A Short Story


On the fourth day of May, Tony got observed on the sidewalk of lane number six. His thin, frail body lay listless till midday. Only then did Manohar, ironing clothes nearby, realise something was amiss.

Tony’s body seemed limp, eyes closed and his heart unresponsive. On approaching Manohar touched Tony’s head. A clump of hair came off. The furless skin glistened in the sunlight.

Tony of Emerald Apartments had breathed his last. On the streets, he adopted as home. An onward journey now beckoned him.

Sighing, Manohar called out to Ravi, his assistant at work. They shifted Tony’s body under a shade tree.

“Inform Neha didi”, Manohar instructed. Then as an afterthought, “no, maybe I should break the news.”



The mundane morning housework over, Neha was settling down to a hot coffee. On hearing Manohar call, she stepped out on the porch.

“Didi, it’s Tony”, blurted Manohar. “He’s gone.”

“Gone?” queried Neha.

Even before Manohar clarified, she knew the inevitable had happened.

‘Tony was in a bad way yesterday’, she admonished herself. ‘I should have acted immediately.’ How would she break the news to Akshi? Tony was her favourite.



Akshi, aged ten was Neha’s daughter and she loved her furry street friends. There were about six of them. When first sighted, they were adolescents. Their origin was an unsolved puzzle. Some perhaps lived near the vegetable shop with their mother. As the matrilineal bond shrank, they broke away and made the inner streets their home. Joined by a few vagabonds, they soon formed a formidable bandwagon.

As always happens, opinions got divided. Some residents remained unconcerned, others predicted attacks and rabies. Still, others saw their mere presence as an insult to pets.

The nonchalant bandwagon remained happily unaware of these bittersweet emotions. The humans argued, debated, and fought. The confident canines firmly entrenched themselves. Days flew by with no solution to this predicament. The animal van got mentioned, but nothing fructified. The guards shooed them away. Each time they sneaked back.

Soon some residents began feeding them. Children eased up toward them and they energetically reciprocated. The dogs were winning. All with the tacit support of some including Neha and Akshi.

Neha began feeding one of them. Akshi named him Rotu. Rotu spent the most time in the vicinity of Neha’s home. When others strolled around the neighbourhood, undemanding Rotu would sit outside the gate, maintaining a polite distance. Though, he also ensured an acknowledgment of his presence. Rotu had adopted Neha.

A bright red bowl came along. Nani’s old shawl became a mat. Nana let the shawl be spread in his motor garage. The ruffian of the streets had become a prince.

Word spread fast in the canine world. Rotu was having the time of his life. ‘When we can’t beat him, we must join him’. A unanimous decision! Sure enough, soon the pack was lining up, awaiting acceptance.

Akshi loved all this. She would meet her furry friends on way to school. They would bark adieu. And wait patiently for her return.



One afternoon, Neha noticed a newcomer. Older, thinner, somber. A straggler, for sure. The mysterious outlander with his big brown eyes looked up at Neha in anticipation. Neha melted. 

“One more”, commented Nana, smiling. Neha had gotten her green signal.

Akshi christened him Tony. A profound connection began to develop between the two.

Each afternoon, Tony would await Akshi near the dustbin, his hot spot. No jumping or delighted barking. Just a dignified glance. In return, Akshi would wave out as she crossed him. In the evenings, as she went cycling, he would nuzzle up to her. Sometimes he would nudge against Neha’s saree and Nana’s trousers. That was his way of expressing gratitude.

The others in the canine world, however, did not take all this too kindly. Tony was an outsider. Acceptance was slow. Quite clearly he wanted to collaborate, but the arrogant youths scorned the senior. Tony remained a loner.

After some awkward and failed overtures, he began eating alone, sleeping elsewhere, and reducing his interactions with the pack. That characterised his survival skill as much as a dignified living.

Nonetheless, the pack did all to harass him.


Early one morning Manohar came asking Neha for money. Tony had been injured in a fight. He urgently needed a vet. As Manohar spoke Neha could see Tony curled up under a car. When their eyes met, he looked away, as if embarrassed.

A rickshaw was brought. Manohar gently picked Tony up and took him for the dressing. Akshi cried fearing Tony would not return.

Tony did return, but the die had been cast. The ruffians had tasted blood. Strange that a seemingly easy-going pack could show vindictiveness to one of their own.

Time and again, Tony would get attacked. His injuries kept getting deeper and recovery, slower. Akshi daily gave him water and biscuits. With her pocket money, she bought a mat. Nani donated another shawl and each night Akshi would cover him with it.

Tony allowed himself these luxuries, purportedly not to hurt Akshi. Even though he knew this preferential treatment would go against him. In his rough-living world, jealousy played a primal role.

Neha began addressing him as ‘old Tony.’ Old, and more vulnerable, Tony now ate less, rested more. His movements were slow and long-drawn. At night, he hid in a safe place, sometimes sleeping in the motor garage. In warm-hearted Rotu, Tony found congeniality. Among the others, not so.



It was the evening of the third day of May. Neha and Akshi had just returned from shopping. Tony stood outside the gate, waiting. He had aged and looked exhausted and sickly. “Tony needs some food,” remarked Akshi, concerned.

That was to be Tony’s last meal. He ate a biscuit. Slowly slurping the water, he met Akshi’s gaze. Those, yet, big brown eyes were clouded in pain. As Akshi watched along, he slowly shuffled his feet to the road’s end.

That was the last Akshi saw of him.

The next morning Manohar found him lifeless on the sidewalk of lane number six. Tony got cremated in the small open land at the apartments’ end. The guard, Manohar, and Ravi attended. Neha stood in the background, lamenting the loss. Standing on the porch steps Akshi cried. It was the first death she had seen in her young life. 


That evening an anguished Neha was seated in the garden, her thoughts far away. ‘Water the plants’, suggested an inner voice. Yes, occupying herself would surely reduce the pain. Indeed, the therapeutic sound of water and the glistening droplets on the leaves did cheer her.

All a sudden, almost simultaneously, the hovering pack began to bark. Neha stepped out wondering. The barking increased for no apparent reason. She felt someone prodding her legs. In astonishment, she looked at the pack and then down. There was nobody there.

Or was there?

What seemed a lifetime was over in a few seconds. As sudden as it began, the barking ceased. The spurring stopped. Everything was back to normal. Stupefied, Neha felt an unexplainable feeling envelop her.

Tony had come to bid his final goodbye.



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gitanjali khanduri