If you have recently been to Mohakhali or Banani, you might have seen a man pulling his rickshaw van, carrying a dog on it. The sight is not common in the streets of Dhaka, so at first glance, this might come as a surprise to passersby. Some were even scared seeing a dog standing majestically and enjoying his ride.
Curiosity pulled this correspondent to the Mohakhali Wireless Gate in search of this man and the dog. In fact, it was quite easy to find the rickshaw van driver, Doyal. Almost every single person in Mohakhali knows him. He is a legend, a mythic of sorts among his fellow workers. While his actual name is Masum, his friends call him Doyal, meaning kind, because he has always been the first to help his neighbours and others around him.
Before getting acquainted with Doyal, this correspondent had heard stories about his bond with the dog. Where many pet owners keep the animals in neglect, the not so well-off Doyal uses shampoo and coconut water while bathing his dog. He always had the dog with him in the rickshaw van whenever he went to work. In fact, if someone didn't approve of his dog, he instantly denied working for that person.
Before the conversation, Doyal first introduced this correspondent with his pet -- a healthy black and white dog he called Mr Jonny. Doyal believes that if we can respect human beings, then why not the animals? That's why he decided to give his pet a name -- his own identity.
Mr Jonny is a friendly dog, eagerly interacting with people Doyal meets. But if he doesn't know you and you plan to sit on his van, you would be welcomed with harmless barks.
Eight years ago, Doyal found Mr Jonny in the Korail slum, along with nine or ten other dogs. As he is an animal lover, it didn't take much time for him to befriend Mr Jonny. In the beginning, Doyal tried to leave Mr Jonny behind when he went to work but when he found that his dog enthusiastically followed him wherever he went, he was forced to give up the plan. From that time on, Mr Jonny has been his trustworthy helper.
“I collect garbage from different buildings of Banani. Mr Jonny accompanies me every morning. He always stays on my van when I collect things from house to house,” he says.
A few years ago, Doyal had an accident in Mohakhali. He had fallen in a 10 to 15 feet deep trench, which was dug for a sewerage line. It was raining and thus getting him out was quite difficult. However, Mr Jonny found a rope on Doyal's van, somehow untied it, and pulled him out. Doyal was slightly injured, but this incident made their friendship even stronger. He believes that nobody messes with him, not even corrupt policemen, because of his dog.
“People have the ability to betray you but animals don't. Mr Jonny has been a blessing in my life.”
Mr Jonny has good manners as well, imparted to him by Doyal, who taught Johny how to “give salam” and shake hands, how to respond when Doyal calls out to him, etc.
In the beginning, people laughed at Doyal for taking Mr Jonny as his own, but he didn't care. “Time to time, I give him bath, I try to give him good food, I take him with me everywhere. So, at first people thought I was some kind of a crazy man. But I didn't give him up. Because I know I can't live without him.”