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A Driving Lesson With My Dog
A Dog Bodyguard For Three Women Alone In a Car
Getting your own car at last and learning to drive it is a heady feeling. Even if it’s a second-hand Fiat and the window doesn’t roll up and the hand brake doesn’t work. I speak of the hand brake specifically because it’s one of the things you need to climb Nandi Hills with and this is where my friend Anjana, her sister Priya, I and my dog Rasputin headed to one weekend.
I’d always thought it would be safer to drive shrouded in a burkha so Roadside Romeos wouldn’t chase you. But on this adventure we had Rasputin for bodyguard and our hats somehow gave us an air that said : Hey were not like that. Don’t mess with us. Priya I had just met, yet she was to teach me driving like the grimy mechanic who taught me every night couldn’t. I’d only had seven lessons and he’d not yet taught me to reverse. But I wasn’t really bothered about that since Priya knew how. She’s a gutsy woman, Priya. She’d only driven a Maruti before and had just got the hang of the hand gears of the Fiat moments before we set out.
En route we stopped for lunch and I took Rasputin along to help keep the men at bay. Anjana and Priya ate chicken kebabs while I ate guavas, cucumber and tomatoes. You see, I gave up meat of any kind and onion and garlic too. The former poisons you and the latter incites the wrong kinds of passion. Priya suggested we turn around and go back since we’d had our drive and the hand brake wasn’t working. She feared that the old car wouldn’t be able to make it to the top.
“But you haven’t seen Nandi Hills,” said Anjana. “How can we go back now? We may as well go on.”
Yeah, I said, if the car gives any signs of not making it, well come back.
Rasputin may have offered a comment here but he was busy gawking at the roadside dhaba’s bitch. I stopped him from trailing her with a bone that was not meant to be in the kebab.
Shall I drive now? I said after wed finished eating.
“You want to?” asked Priya.
“Sure. I love to drive.”
Anjana just smiled and Rasputin looked at me with his trusting brown eyes.
Hey! Will You Let Me Drive?
I ignited and almost banged into a passing bus.
“Watch it!” cried Anjana from the rear. Well, at least Id remembered to keep my foot on the clutch while I braked so the car was still running. Of course Priya decided to take over. And I still had to get a chance to drive.
Why weren’t you looking in the rear view mirror? asked she.
“It’s new to me,” I said. “I thought you’d be looking behind us.”
“Why should we? You’re the driver,” said she.
My Old Fiat Makes It Up Nandi Hills
I did get to drive when the stretch was clear and it was a thrill. All the girls did was giggle when I made little errors so I knew I was all right.
Wonder of wonders, the old car did make it up almost to the top before it begged for a little rest. But the Marutis parked at the point were resting too. “We made it! I yelled, We made it!”
We let the engine cool off a bit and enjoyed the view of the plains below with lakes like sheets of gold in the sun. Rasputin showed off by nonchalantly climbing up onto the boundary walls on the side of the road that separated us from the chasm below.
“Eeeeks!” cried Anjana.
“It’s okay”, I said, “dogs are more sure-footed than us.”
But no dog can be sure-footed when he’s chasing a monkey off a cliff.
This is just what Rasputin did. We were on the highest point on the hill when we saw him flash across after a monkey. “Nooooooo!” I shrieked running after him. Imagine my horror when I saw that he had vanished into thin air! The monkey he was chasing was tittering on the rock, looking down, it seemed, at my dog. Other monkeys were joining up and looking down too.
My Dog’s Whining Is a Welcome Sound
We called for him a dozen times. No answer. I thought he’d surely fallen into the valley below and was right then decorating some tree. How could I leave without finding him? And then I heard a faint whine.
“That must be him!” I cried.
“I told you not to let go of his chain!” cried Anjana.
“What’s the point of saying that now? It only makes me feel worse.” The whining got louder.
“I can see his tail! said Priya.
Asking them to look for someone who could go down and get him, I decided to descend a bit till I could see him and so give him some reassurance. It was pure adrenaline. There was this deep chasm below me and a small ledge where I thought Rasputin must be. The monkeys were still talking about him with great concern. Holding onto the strong grasses, I let myself down about five feet before I saw his face and he saw me.
Dog Rescued From the Cliff Ledge
“Come up Rasputin. Good dog!” I kept saying, but he couldn’t find the way up. I was wondering whether I’d have to descend further for it was now growing dark and who can find a black dog in the dark? There was only his white bear to give him away. I caught hold of my jade locket of the Laughing Buddha for luck and after a few minutes help arrived: sight-seers like us and they didn’t know how to climb rocks either. But being brave, they emptied their pockets, took off their slippers and descending about ten feet, got Rasputin to climb up again.
When I offered them money they laughed it off. Nice guys. Nice Laughing Buddha.
I drove back to Bangalore most of the way in the dark and managed beautifully to avoid the trucks. Now I don’t need any more driving lessons. I even know how to reverse. All I need is a license.