They are everywhere, even in our nightmares. You should (or rather shouldn’t) see them after sunset. It is their reign. They run in packs and cast terrifying shadows under the streetlights. Their sight sends shivers down the spine of us humans, the weaker mortals. Needless to say, that the Gabbar Sighs who scare our toddlers into sleep are the hordes of these canines that howl under the bedroom windows.
The stray dogs of Srinagar frolic on the streets, partying every night on the massive amount of garbage we callously discard. We buy more food than we need, a lot of which invariably ends up on their dinner table. We also keep just our homes spotless; any place that we do not hold the ownership of is Sarkari and therefore not our headache. Additionally, our less-than-perfect garbage disposal habits make life good for the street mongrels who find food in plenty and grow to enormous sizes. They jump right into the garbage bins and are literally swimming in non-vegetarian multi-cuisine delights which sometimes reminds of Scrooge McDonald swimming in his vast wealth.
It is amusing to see the half-starved street strays of other States. They look like babies compared to the massive, well fed, and watered mongrels roaming our streets. The Srinagarite dogs have shiny fur reflecting good health. Their long canine teeth are sharp, white and gleaming from good nutrition.
The fact that strays of Srinagar are mostly either orange or black in colour does not help our plight, both colours casting fear in the hearts of the inhabitants. The huge orange ones parade the streets like lions would in a jungle. With the umpteen street puddles acting as their mirrors, they know how they look. They carry themselves with a knowing pride and a dangerous gleam in their eyes.
Though their actual regime begins at night, the days are no better. There is as much chance of you being ripped to shreds during the daytime as at night. If you walk alone near a pack, at least a tiny nibble on their part is your fault. It is like prey walking right into their paws.
Isha and Fajr are extra special here because they are a daredevil’s job. It is better not just to pray in a congregation but also to commute in a congregation. If you are in a car, roll down the windows at your own risk and responsibility, because they are capable of climbing high walls and jumping right into your vehicle from there.
A tiny puppy on the street, playing joyfully, is cute. But don’t get too carried away. One step closer will reveal an angry mother baring her entire denture at you. If you are lucky, this is where the horror will end. If you are not, you will get to meet and greet the entire family; scores of them snarling and growling at a biting distance.
It is their sheer number which terrifies. As per the 2011 dog census there are ninety thousand dogs living on the streets of Srinagar. The new census that began on the 1st of July will reveal a much larger population for sure. Meanwhile as per Outlook India, for every 13 people, there is a dog in Srinagar meaning we have a personalised foe for nearly every household! Yay! This is perhaps the reason why there is hardly any person alive today who hasn’t had an encounter with these co-habitants. Someone in the family has surely been bitten at some point or the other.
In conclusion, the canine empire is likely to thrive in the foreseeable future so we must get better at survival as well. A simple stick will not be able to guard against hordes of dogs so we must borrow Iron Man’s suit from science fiction and wear it without fail on the streets. Keeping a vaccine in the bag at all times is another great idea. It is also better to hook kids to all sorts of electronic media so that they never are tempted to play outside.
For our own good, we must try to embrace the virtual world and not leave home at all. Groceries can be ordered online and virtual jobs given preference. We must stay indoors to stay safe. This is, however, temporary. We just need to stay indoors till scientists discover a way for humans to fly. That way unless the vultures take over, we can own the sky!
Dr. Ambreen Hamadani,National Institute of Technology, Srinagar