Here's how it ends. I'm in a rickshaw with a small human being, waiting for someone on a lane in the suburbs. Ahead of us and across the road, a tiny puppy steps out into the road. Before I can say anything, a motorcycle and a van swerve around it. Too frightened to do anything sensible, it sinks to the ground.
Afraid it will be run over, I step out to move it. But then it seems to gather up some courage, for it gets up and scampers back to the safety of the gate of a nearby building.
A man and his two children are standing just inside the gate. They notice the puppy and start flinging water at it, laughing. As it cowers there, they start kicking what looks like pebbles at the puppy. Visibly flinching, the animal retreats under a truck. Man and kids are still laughing.
Then I reach them and ask, "why are you kicking stones at the puppy?" The man replies: "Do you mind taking a look, they are just shells!" Then he closes the gate and they disappear into their building.
Here's how the evening begins. Four of us, small human being included, go to a fair. It is organized by a well-known school nearby, as a fundraiser. It has rides, plenty of eats in great variety, large stage with glittering dancers, svelte MC in a dress cut to show curvy calves. Also milling cars, milling crowds.
We have to buy tickets to enter. As we stand in line for tickets, I feel a little tug at my elbow. Look down at a small boy. Gaptoothed, barefoot and wearing grimy clothes, he pleads with us to take him in to the fair. I try ignoring him. I try asking what he will do in there. Nothing deters him. Wearing his faint gap-toothed smile, he keeps on pleading.
We finally buy him a ticket. He tells us his name is Sunil.
At the entrance, a woman catches Sunil by the shoulders and turns him around to send him back outside. "Don't do that," we say. "He's with us and we have a ticket for him."
She turns to us and says, "But you can't take him in!"
"Why not?" we ask.
"We don't want that kind of crowd in here," she says.
"What kind of crowd is that?" we ask.
She doesn't reply, and turns away. We walk in.
Much later, Sunil says bye and leaves us. Walking barefoot away through the crowds, he suddenly turns. Flashes one more gaptoothed smile -- not so faint, now -- waves and we see his mouth forming words. "Thank you."
Made our day, little Sunil. Or at least, made our next 15 minutes until we saw a puppy walk out onto the road.
Perhaps related, read Leave me now. (A different version of that piece appeared in the Hindustan Times yesterday, December 12 2005, titled "Can't have that kind in here" (can't find link).