As we approached the Valmiki Nagar stretch of beach, we peered towards the buildings anxiously, looking for our friends. We had already collected eggs from two turtle nests, and had more than 300 eggs between the two of us. It was 1 in the morning, and we were tired and sleepy but all of this vanished and our hearts filled with joy and affection as we saw them running towards us.
Satan and Sin, two jet black dogs with yellow eyes, fat and jolly, full of energy, meet us turtle walkers on most nights and walk with us till the hatchery. In a world of relationships based on give and take, this beautiful friendship is based on nothing material. They expect nothing from us, and most of the time we have nothing to give, except some warm hugs and of course, our company. And what’s most amazing, is that we aren’t the same people walking everyday. Almost everyday, a different pair of SSTCN members walks. Satan and Sin bear the same good cheer, and it is beautifully unconditional.
They often come by themselves and and sometimes bring other friends along. They play the entire way, often taking quick baths in the sea. These must be the cleanest dogs, with a bath every hour! Incidentally, they never harm the turtles, or the turtle eggs. They sleep with us in the hatchery and walk with us up till the bus stop. After putting us into the bus, they walk back to their daytime area.
Those of you who understand dogs will understand that by walking 5 kilometres with us, they cross hundreds of other dog territories, but our friends have never confronted any other dogs, and whenever confronted, have always maintained a dignified prescence.
This brings us to Inji, our former president, as we’d like to think of him. Inji used to walk with us everyday, unfailingly, from Besant Nagar to Neelankarai. We named him after Niranjan, a passionate turtle walker who died in the Himalayas. Inji walked with us from January to March, and then as the turtle nesting season drew to a close and it was time for us to go directly to the hatchery to release hatchlings, he would walk alone all the way. That was truly fascinating for a lone dog to do; walk all the way from Besant Nagar to Neelankarai, crossing all the kuppams (fishing villages) with their territorial dogs.
Then, by mid-April, Inji decided that he would shift base, and moved to the hatchery. This brought about a complete change in his character. He was, till then, a pig-nosed, dreamy, friendly dog but once he found a home, he turned territorial and would guard it fiercely. We changed his name to Inji Pratap Singh and as his power and domination grew, Thakur Inji Pratap Singh!
Unfortunately, the season got over and it was time to pull down the hatchery. After that, Inji became really upset and bad tempered, and on one occasion bit a boy from the kuppam who teased him. We paid for the boy’s treatment, but from that day on, our friend was a marked dog. We tried bringing him to Besant Nagar with us, but he would always run back. We made arrangements for him to be fed, and often went to check up on him, but one day he just disappeared. In a world of spite, one can definitely imagine what must have happened. After this, we posthumously made Inji the President of SSTCN.