A Scent of Danger

Prose

A story from Arjava’s memoir, Still… Here and Now: Growing Wings in Osho’s Garden

Stray dogs

I love India and Indians. Place me on an Indian train, in an airport or supermarket and I swear I will make friends with someone within minutes. Perhaps I am one quarter German, one quarter Indian, one quarter Japanese and one quarter Greek. Many times I rode my motorcycle down to MG Road just to experience its ‘Indianness’. (I’ll bet that by now you’re wondering what ‘MG’ stands for. It took me about a year to figure out – Mahatma Gandhi! I also bet you that if I went there today some of the shopkeepers would still remember me!) Many Sannyasins had a colonial attitude towards the Indians, which I could never understand. We were guests in their country and learning how to be in touch with our own Buddha nature – what a perfect setting for learning humility and gratitude.

But there were also scary experiences. One day I was driving down MG Road at a moderate speed when out of the corner of my eye I saw a man on a bicycle cross the one and only traffic light in Pune – on red! The light was green for me! It was too late to avoid a head-on collision and right away I saw his bicycle twist around my front wheel, and I watched as he took off into the air like a rocket… but all in slow motion. Then a few seconds later he came down several meters from my bike, luckily somehow without getting hurt too much. Within seconds I was surrounded by a crowd of at least 100 people and luckily again (as I discovered later) a police officer appeared, arrested me and took me to the nearby station. The crowd would not have been so kind to me.

At the station I was told that I had to pay for the bike, but being a good German I was not amused that I was to pay for someone else’s mistake. What I did not get was that they were not going to let me off. Finally an enlightening thought visited me and I called one of our Ashram Indian lawyers. He came over, asked me to give him the money that was asked of me, handed it to the police officer, and we left and went back to the Ashram.

Another sticky situation that repeated itself over and over again concerned the packs of street dogs that attacked those of us walking home at night alone. After a few scary encounters, by pure luck and providence I discovered that the only way that I could chase them away was by screaming at them in German. It scared the shit out of them! Some of the Indian residents of Koregaon Park always carried a stick with them when they went for a walk, maybe because unlike me, they did not speak German.

The Indians have a proverb that says: “Trouble is there and more dogs are coming.” Below is a short story I wrote about those dog-encounter conflicts by the river. As Mr. Chawal (and I) discovered, when problem-solving, adrenaline can be just as powerful as the mind.

More Dogs are Coming

Trouble always begins when you walk by yourself. At first you think that everything is all right and you are so glad to have left the crowd behind. But suddenly, out of nowhere appears the first dog… and once the first dog has appeared, you can rest assured that more dogs will be coming.

Mr. Chawal went for his evening walk all by himself. Every night at a quarter to six he left his house in the outskirts of the big city and stepped into the dusty road. He carried a walking stick, and the children of the neighborhood were scared of him. Someone once said that he had on one occasion beaten a child over the head with his cane. But this is just a rumor, and I don’t think it is true.

Chawal was a peace-loving man. During the times of the freedom movement, he had fought with the Mahatma. He still wore his white homespun wrap-around dhoti and the white cap. He did not give it up after they had won their fight.

He always walked out of his gate and towards the railway bridge. He listened to the sound of the trains, and the hooting made him feel at home. His office was in the city and the only time he could hear the trains was on his evening walk, the pinnacle of his day. He saw passengers riding on the roofs of overcrowded trains, holding onto a burlap bag or two. Their faces were lit with hope for the future and subdued with the memories of yesterday. He saw children with adult faces squatting by the side of the road. If it was their past lives that had brought them here once more, Mr. Chawal did not know. He saw old men looking like young boys, and black clouds and pink sun rays chasing each other into the oncoming night.

He walked through the army barracks, all the way to the shopping center and back again. Everyone was on their way home – officers and privates, tea stall owners as well as fruit sellers. And construction workers too. Most of them walked, and some had bicycles. Many people knew Mr. Chawal and greeted him in their own way. The men raised their right hand thirty degrees and shook their heads slightly back and forth just once, knowing that he did not want to be disturbed on his evening walk. The women saw him and he in turn saw them, though nobody indicated such. There was no need to talk. Mr. Chawal was a respected citizen.

By the time he reached the shopping center, it was pitch black. The heat of the day still hid in the concrete walls that lined the streets. Some of the residents splashed water on the walkways that led to their dwellings and the air smelled sweet for a few minutes after that. Here and there a night queen spread its otherworldly fragrance across the evening sky.

Mr. Chawal was almost back home from his walk when he decided to pay his respects to the river. The river had brought the people here thousands of years ago, and it had kept them here for all these centuries. It had brought with it the snows of the Himalayas, the fertile soil of the foothills, the good and the bad of all that lived around its banks.

He loved the river for this quality, because it reminded him of what he would like to be one day. The river was his future: free of the bondage of what should and should not be. Free of the good and the bad and the in-between. But that day was still far off, and until he reached his goal, he would just walk to town and back.

Once a week or so he would, like tonight, swing by the river. But the river was not without dangers. It was dark there at night, and in the cracks in between the big rocks that lined it lurked dangers from both the human and animal kingdoms. For one thing many of his countrymen used the place to deposit their wastes, for lack of their own facilities. It made the smells unbearable during the hot months, when it would have been nice to go to the river for a soft breeze of coolness. During the day countless pigs took care of the sanitation, while vultures waited for a feast of their own. Chawal loved to watch these giant birds hop with the lightness of a single feather in the summer heat, but he did not enjoy the sight of them at their dinner table.

Down by the burning ghats they circled and circled, but the funeral attendants chased them away with rocks and sticks.

In the daytime more dangers lurked in the form of snakes and scorpions. They did not usually come out of their hiding places during the day, but it happened now and then. One of his friends had been bitten by a poisonous snake years before and had only gotten away with his life thanks to a snake charmer, who had chanced to walk by a minute or two after the unfortunate event.

And at night there were the dogs. It was because of them that Chawal carried his stick. They were fierce and fearless. With an empty stomach and nothing to lose, even a good pup may turn into a vicious devil.

At first there was only one. It came towards Chawal with that particular desperate look in its bloodshot eyes. It wasn’t that Chawal did not like animals – when his children were young, they had had a pet monkey and a couple of colorful parrots, who whistled all day long. But these dogs were nothing like that. They were hungry, and they were wild! The dog’s ears rose up from its head and it came towards Chawal steadily and without hesitation. Its fur was scruffy and it dragged its tail behind itself, as if the appendage were not part of its body.

Chawal peacefully told the dog to leave him alone, but the creature would not listen. Then he yelled at it, to no avail. Now he motioned at the advancing animal with his cane, and the dog jerked back an inch, only to come forward again when the stick was once more hanging motionless from Chawal’s wrist. Then Chawal bent down and picked up a rock, hurling it at the scruffy beast. The dog ran off whimpering, but in an instant Chawal realized that he had made a bad mistake.

He did not like the growl he heard from behind the rocks in the near distance, and tried to make his way back towards the road. But the dusty lane was still far away and he could not see very well. The next dwellings were a ways off, and it was not likely that someone would hear his call. And it was even less likely that that someone would want to encounter the dogs.

Knowing that his chances were slim, Chawal decided to make a run for it. He grabbed his dhoti with his left hand, the cane with his right and headed for the lights. But he did not get very far before he stumbled and fell. The hard ground welcomed him readily and within a split second the dogs were all over him. One snapped at his ankle, another at his shoulder, and a third tried to get to his chest. Chawal had lost his cane in the fall, but then luckily found it lying next to him. His dhoti was torn and he felt a thick flow of sticky blood trickling down his right ankle.

More and more dogs were swarming in. The growling came to a crescendo and Chawal forgot where he was. Suddenly he knew what to do! The dog that was going at his ankle he hit hard right on its snout, and then managed to scramble heavily to his feet. The dog fled with a yelp and terror in its eyes.

Chawal’s own eyes turned to fire. His body became one with the beasts. He felt power surge through his bones! His muscles seemed to burn and his brain filled with an awareness of his surroundings, of everything in sight.

He knew from where the beasts would attack next and he hit them hard before they could get to him. He focused on their leader, a dark brown dog with a proud face, white fangs and a bushy tail. Now Chawal knew that he would win. The moment he lifted his cane to deliver the devastating blow to the skull of the leader, the whole pack moved back into the shelter of the darkness as if drawn by an invisible hand. But it was too late for the leader of the pack… Chawal’s stick came down on his ears with a vengeance, and the vultures had a feast before the sun was up.

Mr. Chawal shook off the dust from his dhoti, picked up the cap he had lost in the heat of the fight, planted his stick in the soft earth and walked home.

He never did put that cap on his head again… ever.

Excerpted from Frank Arjava Petter’s book, Still… Here and Now, with edits from Osho News – featured image credit pixabay.com

Still Here and Now front coverStill… Here and Now
Growing Wings in Osho’s Garden

by Frank Arjava Petter
Independently published (October 20, 2022)
ASIN: B0BJTHNH4J
ISBN-13: 979-8355524166
Available from Amazon
Review by Madhuri on Osho News

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Arjava

Frank Arjava Petter is a Reiki Master and bestselling author. frankarjavapetter.com

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