Fiction: The Parable of Mahendra Namardi

By Arjun Razdan

Once upon a time in a dusty district of Bihar, there was a pie-dog which minded its business  as much of it there was to be minded, which is to say, it hovered around the butcher’s  wooden shed at the end of the day hoping to get a tuck or a piece of tripe after all had been  dispersed to the clients, or otherwise joined its mates in chasing off cows, the odd madman, and audacious canine intruders from other villages. It was so unremarkable it even escaped  its tail being tied to a string of fusillades during Diwali time as errant village kids were in  the habit of doing. Locally, it was known as jhaagkam (literally low spunk) because till now it  had shown no inclination of mounting one of the many beautiful bitches that strolled the  neighbouring streets, but only one or two families around where it was seen most commonly  seen would have referred to it by that name, others preferring to call it teen patti (it had three  bald spots next to the croup) or simply maila (from its dirty dun colour), though a vast  majority was not aware it existed at all. In came Sanjay Gandhi’s goons on their forced sterilisation drive. Those were difficult times, and the oppressors had done all their  homework before approaching this village with the intention to rob it of all its virile  strength. Equipped with census lists, and a new serum which had not been yet tested but  which was believed to rendre a man infertile in no more than two hours after injection they  bided their time around the periphery waiting for the dusk to arrive when all the male  population of the village would be home from their labours in the field. There was a small  hitch though. Since the serum had not been tested, no one was sure whether it was to be  injected in the testicles or the penis or the small tube connecting the two. It was this dog’s  misfortune that he was attracted to the noise they made, and being nearby he approached  them thinking someone would be kind enough to advance a morceau of rubbery three-day old  chapatti from their pockets, or if not some chana jor, which being a pie-dog it was  accustomed to eating. Without giving it the time to understand what was happening, two  burly functionaries of the state grabbed hold of its two hind legs and a third rammed a  loaded injection into its shivering zizi. It is said that day he gave such a howl upon this  brutal treatment that all the women of the village stopped stirring their dahl, all the children  rushed indoors, all the old folk began reciting Ram Ram thinking some terrible calamity was  near. The cry roused the men who approached the spot where it came from armed with  wooden ploughshares, crow bars and pick-axes. Two dozen men armed in this way was too  much for a handful of goons who fled immediately leaving the dog and a broken vial on the  ground. Upon picking up the broken container from the ground, the villagers spied a label  attached to its neck on which was written Mahendra who happened to be the local oil presser. They quickly gathered from that the miscreants had meant to inject each and every  post-pubescent male among them with a dose of the dreaded poison which had already been  laid out in requisite quantities for each. That said, nobody paid more attention to the dog  which kept miserably licking its penis though some versions claim that a neighbouring  harridan took pity on it pouring some water for it in a baked earth receptacle. But the real trouble started later that night. At around half past ten, as the children had gone off to sleep  and the programme of Chitrahaar had started on the radio, a bloodcurling cry disturbed the  peace of the entire village. Soon, it developed into a full-fledged whinge. One would say if a  dog could weep, that is how he would do it. People tried to ignore it at first but when it was  persistent they made way to the scene of action along with their lanterns (India was still a  poor country then, as it is now) hoping to pacify the stupid creature. To their surprise, they  found the greengrocer’s second daughter-in-law (the one married to the middle of the three  sons, the one with cerebral palsy) running half-naked in fright with the pallu of her sari  sweeping the ground behind her followed by the moustachioed young accountant of the  moneylender who was in no more commendable state, both chased by an aggressively  furious nobody that had been this pie-dog till that moment. Everyone was amazed at this  transformation, and it was immediately hailed as a paragon of virtue and the keeper of the  village’s morals (some even compared it to the Yamraaj’s hounds) for it was clear to one and  all what this young man and woman were doing in the sugarcane fields at that hour of the  night. However, that did not stop a couple of jovial young men in the crowd from hinting  that the drug meant for the oil-presser had permanently deprived it of its erectile function,  something which caused a flutter of giggles to rise in the surrounding female population. It  was christened Mahendra Namardi, both on account of its misfortune and the high hopes we  had that bestowing such a valorous-sounding name on this canine would aid it in its combat  against depravity and licentiousness. So far so good, when irregular hooting broke out the  next night, no one thought it unnatural though the fact that it continued for so long gave  everyone a cause for concern. Surely there was not so much sin camping in the village? It  was then that someone suggested that this chien was no more capable of differentiating  legitimate intercourse from illicit congress than an owl was of telling between a cow and an  ass in the light of the day. To make good their doubts, the villageois indulged in a petty  experiment. It was announced by loud-speaker the next afternoon that the general public was forbidden from making love between certain hours after the fall of the night by common  consent. At the appointed time, a few elders led a young couple, married just twenty days  ago and from the neighbour’s reports used to breaking a charpai or two during the course of  their nocturnal wingdings, into a room at one corner of the village which they bolted from  outside to prevent strangers from barging in. But before that, they had them smeared with  vinaigre de quatre voleurs to neutralise any bodily smells, and the husband, an akhada wrestler  and a long-time disciple of Chandrashekar Azad was given a tall glass of buffalo’s milk laced  with haldi and saffron, the expenses for which were kindly borne by the village council. At  the other end of the village, they tied Mahendra Namardi to an electric pole (see,  development was on its way) with a strong leather thong. The crowd was equally split at the  two ends, no one knowing what to expect. When the green light was given, cries began to  start emerging from the room in which the young couple was trapped. It became impossible  to control the crowd, and men, and women, and even children flocked to catch a peek from  the crack in the doors, or sinon, through the iron bars of the windows. At the other end, the  going was even more incredible. As soon as it got a whiff of what was happening (some say  its discomfort even predated the performance, which would make it a rare chien blessed with  a sense of intuition) Mahendra Namardi began whining with an intensity which would even  melt Prem Chopra’s heart. Next, we saw it bang its head repeatedly against the concrete of  the pole till a splutter of blood descended down its forehead. It snapped viciously, as if there  were demons in the air, and it repeatedly pulled at the leash which just wouldn’t give away  though it desperately tried chewing it away with its teeth. Those who witnessed the  struggle would have sworn they saw human qualities in this senseless animal. The coitus  lasted for about two hours and a half during which Mahendra Namardi inflicted upon itself  every kind of torture imaginable and most of all, plainted in the most miserable dog-squeaks  so that the soft-hearted had tears in the eyes, at the end of which it succeeded in breaking  the offending tie causing a commotion in the assembled crowd which went helter-skelter in fear. The dog ran off barking menacingly but was so exhausted with its own effort that it  soon collapsed on the sandy floor with its four legs facing in the direction of the sky. The  people thought it wise to leave it like that. 

The jour suivant, a meeting was held in the village square where in order to minimise the  disturbances and to maintain the harmony of the village the citizens voted in favour of fixing  a baise-hour (being peasants, they did not like to mince their words). All sexual activity was  to take place between half past ten and half past eleven every night giving Mahendra  Namardi the full rein to cry itself hoarse. That way sin could be prevented since the  offenders would be scared to venture out at other times, all the same one would protect  people’s right to afford for themselves the lawful lovemaking they need. That entailed  certain inconveniences, such as force-wheedling children into sleep early enough to enjoy  some privacy later but by and by everyone praised the wisdom of the elders and the merits of  grass-roots democracy. When the night came, people were at it without giving a ruffle to the  unwholesome music that played in the background though they took care to stop within the  deadline. It was agreed by consensus that we had struck an acceptable compromise and paid  but a small price for it. However, fate had ordained otherwise. On the third night, Mahenda  Namardi broke the pact and started bellowing at all hours. People began suspecting that it  had started to lose a few bolts up in its head but we would have never discovered the real  cause were it not for the much-publicised duel with its arch-rival, Jasodabhai Kaatil. Jasoda  was a lusty young bitch, the loveliest of the lot, the movements of whose shiny black rump  was known to incite mournful sighs from all male chiens in the vicinity. B√Ętard of a  doberman, Jasodabhai had earned a fearsome reputation and this honorific title for itself ever  since the rape and abduction of the comely Jasoda at the cost of its brother’s death. The  dutiful sibling tried protecting its sister’s honour but was no match for the much-bigger and  better-descended Jasodabhai which tore it to bits. It ran away with the prize and had kept  Jasoda as its mistress ever since.

One night, after consuming liquor with its friends when Jasodabhai returned to mount  Jasoda as was its habitude, Mahendra Namardi smelt the going-on and raised such a ruckus  that people came out with sticks forcing it to dismount and scatter into the darkness.  Jasodabhai did not take the humiliation kindly and resolved to teach Mahendra Namardi a  lesson. It was immediately called to single combat. The Mahendra Namardi-Jasodabhai  Kaatil duel attracted a lot of attention and we had people from neighbouring villages coming  on bus-tops to occupy the available space. The rules of engagement were simple: the two  chiens were to be let loose in a bounded enclosure and that which was found on its legs at the  end of it was to be declared winner. Jasodabhai started promisingly by pawing its opponent  ferociously with its left which would have flattened anyone else but for Mahendra Namardi’s  determination. The less-equipped Mahendra Namardi relied on its quickness, and tried to  escape its rivals bits and lunges with fast movement oriented towards the adversary’s tail.  However, soon it became clear that it was a one-sided contest when Mahendra Namardi’s  hide was pierced open at several places by its rival’s teeth. The loss of blood made it  squander its footing several times, and Jasodabhai romped home on the advantage by  jumping over it and trying to muffle the last signs of resistance. Just when we thought all  was over and we would have to call the low-caste undertaker for dogs and children to  dispose of its carcass, Mahendra Namardi would raise its head like an undaunted phoenix  and find a nameless courage prop it back on its feet. The process continued many times,  Mahendra Namardi dorsal (now you know the origins of the word underdog) with an  overbearing Jasodabhai clawing it to death but some mysterious force kept its breath alive.  Jasodabhai might have fallen into the trap of believing that his adversary had taken the pill  because it carelessly lugged its posterior forward to place a hind-leg on the chest of the  beaten foe asserting its complete domination just like the mighty Bheem had done to  Duryodhana in the time of Mahabharat, when the resurgent Namardi in a lightening move  leapt and bit off Jasodabhai’s thing till the very base. This unexpected strike elicited a gasp of wonder from the audience. Not content at that, Mahendra Namardi chewed it off with  great relish in front of Jasodabhai’s eyes which collapsed with the shock and trauma of  losing that which in its heyday had been its greatest pride. Mahendra Namardi was declared  the undisputed leader of dogs in the region, while people understood that when it came to  humans, restraint was possible, but that it would prove to be very difficult to regulate the  mating behaviour of beasts which evidently gave it a cause for heartbreak as well. 

In the following days, Mahendra Namardi started attacking mating cows in the fields and  running after amorous squirrels whose only fault was to have followed nature’s inclinations. Warnings were issued to travellers to refrain from intimate contact while passing through the village, and government officials were terrified of stepping inside the boundary as two of  their colleagues who had once came to paint a Nirodh ad on the walls of the primary school  were very harshly treated by this irate canine. But people really had enough when one day it  desecrated the Ravidasji temple two kos from the village with its poop just because it had a  few Khajuraho-style sculptures ordaining the front. Humans and animals was bad enough,  now it started defying the Gods? Gradually, anger built up against it and even its staunchest  supporters started to lose faith in it. From the eleventh avataar of Vishnu manifested on the  earth to fight evil and lechery, it came to be seen as a deranged cur attempting to right  wrongs from the past for which there was no redress. A procession started out of nowhere,  led from the front by the prostitutes, the adulterers, the thwarted lovers, the bored  housewives, and the lascivious in general, all in bref who had a reason to feel having been  wronged by this mongrel in the past, and soon it became an angry mob. They carried  torches, sticks, brooms, slingshots, moneylenders’ ledgers, and even the domestic belan, each  one according to his station in life, and tracked it down in the cow sheds in the process of  helplessly leaping in the air to prevent two flies from mating. It was expulsed violently from  this hideout, the crowd’s fury only increasing upon recognising its pathetic yelps. Kicked  and thrashed by the lowliest of the lowly, abandoned by fate, hounded by the same people who had once venerated it, and given it milk and double-roti as offerings, reviled by one and  all, called the most offensive names ‘naali ke keede’ ‘kutte ki aulaad’ and even ‘fils de putain’,  shunned by its own compatriots the canine population with who it had broken its bread,  Mahendra Namardi was forever exiled from the village that had seen it being born and  raised from the utter insignificance of pot-holed streets to the throne of stardom. Whenever  we hear an anonymous whine beseech us in the evening in those parts ever since then, we  say take heed, somewhere two souls are happy.

Arjun Razdan is a Kashmiri writer based in Europe. He was educated in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Universities of Bombay, Oxford (UK), Lyon, Paris (Sorbonne) and Brno, and is currently based in the Czech Republic. Some of his works have been published in literary magazines, most notably in the US. He was also a print journalist and a professor of languages in the past.