are phases where he seems to get off the sane train, and talk in abstract ciphers. They do seem to make some kind of sense, but I cannot guess the context, or his meaning. He is a nature person, and I've often felt like he's better off with nature than with us. Anyway, our interactions are somewhat sporadic, since he doesn't like to talk using modern implements. He prefers face to face. So whenever he'd come around, we'd meet, and talk. He lived in Mumbai, and I in Bangalore, which is a huge distance. But he'd usually visit about once every two months, so we'd meet up to have a drink. He was one of those people who was always calm, so I always felt safe around him. I've never seen him so angry that he'd lose his wits. He's handled every situation I've seen him in, in a composed manner, much like a conductor gracefully handling his orchestra.
He had come to visit this September, and as usual we met up for drinks. We like to try new places, and this time, we went to a bar in a somewhat remote area of Bangalore. He was happy as I had never seen him before, for he was getting married to the love of his life. He was particularly outspoken in his joy, and we spent a lot of time in the bar. I had never seen him open up like that day. In his infectious zest, we both ended up drinking a lot. It was quite late, and the server ushered us out saying that it was closing time. The sky was pitch black, with no moon in sight. There were flickering street lights at long intervals, and in the distance they looked like an airplane landing strip. The whole sight was eerie, and I had a strong sense of foreboding. We started walking along the winding path, following the lights. It was a kaccha road, a mixture of mud and asphalt which threaded the line between making you feel like you were walking in slush, and yet it was solid enough to be called a road. We were too drunk to care anyway, and we started walking. It was a few kilometres to my place, and we decided to just walk, for it didn't look like we would be getting any transport anytime soon. I was scared, but he had this reassuring aura about him, so I felt safe. We walked, chattering about trivialities, and remembering past times.
We had reached a wide spot of road, just under a street light, when I sensed movement around me. I don't know what it was, but there was definitely something moving around me. There was not a soul all around us, and it was deserted as far as the eye could see. I got scared. The first indication of what it was, was a growl rising in a crescendo. The sound brought the world around me into sudden focus, and I could now make out the outlines of several dogs in the fringes of the light. The single growl was joined by more, each more wicked than the last. I felt the pangs of paralysis rising up within me. They gained complete control of me once the dogs started barking. I froze in place, my eyes locked on the dangerous creatures in front of me. There were six dogs which I could see, and they were poised to strike. Their jaws split wide, teeth sparkling in the light, saliva dripping to the road in large dollops. Their eyes were trained on us, as if waiting for us to make the next move. Standing in a loose circle, they seemed to be closing in. I felt trapped from all sides, and unable to move. This was the end.
I felt a warm hand around me, and looked to the side to see him holding me. He whispered slowly, "Don't worry. You're with me. I'll take care of this." I should have been relieved, but I was in survival mode, and in no mood to trust him. I don't remember what exactly happened next. He raised his hand slowly, like politicians in India do to quiet crowds. Slowly murmuring "Sshhh...", he turned to each dog, as if pacifying them. His voice was mesmerising somehow, and in my muddled state, it was inviting. He was firm and strict. I don't know how it worked, but the dogs were starting to shut up. The ones who were first addressed stopped barking, and the effect spread to the rest of the pack. They all looked just as ferocious and blood-thirsty, but they weren't barking. He pulled me forward, holding me tight, and we walked out of the circle while all the dogs were watching us. I did not comprehend what had just happened, just that we were out of the circle. We kept walking. I felt exhausted, and in no mood to talk. Holding me, he dropped me home, where I instantly fell asleep.
I sometimes still get flashes of what happened that night, but those dogs never barked at me again.