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The Sentinel

by Sharmila Roy Ghosal
(Dehradun, India)

Vijay put the phone down and stared out of the window. His grandfather had seemed very sad and worried while talking to him on the phone. His window pane was broken, and he was having it fixed.

“But Grandpa, the other day when I called you, the broken glass of the window was being repaired”, Vijay sounded perplexed.
“Yes, dear”, his grandfather sighed.
“Why?” Vijay asked.

Just then the worker who was fixing the window called his grandfather who had to hang up.
“Father, could I spend some time with grandpa this summer holiday?” Vijay asked.
“What, about your summer camping in Nainital?” his father asked.
“I think I will cancel it this year”. Vijay said.

Vijay was a class IX student who lived with his parents in Dehradun, while his grandfather lived in Kalyani a small town situated a few kilometers from Kolkata in West Bengal.
Both Vijay’s parents were working and could not leave the office, so a friend of Vijay’s father who had some work in Kolkata accompanied Vijay.
From the first day of his stay in Kalyani at his grandpa’s house, Vijay understood the situation.

Some boys used to play cricket in the lane in front of his grandpa’s house, and they hit the ball just the way they liked and broke his grandpa’s window glass.

There was a park in the middle of the town for the boys to play, but they preferred to do so in the lane in front of Vijay’s grandpa’s house.

His grandpa had protested but to no avail.
“But this cannot go on, some action must be taken”. Vijay almost shouted.
Grandpa smiled meekly, "I am old and infirm and of no social worth”. Grandpa’s house was situated at the end of the lane, with empty plots on both sides of the house. There were two other houses but they were situated at the beginning of the lane.

It was dark, Vijay could not sleep at night, some action ought to be taken.

Early next morning Vijay was
about to go for a walk when the milkman came to deliver milk. As he was pouring milk some of it spilled on the cemented area near the gate. After the milkman left, Vijay saw a young dog lapping up the spilled milk from the cemented floor.
Suddenly, an idea crossed his mind. Vijay brought some biscuits and tossed them at the dog. The way the biscuits were munched showed that the dog was very hungry. Rover that was a nice name for the dog, Vijay thought.
His uncle was allergic to dogs so Vijay decided to keep Rover in the compound at the back of the house.

The mali and a mason constructed a sort of kennel for Rover.

From the next morning, Vijay started training Rover. He would throw the ball and say ‘Shoo Rover’ and Rover would go and retrieve the ball.

It was afternoon when the boys started playing cricket. A ball came and hit the window pane and broke it to pieces. A bottle of medicine on the window sill was also dislodged and fell and broke spilling its contents.

A boy opened the gate to retrieve the ball, Vijay waiting for his chance had the ball in his hand he threw the ball at the boy and said softly to the dog “Shoo Rover”. The boy could not hear of course, but the dog did. Rover jumped and caught the boy’s trousers with his teeth, the ball fell out of the boy’s hand and Rover came back with the ball in his mouth.

The same fate awaited the boy who came for the ball the next day, scared of being bitten by the dog the boys decided to shift to the park for their game of cricket, leaving Vijay and his grandpa in peace.

Soon it was time for Vijay to leave, but he felt reassured that he was leaving his sentinel behind to look after his grandpa. In the meantime, his grandpa had also mustered the two magic words ‘Shoo, Rover’.


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