• Pierre Smith Khanna

I met a dog called Karl Marx in India

He was quite a character. Consigned to the small courtyard caught in between the ground floor of his owner’s apartment and that of their neighbours – the result of Bangalore’s contrivance of buildings old and new – he would pace up and down the nine square meters of concrete and pierce the evenings’ clamour with his erratic barks.

“MARX! Keep it down will you!” His owner would exclaim from inside the house, peering into the courtyard through barred windows after what seemed an eternity. I’ve learnt that one’s threshold of noise differs widely from place to place. Parents the world over seem remarkably immune to the sounds of a child wailing. I’m not sure Marx’s household experienced noise – it felt like all was just sound to them.

Call me crazy, but it felt as though Marx’s shrieks, reverberating as they did across all four courtyard walls, reaching up countless floors into the city sky, were destined to reach human ears. They were the painful groans of a pirate seeing their loot being stolen from them and their treasure-maps defiled right in front of their very eyes while being incapable of doing anything about it. Paralysed by fate, like when Romania’s first President, Nicolae Ceaușescu, was booed by a single person in the 80,000-strong crowd on a winter’s day in 1989. The boos swelled rapidly, catching Ceaușescu mid-speech. His sentence was never finished. “Hallo” was all he could utter. Like a broken children’s toy with two syllables stuck on loop. That was his last speech.

Marx’s bark was neither a hollow “hallo” nor was it a resolute “boo”. It was both. He couldn’t understand the four walls which reached up higher than he could imagine, nor could he understand that one set of neighbours occupied the space behind two walls and another set lived behind the other two, and so on for each floor. His was a rant against his circumstances. A cry abandoned to the concrete. The slick, smooth surface of concrete. And the concrete complied. The concrete let the shrieks run across itself as freely as the air in Bucharest did with the crowd’s boos.

And so Marx goes on, pausing to listen, to see if the walls will come tumbling down, and barks some more, clinging to the sound as fastidiously as Ceaușescu held on to his two syllables.







© 2020 by Pierre Smith Khanna