Bolshoi at the Circus

Bolshoi at the Circus

busybee talking dog bolshoi

The other day, having decided that my dog, Bolshoi the Boxer, should earn some money and pay for his own keep, I took him to meet the manager of a visiting circus. “I am sure they will hire you,” I said, “you are the only dog in the world who speaks.”

The manager was sitting in his office in a tent. When he saw Bolshoi, he said, “Not another dog act! I have got a whole team of dogs who play football, dogs who jump through hoops of fire. When you rang up, you said you had something unique, so I gave you an appointment. And you come with an ordinary dog.”

“But he is not an ordinary dog,” I said. “He does not jump through rings of fire, walk on tightropes and he hates football. He is unique. You see, he talks.”

“Talks,” said the manager, showing a little interest. “You mean he talks, like a parrot.”

“Not like a parrot, I said, like us, you and me. You can put him in your circus ring and make him talk to clowns, members of the audience. They can ask him questions and he can answer, he can deliver speeches. Though not sing, he hates singing.”

“That’s interesting,” said the manager, “though I would have preferred a better-looking dog than this, who could talk. In a circus, looks matter a lot. However…what language does he talk in, Delhi Hindi or UP Hindi?”

“Neither,” I said, “he speaks English, that is his language. And very good English he speaks.”

“What am I to do with a dog who speaks English! All dogs speak English,” the manager said. “You are wasting my time.”

“All dogs do not speak English,” I corrected him. “No dogs speak English, except my dog here. In fact, he is the only dog who speaks any language.”

“I am not interested in all that,” the manager said. “Just tell me, does he speak Hindi or not? If yes, then I may consider him, if no, then out. This circus has no place for people who only speak English, we have to tour all over the country.”

“But he is not people, he is a dog and he speaks, that should be enough for you. Any circus manager would jump at the idea of having a dog that talks, never mind what language. I tell you, a foreign circus would pay millions of dollars for him. They would really appreciate him.”

“Then go to your foreign circus. Why are you coming here?” the manager said. “You are not ashamed, living in India and then saying you don’t speak Hindi.”

“I speak Hindi, it is my dog who does not,” I said. “And you are just prejudiced against English. That is the trouble with all you people.”

So we came out of the circus and returned home. And I told Bolshoi, “If you want to get on in this country, learn Hindi.”

This column first appeared on May 15, 1990 of Afternoon Despatch & Courier, the newspaper founded by Farzana and Behram Contractor in 1985.

The English-speaking Bolshoi the Boxer was the most human creation by Busybee. He used him brilliantly as a perfect foil to comment on the lifestyles and the values of socialite ladies, including “The Wife”. He became the much-loved pet of every household in Mumbai – Bakul Patel