A Stray Princess and Others

The brown stray before film-producer Shailendra Babu's house is a princess. The guard of the Swiss expats next-door to Babu's sweeps a perfect round bed for her, using fallen flowers and leaves, and she settles in it nightly. But the black one that has staked out on Fourth Cross sleeps in the gutter along the particularly swank houses there. Once he growled at me and I barked back at him and little children who happened to be around on that normally empty street watched me in quiet disapproval. Anyway, I've won respect since, and walk undisturbed on that stretch.

The first intersection that connects First Cross to Third Cross belongs to a black n' white, who always used to leave me alone. She came sniffing after me the other day and I snapped at her and she didn't like being spurned at all and bared her long teeth and raised her hackles—I've abandoned her short street to her. The two others who're on the next two connecting streets are a somnolent lot, and I skirt around them when I'm there, always worrying what might happen if I should step on them.

Some strays have moved up. A black n' brown that a European lady took for a pet, she has fully bent to obedience. These days her skinny guard walks him, leaving his post at his gate for a half hour in the morning. He doesn't hold him on a leash, which is how my neighbors insist they be allowed to treat their dogs, fears of others be damned. The western woman's fare hasn't fattened the stray, and the two gangly males walk side by side in urbane intimacy.

Three minutes away from my home, on the corner of First Main and Fifth Cross, a schoolboy sits at five-thirty most mornings on the front steps of the enormous house there. It's an exotic house in the style of a Rajasthani haveli. The boy feeds by hand two strays and his orangey Pomeranian. Biscuits, I think. He doesn't look up when I pass in the light of the street lamp, casting a long shadow over his party.

The stray before my house, who has assumed charge of entire Third Main, is rickety and deeply scarred below her eye. How she defends her long territory, I don't know. When she took the street a few years ago, I had to lower the guard on my gate because she'd slip in under it to commune with my handsome Siberian Husky. She barks all the time, and in spite of her large realm she's forever parked before my house, because actor Jai Jagadish's daughters throw crumbs for him from their balcony across the street. I accommodate the barking because of a certain guilt: This female's predecessor used to lie just where she does, and one night I pulled my car out the gate and right over her in a sudden, careless burst.