Part 3 (Please scroll down for the earlier parts)
Winter came early to Ghaziabad that year. From strolling around in shorts and cut off vests and sweating into the bed at night there had been an imperceptible shift to full sleeved shirts and light sweaters. Blankets began to be pulled out from the cupboard. The roaring coolers without which the summer days and nights in the hostel had been impossible went into early retirement. The hardier of the students still persisted with the ceiling fan but in most rooms it remained switched off at night. The change in weather also resulted in a general improvement in appearance. The summer months had been cause for endless perspiration and no matter how many times one showered, it was impossible not to appear sticky. Every individual walked within his own half meter radius of icky discomfort and he cringed if anyone crossed the barrier. There was no back slapping among friends and even the most lovesick of couples preferred to talk to each other instead of indulging in acts of affection. There was certain restlessness in the air. Patience was short and tempers flared frequently.
When winter came however the perspiration (and as a consequence the tension) dried up. The air became clean and crisp. The students looked smart in their sweaters and everyone appeared fresh and cheerful. The couples suddenly couldn’t get enough of each other. Even the campus was very pretty in the early months of the cold.
The cold wasn’t the only thing that was new to IMT. Mango had given birth to five pups and they joyfully greeted the world with little yips and wagging tails. Perpetually ravenous, they worried their mother incessantly for milk and affection. With their tiny tails oscillating wildly like pendulums gone haywire, they suckled on her teats like there was no tomorrow. As they toppled each other in a desperate attempt to reach the best teat, they were a treat to watch. Relaxing quietly on her side as she fed them, Mango was the very picture of a serene, content mother.
She was of course a very lucky dog. A student of the executive batch had fallen head over heels in love with the pups. Fearing harm to them, he had allowed her to take up residence in his room. He spread sacking material on the floor for the family to lie down on. Thrice a day, he made trips to the canteen and returned with eggs, milk and bread for her to wolf down. For a stray dog, she led a life of luxury. The room though became a mess. It stank to the high heavens but that did not deter him from providing for her. It was an act of selfless love.
When the administrative staff began to make complaining noises he shouted them down and made it clear that if they tried anything the consequences would be unpleasant. But he was a worried man. The executive course ran only for a year and his time was almost up. He was certain the pups would be thrown out after he left and he had done his best to find homes for them. He managed to find a home for one of the pups but the other four sadly were not that lucky. What was he to do?
The first time I visited the room, I was both touched by the sight of the pups and taken aback by the havoc they had created. The tables had been dragged to the side to make room for a sea of sacking material. From the middle of this sea, rose two beds – tiny human settlements completely at the mercy of their canine overlords. While the exec guy looked perfectly at home, his roomie looked like he didn’t know what hit him. Overnight he had gone from being part owner of the room to a poorly treated guest. Books worth four semesters lay scattered on his bed. Any other location would have invited the curiosity of the four legged fiends. It was impossible not to feel sorry for him. The pups shuffled around, sniffing everything in their path, determined to explore every corner of the room. Every now and then one of them would dart for the door, eager to see what lay outside these four walls. Immediately the exec student would curse and scoop the pup up before he disappeared into the big bad world yonder.
The pups captivated me completely. I couldn’t bear the thought of them being thrown out when they were so small and entirely incapable of looking after themselves. The nasty dogs outside the campus would finish them off in minutes. I brought Mathew, Deepa and Aritri over to look at the pups and think of a solution. As expected they fell for the pups too. I wasn’t alone in my fears anymore.
So we decided to bring them over to our hostel. I-lobby was the only coed hostel in IMT. Coed in the sense that the ground floor and first floor were occupied by the boys while the second and third floors were occupied by the girls. As we all stayed in the same hostel, it would be easier to look after them. We reasoned that if we kept the pups a little longer, they would grow big enough to fend for themselves. It also gave us more time to find homes for them.
It was a decision that would complicate our lives terribly in the weeks to come.