Writing from: Varanasi streetside internet cafe with a dog in a jumper outside.
The second class waiting room at Jhansi station. Half ten at night. It seems outside on the platform that all the tired Indians in the country are trying to find floorspace.
Into the waiting room trots a blonde-red street dog. Creeping in to sleep under the table in the centre of the room. He is pointy muzzled and streetwary. His ears are everywhere. He finally relaxes enough to lay down on the floor and rest his tired nose on his battle-scarred haunch.
The keeper of this waiting room is a thick-waisted tyrant of a woman. Stalking the small space in a powder-blue sari, barking at a subdued family with a bobble-hatted baby as they sitquietly, and following a bewildered Japanse tourist in to the bathroom.
She sits before a sheet of important-looking railway paper, checking and double-checking her list to make sure no one was relaxing in her uncomfortable domain who shouldn’t be.
Suddenly she spies the sleeping hound. My stomach screws up as I watch her hand flail behind her and close around a thick bamboo staff leaning against the wall for just such an occasion. She wrenches herself to her sandalled feet with anger blazing from behind her thick spectacles.
She lumbers to the table front as swiftly as her chunky legs will let her, bends, and swipes. Our four-legged friend, sleeping though he was, is on his feet in an instant. He slides under the opposite side of the table and dodges, in sleepy canine confusion, around the table and towards the door. His claws scratching on the concrete floor as he just makes the turn and scrabbles for freedom.
The blue sari swings around, much faster than she looks capable of. She rounds her staff and puts all her weight into one last try, bringing the stick down on the spine of the escaping hound with a resounding thwack everyone in the room can feel. Our hero yelps, barely bares his teeth, and bolts.
I sit where I am with my hand over my mouth and my eyes almost shut. She squelches back to her seat and reinstalls herself with a satisfied smack of her lips, singing her own victory. She looks around her domain, no doubt checking for admiring glances. I believe, under my shock, that I gave her one of my finest looks of disgust laced with a heavy helping of “you’ll get yours”. Then we got up and left.
Our friend licks his smarting hide, shakes himself, and trots off to lie down in a damp station corner. He’s seen it all before.
We board a train for Varanasi a little later.
I am starting to think I am all India-ed out…