A Chekhovian drama was recently played out in Delhi. Media reports front-paged flagrant abuse of power by a senior IAS couple right in the heart of the capital. They used to, alleged the reports, get the Rs300 crore Thyagraj Stadium cleared of athletes early just so that they could walk their dog on the racing track. The TV channels went to town: Delhi’s vile VIP culture, civil servants the new Rajas, colonial hangover and so on. To limit damage, the two officers were posted overnight to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh respectively, raising the question whether border states should be treated as punishment destinations.
My thoughts, however, are with the graceful four-legged star of this one-act play. Rocky (name changed for privacy) is obviously a dog on whom Lady Luck has not smiled but positively giggled. While many dogs living in Lutyens Delhi may have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths, Rocky was born with an entire sterling silver cutlery set jangling in his canines: he had not one, but two owners, who belonged to the heaven-born service.
A lot came with the astro-turf of the stadium: Even in the dog days of Delhi’s burning summer, relaxing walks at twilight on the supple race track, designed to protect the knees; an occasional go at the jumping pit; perhaps a dip in the full-size pool. And if Rocky, good multi-tasker that he is, did his job while on his walk, somebody would do the mopping up. After all, pedigree dogs, like ambitious bureaucrats, rise beyond petty details: they delegate, they grow beyond conduct rules, they focus on the big picture. There must have been other trappings of this charmed existence: an ice-cream at India Gate, home visits by grooming saloons, dog deodorants and dog delicacies like Drools and Pedigree. In short, Rocky the Dog was having his day.
Then Rocky blew it. Lost in doggy thoughts on his evening walk, he did not notice the pesky journalist with the telephoto lens in the upper stands of the stadium. It would have been puppy play for him to unveil his ferocious fangs at the journalist; if tough athletes had been shooed away, journalists, who wisely do not risk a bite for a byte, would hardly pose a problem. But the journalist went unchallenged; the next morning Rocky’s owners were no longer the toast of the town, but just toast.
Rocky now leads a dog’s life. One owner is busy buying inners for Ladakh, the other is reading up Arunachal on Wikipedia. Rocky who prefers clean decisions (food, yes; air-conditioning, yes; walk, yes) is faced with a difficult choice: strangers on Twitter are asking him whether he would prefer Ladakh or Arunachal. Both places have much to offer by way of clean air, dramatic landscapes and charming people; Leh even has about fifteen German bakeries, each claiming to be the original. But Rocky has done his research: there is not a single modern stadium in either place. Nor could he find a branch of Fabulous Fur Grooming Services in Leh or Itanagar. Amazon charges the earth for delivering Pedigree to those places. And Rocky, with all that cutlery at his command, is beyond eating chapatis or left-over momos.
Worst of all—Rocky follows the news, even if he pretends to be asleep with his head on his front paws before the TV—the Chinese are too close for comfort in either place; their idea of cuisine makes any dog’s stomach turn, and now they even call themselves wolf-warriors. Rocky is increasingly convinced that the best option would be to act as the dog in the manger, and refuse to vacate the official house.
The writer is former high commissioner to the UK and former ambassador to the US.