Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | February 19, 2009

Dogs and Monkeys

I cannot explain why I am so scared of animals on loose. While I love visiting zoos and appreciate people who keep pets but I can hardly ever feel comfortable with an animal around me possibly looking for love from my side.

Over the years, many concerned friends have suggested ways to cure this phobia of mine, have pulled my leg time and again, and have seen me embarrassed while expressing my fear.

Somehow I think I would never want to battle this fear of mine. I shall continue to care about wildlife conservation (which incidentally I do) without being in close proximity of pets.

The fear of dogs was partly inherited from my mother. In India, we have so many stray dogs around, many people find it absolutely unbelievable that why someone would be scared of dogs amongst all things.

Reality is sometimes more than the stray dogs, the dogs kept as pets scare me. While I appreciate the way people love their pets and treat them as their children but I have never quite understood why they impose those pets on guests visiting their house. Typically you would find a host who has a pet telling you, ‘it is a child, it would not harm you. It just wants to be loved and lick your feet’. None really bothers about the fact that I don’t want myself to be licked by a dog!

I remember I went to meet a professor in Kolkata (during my college years) for some assignments a couple of times. He had this tremendous affinity towards his pet dog. So much so that he lovingly referred to pet dog as ‘Baba’ (meaning ‘Father’ in Bengali). Before anyone gets offended, let me clarify I intend no pun. The word Baba is sometimes used to show extreme love for ones children. It was one of the most interesting man-dog relationships I have ever come across. The dog and the professor were both loners and the professor who was not a good communicator at all, got all excited in the presence of his dog. The dog was well-trained to eat not only staple Bengali diet but he was quite comfortable eating “sandesh” and “mouri” too. For people who don’t know for them – Sandesh is a popular Bengali desert and Mouri is a form of spices usually taken after a meal as a mouth-freshener. Normally dogs don’t take such thing with their diet.

These were not the problematic aspects for me. What caused problem was the fact that it seemed the professor hardly took his dog out of his home. Whenever I would be ready to leave his house (where one would have the professor and the dog for company), the dog went crazy and jumped onto me. I felt miserable undergoing this trauma of a dog not allowing me to leave. Everyone would provide various interpretations of this behaviour of the dog but it was bit weird to say the least.

I have had similar experience with another pet dog belonging to our one time landlords (in the year 1984, I think). It was on a Diwali day when the loud firecrackers scared the dog so much that it hid inside our kitchen among all places. I think our mistake was that we kept open the door that connected the two floors. You can very well imagine how I must have felt discovering the dog when I went in search of some drinking water!

Our stay at Durgapur and experiences went a long way in shaping my relationships with animals.

In our Durgapur bungalow provided by my father’s office we had a regular visitor in the form of a black stray dog. He seemed very harmless and for the first time I thought he is the one who can cure my phobia. We used to fondly call him “Kaltu” and I did not mind his presence until he was rundown by a car resulting in his untimely death. Kaltu’s death left a strong impression on my heart and my efforts to reconcile with my fears were dead too.

On a rainy day in Durgapur typically we used to find at least 10 street dogs sitting under the shaded portion in front of our main entrance. It was horrible to see so many of them together and that too so near.

I remember to have visited a Mathematics private tutor in Durgapur who had a large battalion of stray dogs as pets. His fondness towards dogs was enough for me to discontinue going to him for Mathematics lessons.

However, Durgapur hosted animals which were worse than dogs. They were a huge, gray langoors. Langoors were big irritating monkeys. These monkeys frequented our garden because of the presence of a Mahua tree. Mahua is a tree that bears intoxicating flowers and fruits – a favourite of men and monkeys.

One afternoon I was sleeping merrily on my bed. Suddenly I woke up only to find a huge Langoor sitting beside me. I don’t know who was to be blamed for keeping the doors open. I could not even find my mother nearby. My loud shout scared the Langoor away. While it was gone but it left the scare for a lifetime. Following that, once or twice my friends and I were even chased by Langoors. I don’t recall those incidents fondly though.

I left Durgapur long time back but I carried the fear along.

If Durgapur was a small town with beautiful vegetation around to nurture langoors, then I wonder why Delhi being the capital of India has such fascination for monkeys. In Delhi when I was studying in the university, the famous Monkey Man of India made his appearance. Monkey Man scared people of Delhi to death and even attracted considerable global attention. A search on the internet about Monkey Man shall provide you the links to CNN and BBC’s coverage of India’s national scare. You can see its pictures too.

During those days, I was almost certain that I may end up being visited by him. Thankfully he ignored me. Even after so many years, till recently in Delhi, I nurtured the feeling that Monkey Man can visit our home anytime. I was always particularly cautious about balcony doors being kept open for a long time. I think recently a song has also been dedicated to the monkey man!

I know my hysteric behaviours are nothing but traces of insanity but I can never control it. Any news that were reported on Delhi papers saying, a monkey is around scared me. Of course the fear of dogs was always there. Whenever I returned from office late or ventured out early in the morning to catch a flight, I thought about tackling dogs more than anything else.

My fear of dogs and monkeys have always made me butt of many jokes. In India some of my sadistic friends always wanted dogs to chase me, so that I learn a lesson. They claim when they are chased by dogs they chase the dog back! Oh yes, I believe these brave men.

In New Zealand, some friends even tried to counsel me without much success thus far. Here people with pets are always very concious, so that there dogs don’t create problems for others. I have not seen stray dogs out here. In suburbs and beaches though you see people taking walk with their pets. The dogs look very different than their Indian counterparts. Sometimes they are much bigger and hairier. The breeds are of course different than what is available in India. Despite an apparent civilized way of treating dogs, I still feel threatened sometimes by looking at their sheer size. That ‘what if..’ bothers me a lot.

Recently, when my wife informed me that a cat has jumped from the 15th floor apartment balcony in our building, I was instantly worried. To my wife’s chagrin, I was not worried about the poor cat’s plight but I was more worried to think whether we need to carry umbrella every time we go out now? What if a cat jumps on my head?

Having said all these, I must say I have never ever harmed any animal. I have not been affectionate either.

I wish Indian cities frees themselves from stray dogs and monkeys. Why don’t we make a zoo for domestic animals such as those I wonder? What is the big deal achieved by keeping them on streets when most of the world has kept them somewhere else? Are we trying to show that Indians care about animals the most?



  1. Nothing wrong in getting scared with stray dogs and monkeys on streets.They may be a source of nuisance.This is not true for domesticated dogs though.Majority of Indians are work so hard to care for their children.Can they really afford to care for animals?

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