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A tiny glimpse into Sudha Murty’s brand-new bag of stories!

Have you ever wondered why the dogs start barking in the middle of the night? Ajja and Ajji have a story for us that might just explain why this happens. Here is an excerpt:

 

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The Language of the Dogs

It was a quiet and hot night. The children were sitting in the veranda under thefan, talking to each other.

A short distance away, Ajja and Kamlu Ajji were sitting on the stairs in comfortable silence, each lost in their own thoughts. They could hear the street dogs barking near the main gate of the house.

‘Why do the dogs bark at night?’ asked Kamlu Ajji. ‘It’s the same story in Bangalore too—they start barking in the middle of the night and go on for a really long time.’

‘They also have their own problems,’ said Ajja. ‘Usually, the dogs are fed leftover food from restaurants. But these days, no hotels are open during the lockdown and many are going hungry.’

Ajja turned and called out to Ajji who was still inside the house. ‘Do you have any food for the dogs?’ he yelled.

‘A few chapatis and some rice,’ she yelled back. ‘Bring them here!’
Ajji brought the food and biscuits and went with

Ajja and Kamlu Ajji to the main gate. The children watched from a distance. They looked on as two dogs appeared.

Grandparents' Bag of StoriesAjji put biscuits, rice and chapati in a bowl and kept water in another bowl just outside the gate. The two dogs looked at her and attacked the food greedily, gobbling it down in minutes. Then they drank the water, wagged their tails to thank her and ran away.

Slowly, the trio walked back and sat on the steps of the veranda. Ajji said, ‘I wish they could speak. Then I could make them their favourite food. After all, the earth also belongs to them.’

‘Your perspective is so different,’ said Ajja. ‘Humans can speak and that’s why we can do the things we want to and own material things like property and land.’

‘Poor animals. We are occupying their land just because they cannot communicate like us. Even if they had ownership of any piece of land before us, they can’t tell us.’

‘You are right,’ said Kamlu Ajji. ‘Now that humans are all indoors, lots of animals in India are coming out from the forests to the cities nearest to them because it was all their land a long, long time ago.’

Ajja added, ‘This world would have been a different place if we understood the chirping of birds and the language of animals.’

Ajji smiled and said, ‘I am thinking of Dheeraj now.’ ‘Who’s Dheeraj?’ asked Ajja.
‘Do you want to listen to a story?’
Ajja and Kamlu Ajji nodded their heads like children, eager to listen to what Ajji had to say.

 

***

Amit and his wife Preeti were high-ranking officials in their kingdom. They were young, powerful and rich and lived in a mansion by a river. They frequently hosted official celebrations on their yacht or their beautiful large gardens, but made sure they invited only those people from the kingdom who were also rich or powerful, and not whom they considered less fortunate.

Ramu was a housekeeper who lived with them and served them for years. One day, he brought home a young boy of six years. The boy looked innocent and intelligent.

Ramu asked Preeti, ‘I met this boy in the village fair. He doesn’t have anyone to take care of him. I would like to help him. Can he live with me?’

Preeti glanced at the boy and said, ‘Sure, as long as he works for us and does not spoil the premises.’

And that is how Dheeraj began living in Preeti and Amit’s home.

front cover - Grandparents's Bag of Stories
Grandparents’ Bag of Stories||Sudha Murty

One day, Amit hosted a dinner for an important minister. The evening began with a tour of the river on the yacht. Then the yacht docked on the riverside, and music began playing as the celebrations commenced in the beautiful gardens. There was a wide spread of delicacies being served. Dheeraj was assisting Ramu with his chores.

The dinner was in full swing when the barking of two dogs disturbed Amit and his guests. The dogs were right outside the main gate of the gardens. Amit gave instructions to Ramu to hush them and chase them away, but the dogs refused to move. The non-stop barking upset Amit and he said, ‘I wish someone could understand what they are saying so that we could respond appropriately and ask them to leave.’

Dheeraj was nearby and overheard Amit. Timidly, he approached the master of the house and said, ‘Sir, I can understand them.’

Some of the guests laughed while others passed sarcastic comments.

Preeti asked, ‘Tell me, boy, what are they saying?’

‘Madam, I will tell you if you promise me that you will not get upset when I share their words with you,’ said Dheeraj, looking worried.

‘They must be talking about food, boy! Anyway, hurry up and tell us,’ said Preeti firmly.

‘Madam, they are not talking about food.’

‘Get to the point, boy! I am losing patience with you,’ snapped Amit.

Nervously, Dheeraj continued, ‘Sir, there is a male dog and a female dog at the gate. The male dog said, “Look at life’s irony.”

“What do you mean?” said the female dog.

“This couple is used to being served by someone all the time. But a day will come when the master of this house will give an important person water to wash their hands and the lady will voluntarily run and bring a towel for him to wipe his hands.”

“Who are you talking about? Whom will this couple serve?”

“The male dog grinned and said, “This little boy.”

Both the dogs then had a hearty laugh,’ said Dheeraj, and fell silent.

The silence spread through the guests and it ruined their mood.

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Did you lose yourself in Ajja and Ajji’s world of stories? We did too! There is so much more in Grandparents’ Bag of Stories.

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