The chronicles of Chitty: A tale of an Indie and her human being

“I walk beneath a rustling canopy of trees—rosewood, monkey jack, and cinnamon—and the air is rife with the captivating bouquet of the Western Ghats. My face breaks into a smile as I hear the happy patter of a victory lap and a snowywhite pup bounds out from behind the bushes. It’s Chitty! Her snoot is red from having sampled some of the kokam fruit thrown at her by the cheeky langurs she so loves to chase. I fall in step with her amble, and we walk towards a veranda where she will later spend her time gazing at the stars once night crawls in.”

Actually, I am miles away from Chitty and her home; they just feel real to me because of the immersive storytelling in Chitty: A Dog and Her Forest Farm. This book is a labour of love that chronicles the life of Chitty, a solemn-looking pup rescued from the streets of Pune. It’s my favourite kind of narrative, really. One, it features a dog—and not just any dog, but an Indie (a mixture of breeds indigenous to India). Two, it is honest and heartfelt. Three, it’s steeped in the rich tapestry of life on a forest farm, where seasons dictate everyday life and the bonds between people and nature run deep.

Remarkably intelligent, loyal, and highly adaptable, Indies are often a mix of multiple dog breeds that share their ancestry with our very own Kombais, Kannis, or Mudhols, for example. Chitty embodies all the traits that make Indies great companions, and season by season, we see her grow from a reserved puppy into a part-time termite-terminator and full-time forest nymph. The author, Serow, fondly recalls instances of Chitty’s animal instinct saving the day, be it from scorpions, snakes, or the unforgiving monsoons. “Chitty had the incredible gift of being in tune with me, as well as with the moods and well-being of the household,” Serow writes, and you learn just how empathetic and communicative Chitty was. You also witness the sensory delights of a forest farm: the scurry of giant Malabar squirrels, the ever-trilling mynas, and the lovely crunch of dry leaves as Serow and Chitty embark on their long walks or “much loved slices of togetherness”.

Serow’s words are brought to life by Rajiv Eipe’s charming—and award-winning— illustrations of Chitty, her home, and its colourful inhabitants. The fact that he spent time on Serow’s forest farm seeking out Chitty’s favourite nooks and corners is reflected in the way he draws her—be it quietly lounging near 500 year-old Nayaka carvings, pirouetting at termites, or as an older dog: graceful, wise, and with loving, communicative eyes. Special props for stills that feature “Dr. Poo’s Turdis” and Chitty— now a grande dame—cheekily looking over at Serow’s new pup trying to find his rawhide bone, which has been hidden by none other than Chitty herself. Serow’s fluid writing and Rajiv Eipe’s delightful art effortlessly blend snippets that span 13 monsoons, and by the end of the book, you’ve grown alongside a dog that you never even met.

It’s refreshing to read an account of farm life that incorporates snippets of sustainability without coming off as preachy—Serow simply wants you to partake in a life that thrives outside of concrete jungles. She also unwittingly imparts a simple but profound lesson that we should protect and nurture those like Chitty and her four-legged siblings who roam the streets of our country. Deeply intuitive and capable of unconditional love, dogs could well teach you a thing or two about the universe, if you only stopped to listen.

Well, time to offer an extra hug to the dozens of Indies that grace my neighbourhood. As I look over at them running at me, tails wagging and eyes alight with mischief, I am reminded of this particularly moving line from the book: “It struck me that perhaps Chitty had seen the edge of the universe as she gazed at the night sky. Maybe her serenity had come from knowing, in her own doggy way, that we are all only a tiny part of something much larger than ourselves.”

Further reading
Serow. 2023. Chitty: A dog and her forest farm.Pune: Kalpavriksh.

This article is from issue

CC Kids 17

2023 Dec