25 May 2018
Arrey, yaar Vaz, of course you can ask me anything. I am not getting jealous of you. You are like younger brother to me. So what if you are going to work for them? Six thousand? Shit, men, you must ask for at least twelve. Byramjee spends that on one bottle of whiskey and when they have a party they are spending twenty times in one day what they are paying all servants for full month.”
I was of course getting more. But then cooking, driving sometimes, keeping the house and brushing the dogs – complete!
I can give advice on everything. Cooking, plates, cutlery, cleaning all the babalogs – you see memsaheb is living still in the slavery past. Mister Byramjee-sir is more modern. He is cool, men. Always giving me tips about horses – but useless. They never win. He will maybe call you to golf club also to hold the bag if the caddy Nathu pretends to be sick or says his mother-in-law is serious. Saheb is generous also. Giving tips but never telling memsaheb. He is loving our food also – sorpotel, Goa sausage, fish curry, fresh bombil, everything! She don’t like.
“No Goa sausage, no sorpotel, Goanese food really stinks!” And so Parsi food with ‘sookka boombla’ and everything with egg on top doesn’t smell or what?
I will give you recipe for dhan sakh and patraan ni machhi and Parsi stuff she loves. She will try and send you on a course with some Parsi laydiss, but why pay that money, men, you just pocket it and I will teach you and we can go 50-50.
She is very fancy, what I calling very Sunday-key-Monday – thinking she is from Hollywood films. Always maraoing heavy style yaar. Our girls, Christians, is coming to the house twice in the week and doing hair and painting nails and washing face and legs and rubbing things in mud and everything. You will see. The bitch has a little room for that because Mister Saheb he doesn’t want to see all of this stuffs. And the flats are having sauna and gym on the basement floor.
What is sauna? Take all clothes off and just sit for sweating like anything. What? Of course she is doing it and I saw it. From the kitchen stairs you can go into this basement and through the logs you can see. Bastard boy, don’t ever try eh? No, no, no one catch me peeping like a Tom. I saw her many times yaar, in the shower, in sauna, in the room where the girls was applying creams to her dudus.
Yes, she is beautiful, but for us her beauty is like temptation. I was seeing it and then doing to myself and then in confession I told Father Ghenze everything and he must have be getting tired, every week I am saying this same thing. “Father I have sinned. I have tried to see her from underneath even and was getting very much excited…”
See, Vaz, I one day told Father Ghenze – not in the confessional, outside yaar – I want to ask him a question. “Suppose I am actually loving this laydiss and not just lusting her – then will it still be a sin?”
He said “What are you talking dear fellow, have you gone mad?”
“No,” I said, “I have good feeling towards this laydiss but I can’t stop looking at her, Father and then sinning with myself.”
“My dear boy, you should ask for deep forgiveness for even thinking about such a thing. Where are you and where is she? This is a lady of high pedigree and she is young and married. Love? Not for you. Not there. Get your parents to find a nice Goan Catholic girl.”
“Father, I understand. You are right. I am a dog. No, sorry. Not even a dog. She love dogs. A cockroach, then.”
The dogs are sultans in that flat – always in her lap, like she has fed them her own milk. And we have to treat them like angels, not like dirty animals who piss and do number two on carpets, which you will have to clean. Then ‘walkies’ every morning, night, afternoon. Pulling on lead, wanting every pole and doggy arsehole, this Claudius and Khartoum, the two big bastards and little Poppy, the bitch dog which she calls ‘Jelly-baby’.
Why? Well, memsaheb’s name is Jeroo but all peoples are calling her Jelly or Jel. Oh, God help me, Vaz, I have myself seen her jellies shaking when the girls was putting cream on her. Jelly is good name, best name for her if you see her in jinz from the back. Mother of god forgive me.
Her dogs, like her, are first class pedigree. The Claudius is Boxer and Khartoum is Lubber-door. All certificate dogs with prizes, cups and medal all showing in the sitting room. They win every year in the Club shows and even in foreign. Dogs going by Air India!
This Poppy is small and she is called actually Christmas Cracker of Vaiganga on birth certificate. She is called Poppy because nobody can call out ‘Christmas cracker of Vaiganga, sit!’
For Jel the dogs are love and business. Crore rupee! Memsaheb with intarnet on all other persons owning top breed bitches who are always calling her to send Claudius and Khartoum to do their jig-jig and make baby puppies to sell. Sharing the money, bossy, big money. And little Poppy? She is very rare – pure Biewer Terrier, memsaheb says – white, black and gold with hair hanging down from the middle which I lovingly combed every day.
Poppy sleeps in memsaheb’s room. Saheb and memsaheb Jelly have separate arrangement. When the maid is gone to village or run away you will be cleaning all of these arrangements. The maids run after two months when they can’t listen to memsaheb’s dirty words and she saying they steal jewellery and she will call the police. Saheb is different.
“Gabriel, I know this is not your beat, but thank you for cleaning up. Will you have a shot of whiskey,” he would say and I would thank him and place all his shaving things and hair-brush with a silver handle – even though he is nearly bald – in one neat row on phays-towel.
In memsaheb’s bathroom there would be underwear, blouses and brassieres where she had worn them and thrown them. The rooms were all smelling of her perfumes and her clothes were smelling of her. I can’t tell lies to you. The smell was like a prize and a punishment. It was driving me mad. It was saying to me Gabriel, this is woman, and also this is woman you can never have. And cleaning those rooms and, yes my friend, sniffing her clothes that the question for Father Ghenze was coming to me. Is not lust a love you can never have? Simply!
Sometimes I take tea on tray when the girls were massaging or doing wax on legs. My heart would start beating and I wanted to fall at her feet and confess all, confess that I had from the moment I became her slave wanted no other woman but her.
There was an old song my father used to sing in Goa, even though he hated Hindi:
“Meri jaan, meri Jaan
Meri Jaan, Meri Jaan
I love you!
Bhaag yahansey tu!
I love you!
Bhaag yahansey tu!
Tujhe Paris ghumaun, tujhe London ghumaun
Tujhe brandy pilaun, whisky pilaun
Tujhe murgi ke murgi ke andey andey
Ana meri jan meri jan
Sunday key Monday”
This song went round in my head every time I looked upon Jelly, my beauty, my love, my memsaheb!
I could never take her to Paris or London where she always was going – She is Sunday-key-Monday and I am only worth murgi-ke-andey.
And so it came to pass, as they say in the readings at mass, Vaz, that it was Christmas and the house had big party. You Christian boys in our coor were celebrating night and day. Memsaheb told I was on duty from afternoon for the party. I told you and you fellows gave me a whole bottle of kaju feni to finish my sorrow for working at my Christmas. These people are not even Cat’lics or firangs and they want me to cook goose and turkey for their party?
I drank the whole bottle of feni before I reported for work and said to memsaheb I had been to church for mass. “You’re late Gabriel,” she said, snarling in my face. “Get down to cooking that Christmas dinner.”
In the kitchen the butchers had delivered six birds. I remember putting them in the oven and looking for the potatoes.
Then, Vaz, I can’t remember nothing. The feni must have conquered my happy spirit. Next there was a fellow in a blue uniform, a police-walla or ambulance, waking me up and the smoke stinging in my eyes like anything. I thought there must have been a bomb or something as they dragged me out of the kitchen and down into the gardens.
All these people in party clothes, in suits and shalwar-khamiz and silk saris with jewels like anything gathered outside – some was holding glass of champagne still and with two fire engines and police there. Lot of shouting. I could hear memsaheb’s voice but couldn’t see her. My God, Vaz, I was thinking thank God the bomb didn’t explode fully.
Master sahib came up to me.
“So,” he said. He was standing close up to me. “I thought so, Gabriel. You better fuck off before Jel sees you. She will kill you.”
“Was it a bomb?”
“No, it was a very drunk cook putting two geese, two ducks and two turkeys into the ovens without taking their feathers off first. A lot of smoke, through the flat and the building and a ruined dinner and a shambles of a party. Disgrace! I have to take all my guests to the Taj now for dinner. Now go and never be seen again here.”
Yaar, I then knew what had happened though I couldn’t remember not shaving the feathers. Boy, I ran from there. I didn’t come back home that night but was on the beach till the sunrise.
Two days after, I thought I would go back and say sorry to memsaheb. I wanted to see her again, men. My heart was thirsty, yaar.
Saheb was there when I went in. He and memsaheb called me in lounge. Yes, I was a good cook until this drunken incident. Yes, they would forgive and take me back but I had to pay part of what Christmas had cost her. I would work with no pay for two months and then on half pay till she had got back some cash. It would not pay for the Taj dinner, but would be a punishment.
I was thanking her.
No one in the building, other servants, were thinking that memsaheb would take me back. I would never get refer for other job. Saheb said they could report to police but he said no.
I was eating in the flat but pocket was empty. I didn’t pay rent in this coor hostel and you saw secretary D’Souza fighting with me and throw my things out?
I was working like hell, Vaz dear boy! And memsaheb was knowing that she was like high-heel-shoes and I was like the worm she was threatening to crush. I was beginning to hate everything. I say everything, like how she used to smile with her crooked mouth and pretty brown eyes and how she put hairs for longer eyelash. She would ring the bell to call us from the kitchen and bark orders: “Did you forget the cake with the coffee?” like that.
Then one day in February she say to me “I have found the perfect match for Poppy and in a day or two she will go on heat. She is to be kept in the spare room, which has to have all the furniture removed except her basket and feeding bowls. Keep Claudius and Khartoum on the ground floor and Poppy is not to be taken for walks. Her mating partner will be arriving in a day’s time.”
I tell her “All good, Madam”
“And better if you can stay away from the bottle!” Rude, no?
That night mister and memsaheb went off for some late night party.
Poppy was lock up in her room wailing like she was having pain. I was feeding her and filling up her water bowl so I went into her room and something grab my mind.
“Hey Poppy, you want walkies?”
She began wag her little tail. I got her lead and looking that no one was seeing I took her downstairs and take her to the beach at the back of the house, down the stairway to the sea.
In this place always twenty-five dogs are just roaming around and they were there. As I was walking with Poppy these fellows, Prince and Moti and Tiger and all the fucking pie dogs of Mumbai were picking up Poppy’s smell and gathering round.
Poppy start to squealing and making yenk yenk sound so I let her go from the lead.
Straightaway many dogs gather round her and try and get onto her back to go in. I was just watching from fifty yards. They were barking and fighting and growling and snapping at each other and trying to climb onto her back. Some boys wandering on the beach stopped to see the tamasha.
I walked up to Poppy and now she was under one big, dirty yellow dog who was pumping up and down and in and out with his front legs on her and gripping her. His jaws were open and his tongue hanging out and his backside was filthy with mud from swimming in the sewers.
The other defeated dogs were hanging round, men, waiting for a turn. Some were pretending to walk off but they kept coming back, wagging tails.
The moon was bright that night, bossy, and I was watching this show with others and thinking of memsaheb Jelly and myself as that filthy yellow dog.
Then some chhokra boys, started saying ‘lagaao, lagaao…hai ooski leyley’ and then throwing stones. Before I could say anything, one big stone hit the yellow dog and he yelped and stopped his jig-jig and start to run. The other dogs jumped on Poppy, trying their luck. I knew I should take her away before she was bitten in a fight but now a black fellow had got her.
Poppy’s mouth was open and her tongue hanging down with the spit dripping like anything.
But by the moonlight I looked in her eyes and saw she was doing what she was born to do.
I quickly put the lead on her and I tell you, men, she was treating me like a stranger, snarling and snapping with her jaws when my hand was near her collar. She was enjoying.
I got the lead on. The black dog was now trying to get his back leg over her back but he was stuck inside Poppy. He pulled and pushed and now he got back to back with her, like bums touching and they were both moving a little backwards and forwards on their eight legs.
I tried to pull Poppy away now and this old fellow passing on beach shouted “Oi leave them alone, how would you like it if someone pulled you away?”
I felt a little ashamed but had to now get back. So I dragged Poppy and gave the black fellow one kick. I was scared saheb and memsaheb may be coming home.
I got back fast and locked up Poppy and waited on duty to open the door.
In the morning this Chyniss gentleman came with his Biewer Terrier called Fedora – white, blue and gold – for jig-jig with Poppy. Memsaheb was very excited. She ordered lunch for the gentlemens and they were both lifting and kissing Fedora and Poppy and then I was told “lock them into Poppy’s room”.
All day Jelly memsaheb was anxious and every while was looking in Poppy’s room. In the morning she looked very relax.
“Gabriel,” she said, “Now that Fedora and Poppy have had their honeymoon, we shall have a whole litter of puppies and in all fairness I think we can forget about the Christmas fiasco and start you back on full pay!”
I said best thanks.
The Chyniss came back after three days and he and memsaheb wrote a paper giving all pedigrees: “Delightful Biewer Terrier Puppies”. They were asking one lakh rupees for one.
Fedora was gone and I cleaned up Poppy’s room. Memsaheb bought her a bigger basket and Poppy was gone back to her room. Poppy’s belly was soon very swollen, yaar. All special foods were brought for her.
Memsaheb was telling Saheb Byramji “this is going to be the best litter. Orders for the pups are flooding in.”
Then litter was born. Poppy started yawning loudly and shouting and memsaheb called the vet doctor who told “get a big bowl of melted ghee mixed with sugar, as Poppy will get hungry giving birth and will eat her puppies if nothing else is there.”
Six puppies came out of her looking like little laydiss tampaxes all covered with blood which Poppy started licking.
Six puppies! Memsaheb asked for a bottle of champagne when Saheb came into the room. I got one out of saheb’s fridge.
“I thought they’d be black or blue and white and gold. These two look completely yellow,” memsaheb said.
The vet doctor was looking uncomfortable. The puppies were put to sucking Poppy’s nipples in the basket after she swallowed all the bowl of ghee and sugar.
The Chyniss Fedorawalla came that evening. Poppy didn’t want anyone coming near her puppies except me. Memsaheb was jealous of this but asked me to stroke Poppy and hold her while the Chyniss checked the puppies’ sexes. He looked and was very quiet.
He raised one finger to call Jelly memsaheb out of the room.
He was angry. “These are nor Bewier Terriers,” I heard him saying.
“What do you mean?” memsaheb asked. She was angry and scared.
“Your bitch has been mated with some pariah mixed breeds. You owe me three lakhs as per contract and I will sue for it.”
“That’s impossible. You yourself brought Fedora…”
“Don’t even use his name,” the Chyniss man said. “You have wasted his time and mine–and his sperm.”
He took his hat and left the flat.
“Did Khartoum or Claudius get into Poppy’s room at any time?” memsaheb asked me.
“No madam!” I said.
When Mr Byramji Seth came back memsaheb was crying and telling him everything and what the Chyniss man said.
The Master knew what had happened but he didn’t tell her. He came to me in the kitchen.
“Gabriel, you bastard. It was the night we went to the Shroff’s party wasn’t it?” he said. “You took Poppy out and got her fucked by stray dogs didn’t you? Now leave this house if you don’t want to be murdered. She’ll think it out sooner or later. I’ll send you some wretched money.”
“Thank you sir,” I said, took off my apron and went to the back stairs.
“And Gabriel, I know why you did it and I should kill you myself, but just go!” he said. “Just go and never show your filthy face here again.”
~ Farrukh Dhondy is a writer, playwright, screenwriter and columnist. Born in Pune, he lives in London. His latest books are India my India and Cambridge Company.
~ This short story was first published in September 2016 in our print quarterly ‘Fact and Fiction’.