Sage in the 'hood - part 1
The neighbourhood of the ashram was not always so populated. Indeed, when founded, the entire area was forest with a few exceptions of old established properties. It did not take long, though, for the place to be 'discovered'. Those who had once picnicked here as children wanted to live here. This is how it goes with urban expansion.
By the time Krishna was born, in 1995, the walls already were surrounded by lean-tos and mudbrick mansions. Finer buildings were erected over by the waterside. Krishna's mother had been looking for a safe place to have her litter. Having travelled a long way up the newly extended road from Mumbai, she found this hilly shelter to be just fine.
There were six pups born. Krishna was always 'different' though. Instead of staying with her and learning the street-craft, he kept going over to where the humans were. They chased him off and threw stones and shouted, but still he wanted to be with them. When it came time to move her brood back into the streets, he wanted to stay behind. The mother was an older one, an experienced and hardened one. There was no wastage of effort in arguing with him. Let him find his own way.
At the time, Krishna did not know his name. Despite some of the humans being very unpleasant, he liked them on the whole and there were always some among them who would keep back a roti or some rice for him. On good days he even got left over dahl and vegetables from the kitchen staff.
One day, though, two of the ground-staff grabbed him, bundled him into a bag, then after a long, noisy and stuffy ride, he was thrown out onto the street. He knew not where. It smelled very different.
After a little while of crying, he caught a scent. A mere whiff, but he knew it to be one of the workers who had done this to him. As any dog of worth would do, he followed his nose. He kept following for what seemed like an eternity. On the way he met with many cruel and noisy folk, chasing him, throwing stuff, other dogs barking and lots of noisy things on four round legs which seemed always to be aimed straight at him.
Somehow along the way, he managed to get water and scraps enough to sustain his body and he never let go of that scent trail.
Finally, he was among a dense gathering of mud cottages, piled one atop the other it seemed. There in one door was the man he'd followed - and he was getting into one of those noisy round-leg creatures! It phuttered off up the road and Krishna was galvanised into action. He ran. He ran so hard it felt like he was not touching the road. Not once did he let his eyes drop from the back of that round-leg. Every now and then (thank goodness!) it stopped and rested with a lot of others of its kind, so he was able to catch breath also. When it took corners which meant he had to cross roads, it got a bit fur-raising. The round-legs sounded loud and angry. "BBLLLLLLLLLLAAAARRRR" they would say.
He never let up. Before he could comprehend it, they had arrived at the ashram! Oh goodness. Home.
Not that he was welcomed with open arms. Open mouths more like. One amma was astounded. She came up to him and glaring down demanded "how did you get back here?!" Little did she know that Krishna had learned her language. "I followed him" he replied, looking over in the direction of the groundsman.
Unfortunately, amma had not learned Unidog in return. She just shrugged her shoulders and walked away. The fellow he had followed just stared and shook his head. As amma passed him she said "couldn't have been far" but he answered back with "we took it all the way over to the coast!" Krishna lost interest at that point. He could smell the kitchen. Breakfast was on the way.
One of the staff who had regularly fed him got a big surprise and came over to cuddle him. He let her do this as it reminded him of mother. She went back in and brought out some millet porridge for him.
"So green-eyes, you found your way back. I knew you belonged here." Krishna held her gaze.
He was a handsome pup, with brindled fur and clear green-hazel eyes, so light compared to the average dog. The girl spoke again. "I think you are a sage returned. Paying a penance like Jadabharat-swami had to… did you love dogs as much as the Lord then? Is that why you had to come back as one?" Before long, Krishna found that others were taking up this theme. An argument was put forward to permit him to stay as a mascot for the ashram. The person in charge - Guru-ji - relented. There were some dodgy moments though, as the young dog found his footing and learned what could be done as well as what was not acceptable.
One lesson he would never forget. The day he ate Guru-ji's chappals. That was the day he got whipped and whipped bad. Sandals, anyone's sandals, but particularly the boss's, were not for the chewing. Neither was barking permitted around the cottages of the acharyas. Stones got thrown. Or even the so sacred footwear!
Gates got put up to stop Krishna from entering the residence area of the senior people.
But Krishna liked Guruji. He could feel his presence even when not in sight. Somehow, too, he always knew when Guruji was going to leave the ashram for a while and even knew when he was coming home. Krishna made it a point to always be there to farewell or to greet the man he recognised as master. This endeared him and built a tolerance amongst the ashram folk.
Thus, Krishna became The Ashram Guardian. His name, though, came only when he was 7 years old.
© Yamini Ali MacLean 2013