Insane About a Dog
Chester looked straight ahead. Chester always looked straight ahead for he was an inanimate small dog who had been made in China. Despite the fact that he possessed a permanent unblinking expression and that to many he was merely an inanimate stuffed toy dog, Chester had a personality all his own and could somehow communicate directly with me.
The most striking feature about Chester was his black and whiteness. His ears and body were black, while most of his face and underbelly were white. He was also immensely out of proportion. His head was almost the same size as his body and his nose accounted for half the size of his head. Chester measured about ten centimetres from head to tail, or should I say head to stub, for that is all his tail was. But he was cute and he knew it.
I was embarking on my umpteenth trip to India and Chester had decided he wanted to come along. I was very surprised about this as Chester was a rather superior dog. He tended to look down on the world, myself included, and I would have supposed that the mere thought of him going to India with me to mix with some rough, tough street dogs would have appalled him. But I suppose that he had little ambition to mingle with the street dog crowd. Actually, Chester had little inclination to mix in general seeing that everyone else’s inferior intellect left him cold.
On the way to the airport Chester intimated that he had a blinding headache. His headache left him in a foul mood and vicious temper. Even at the best of times, the mundane things in life tended to annoy him. With the headache issue factored in, the annoyance stakes had been cranked up a few notches further. Needless to say, he said little on the way.
Chester sat next to me on the plane and ignored the stares and comments from the other passengers who were perplexed about a small, inanimate dog taking up a whole seat for himself. Well, he had paid for it, so he was entitled to sit there.
For the next ten hours, as the other passengers ate and indulged in the in-flight entertainment programme, Chester sat in silent meditation. Chester seemed to spend all of his life in silent meditation, no doubt reaching into the inner depths of his soul and evolving his consciousness to levels matched only by the world’s greatest swamis and holy men. That would certainly explain why he was a superior dog. Maybe India was to be his spiritual home.
As we left the plane, the cabin crew said goodbye to Chester. He stared straight ahead without saying a word. They were not offended however as over the past ten hours they had come to realise that Chester was a superior dog.
Most first-time visitors to India tend to worry about the food, heat and malaria. They also worry about how to deal with beggars and any language problems. Chester didn’t bother with such mundane trivia as his mind was elsewhere. If he were to be sidetracked by such things, he would merely be annoyed. None of those things mattered to him. He imagined that the world would always adapt to him rather than him having to adapt to it.
And of course he was right. Chester was always right. He just sat and stared and people would fit in with his behaviour. He was often the centre of attraction and he loved it. They would come over and ask about him and feel a need to touch him. They were immediately drawn to him.
Over the next few days Chester became a big hit in India. Waiters in restaurants, rickshaw drivers, hoteliers and people on the street all seemed to like him. And of course he avoided the street dogs like a plague. He had no time for those poor creatures that spend their days scavenging and foraging for scraps of food.
While many foreigners are overawed by the crowds, traffic, urban pollution and general chaos of India, Chester took it all in his stride. Chester had achieved a state of inner peace, so no matter where he found himself, he was ultimately only in one place – inside himself. People gradually began to realise this about him and many foreigners who had come to India on their own spiritual quest began to want to be with him.
Over the weeks Chester seemed to attract a cult following of blissed-out westerners who had visited numerous meditation centres and ashrams from Pune to Dharamsala and from Kerala to beyond. They had been trying to “find themselves” or had been looking for “something” and at last seemed to have found it by being close to Chester.
I think his air of calmness and serenity attracted them. Nothing affected him in the slightest. He was in the world but was somehow not part of it, and remained unaffected by the small things in life that can send most people crazy. They touched him and asked him questions. He responded by not blinking, moving or saying anything – just like a stuffed toy dog, in fact. They were impressed. They were desperate.
I recall someone who went by the name of “Zed” blabbering endlessly on about spirituality and the need to be empty in order to attain fulfillment. Another person called “Oneness” talked about the temporariness of being and the permanency of temporariness. He asked Chester about this. Chester stared straight ahead, unblinking. Oneness looked at him for four minutes before exclaiming “Wow, that’s amazing,” and then floated away on a temporary cloud of permanent, smug self satisfaction, obviously having been bowled over by Chester’s steadfast inanimateness.
Then another would come, bow down, touch Chester’s feet in complete deference and ask another question that appeared to have come from the “what’s the meaning of life” textbook of spaced-out ludicrous logic. In fact, so many people had been reading from that particular textbook that we were in serious danger of being sucked into a spiralling vortex of metaphysical absurdity. We had to call an abrupt end to it, and to protect our own sanity we left under cover of darkness and took the next flight home.
A few months later I was reading a newspaper and there was a report from India. Apparently, thousands of westerners all dressed in black and white and sporting bulbous noses had set up a meditation centre based on the principles of looking straight ahead in an unblinking manner.
I informed Chester about this. He just looked straight ahead, unblinking and unimpressed.
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