The walk was short. I left where he stood. His smell lingered. And when I turned, he was there, waiting for my call.
I was driving down the outskirts of the city, when I halted at the roadside stall to buy myself a cup of freshly brewed tea in mud-cups. Since childhood I had known how famous tea was in East India, and the authentic taste of this beverage enhanced further, when had in burnt mud-cups. The constant honking of the buses, clinking of cycle bells, and the buzzes from the locals could be heard from a distance.
“Dada ek ‘Bhaarr’ cha dekhi toh” was the constant demand of passers-by. After a few sips, I felt a warm breath near my calf, as if something was breathing. I turned back and looked down to find a stray dog sniffing my jeans. It stared back at me with his old brown eyes. I knew at once that he smelled some old connections. When I was a kid, I had an alsatian named ‘Chiku’, and thus, I was a darling to that species! The stall owner told me that his given name was ‘Kaloo’, a common name for stray dogs, black in color.
In no time we became quite good friends. I bought him a few toasted biscuits and he swallowed them in a gulp. Wagging the tail and tongue out, Kaloo followed me, hoping for a few more treats.
It was breezy out there, so I decided to walk. I didn’t mind my new friend’s company. In fact, I was quite enjoying it. I kept walking, and he kept hopping. After a while I sat on a mound to rest my legs. Being a city girl, that too a spoiled one, I wasn’t much of a walk-lover. Suddenly Kaloo started to pull my shirt. He picked up a twig from somewhere and nudged me with that. So he was in no mood to rest. I threw the twig to a distant place and in a second, he dashed to grip it within his teeth. I thought he was done, but the nudge came again! I did that a couple of times and he never failed to bring back the piece of twig along with him. He finally rested near my feet and licked them with generosity. I patted him on his back. When I looked into his eyes, they told a thousand tales.
“What’s up, champ? Tired, already?” I started being chatty with him.
He brushed his face against my thighs, and struggled to slide under and across my legs. He loved his back being brushed I suppose.
“Kaloo, sit! Sit! ‘bosh'” I ordered him.
I took my phone out, to take a picture together. He pawed at me, amazed at the little thing I got busy with.
Kaloo lied lazily. I looked at him, he was dirty, old and tired. But his tail was moving rapidly and tongue was salivating profusely. There was a reek from his mouth.
He looked back, directly into my eyes. I could connect, directly to my heart.
“It’s gettin’ dark sweetheart. Let us walk back.”
When we started walking back, he seemed excited and bright eyed, but as we were nearing the tea stall, his tail lowered. I looked at him and understood. The same thought crossed both our minds. A certain dull fused into our moods.
We reached the stall in sometime. I bought a few toasts for Kaloo, my friend. Sat down and fed him with my own hands, brushed his head. It was getting dark. I had to leave. I paid the stall owner ten rupees and opened my car. I turned back. His tongue was out, his eyes yearned for something. He sat on his hind, and waited.
I felt a stab in the heart. It tore me from within, to leave my friend here. I always hated departures. I had to leave, for the unfinished work. I wasn’t a teenager after all.
“I have to think sensibly. hmph!” I muttered to myself.
I got into the drivers’ seat, and glanced at the looking glass. Kaloo sat there, motionless, eyes fixed at my car. I tore my eyes off him and steered my car onto the main road. To keep myself distracted I played the radio. After driving for a few yards I took a sharp turn round and speed-ed towards the stall. From a distance I saw him, still lying where I had left him. I’d made up my mind. He surely is coming home with me!
I remember that day so clearly. It seems like just yesterday! Kaloo was a part of my life, my habit, my reality. The whole episode flashed on my mind over and over again. I didn’t feel the weight. I felt numb. Finally, we reached. My hand was raw from the soil.
The walk was short. I left where he stood. His smell lingered. And when I turned, he was there, waiting for my call…
But this time, I didn’t know how to respond.