At first I didn’t notice him—he just blended into the colorful, chaotic street circus that is Chennai, India. Then, he suddenly stood out.
The character in question is a dog. He’s a medium-sized mutt with short brown and white fur. He wears no collar. He snoozes on the sidewalk at the bus stop near my hotel, and every day I see him as I walk to my favorite lunch eatery, Saravana Bhavan. The next day at lunchtime he’s back again. In the evening he disappears.
I started to wonder: Where does he go at night? Does he have an owner? Or is he just another of Chennai’s thousands of street dogs? If he is homeless, where does he get water? Where does he find food? How does he know to stay out of the busy street? And why does he choose to sleep the afternoon away at a bus stop? I’m just a traveler in a faraway land and those questions will never get answered.
One day he was gone. Just gone. I kept looking for him, but I didn’t see him. Again, I had questions: Did he get hit by a car? Did he find another spot? Did someone kick him and scare him off? Or did a rival dog push him away? There are lots of strays roaming the streets, looking for a territory of their own.
Then, just yesterday, out of the blue, he was snoozing in his favorite spot again. I stopped to look at him; my foot was inches from his nose. He didn’t even flinch. I felt accepted by India—I was a foreigner no more. And for a small moment all was right with the world.
I’m coming back to California in a few weeks, back to my spot, but that bus stop dog will linger in my mind. It’s been a great trip so far.
I just hope no one took my spot.