Until recently, it was a place far far away to the east of my land – a place I had heard of only at midnight gatherings of journalists scrambling to get into a company cab which would take them home. That is until i moved here. This is Area M.
I prefer to drive back home myself. I need not elaborate on the lure of a deserted highway that would lend itself to a city circuit in Need-For-Speed any day and a bike that derives its design from a racetrack winner. What I didn’t know: I wasn’t the only night creature out on the streets at 2 am. Enter the vicious canines of Area M.
The dogs here are not your everyday tail-wagging, puppy-faced, lovelorn angels. Well, some of them are: these innocuous ones are usually seen during the day, scavenging at tea-stalls and following nomads, their only companions in the pursuit of garbage. But the breed I hereby introduce prowls at night. These members of the species are much closer to their wild ancestors- the wolves- than the current evolved lot that licks, cuddles and eats poop. These ferocious ones aren’t looking for love. No. They lurch in dark corners, waiting for an unsuspecting biker lost in his embrace with the cool wind. They are virtually invisible until the very last moment, when it is too late to swerve or turn around.
This is when you see it: The eyes of the predator locked on you like a homing missile. A dog of Area M in this moment reminds you of skillful predators of the wild: Cheetahs/lionesses/tigers who stalk their prey from a distance, map out the weakest points, predict all possible routes of escape, and with an uncanny stealth, reach a vantage point from which the attack can be launched. You feel like an antelope you once saw in a wildlife documentary- feeding nonchalantly in a green field, oblivious to the big cat crouching a few meters away, camouflaged in the tall grass, cleverly placed in the direction of the wind. You don’t see them until they have measured you up, taken aim, and taken their first silent strides gaining the momentum they need, to go into the full sprint.
In a fraction of a second, they are on you, running parallel to the engine that boasted of an impressive horsepower – only numbers at this moment when you see four paws matching your velocity, staying as close as they can to the exposed part: the leg. Time to hit the panic button. The engine roars, the victim makes one final dash, a desperate attempt to survive (read: go unbitten). If you are lucky, you outrun them to the end of their territory.
But the word has spread. And round the next corner, another predator awaits, perhaps with his pack, waiting to ambush.
Okay, exaggeration and metaphors aside, dogs chasing cars/bikes is a common phenomenon. And the canine community has a very understandable grudge against things on wheels. After all, it is these machines that turn their loved ones into roadkill. And while I empathize with the paws and respect their fundamental right to cross the road without being turned into pulp, I fail to understand the misdirected acts of vengeance against every passing vehicle. It only increases their chances of being run over; not the smartest way of getting back. Territorial heads, take note.
While I have been lucky enough to get away every single time, I do wonder – to my utmost horror and curiosity- what a dog would do if it actually caught up with me. What if, on one of these chases, I decide to stop instead of speeding up. As the Joker wondered out loud in ‘The Dark Knight’: I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one, if I caught it!
Well, I do not intend to find out.
Disclaimer: Having said that, I’d like to add: I’m still very much a dog person and love these animals. The few who I described here are exceptions to a species which loves more selflessly than humans know of. I’m dying to adopt another one; if only I had the resources to take care of it! A backlash is expected when one species (we) goes about its business in the coldest way possible, indifferent to the plight of the other living creatures around.