It was the December of 1991, one of the coldest winters seen in Bangalore. The days were pretty tense. My grandfather(maternal) had been serious. There were quite a few anxious days and nights, and anxious visits to Srinagar (we were in Chamarajpet then). He eventually passed away in his sleep the same month.
Bangalore, Mysore and Mandya were also burning over Kaveri. Sights of buses charred to the last bits of metal were common. There was curfew with shoot at sight orders imposed in Chamarajpet. Had seen a huge posse of policemen, all carrying rifles patrolling the streets. We were sitting on the terrace watching the whole action, before one of them caught sight of us and ordered us down and inside our homes.
Those were days of anxiety. The monsoons had been strong too. Classes had been running at half strength as students stayed away due to the rains. There were rains all the way till November. My tonsils had been acting up too causing many days of sickness.
And then one day, I heard it for the first time. A dog howling. It was long, and drawn out. Almost baleful, as if mourning something he had lost. It sent shivers down my spine as I lay there in bed. Next morning, my grandma (paternal) told me this wasn’t the first time. That dogs could sense Yama, the God of death when he is around. That the dog had howled the day my grandfather had passed away. It beat me why it would howl in Chamarajpet when my grandfather was in Srinagar. But the association stuck.
To this day dogs howling at night scares the hell out of me. And yesterday they set off a symphony of their own as half a dozen of them stationed themselves near my house and set off a long drawn out howling racket, that went on for close to an hour. All the time, I, now 29 years old, lay there in bed scared like shit! The important thing is they don’t set up such howls every night. It happens only certain nights, once a fortnight. Makes me wonder if its the moon, and their call to it.
The association still lingers. During day time looking at the same dogs lying timidly under the shades of still adolescent trees, I laugh at the thought that they could strike such fear at night. And then, once it starts the fear grips me. Makes me wonder who it is that might be visited by Yama that night. Am not a non-believer, but I do temper my beliefs to decide what to believe and what not to. There are enough holes in dogs howling and Yama visiting for me to know that it might be far fetched. Dogs have howled a lot, but they haven’t always resulted in people being dead in the morning. Or people die during the day time too and haven’t seen dogs howling during day time.
But then, they start their dolorous howls which no matter how I rationalize things, always manage to set my heart racing with fear. I wonder what it is about them, maybe it is the unnatural way the howls turn out from otherwise timid dogs, or maybe its a scar/fear from childhood that am yet to outgrow or is yet to heal. Until I know the answers I guess I’ll just close my eyes tight, hope that sleep takes me, and pray that all is well the next day morning.