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Canine who minds Visva-Bharati roads

- Dog rescued by garden employees guards university campus

Visva-Bharati has decided to stop the movement of vehicles in the stretch of Santiketan-Sriniketan Road that passes through main ashram areas like Upasana Griha and Uttarayan complex, to protect the natural surroundings.

But Phulki had decided this four years ago.

Since then she has been addressing moving vehicles in her own way.

Phulki is a particularly sapient, and as evident, self-inspired dog whom the campus adores.

Visva-Bharati has at least 200 security personnel to look after the campus, heritage areas and the natural environment of Santiniketan. But no one can dare to tear a leaf of a tree if Phulki is around.

In Bengali, Phulki means spark. Phulki was a stray dog.

Four years ago, a group of garden employees had found her on the street gasping for breath. They brought her into the garden office and nursed her.

In return, she patrols much of the campus, mainly the stretch along Upasana Mandir, Purono Melar Math and the garden department up to the Rabindra Bhavan area.

The garden department employees take offence if she is called a “kutta”, a derogatory term for a dog.

Phulki’s duty starts from 6am every morning. She instinctively barks at “anti-ashram” activities, such as tearing the leaves of a tree, walking noisily, wearing loud colours or shouting.

After scanning her territory she comes out in the Santiniketan-Sriniketan road passing the core ashram area. If you ride a bike or drive a car with high speed and blow the horn, Phulki will run after you.

This correspondent observed Phulki giving a high-speed biker a good chase.

The man on a 150CC motorbike suddenly swerved towards Phulki’s patrolling area at a speed of 50km per hour. Phulki ran after him at an equal speed.

The biker turned back and slowed down to about 30km per hour. Phulki returned at a leisurely pace.

“I was in an urgency. I felt scared when the dog barked at me. Later I heard that she doesn’t like bikes running at high speed. Now I will remember this while passing through this road,” said Milan Saha, a mason from Kasba, near Santiniketan.

Phulki remained idle as some university employees ambled gently past her, but within 15 minutes her mood changed again when a red Alto appeared and blew its horn three times.

Phulki could not stop the car but gave it a hard chase.

Swapan Hazra, a garden department employee of Visva-Bharati, said: “Phulki doesn’t like the anti-ashram culture at all. We are really surprised as Phulki does what we can’t.”

Phulki also attends prayers at Upasana Griha every Wednesday. “On Wednesday morning she sits outside the temple in a pleasant mood and sits under a tree till the prayers are over,” Hazra added.

Phulki has become a family member of the garden department.

“She is like our daughter. Staffers feed her daily with rice, vegetables, chicken and whatever else they eat. On holidays we get rice from a hotel to feed her,” said Bedan Ghorui, a garden department employee.

Subodh Mondal, a hotel owner in Ratan Pally, said: “Phulki is not regarded as an animal by the garden department. They buy rice or bread from my shop for her.”

Gadadhar Hazra is one of the employees who cares for Phulki the most.

“I love her because of the way she is. I am proud of her as I took the initiative to drag her out of the footpath and restore her health,” he said.

Visva-Bharati vice chancellor Sushanta Datta Gupta said he was happy to know about such a dog and would find out more about her.

Phulki is the spirit of Santiniketan.