Ravin always used dark alleys when he had to take home a huge bribe. He thought he was less conspicuous in dark unlit sub lanes.
He would never receive it in his office, but book three rooms in a hotel on the outskirts of the city in three different names, cancel two at the last moment so as to confuse the anti-corruption officials if they were following him and finally get the bribe in the car park or lift, or in the rest room of a restaurant in the hotel.
Everything went smoothly and the contractor paid him the money in a large suitcase as a favour for approving the bills that did not state the actual costs. The contractor, dressed in a tight blue suit that accentuated his huge belly, invited him for a party and hinted there was a beautiful call girl with an AIDS free certificate waiting for him. Ravin refused; got into the car he rented, removed his wig and glasses, and cleared away from the hotel like a murderer running away from the crime scene.
The night was cool and he whistled a tune while he sped down the smooth roads of suburban Chennai, a large city in the southern part of India. Jenny would be unaware of the bribe money; he never discussed bribes with her. He’d buy her a diamond ring and deposit the remaining amount in a foreign bank in his secret account.
He entered a dark alley, and while he was half way through it, he suddenly felt he was losing control of his vehicle. It slowed down and stopped with a gurgling noise.
He opened the door, and just as he was about to get down the car, he saw the dog. It had sores all over its body, and with a ferocious look, it barked at him.
Ravin retreated inside the car and slammed the door shut. The dog came near the car, sniffed and barked again. More dogs materialized from the darkness. They gathered around the car and as they came closer, Ravin could see that almost all of them had bloody wounds on their bodies.
Ravin realized the reason for the sudden increase in the population of the stray dogs. The Government had issued orders not to kill the stray dogs. Instead the female dogs should be caught, a doctor should do a birth control operation on them and then they should be left free in the streets again. The corporation workers would have found the process very tedious and simply left the dogs to populate.
“No doubt they have rabies,” Ravin said as he sat frozen inside the car.
The man at the rental had cheated him. Ravin was so preoccupied with the bribe money; he didn’t notice the condition of the car. Now he couldn’t contact the rental, or a mechanic, as he never carried a cell phone when he went out to get a bribe.
Ravin counted twenty dogs. Three or four dogs sat before the car, blocking his path, and the others watched the car intently with venomous looks. One dog looked up into the dark sky and howled like a wolf.
Ravin waited. If someone came by, he would ask for help. But, with a sinking feeling, he realized that no one would use this alley at night, fearing robbery.
He switched the headlights on and off so that someone in the buildings surrounding the alley might notice and come for help. But nothing happened.
Ten minutes later, he saw a homeless guy walking in his direction. He was lean, wore a dirty pullover and shorts. The dogs did not react, and behaved as if he were one of them. Ravin noticed that some of them even wagged their tails.
The homeless guy jumped over a dog, came near the car, and tapped on the window. Ravin rolled down the window, and the homeless guy asked, “What happened?”
“I got stuck. Some problems in the car, the bloody dogs won’t let me to get out to find what the problem is.”
The guy laughed and said, “You’re trapped.”
“Yeah, I need your help.”
The guy screwed up his face and looked at him questioningly. Ravin continued, “I’ll give you money. You go and get some food and a fetch a taxi. I’ll throw the food at the dogs to distract them, then I’ll get into the taxi and drive away.”
The guy raised his voice, “What about me? You can’t just leave me here.”
“I’ll give you money or else you can come with me to my home. I’ll give you food, new clothing, and help you find a job.”
“You didn’t tell this at first.”
“Sorry. I’m confused, and I’m tense.”
”Okay, call me Sami. I live in this street.”
Two of the dogs got into fight and tried to bite each other. Their barking reached a crescendo and Sami turned his attention to them and shouted, “Come on, boys. Stop your fight.”
Ravin unzipped a large suitcase he kept by his side, pulled out a bundle of money, and showed it to Sami. “You can have this if you chase the dogs away and help me to find a taxi.”
He looked at the money without interest. “I don’t need that much money. I live a very simple life and wouldn’t know how to stop thieves and burglars from killing me to get it.”
Ravin was losing his patience. “Come on, tell me, what exactly do you want?”
“I need nothing. But I plan to help you without getting anything from you. It’s a one way deal.”
Ravin was happy. “Come on, chase away the dogs.”
Sami sat on the hood of the car and looked at him through the windscreen.
“No, no. You should ask first.”
Ravin was confused. “Hey! I asked you.”
“Ask in a proper way”
“Beg, beg, you foolish rich man.”
“Don’t you know how to beg?”
“No. I never begged in my life.”
“Then learn to beg. Fold your hands across your chest, lower your head and ask what you want.”
Ravin thought for a moment. What was he going to lose by begging to this fool? If he refused, he’d have to wait here until dawn.
Ravin folded his hands across his chest, lowered his head and said, “Go and get a taxi.”
“Don’t you know manners? Don’t you use the word ‘please’?
“Please go and get a taxi.”
“I need a sir.”
“Sir, please go and get a taxi.”
Sami hit the windscreen with his hand and shouted. “I want expression, more expression. Your face looks stone hard. Nobody will help you if you beg like this.”
Ravin softened his face muscle a little and said, “Please go and get a taxi, sir.”
“Correct, you’re onto the exact begging. Okay, I’ll consider your request and decide if I want to help you.”
Ravin uncrossed his hands and looked at Sami expectantly.
Sami though for a moment and said, “You should fill your heart with love, get down from the car, approach the dogs with all your body language showing love, love, love and nothing else. Look at them with pleasing eyes and gently ruffle their furs and all the dogs will be your friends. Then you can walk from this place freely without needing help from anyone.”
Ravin cringed at the thought. “No. I won’t risk my life.”
Sami laughed and said, “I want to repeat what the guy at the rehabilitation centre said to me. Face things in life. Don’t ever try to run away from them.”
Ravin wasn’t convinced. He closed the window and said, “Okay. I don’t need your help. I’ll stay here until dawn.”
Sami drummed on the windscreen with his fingers and climbed to the top of the car. Ravin became restless. This guy is dangerous, he thought. The car began to shake and he heard ‘thud,’ ‘thud’ sounds from the roof of the car. The bastard is dancing. Ravin opened the window an inch and heard Sami singing in a harsh voice.
Ravin switched on and off the car lights again and pressed the horn. It blared continuously, breaking the stillness of the night and making the dogs bark. It was ghastly; the flashing light, the nerve chilling shrilly horn, the deafening sound of bark, and the song in a harsh voice.
The singing stopped and Sami called from the top.
“Can’t you let a man sing?”
“I need help. I want to escape from this hell of a place.”
“Show love to the dogs and escape.”
“No. I don’t have the nerve to do it.”
“You don’t know how to show love? You’re a moron, a robot, a machine.”
Ravin remained silent and Sami resumed his singing and dancing.
Ravin checked the time. It was 12:30, still five hours to kill. He heard a whistle sound and became attentive. A security guard was on prowl!! He flickered the car headlights on and off as he saw a man with a torchlight walking towards him. The dogs turned their attention to the security guard and barked. Ravin rolled down the window and shouted, “Help, help” The security guard stopped, assessed the situation, turned back and walked away.
He heard the Sami laughing from the top of the car.
“Nobody is going to help you.”
“No, he is going to get some help.”
“No, no. No security guard will admit his inability. He’ll simply walk away to a safer place.”
Ravin’s heart sunk. Yes, he was correct. Sami jumped down from the car top and lit a cigarette.
Holding the pack toward Ravin, he said, “Want a cigarette?”
Ravin said, “No.”
Sami asked, “You smoke only costly cigarettes?”
Ravin was irritated and said, “Yeah.”
“Try this one. It’ll be different.”
He came to the window and puffed smoke in Ravin’s face.
“You forget the word, ‘thanks.’ I’m the boss here, know that?”
“Okay. No, thanks.”
“That’s sport,” He continued, “Do you know why I lit a cigarette? To show you I can light the car like I lit the cigarette. Don’t think you can sit safe inside the car and escape in the morning. ”
A shiver ran through Ravin’s body. “Please don’t do anything stupid. I want to live.”
“Then practice love. Come on, come out.”
Ravin moved to the door and opened it slightly.
“Be brave, come on.” Sami encouraged him.
Ravin opened the door further and a bunch of dogs readied themselves and ran towards the car at high speed. Ravin shut the door. “No, I can’t do it. The filthy dogs will bite me.”
“They won’t bite you if you love them.”
“How could I show my love to them? They won’t understand.”
“Express your love through your eyes and your whole body.”
“No. I don’t think I’ll do it.”
“Try again. Come on.”
“I’d be more confident if you stood near the car and controlled the dogs if they made a wrong move.”
“Okay.” He walked over to the car and stood near the door. Ravin opened the door and the dogs ran toward him. Sami raised his hands and stopped them. He said to the dogs, “He’s trying. Let’s give him a chance.”
Ravin moved towards the door, as Sami was standing with his back toward him. Never taking his eyes off the dogs, Ravin reached out and grabbed Sami’s shoulder. When Sami fell down, Ravin went for his neck, but he could only grab a hold of his pullover. While trying to pull him inside the car, Sami shouted, “Come on, dogs.” The dogs sprang at him like horses with warriors and Ravin made a final attempt, but the pullover tore, leaving Sami on the ground. Ravin shut the door; the dogs hit the car and fell down on Sami.
Sami got up and roamed around the car like a wounded animal. He looked inside the car and shouted, “So you planned to kill me. You, cunning rich man! You should be punished.” He punched the windscreen and the glass broke. He cried out in pain as he withdrew his hand, but his face showed a mad glee. He withdrew and walked into the darkness. Ravin waited, Sami didn’t come out, but the car shook and the glass in the door shredded to pieces as large stone hit the car. More stones followed, more glass broke, and Ravin had to sneak under the seat for cover.
The stone throwing stopped after a while and Ravin got out from his hiding place. He felt defenceless as all windows had broken and the dogs had shifted their positions closer to the car. One of the dogs got up on the hood and tried to poke its head inside.
Sami appeared before the car again.
“The dogs are waiting for my instructions. If I say ‘yes’, they’ll move inside and share the car with you.”
“No, please don’t do that.”
“Then come out.”
“Then tell the dogs not to bite me.”
“You come out. You have no choice.”
Ravin opened the door, hesitatingly put his feet on the ground, got out, and stood near the car.
“Come on, walk”
He walked and the dogs followed him.
He stood still.
The dogs sniffed him, licked his feet and one of the dogs put its paws on his back and tried to climb him.
Sami said, “Move.”
Ravin slowly began to walk.
Ravin hesitated and stood still.
“Sit down or the dogs will bite you.”
He sat on the ground. The dogs moved around him in a circle.
“Now put your hands on the ground and move like a dog.”
Ravin placed his hands on the ground and inched forward like a dog.
“Now, wag your tail.”
Ravin shook his butt.
“Correct. Now bark.”
“Now lie down on the ground and sleep.”
Ravin lay down on the ground. The dogs sat near him and he noticed two or three dogs wagging their tails.
Sami walked to his side. “The dogs won’t bite you. You can sleep now.”
Ravin tried not to sleep, but as all the problems had subsided, his reflexes returned to normal and he drifted into deep sleep.
He got up when he felt the heat of sunlight on his body. He checked the time and it was 6.30. He looked around and saw that the place looked different in the morning. Petty shops, godowns and small restaurants lined both sides of the street and people, not dogs, were walking around; they were mostly workers going to the factories for the morning shift. The pickpockets, small thieves, drunkards and bad elements hovered around the street in search of victims. The filthy dogs had retreated to their hiding place.
Sami walked toward him, carrying a glass of steaming coffee in his hand.
“Drink this. The game is over and you’re safe now.”
Ravin took the glass and threw it at Sami’s face.
“How dare you do such a thing to me? Do you think I’m such a fool?”
Sami covered his face with his hands and cried out in pain.
Ravin gave Sami a hard punch in his stomach that made him stagger and fall down on the ground. Ravin spit on his face, kicked his body and Sami rolled over. Some of the pedestrians stopped and watched their fight.
Ravin pulled him up from the ground and slapped him hard on the face.
“Don’t ever try to play your silly game on anyone again?”
He pushed him hard and Sami fell on the ground again. Ravin walked to his car and picked up his suitcase. He marched jauntily towards the main road.
Sami got up and shouted at Ravin. “Hey, rich man. You’re still unsafe. Don’t think the coast is clear.”
Ravin stopped and turned. “If you set the dogs on me, I‘ll run inside any one of the buildings. Don’t make yourself a fool.” Ravin walked on.
Sami whistled and clapped his hands, and when it attracted the attention of some of the seedy looking guys in the street, he pointed at Ravin.
“Hey, guys. That man is a thief. He looted a bank and is carrying the money in his suitcase. Go and get your share.”
They looked uncertainly at Sami.
“Yes, he has a lot of money in that suitcase and it was stolen.”
One of the pedestrians made a move towards Ravin. Others joined him. Ravin started to run. The pedestrians chased him. Finally Ravin was killed in the stampede, scramble and the mad fight for the money before he could reach the main road.