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Tell-tail hearts

books Updated: Jul 08, 2011 21:32 IST
Shalini Singh
Shalini Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

How Cheeka Became A Star and Other Dog Stories
Various
etch/natraj
Rs 495
pp 218

‘We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.’ George Eliot put it aptly of this age-old relationship. So when you, presumably a dog-lover, open this compilation of canine stories, the heart will turn a trifle treacle pudding-ish.

A disparate range of contributors mark this anthology of 20 stories — economist Bibek Debroy, actor Gul Panag, cartoonist Mario de Miranda, ‘multi-faceted’ Nafisa Ali Sodhi, usual suspect Maneka Gandhi, writer Ruskin Bond and five journalists. Although I wonder why Outlook editor Vinod Mehta’s dog Editor doesn’t feature here. Journo Dhiraj Nayyar opens the book with his charming tale of transformation into a dog-lover. Bond’s story about an Anglo-Indian dog-breeder Elsie who left behind a ‘legacy’ of pomeranians is touching. Jug Suraiya’s tale from Brindle’s point of view was a tad too, well, journalistic and I practically glazed over it. Hiranmay Karlekar’s spirited account of the bhakt sarameya legend of the Kumaon Hills — in which he talks about dogs as guardian angels or protective spirits — reminded me of a stray in Mumbai which had once appeared out of nowhere and escorted me home when it was late at night. He was never seen after that.

Filmmaker Sneha Iype Varma takes you behind the scenes of the popular Vodafone commercial with its pug dog, Cheeka, who brought national acclaim to his breed while Muzaffar Ali decodes his love for the four-legged creature through Sufism in the moving tale of dogs who risked, and lost, their lives trying to save their masters. Even funnyman Cyrus Broacha can’t help but tug at the heartstrings with his childhood memories of Figaro and Volpi.

Given the avalanche of pet stores, pet salons, pet magazines and so on that have descended upon us in recent times, it was only logical for a book like this to come along. (The last page promises there’s more to come in the same series.) Though the cover could have been a bit more imaginative, the book is interspersed with varied cartoons, illustrations, quotations, facts and, of course, the moving personal stories —-— a random array stitched with a common thread — that paint a deep attachment for a living species that can never quite replace another.

After Snoopy, who has been with us for nine years now, his rather younger mate, Sheeba, has filled our lives with even more love and peace in her two years of existence. My own pooch tale? This book has me started.