A classic Assamese children’s novel about a dog gets an English translation

Arnab Khura finally got a puppy crib. The sides of the crib as well as the top were covered with a net. But even if one managed to fit Jigma in the crib, it was much more difficult to fit Taniya in. Earlier, Arnab Khura would sit on the verandah and read the newspaper while drinking his morning cup of tea. Tom would sit near his feet. When he finished his tea, he would pour whatever was left in the cup onto the floor in front of Tom, who would lick it off and then leave. But today things were different. He had to take Jigma and Taniya for a morning round before locking them in a goral, a netted enclosure, sort of like cow enclosures, called a goral in Assam.

So today the newspaper would remain unread, the morning tea would go cold in the cup. Some days Arnab Khura, poor man, hardly had time to hastily eat his meal before rushing off to work. Jilmil’s condition was also the same. And Khuri too. Meanwhile, strange things continued to happen in the household. One day, an elephant was passing by their gate. Taniya stopped at the gate, looked at the elephant and started barking. The elephant paid no attention to the little thing. But the mahout could not suppress his laughter. Everyone on Jilmil’s veranda also burst into laughter. But the next moment they became serious and alert – What if Taniya goes out and starts hunting the elephant? As soon as they thought that, they saw her sneaking out the gate and onto the road!

Jilmil and her father followed her. But our lady, Tania, did not let that stop her. She ran after the elephant, barking all the way. And then there was the usual problem of getting her back into the house. Jilmila’s father placed Taniya firmly in her netted crib and closed the hatch tightly. Jigma paid no attention. He had lunch and went to sleep on the sack. After barking for a while, Taniya also ate the fish and rice given to her in the detention cell and went to sleep. Poor guy! She had a good day. How much excitement could that little bundle of mischief handle?

Did you know that Taniya also had a special method of getting her head out of the collar and then running into the road? After that, the same old story again. The housemates would have to rush after her to get her back. Once she sneaked through the gate and started chasing a huge black dog that appeared out of nowhere! That black dog could tear Taniya to pieces! And then, this second time, Taniya started barking at the monkey sitting in the tree. The monkey came down. When Tom was there, the monkeys didn’t even dare to go near the ground. But after the arrival of these two small bhetguti creatures, their comings and goings increased considerably.

One day, Jilmil’s mother had just poured some oil into a heated pan to fry fish. Hearing the commotion, she went out to investigate. She turned the knob of the gas cooker to the lowest heat before leaving, thinking that she would be back soon. But there was a roar outside – Jigma was barking as loud as he could. This meant that the two of them had escaped again! Jigma was still here, but where was Taniya? When he saw Khuri, Jigma ran to her. He kept looking at the apple tree in their yard and barked non-stop. Looking in that direction, Jilmil’s mother saw that the big monkey was holding Taniya tightly to his chest just like he would hold a baby! He climbed from an apple tree to a mango tree. Jilmil’s mother was petrified. But what could the poor woman do? There was no one else at home! Even her neighbors were out at the time.

Her last hope was Jogen Bordeuta. He was an old man and normally did not go out during the day; that would normally be time for his short nap. His house was also nearby. But before she got there, she looked up and started screaming – the monkey was taking Taniya away. Jogen Bordeuta was not feeling well that day. His waist hurt. Hearing loud cries, he got up and went out. He was stunned to see what was happening! The monkey was still holding Taniya tightly as he sat on the branch of the mango tree. He looked down to see what was happening. Jogen Bordeuta asked Jilmil’s mother to stop screaming. He told her to go in and get all the fruit she had at home. Jilmil’s mother returned with bananas and apples. Placing the fruit at the bottom of the mango tree, Jogen Bordeuta went to Jilmil’s house, taking Jigma with him. He also asked Khuri to come inside. They were to disappear from the monkey’s sight.

But something was wrong inside – the smell of burnt food was everywhere. Khuri ran to the kitchen. The oil she put on the pan was completely burnt and smelled great! She quickly covered the pan and turned on the exhaust fan in the kitchen. She could hear her heart pounding. Thank God she reduced the gas to the lowest heat, otherwise it could have been a bigger disaster. The thought of it sent a shiver down her spine.

Just then, Jogen Bordeuta gestured for her to go to the window. The monkey climbed down the tree and still held Taniya with one hand. He reached the ground, then took the banana and released Taniya who ran back to the house.

The monkey took the apples and bananas and immediately disappeared. Taniya was now standing close to Jilmila’s mother and began to tremble. Putting her tail between her legs, she began to shake violently. This scared not only Jilmil’s mother, but also Jogen Bordeuta. The little dog was shaking so much, what could it be? Did the monkey bite or scratch the poor little creature? Suddenly they heard a car pull up outside. Jilmil and her father returned. This meant that the drama between the monkey and the dog lasted a long time. The day was coming to an end, but Jilmila’s mother was unable to complete any of her daily duties. The laundry was still lying on a pile, the house had not been swept, lunch had not been cooked. Just as Jilmil sat down on the chair to take off her shoes, Taniya jumped into her lap.

On other days, when Taniya jumped like that, Jilmil’s mother wouldn’t be too happy. After all, Jilmil’s clothes would be covered in dog hair. But she didn’t say anything that day. Jilmil held the trembling Taniya for a while. Then she gently put Taniya down to drink the milk from her saucer that Jilmil had left for her in the morning. She stopped trembling now. She ran and started biting Jigma’s ear. This meant that Taniya was trembling in sheer fear. Everyone was relieved.

Tania

Excerpted with permission Tanya, Arupa Patangia Kalita, translated from Assamese by Meenaxi Barkotokoi, Puffin.

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