I have translated some of the stories from this collection by Thi. Janakiraman, Crown of Thorns – முள்முடி – Thi Janakiraman, Pathu Chetti – Thi Janakiraman, Complaint – Thi Janakiraman, Mr. Dash Dash Dash – Thi Janakiraman and couple of other stories. Not sure how did I miss this one.
Only a genius like Mr. Janakiraman can expound philosophy in a short story using a conversation with a dog. Read on
ப்பா – தி ஜானகிராமன்.
Am I sleeping? No… I am awake. Then why is this doubt? How can a dog bark in English?
There is no language for a dog. It has only one language! Barking.. when it doesn’t bark, it will whine with a ‘mii mii’ and wag it’s tail. Then why I am hearing the dog barking in English? Is it a dream? No. I am awake and sitting on my cot. It is barking in English. And what are the words….
He is listening with concentration,
“Vav vav… territorial imperative. Vav vav territorial imperative…” He is able to hear clearly. Yes it is a dog. Territorial imperative? What does that mean?
He switched on the lights at the entrance, opened the door and looked outside. The dog, which was barking, turned towards him.
“Did you call me?”
“Then why did you switch on the light and looked outside?”
“Did you bark in English?”
“Did I bark in English?”
“Then? Did you think territorial imperative, a Tamil or Urdu word?”
“I don’t know all that. Jagadu sir and Uppili were talking. I listened. Thought it is something good. So I caught those words and barked them repeatedly.”
“But what does that mean?”
“I can’t explain standing outside and on the road.”
“OK then. Come inside and explain.”
“Can I come inside?”
“Why not. You are, after all, barking in English.”
“But I am a street dog.”
“So what? When you are barking in English, you might come inside as well. Come in. Sit here.”
“I don’t have to sit. Look there! The one which was enjoying sleeping on a sofa and ran once it saw me, let that meow meow enjoy your luxurious sofa.”
“OK. Now tell me the meaning of the words you barked.”
“I will. But before that, let me ask you something. First you answer that. Then I will explain.”
“‘This dog, me, where can I go except towards you?’ Have you listened to this line from a song?”
“I think Yes.”
“‘Please show mercy on this poor dog” this line also comes in that song.”
“Yes. Yes. I think it was composed by Papanaasam Sivan.”
“May be. The man who composed the song must be a genius. It’s sung in raga ‘Bhairavi.’ The words bhairavi also denotes us, the dogs.”
“You are a bad ass dog.”
“Say – you are a good dog. A man is asking ‘where can I go, this dog?’ What does it mean?”
He thought for a few minutes and replied, “Dog, the animal, has gratitude. It will not leave his master an go elsewhere. It won’t approach a stranger, wag its tail and show his teeth.”
“True. Except to our master, even if someone shows us hundred biscuits, we won’t wag our tail and run behind. We won’t change parties. Then why you human beings are saying, ‘only dog will lead this life, only dog will lead this type of life, to people who change parties (political affiliation) and scold them. Why do you drag our name?” Are they scolding us or the people who change parties?”
He did not reply.
“Answer me. What are you thinking about?”
“You talked about dog which has a master. What about hundreds of dogs who don’t have a master?”
“Are you talking about dog like me who have freedom and live an independent life?”
“I thought you would ask this question. This street is my master. The residents of this street, you and everyone else and their wives and all the children, they are all my masters. This street is my property. And I am your guard. I won’t go anywhere else leaving this place. I won’t stand for an election in a different ward or street. I won’t lie that I belong to those streets. And the other dogs won’t accept it either. This dog – this street; that dog – that street. If some other dog comes here, I will bite the hell out of it. No one will dare as well. There is none in our kingdom who is independent. Even if one good man is there in the street I will love him. If there is none, I will stay aloof. To that extent, you can say, I am independent. Only people who show affection towards good people are truly independent. That is the real freedom.”
“Right, But you did not answer my question.”
“To hell with you. That’s what I have been trying to explain all this time. Jagathu was explaining something like this to Uppili. God has given to every creature he created, a piece of land, a territory. And no other creature can lay claim on that land. It can govern that land and the place is that creature’s right. And Jagathu was telling Uppili that, this is called territorial imperative. He was also saying, we are teasing people who change political parties that only dogs will live like this. I don’t know if dogs hear this what will they do to us. And Uppili replied, “Yes if there is one dog in the street, it is equal to hundred locks.” I was listening to the entire conversation. These word, ‘territorial imperative,’ had a majestic tone about it and conveyed authority. So I am barking those words. As I keep barking these words, I am getting self confidence and a sense of pride. My heart expands. From now on, if Uppili goes out of town, even once in few years, he can just keep is front and back doors locked and leave. I will protect his house. I am there. So you don’t worry. I am the King of this street and this is my territorial imperative.
The dog looked up majestically.
“You are a good man.”
“Good man or good dog?” the dog went out after uttering these words.
“Lock the door. Vav Vav vav territorial imperative, territorial imperative.”
The dog started barking with a pride as if it had bought the street.
He was born in a Tamil Brahmin (Iyer) family of Madras Presidency in 1921. He worked as a civil servant. His writing included accounts of his travels in Japan and the Crimea.The writing style of Thi Jaa is simple and narrative. His best-known novels are Mogamul, Sembaruthi, and Amma Vandhaal. All these novels have feminine feelings embedded in their subject. Though the story is spun around delicate feelings, the author’s narration is flawless and spontaneous. His short stories such as Langdadevi (a lame horse) and Mulmudi (Crown of Thorns) also follow the same style of writing. – Wikipedia