You may love them or hate them but strays have always been a part of Mumbai’s urban life. They are mostly pets of the poor and are looked after by them. They too have names and individual personalities, which go unnoticed by most of us. Here are five of the hundreds of such stray dogs that are no more but have lived a colorful and full life, did not harm anyone and died peacefully of old age. All of them are very much missed by the people who looked after them and if you had known them you would have missed them too.
Champi: A brindle colored stray, she lived outside the Oval Maidan (Cooperage side – South end footpath) and was brought there as a puppy by Mauryaji, the sugarcane juicewala. She had gone frail with age, had one bent leg due to an accident. You would have hardly noticed her, as she would be quietly sitting under the tree by the side of the footpath.
James: In his hay days, he did have the personality of James Bond 007 but was named by Arvind, the shoeshine man outside Eros theatre for other reasons. Arvind loves dogs and whenever he got a stray, he used to name them after the movie that was released at Eros theatre at Churchgate. So when he brought a black pup, a Bond movie was playing and thus a James was ‘born’. Arvind already had a “Pretty” (she passed away some years ago), who was obviously born when Julia Robert’s Pretty Woman was released in 1990 and was James companion.
Ramesh: Ramesh died when he was seventeen years old. He lived near the New Excelsior theatre and was looked after by Tulsi Akka who lived on the street in that area. Everyone loved Ramesh, as he was the best looking dog in the area. He was white and was hairier than the average street dog. He used to have a fancy for foreign cars. Thus, in the nineties, during his younger days when there weren’t too many foreign cars, if you had to find Ramesh, he would be perched on top of the nearest foreign car parked near the New Excelsior theatre.
Babu: He was a dog in the Bombay High Court campus and due to him no other dog could venture there. All the policemen loved him and they used to call WSD if he was in need of first-aid. Ask any policeman about Babu and they would readily remember him. Though the policemen used to keep getting transferred Babu’s care used to be ‘handed over’ to the next incumbent.
Tamatar: If anyone heard you asking “ Tamatar, kaha hai”, they would think you are out of your wits but yes, he was called Tamatar as he used to love eating tomatoes. He was a handsome, grey and white dog with a scar on the head left behind by a deep maggot wound. It was natural that he was named Tamatar because if you held a tomato in your hand, he would follow you till you gave it to him and swallow it at one go. He lived on the main road just outside ‘Ghetto’ the pub, near the Mahalakshmi mandir. He used to be looked after by the vegetable vendor and known to everybody in the area.