There were two instead of the one regular when I turned the corner of 1st Main and 5th Cross. They were leaning forward, peering, but they couldn’t see what was happening on 5th Cross from where I approached them. The dogs hadn’t the courage to come to the very end of the street and find out.
They weren’t firing crackers on 5th Cross. Still, seeing me, and probably thinking I was the creator of the sounds all around and the coloured lights exploding above, the pair turned and bounded back along 1st Main. I watched them until they disappeared after a gentle curve in the distance. Strange. They must’ve been through a few Diwali experiences, being full-grown dogs, not puppies. They were acting as though the apocalypse was upon them.
It was my turn to get apprehensive when I completed the length of 1st Main, went all the way down 3rd Cross, and turned into 2nd Main. Even before I got there, I could hear the serial explosions, loud and unsettling.
The chain ran about fifty meters along the middle of the road. About ten meters of the chain had blown, and cracker after cracker was sparking off the next in line in rapid succession — like a runaway machine gun, cruel, violent, with not a hint of the celebration of a good thing.
The man who’d perhaps lit the chain walked along it, in step with the crackers going off. A bunch of young men watched the scene, and they and the man by the chain were surely one party from a posh dwelling close by. The light from the streetlamp above had lit their hair, and it had caught their high-fashion silk sherwanis as well, which gleamed golden and silver.
I glared my nastiest at them. They were engrossed in their play, but after a long while, with the thudding of the crackers still going, they looked up. Seeing me looking as I was at them, they were surprised. They turned away.
The 2nd Main is the widest in my neighborhood and is host to a half dozen strays. They were all far down the road, in a single united pack, cocked and looking and perhaps whining a little.
On 3rd Main, where I live, after I’d walked a few paces the explosions from 2nd Main ended, but there was still a maddening din in the air, from fireworks going off all over town. They assailed the ear, the eye, the nose, and, most terribly, the heart. When I reached my gate, there was a little white fellow whom I’d never seen before. His tail was tucked in, and he was shrunken, and he was too much in fright of the sound and the fury to make any sign for help. Round his neck was a collar.
All dogs in my neighbourhood are so dressed in cute collars — the kept dogs behind the gate, the strays outside. It is an act of duty and kindness performed by most homes on all streets. The folks will allow none to be taken away by the catcher.
I opened my gate wide enough just for me. I slid in sideways. I closed the gate after me, and when I reached my front door, I looked back, to be sure the dog at the gate hadn’t somehow followed me in.
I hope this Diwali was perfect for you.