Shailaja Srinivasan
WOOF! ADVENTURES BY THE SEA by Aparna Karthikeyan. Illustrations by Sagar Kolwankar Red Panda, 2020, 136 pp., 250.00
November 2020, volume 44, No 11

A cardboard box appears on the beach, a wet wriggling cardboard box. What does it contain?

Woof! Adventures by the Sea narrates the life of Mumbai’s homeless dogs on the beach. A new puppy is discovered and helped by the pack of resident dogs and large-hearted humans, given a name and a sense of belonging. The story unfolds through Shingmo’s voice, our protagonist puppy. We get to know the struggle for survival, hunger and safety as well as friendship, loyalty and fun!  Little Shingmo is assigned a mentor, Thin, who takes the puppy under her care and teaches her the dos and don’ts, marks out the safe and unsafe territories, shows how and where to look for food and what to do if chased by bullies.

The autobiographical vignettes of Coconut the beach elder, Puchu the lucky one to find a human family and Thug the battle-scarred canine give insights into human-animal interaction. The bonding out of love and behavioural changes because of abuse or mistreatment are brought out with empathy.

In this story the dogs experience and witness almost everything that a dog can experience. The comfort and care of homes, the anguish of abandonment, and the bravery to survive, the fear of scavenging, the pain of injury, the lack of care, vitamins, affection, baths and clean pink ears! Woof!

Aparna Karthikeyan writes with empathy. She has keenly observed the issues of street dogs and is acutely aware of their abuse. She has effortlessly woven all this into the story without labelling it as such. Ordinary everyday generous heroes who regularly feed and care for these dogs (the feeders), bonds of affection and loyalty between humans and street dogs in their territories (the free roaming pets), the twins losing all interest in the pet on arrival of a new born at home when they discovered they were not Labradors—the snobbery in owning exotic foreign breeds—(irresponsible ownership), and adoption of the fortunate few.

Continue reading this review