Sometimes stories behave really badly. You might have a clear picture in your head about what kind of tale you want to tell, but after hours and hours of typing on the keyboard, what stares back at you from the screen is a disjointed, irritating set of paragraphs that somehow don’t add up to a half-way decent story. Now THAT’s what I call a bug, the story virus, the Keyboard Kleptomaniac who steals away your thoughts and ideas, and mis-represents them on screen. And sadly, there’s no ‘anti-virus’ software that can tackle this creature. Backspacing and brutal deleting is all you can do. Maybe taking days or weeks just to get a 1000 word story to sound good.
But there are times when Keyboard Klepto (let’s call him KK) goes to sleep, or maybe trots off over the internet to harass someone else on your address book. And then those stories behave themselves. So I was lucky that when I decided I wanted to write kids stories, KK was away. ‘Bando: The Dog Who Led A Double Life’ got written out fairly fast. And after I’d illustrated it, I sent it off to Open Sesame (Deccan Herald’s kid supplement). Daksha Hathi, who was editing Open Sesame back then, liked it, and promptly began serialising it. I couldn’t believe my luck. Even better, though I hadn’t yet gathered up the courage to think of myself as an illustrator, Daksha did…she soon began sending me stories by other writers for me to illustrate!
So in case you missed Bando all those years back, here’s a short introduction to him…
Bando was not the kind of dog you’d enter for a dog show. Not that he was ill-mannered or ferocious; it was just that he didn’t have the drawing-room manners that win prizes at such shows. At the time when the poor dogs are expected to walk up and down in front of a large crowd, holding their heads high and looking posh and dignified, Bando would be sure to catch the eye of some friendly person in the audience and wag his tail furiously. This, of course, would earn him a series of minus points from the two or three stern-looking judges.
Then there was the problem about his appearance. His birth certificate had ‘LABRADOR’ written very boldly against ‘BREED’. But that was either a terrible mistake or an outright lie. A Labrador, as everybody knows, has ears that flop down on either side of its friendly face. Now Bando had only one Labrador ear, the left one. The right ear stood up cockily at an angle that made you wonder where on earth Bando’s father came from. Similarly, he had a rich, black, Labrador coat all over, except for a white patch over his right eye!
So if Bando trotted past you on his way to the market and you saw only the left side of him, you’d probably be very impressed and raising your eyebrows appreciatively, would say to yourself, “Now, there’s a handsome Lab!” On the other hand, if you caught sight of him on his way back from the market, you’d only see his right profile. Then you’d wonder, “Isn’t that a strange-looking dog… and what, in God’s name, is it doing with a bag full of vegetables?!”
Well, the strange-looking animal would be Bando, on his way home after doing the weekly shopping. If you happened to be close enough, you’d also hear a strange jingle-jangle that sounded like Bando was wearing a pair of anklets. That would be the change left over from shopping. Bando carried it in a yellow pouch around his neck.
All this added up to make dear Bando look rather odd, but he couldn’t have cared less. He was far too busy being old Mrs Murthy’s dog and had no time to be fashionable and well-groomed.
…over the last couple of years, Mrs Murthy had been gradually losing her sight. And the only one in the whole world who could look after her properly was Bando… He had decided long ago that it was his duty to make up for the family Mrs Murthy didn’t have.
So in the mornings Bando brought in the milk. Then on Mondays, the weekly shopping was done. Sometimes, if his work led him by the park, and if nobody was looking, he’d pluck a flower for Mrs Murthy. He knew well enough that she could see it only very fuzzily. So he’d first place it in her hands for her to feel it. Then he’d wait for her face to break into a smile before she turned to Bando to say, “What a lovely rose, Bando! Thank you so much.” Bando was very proud that even though Mrs Murthy was almost blind, she never, ever got the name of a flower wrong. “Bando!” she’d exclaim, “This sunflower would look lovely by the kitchen window.” Or after gently feeling the long stalk and thick petals of his latest gift, she’d say, “I’m going to put this precious lily in a tall glass on the dining table.”
Inside her own home Mrs Murthy was quite capable of looking after herself.
…End of excerpt from Chapter 1…