“No take” comes the voice from below and the pedantic me cringes. “No take,” he repeats, sometimes sternly, sometimes gently but always in a calm authoritative voice. Before I confuse you further, let me begin at the beginning. My friends had gifted me a Cocker Spaniel on my birthday. It hadn’t required too much guess work. They knew that I wanted to adopt a pup ever since my Lhasa apso walked away. In the intervening five years, I had mourned him and missed him but couldn’t get myself to replace him. I constantly talked about it but was reluctant to take the plunge and risk another heart break. In any case, there never seemed to be a right time to do it. There was always something significant looming in the horizon, something that demanded my attention more than a wagging tail.
So my friends took the matter in their hands and did the deciding. They had heard me debate endlessly whether Lhasas scored over Cocker Spaniels. The latter known for their optimism, intelligence and adaptability are considered extremely loyal and affectionate and rank 18th in Stanley Coren’s canine intelligence scale. The Lhasa’s position is a dismal 68 and is manipulative and moody, but can kill with its cute looks and adorable ‘puppy’ eyes. They chose brains over beauty and Amigo scurried into my life. The breed is claimed to understand new instructions with 5-15 repetitions and obey the first command 85% of the times. Perhaps the statistics are inaccurate because Amigo failed to live up to these high standards. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, nipped and bit ankles, chewed furniture and pee’ed and poo’ed all over the place. Frustrated, I decided to seek professional help and engaged a trainer.
The trainer is an earnest young boy who my dog adores, although part of the lesson is keeping him on the leash for increasing intervals of time, something Amigo vehemently detests. I sometimes watch the two from my balcony. The trainer keeps a favourite chew stick on the ground and teaches him to not take it until permitted. For the first few days Amigo strained against the leash and gobbled it up in a flash. Slowly he learnt to sit and wait till he was asked to dig in. But the class wasn’t over. When inquired, the trainer pointed at his tense ‘ ready to pounce’ stance and said it wasn’t acceptable. The next lesson was to make him disinterested in something which was not his. After a fortnight the trainer was dangling the treat right above Amigo’s nose and expecting him to look away.
Bored by the monotony of the lessons and the slow progress, one day I asked the trainer if this was the only thing on my dog’s syllabus, the only command he would teach. I hinted at more fun tricks like playing dead or rolling over. And the trainer said, “ Ye aa gaya toh sab aa jayega.” ( If he masters this, he will learn everything else.”) So simple, yet so profound. If we apply this to the human race, the world would be a better place. If we could teach our progeny self restraint, the rest would follow. If they could control greed and stay focused amid enticements, they could live meaningful lives.
Sadly, we teach them the exact opposite, with our words and deeds. We teach them to grab what they can, to focus on the result, whatever be the means. Between ‘ dummy’ schools, tennis lessons, coaching classes and fake philanthropic projects, they learn ‘ to take ‘, without thought or consideration of what is right. Is it surprising then, that we are what we are? And since politicians are our representatives, isn’t it natural that they are the opportunists that they are? How can we expect them to behave differently, when they are a product of our society, with much more scope for corruption.
Someday Amigo will become a dog of good moral values albeit poor English. Meanwhile, as the polling date approaches and heated debates about the right candidate do the rounds, my mind is made up. I will gladly give my vote to anyone who has been trained to “ No take.” Any takers?
( published in my column in the Tribune on 11/5/2019)