The blue city isn’t forgiving when it comes to stray dogs
I woke up with a dream still fresh in my eyes. I was being chased by a herd of dogs, at an unknown place and I was asking random people/houses on the road for help. That’s one hundred percent, not me. For the record, I’ve been a dog lover for the significant part of my life, with a wish that one day I’ll have a pet dog at my home.
I’ll be getting my second dose of Anti Rabies Vaccine today, two more remain. People around are telling me how painful it used to be at a point in time, five injections are nothing they say. I wonder how these injections would heal my newly acquired phobia. I wonder if I tell them about this dream, would they think that I’ve gone crazy?
I was in Jodhpur a few days back. The city is raw and real. The old part of the city has infinite number alleyways, in a zig zag fashion, they all seem to be leading to the same point. It’ll be a crime to see these beautiful lanes without hopes of getting lost in them, and that’s precisely what I decided to do.
After spending a couple of nights at an ultra-modern hostel, away from the city limits, we decided to move to the older part of city. The place where the heart of the city beats, non-stop. Our guest house had some jaw-dropping grand views of Mehrangarh Fort.
Old Town and Nostalgia
This morning had an extra winter warmth to it. A pinch of yellow in all the winter blue warmth. At a time, when these alleyways were weaving lots of stories. Wearing my observer hat, I walked.
An old lady was preparing her wooden stove for a morning tea. By the time I passed her I could see smoke coming out of the stove which covered her smile at this achievement but couldn’t keep it from me.
Local kids were dressed in colorful uniforms for their school, appearing and disappearing at the same time through these lanes. The younger ones were getting dropped at their school gate, while their parents watched them until they looked back with a smile on their faces. Transported back in time, I could feel my father on his red kinetic and baby me waving his hands.
Older people had gathered around a lucky corner, making plans for the day. Chai waala was busy setting up his shop, while people around read morning newspapers. Just as the mood of these lanes was, undecided, I was slowly taking steps in random directions.
One more turn and I found myself standing in front of a furious dog, which for some reason didn’t like my presence in his territory. I was a bit surprised because other people were also standing nearby, it wasn’t an early morning as well. The fate had a plan. Within no time, two more dogs who seemed to have appeared from nowhere, also joined the party. The one in the front, led the pack and came pretty close. By this moment, I was enough alarmed of the situation and aware of my options, I decided to recede.
I tried a couple of fake kicks towards the dog to help get a safe passage in the opposite direction. It also seemed to work when they took some steps back. I thought it was a good time to return and go back my way. The moment I turned and put one step forward, I felt something on my calf, and by the time I could realize anything the dog had set his teeth inside. When the onlookers around saw this happening, they rushed to move the dog away. But the damage was already done. Though the wound wasn’t deep, I could see some red color courtesy this dog.
Search for a doctor
I thought it was sensible to move away as soon as possible and find a doctor. I knew, that in a city unknown, it was going to be a task to seek proper first aid and doctor. Someone around, who had witnessed this drama, suggested applying some red chilly as a local remedy. While I decided to ignore this red chilly suggestion, more than the pain, I was in a state of shock. I was a tourist here, up for a morning walk and now my objective had suddenly changed. I was still able to walk, I searched on google maps, but it wasn’t of much help. I asked a doodh waala. Showing some sympathy towards me, he suggested that I should go nowhere but the government hospital nearby.
At the hospital
After half an hour of slow walk, I entered this strange world of the local government hospital. After a few redirects from here and there, I bought a 10₹ slip for outdoor treatment/inspection. The hospital had a dedicated anti-rabies ward and a doctor. This was good news for me.
Outside the door, an A4 sized paper, with a request to maintain a queue and presence of only one person, was affixed . In a typical Indian fashion, nobody seemed to care. There were at least 6 people already inside.
Across the door, I noticed a huge poster announcing all the right things to do after a dog bite. A smaller one just below had all the misconceptions and things not to do written all over it. It had a mention of ‘Chilly’ powder as well. One life saved!
Thanks to my privileged background, medical aid earlier was never an issue. Having caring and influential parents meant that finding a doctor and getting an appointment was never an issue. I was alien to the ways of a government hospital.
When it was my turn, the doctor inspected the wound and without any expression on her face started writing gibberish on the prescription paper. She asked me to look for the washroom in front of the ARV ward and wash the wound with fresh water for about 10–15 minutes. The limited interaction I had with her, was enough to explain that empathy was not a word in her dictionary.
Abiding by her prescription, I went in search of the washroom. What I found was a place stuffed with filth. It was stinking of human waste and seemed as if it hadn’t been cleaned for ages. I would get treated for a probable case of rabies here but in this process, I would surely attract a handful of infections. I went back to the doctor confirming if it was really the place where I was supposed to wash my wound. Irrespective of my wish, the answer was affirmative. Void of options, I went outside, bought a couple of bottles of mineral water of some unknown brand and emptied them over my wound.
This time while entering the hospital, I felt that something had changed in me. This time I was mentally ready for the atmosphere around. I was directed towards the Anti Rabies Vaccine room. It wasn’t the most hygienic place either, but I was in the perfect care of the nurse there. In the following few minutes, I was injected thrice, one for Tetanus and two for ARV intra-dermal. Was it her precise hands, or the smile she was wearing, I didn’t feel anything at all. She was the only person in the whole hospital staff that I saw smiling that day.
The cost of this treatment was 11₹ in total (not including the mineral water bottles). The extra 1₹ for the photocopy that the government shop responsible for providing free medicine required. This Xerox shop was readily available inside the hospital complex itself.
According to a report on Mosaic, In India, every year, about 20 thousand people die because of rabies — Source
Back to home
Later on the way back, I thought about all the past times when I had to visit a doctor and how fortunate I was to have led a privileged life. I thought about the countless number of people present in the hospital, who had no other option but to go through the same experience every day and every-time. Questions that I had no answer for.
Jodhpur happened once again. Related read:
Also published on Medium.