It isn’t easy to become a part of the social circle at the dog park on Carter Road, Bandra. First you go through the Great Dane check. Bono will amble up to you, his frame towering a couple of feet above your head. He will stare at you for a full five minutes, his mournful jowl three inches away from your nose. Then his pal Cleo will join in and together they’ll do a twin staring act. It is a good idea to breathe easy and pray that you will pass the Great Dane test.
It is a tough thing to look stoic through this because Cleo wears a grungy black T-shirt nattily knotted around the stomach throughout the year. If the two unbend enough to demand a scratch behind the ears, you can breathe easy. Then the Labradors will amble in, and then the Pugs and the Alsatians, depending on who has time off from chasing balls, chewies and their own tails.
A dog’s life is not a bad idea if you live in Bandra. Where else in the country do you get a whole park dedicated to dogs? Here they can play, socialize, pee and poop as and where they please. And if you walk in to make friends, you do so at your peril. Anywhere else, Tiger and Moti have to be shamefully led out early morning into some deserted pavement for their, er, outdoor needs.
Bandra itself, and particularly the Carter Road promenade developers, is not particularly happy that a long grassy stretch along the mangroves has been cornered by dogs. But they have been here, say the dog owners, before the fancy promenade was made. And in those days the dogs, the children, the walkers and the lovers happily shared the space.
My friend Gayatri tells me she has seen Bono line up at the children’s swings waiting for his turn. And walking away deeply hurt when he was not allowed to clamber up. So when the promenade came up and he and his pals were shooed away, there was a furore you could hear across the suburb. The anti-dog squad has its point. Here, in this city, where green spaces make for a rarest of rare case, how can you lock away a corner for dogs who would be happy with any kind of territory?
The battle for the dog park was fought for weeks before the canine camp won. But even today, the truce is an uneasy one. If Tiger or Moti accidentally litter the promenade while being led in or out, they have had it. As for the dogs, they could not be bothered.
If Fifa spots a ball arching over the fence she will think little of leaping over it into the midst of startled and angry walkers. “How many times do we have to tell you…?” is one angry outburst you will often hear on this stretch. But for all that, the dog park has turned into Bandra’s own little zoo. On most evenings, draped over the fence are people watching dogs at play. Where else will you find a scamp like young Tabasco who bounds across the whole length of the park and back at breakneck speed, simply because he thinks it is a wonderful evening?
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