By Savitri Narayanan
“Mummy, I’m going to the park!” said Rohan as he got up and put on his shoes.
“With whom will you play, beta?” asked his mother.
“I’m going too, mummy!” said Reema. “You think bhaiyya and I can’t make new friends?”
They had moved into the apartment recently and were still getting to know the place and people. The semester exams were on so the children were mostly indoors.
“We’ll take Peeko to the park!” said Reema, “She needs an outing too!”
Peeko was the family’s pet dog whom they had adopted from the nearby kennel.
“Don’t get into any fights,” she reminded them as usual, “and be back home before it gets dark!”
As their mother closed the door after them, both of them happily headed for the park.
The municipal park was behind their building. It was a large, circular park where young and old found things to do. Two groups of children were playing their own games with balls. Some children were in the sandpit and some on the swings. There were a few uncles and aunties taking rounds in the walking area.
“So good for Peeko!” said Rohan. “He can have outings both in the mornings and in the evenings!”
“That’s right,” agreed Reema. “When we go to school, mummy can bring her here and, in the evenings, she can come with us!”
But their enthusiasm died as they entered the park. There was a sign board that said, ‘Pets not allowed’!
They looked around.
“Not a single dog to be seen in the park!” said Rohan.
“There, near the fence I can see a dog,” pointed out Reema. “It looks like a stray dog!”
Where do all the pet dogs go? Didn’t the pet-owners bring them along when they came to the park? Why did they not allow the pets inside? Why were these people against pets? So many questions rose in the duo’s minds.
As if in answer to their thoughts, they noticed the watchman walking by. He picked up a biscuit wrapper and said loudly to nobody in particular, “Have your fun but why litter the park! Why can’t these people use the dustbins?”
“Namaste uncleji!” Rohan greeted him.
The watchman paid no attention as he continued to complain.
“Just see the way they through rubbish around!”
“Let me help you, uncleji,” said Reema as she politely took the biscuit wrapper from the watchman and ran to the dustbin near the swings.
“Uncleji, it must be hard for you to keep such a big ground clean,” said Rohan.
“It’s not as if I keep the ground clean!” said the watchman. “The cleaning staff from the municipality make their rounds twice a day but what’s the use! Within no time the ground is scattered with rubbish again!”
Reema pointed at the signboard, “Why don’t you allow dogs?”
“They dirty the place,” the watchman laughed aloud. ‘Along with the biscuit wrappers and used paper plates, I end up cleaning dog-shit too!”
“But why, uncleji?” asked Rohan. “The owners are expected to clean up after their pets! See we’ve brought along a plastic bag and a scoop! If Peeko poos in the park, we’ll clear it up!”
The watchman thought for a while and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet children like you who’re aware of their responsibilities! You’ve my permission to bring your dog into the park!”
“Thank you, uncleji,” said Rohan. “We’ll clean up after Peeko; that’s a promise!”
“Uncleji, I’ve an idea,” said Reema. “Allow all the pets, we’ll clean up their mess!”
Rohan spoke up in support, “Uncleji, we stay in that apartment and will come here every evening with Peeko. You remove that board, allow all the pets in. Before going home, we’ll clean up all the mess! It’s a promise!”
“We’ll also talk to pet owners, it’s so easy to carry a plastic bag and a scoop!” said Reema.
The watchman looked at them with a fond smile.
“The world will be a better place if more children are like you!” he said. “Let’s give it a try; we’ll remove the signboard and give it a week’s time!”
“Uncleji, Peeko and so many pets will be thankful to you!” said Rohan and Reema as they ran off to play.