The yellow tennis ball sailed over the tall wire fence of the Shivaji Park Gymkhana court and landed with a dull thud right in the centre of the adjacent road. Raja, the golden brown mongrel, immediately tore upon it from his favourite place on the katta. Moments later, a train of cars came to a screeching halt led by a white Hyundai Santro. The drivers punched at their horns wildly and followed it with a string of abuses.
Raja twisted his body in the nick of time, but his tail almost grazed the tyres. A strong push from his hind legs and he had caught the ball in mid air before it could disappear across the building wall. Raja trotted back with the ball amidst clapping and curses from the passersby. Soon, he was back on the katta. Why can’t I just resist the temptation, he wondered, licking the tip of his tail.
Just then, a white mongrel with black patches around his eyes came ambling down the footpath. He stopped thoughtfully by a bright silver Toyota Innova parked alongside and stared at his reflection in its door. “Okay, you can do this,” he muttered to himself. “Just look right into her eyes and say ‘I love you.’ You know you can do this. After all, you are the most feared dog on this side of Shivaji Park.”
Raja squinted at the white mongrel. “Hey, Pakya, why are you blabbering to yourself? And what’s with the clean look? Don’t tell me you’re putting yourself up for adoption.”
Pakya turned around sheepishly. “It’s…it’s nothing, yaar.”
“Then why aren’t you bullying the strays at the Frankie place or rolling around in mud? Something is definitely going on here.”
“No, yaar. Just felt like having a bath…”
“What? I don’t believe it. You had a bath. But you run a mile even at the mention of water.”
Pakya cringed. “Okay, okay. You’re right. It’s just that…I’ve finally decided to pour my heart out to Basanti. And you know how particular these ladies are about cleanliness, especially the ones that stay in fancy houses.”
“Well, now I’ve seen it all,” said Raja, shaking his head. “By the way, her name’s not Basanti. It’s Bianca.”
“Oh, right. Bianca. Bianca. I just can’t remember these angrez names. Basanti sounds so much better.”
“So what made you decide on today?”
“Well, you know how much I like the radio. And there’s this program I’ve been listening to. It’s called…well, it’s called Love Guru. It gives tips on…”
“Say no more,” sighed Raja. “I get the picture.”
Pakya looked at Raja. “Doesn’t that sound like…?”
“It is Gattu.” Raja got up and hopped down. “Why am I not surprised that it’s coming from behind that ice cream place?”
They both sighed and made their way to the small ice cream shack on the footpath a little distance ahead. When they turned around the corner, they found a chubby cream coloured Labrador curled up in the corner, his nose buried deep inside a raspberry dolly wrapper. A few chocobar wrappers were also lying around.
“What is it?” asked Raja.
Gattu stared at them through his large black eyes and sniffed. He licked the melted raspberry clean from all the corners and howled loudly again.
“Stop it, Gattu,” said Raja sternly. “Now tell us what happened.”
“I saw this car,” replied Gattu, pushing his head down and covering his eyes with his paws. “And it had a dog sitting on the back seat. Just…just…” But he couldn’t complete the sentence and ended up letting out a particularly long howl.
“There, there,” comforted Raja, patting his friend’s head.
Pakya stared at Raja. “What? What? He’s gone mad because he saw a dog in a car?”
“Quiet,” shushed Raja, taking Pakya aside. “You don’t know this, but Gattu wasn’t always a stray like us. He was abandoned by his family about a year ago.”
Pakya shuddered. “That must have been bad.”
“It was. Gattu has never been able to completely accept this. And every time he sees a car with a dog inside, he gets this way.”
Raja picked up a mango dolly wrapper that had floated to the ground and dropped it in front of Gattu.
Pakya glanced at their friend who by now was busy exploring the wrapper. “But isn’t this the wrong place to be? I mean, families come here with their dogs all the time.”
“That’s the biggest mystery. He only gets upset when he sees a dog inside a car. I’ve been thinking of…” Raja stopped when he saw a stupid smile light up Pakya’s face. It could only mean one thing. He had spotted his lady love.
Bianca, a beautiful golden retriever, had come for her daily rounds with Munna, the dog walker. Ruby, a pesky little pomerian, walked alongside with her nose in the air.
“Just look at how brilliantly her golden hair shines in the fading sunlight,” trilled Pakya.
Raja concealed his smile with a gentle cough. Now the most feared dog on this side of Shivaji Park was composing poetry.
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Raja, a golden brown stray mongrel, leads a carefree existence in Shivaji Park, spending his days lying under shady trees and chasing tennis balls. His friend Pakya, a white and black mongrel, happens to be the most feared dog on this side of the park. But poor Pakya secretly pines for Bianca, a beautiful Golden Retriever, who only has eyes for Hero, a smooth-talking mongrel with a red scarf round his neck. Tiger Gondhlekar aka Gattu, an abandoned Labrador who is perpetually hungry, completes the trio. Prashant Pinge’s engaging and heartwarming story, depicts the journey of three ordinary stray dogs from Shivaji Park in Mumbai to Sambhaji Park in Pune. Their reasons for undertaking the journey are different, but they are united by their friendship and a common dream, as they confront seemingly insurmountable odds. While the story charts their quest for the giant donut, it also highlights how the dogs overcome their own shortcomings, support each other and register personal victories along the way.