The proverb says, “Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself”. Profound indeed! What is impressive is when it was known to be used for the first time – Brian Melbancke's Philotimus: the warre betwixt nature and fortune in 1583! A time when Early Modern English was in vogue!
One way of interpreting this proverb is to say we should learn a skill well enough to teach someone else to do it, get that someone else to do it, and move on to a higher skill. Keep doing this till we reach the pinnacle. If there is nothing else to learn above that, choose a different vocation and start all over again.
As I trudged past the beach shacks at Nagaon Beach early in the morning on Sunday, a completely different interpretation presented itself to me.
The road to the beach was littered with plastic and glass and other waste, thrown by callous vacationers whose idea of a holiday is defined by the decibels spewing out of the loudspeakers in their vehicles, and the amount of beer they have consumed. I look around to see if they had a chance to throw this waste in an organized way, and realized there were no dust bins!
Since we were there as a group of Rotarians, with “Service Above Self” as our motto, I suggested to my friend and fellow Rotarian Ravi that it would be a good idea for us to install some dust bins here so future travelers (at least the conscientious ones) can use them to throw garbage. Ravi readily agreed and we decided to do it.
As we reached the water’s edge, we saw a sign board cautioning vacationers to watch out for the tide. Imagine our surprise when the board turned out to have been installed by a Rotary Club from Pune!
Now, back to our proverb. Do we not pay our taxes so the Government can do its job of maintaining cleanliness in public places? Of cautioning the citizenry of potential dangers? Why does this have to be done by Rotary Clubs? Why do we keep a dog (the Government) and then bark ourselves? What happened to the concept of “public servants”?
Cut to what is happening on the national scene. The Government does not perform its duties, so an Anna Hazare has to go on a hunger strike to remind them of their duties. It takes a peaceful protest by the youth of Delhi to bring the Government to act against brutal rape. Is the Government not supposed do this anyways? Why then do we have to bark (protest) when we are paying the Government to do their job?
Before I close, a short note for clarity: The proverb is 525 years old (at the least) and so we can probably condone the insult done to dogs by this proverb. We have a dog at home and I know how relaxing it is to have a dog at home. And for the dog to have a home! So, no offence meant to dogs – I was merely using the proverb to make my point!