So there’s this Indian chap who goes to dog training with us on Sundays when everyone else is in church.
His wife, who is not Indian, sends him there. She has put him on the 20-week dog training course to punish him for his regular Saturday night binges, which leaves him with a Sunday morning hangover and what one might politely call dog breath.
The Sunday morning dog training is supposed to make him remember what Sundays are for. To remind him that Sundays are for Christians or whatever. And make him think twice before he goes on that Saturday night binge, which he cannot get out of the habit of, if you see what I mean.
I can vouch for the fact that the Saturday night thing is not about other women — as if it was any of my business in any case. In my understanding, it is just about getting over the fact that he is an Indian in a displaced world, surrounded by people who don’t understand this intractable Indian thing of sugar cane fields, Zulus ever on the horizon and medical universities in Natal that his parents tried to send him to in order to make him fit in better.
Apparently, he is making a name for himself in the commercial film and television world, far distant from Bollywood, and all that sort of thing. But, you can take an Indian out of the cane fields, yet still not be able to take the cane field out of the Indian. Hence the Saturday night dog breath and so forth.
So his wife has signed him up for Sunday morning dog training. Initially, it was all about getting a puppy for the family, like the rest of us. The puppy was to make the children of the home feel happy and the home feel like a happy place for children and other people to live in.
But first the puppy had to be trained to be a reasonable, homely, new South African kind of user-friendly dog. So initially, my Indian friend was supposed to attend dog training school with one of his children, like the rest of us, so that the whole household could settle down to the new dog and the new dog could settle down to them. That is what dog training is for.
For a week or so my Indian friend attended this training with his son. Then, inexplicably, the son dropped out. The dog stayed in.
The Indian chap was not allowed to exercise the same dropping out option and found himself attending dog training alone with the dog. He found himself, tastefully dressed in a carefully ironed tracksuit, baseball cap and takkies, running the gamut of the new South African world of dogs all on his own, with only me and other loyal people with children to keep him company in the cold light of dawn, frost on the ground and everything.
I don’t know that this has any deeper meaning on the grand scale of things. I just found myself backing off and watching him from a distance, vicariously enjoying his discomfiture with his absentee child’s dog, while I subtly tried to kick the barking mad white dog trainers away from my ankles and get on with it.
My own child, after all, who has taken the trouble to be here with me and our own dog, has to maintain some kind of respect for me as a committed pet owner. Otherwise what are we doing here at this godforsaken hour of the morning, doing dog training on a Sunday, when everyone else is sleeping or in church?
The Indian chap, as I was saying, was having quite a tough time of it, running up and down the field pretending to be in control of things and calling his dog by name so that she would follow him around, as instructed. ”Heel,” he said. She ran away to play with other people’s dogs. ”Sit!” he shouted. She looked at him as if he was mad and waited for him to give her some food.
The dog trainer walked up to him and looked him in the eye. ”Is this the way you talk to your children?” she asked. He didn’t know what to say. Mentally, he was counting the weeks till this would all be over. It was, so to speak, a sobering experience. You could see that he was totting up how to get back at his wife for putting him through all of this. He put the dog back on its leash and tried to look responsible.
There is another Indian chap who came to dog training for the first couple of weeks with his young daughter and her cute black puppy called ”Spot”. He, his daughter and the puppy have long since dropped out. I suspect they could not be bothered with the forced integration situation. They probably decided, after a few sessions, that the dog could take its own chances in the backyard in Lenasia, rather than having to go through all of this.
It’s a shame. If they had stayed with the programme, me and this first Indian chap I am talking about would have had some other people with dogs of colour to bond with in this challenging process.
As it is, my current, remaining Indian friend and I are left exposed on the rugby fields of Emmarentia, surrounded by fast-track, white-owned Dobermann puppies who are rapidly growing up to despise us for our lack of commitment. And Sunday morning vodka breath of our own making. And so on.
I wonder how long we will last.