29 August, 2009

The Fine Art of the Non-Speak

I dropped Joanne at the Salon. She turned & very sweetly asked ‘Raghu, I hope you are not thinking of leaving me to get back all by myself, are you? The voice was dulcet but the eyes flashed a fire & "Yes" as an answer did not look like a wise option though the thought had crossed my mind. Guts-ball with a woman is not my idea of heroism. I merely shook my head and said "Never". This simple act fetched me a hug and a warm kiss, leading enough to promise more at an hour distant. My bachelor pad was where it could culminate. Hope too is a four letter word. The positive fact being that it was a "Ladies Only" salon and hence I was not expected to wait up inside. Whew, thank god for small mercies. Now to while away the time I started looking around. On the opposite side of the kerb we stood on was a street side bookstore and café and I made my way towards it. Browsing and Coffee sounded the perfect remedy for a long wait. I picked up a few magazines, ordered an espresso and settled in the bucket chair. My mind slowly drifted to the first time when I had gone shopping with Jo.

Let me bring you guys up to date. Joanne is my girlfriend of six months now and our lives are totally amorously entangled. It is a knotty situation but getting tied up and being unraveled is such a pleasure. Now this sojourn had begun on an academic platform at a conference in Goa. One thing led to another and what the grey cells started, the heart carried on and the hormones furthered the cause. It was Bio-Chemistry in its purest form and my faith in science strengthened. Now, we are together. But please let no one fool you that being the squire of a stunning and smart lady is a cakewalk. One periodically avails of rewarding moments that stretch long into the hours of the flying owls, however the days can be something else altogether. Here one has to develop common interests and learn to enjoy similar activities together like the most violent and avid of all feminine sports “SHOPPING”. Woe betides the man who displays impatience or too much mojo driven decisiveness. That may work splendidly in a boardroom but for a showroom these traits most certainly are a liability. One needs different skills here where one must communicate without actually committing; this is what I call "The Fine Art of the Non-Speak".

I recalled the instance of my first round as an inexperienced partner accompanying the lady on a Sari purchase expedition. This was for a formal occasion that she had to attend. Patience was then never my strongest point and when we entered the showroom it left me completely dazzled. The range and the depth of materials and types had me running scared. For someone whose apparel shopping was limited to Formal (solids, stripes, 42) or Informal (T-shirts with or without collar), Trousers (32’) or Denims (I only wear the conventional Levis blue) the whole exercise never lasts more than ten minutes. Eight of whom is taken up by the travel time between the rack and the billing counter. I doubled this factor and naively applied it with generous consideration to the lady sari shopper as I went along with Joanne.

Now let me describe Joanne to you. She is of the Christian faith ("And what do they know of Sari’s?" you could say. But she is also a Tamil and you can also say "what do they not know of Saris?"). She worked in the front office of a Luxury Hotel. Extremely presentable, this profession also made her a trained professional in the art of the drape; both as a buyer and as one who is adorning it. The first time my eyes fell on her packaged thus, I thought it was Christmas & Santa had come in early that year; So yummy did she look. I had felt like opening up my gift right then and there under the tree. What tree? Can’t you follow symbolisms? Ok that tall potted plant creating a muddy stain on the marble flooring in the reception corner, if you have to insist. Now what did you infer from the above rambling? One that Jo knew her sari, how to wear it well and look delicious in it. But the experienced readers would have read between the lines. They would have seen that this made the whole experience more complicated. In hunting analogy this made Jo a hungry predator; the kind who patiently sorts out the small game from the big game. Casing the prey and lying in wait endlessly to swoop in only when all specifications of taste are met or when competition lurks on the horizon. And I knew none of this then as I innocently went with her.

The showroom operatives welcomed madam and completely overlooked me. Then they offered us wide sofa chairs to sit, no one at the trouser counter has ever done this to me ever. Then they asked Jo what would she prefer "Teee, Kaaapi or Koaldreenks?" Jo disdainfully asked for two cold drinks. Boy this was looking good and I had not even shopped here. Isn’t this wonderful, thought I to walk into a new Showroom every evening and drinking cold drinks, sample the conditioned air make a show of buying a Sari and walking out. Then I noticed the burly guards at the corner and banished the idea far away. A cold drink was too steep a risk to get the feel of those paddle hands. Men can be very naïve and I was clearly out of my depth.

I sat in the chair sipping on the cold drink in the cool atmosphere. As the salesman displaying white teeth constantly (why did he have to smile so much? I felt like giving him one punch such that just the front incisor is knocked out) asked her the preference of a fabric. Silk said Jo and he exclaimed with undisguised enthusiasm “Now Madam NOSE eggjactlee what she wants”. It certainly made me feel good that it would mean, my girl Jo, who knows what she wants will make her choice quicker. But was I on the mark? Clearer need never mean quicker as i would realize. Now which Silk madam? Calcutta, Pochampalli, Orissa, Paithani, Kanjeevaram, Art Silk, and he rattled off a dozen more types that had me blown. Jo vaguely said show me some first and let me decide. I looked at the watch and noticed 30 minutes had elapsed and we had not even begun.

He turned to an assistant and whispered something to him, he jumped up on the shelf and picked some ten odd saris and handed them over. Our man with an elaborate care and precision opened up one. Plain Pochampally, Jo vigorously shook her head at the opened sample. He opened another and again Jo shakes her head then a third and a fourth and a fifth, I like them all. But Jo is a tough customer and the salesman a veteran. The only amateur at the show is yours truly. "Show me something bright and good not such cheap useless stuff” and I was aghast at Jo. But the salesman was not offended and called his assistant and screamed "take this lot away and don’t you understand, Madam has a very good taste, bring on the better weaves." The boy repeated his exercise at another shelf and was back with another lot...this time a Kanjeevaram traditional weave…Single border...And a brilliant flash happened before my eyes as the rich fabric opened out. Jo looked at it for a long time, fingered it and said the weave is thin. Double weave madam look at some more and he showed another ..."Double weave, double border traditional design…blouse material is in the weave". Jo seemed to have liked it and I heaved a sigh.

One hour had passed and the sofa chair was not feeling so comfortable any more. My posterior had identified where exactly the spring in the sofa cushion had bent. Realizing that I was fidgeting for the first time in an hour Jo looked at me and asked, "What do you think?" I picked up two and said "These are wonderful and you would look dishy in either of them. Select fast and let’s go, do I give you a coin to make the choice?" My smile froze in its place when I saw her expression. It was so cold that I felt like I was swimming in the tundra region in just my knickers. "You want me to buy this…this?"…she hissed. The salesman seeing a fight swept them all away and screamed at his assistant, "Ennada Swami…At once get the new lot which has come in yesterday. Not unpacked? Go unpack it for madam. She is distinctly unhappy with what you are showing her." Jo turned to the Sari's & I smiled gratefully at him; his eyes behind a fierce expression looked kindly. He had saved me from a calamity. "Don’t worry madam, best quality saris are coming now, even Saar will like it. Till then try this "patto" and see yourself in the mirror there." Jo draped one and he smiled again. Now I didn’t resent his smile anymore and reversed my decision on his front incisor.

"Thambi, get one more drink for 'Saar' and another cold orange drink materialized before me. After three hours Jo had shortlisted seven saris. All this while I had been looking around and saw a few fellows like me faking interest in the sari selection activity. With two drinks under my belt in the cold ambience, I felt it coming. Desperately tried controlling it a bit but then when the back teeth started floating had no choice and whispered in Jo's ear,"Please ask the man to show me the way to the washroom”. She giggled as I was shown the way. While washing my hands, happened to look up in the mirror above the basin, two red rimmed eyes stared back at me. They mocked me openly "Aren’t you the same dope who has spent 3 hours shopping for a sari that has not been selected yet?" I nodded and meekly retired back to my sofa chair. I had planned on dozing off and taking a cat nap but Jo had other ideas. With each Sari shortlisted, she would drape it around her loosely, pose before the mirror , then turn back and enquire "What do u think?" Time had me wiser. I too would squint and look it up completely. Then slowly move the head from right to left and look at her studiously, saying nothing, poker faced. This was what she expected and I had to do it seven times before she shortlisted three and discarded the rest. "Raghu tell me honestly do I look better in the bottle green silk with the gold border, the grey blue with the maroon border or the black with gold?"

This time words were expected but I yet refrained. This proved to be a master stroke. She managed to discard the blue and we were down to two. Do I give her the coin again; an impish impulse almost spoilt it all. But she now decides to drape them both together and did a few more twirls and again cocked an eyebrow at me. This time I got up, stood behind her & looked in the mirror. She was anxiously looking back at me. Boy, I was getting good at this. Slowly I fingered the black around her shoulder and felt her skin through the sari & then did the same to the green. The green and flaming gold was a terrific combination and I liked it but perversely told her that the black can be worn by her on many occasions than just this one function. It had a universal appeal. "Raghu, she said with an exasperated exclamation, "will you feel really bad if I take the green?" Indifferently I turned around. The salesman was now out of the picture and I found myself squarely in it. "Tell me na, please" and I turned back and critically looked at her and asked her to wear only the green. She happily did it and as I nodded, she squealed and told the man, "pack this up fast and do check that there are no loose threads or holes."

I looked at the clock; it was precisely 3 hours and 52 minutes since we had entered. As we walked out after having paid up at the counter she seemed happy. But I was totally drained. The strain was too much. Taking my arm she said "Raghu initially I thought you were very frivolous & I was mad at you, but then because you were here, we could take a decision on that green and so very quickly at that, no? You must accompany me every time I go shopping for a sari. It will save so much time". All I could do was wink as this shifted her attention away from my Adams apple that bobbed furiously; the only visible indication that I had completely choked.

The second cup of coffee was almost finished when I felt a tap on my shoulder that brought me back into the present. There she was before me now, styled, shampooed & looking very lovely. When she lifted one eyebrow in an enquiry; the art of the non-speak now came very naturally. Elaborately lifting the butter cookie accompanying the espresso, with one significant pointed look at Jo, chomped on it with eyes shut and said “Delicious”.

24 August, 2009

The Reunion

“Hey, how are you? What have you been doing all these years?” And similar queries in various forms swirled around him. He even heard a stray “Lovely Silk Sari…Kanjeevaram? No…Ritu Kumar came the frosty reply.” The tones, languages and accents differed though. Wading through with a smile and stretched lips the patience was wearing thin. From the cloth banner hanging over in the Shamiana, one would see that it was a reunion of the school alumni – batch of 1984. It was twenty five years to this day. He had been away for most of these years; twenty of them in fact with a single merchant shipping line, the last five of them as a Master or Captain. The passport looked less like a slim book and more like a Chinese fan now. But he had moved on , when the one question started popping up too often in his mind; Is that all there is to life, the sea and touching base at ports? It had been four years now that he was a landlubber again. He wrote freelance for newspapers & magazines but the big book had not happened yet.

Martin Faleiro…he had dropped the Captain a while ago, was yet to come to terms with non-sailors, let alone civilians and loud ones at that too. It was on such rare occasions that he missed his command with its action and stress. The babble of noise was reaching alarming proportions as people kept piling in & he felt like barking out an order. “Silence on the decks, one more peep out of your beaks and you shall be swabbing the toilets for the next week with no furlough when we shore up”. But then if wishes were horses…He settled in a corner with a drink watching them, a quiet middling tall figure with even features and mouth that didn’t easily smile now, though the steel in the eyes could turn to mischief in a moment.

He saw Chetan bustling about making everyone comfortable, settling them, re-introducing them around. Chetan Godse, an architect who practiced in the same area as their old school. He was the one who had put this act together, found everyone, contacted them, collected the contributions and booked the terrace of his club. Chetan was the very same with the wide smile, the easy laugh and pure charm. The frame was portly but comfortably so as it was during school, only the grey sideburns indicated age. Networking came naturally to him as he weaved in and out of the groups.

Martin had not been one of the early birds and the jig was completely on by the time he reached around 7.30pm. The Invite had said "with spouse/partner" & not having one he had come in by himself. Twenty five years of no contact had created a curious bonhomie in the crowd that was fascinating to observe.

He saw Jitesh Shah the class topper, the one who was naturally expected to do excellently well for himself. Wryly he smiled to himself, what an expectation to live with? Then he had envied Jitesh, but not anymore. Dr. Jitesh looked the part and his bearing seemed to convey some expectation. Did he actually expect the same kind of obeisance the school had paid him when he was the head boy and topper, Martin wondered? Jitesh was an accomplished ophthalmologist, an eye surgeon. But looking at Jitesh & his wife he could see that there was more to them than what met the eye. The pair in the last one hour had not spoken a word to each other. No sooner had they hit the party he had gone about searching for a drink. Topping a class and med school didn’t make him top at home by the sour look thrown at his back by the wife.

The loudest voice came from a corner that could only be Reuben. The pitch, tenor and volubility had not changed one bit and Martin cocked an ear. Reuben was cracking jokes the same way he did, at a nineteen to a dozen speed and had his audience in splits. He always had the potential to be a superb entertainer but it was only recently on TV that his art had found full expression. Reuben was a star comedian. It was a reality show on TV that had made him famous. Out of the 28956 participants who had auditioned and the final 24 who got to be on the show, Reuben had stood in an impressive third. His face was well known now and by the news in circulation he had even signed a feature film. Little wonder that the ladies made a beeline to him to touch base with a celebrity.

Looking at them hanging on to his words, he recognized Sheena of the big heart ( read magnificent mammaries ) fame. Sheena had been quite the heart throb of the school and Reuben then was not her only admirer. Then, he had had to wait his turn for her attention; The few crumbs she threw his way. How truly had the tables turned with her hanging on to Reuben’s every word and he barely noticing her. Looking at Sheena and her animated face, Martin blamed the recession squarely; across the board all her assets had taken a beating. To her credit In these days of tummy tucks and silicone she had resisted the temptation and chosen to remain her natural self. Sensing a stare she looked at him and smiled. He nodded, her smile still had charm & he liked her for the way she looked, big, a little frayed at the edges but happy.

Something waddled in from the door; two huge shapes. They didn’t walk, they seemed to roll was his first impression. Only on a closer observation did he detect a tiny pair of trousers below one gargantuan belly. There was so much gold on them that he mistook them for a famous Hindi Film music composer’s family. It was Ranchhod Gupta or the Baniya. He was called Baniya though he was a Kutchi. His father owned the grocers shop near the school. Baniya had not made to college but had graduated from his fathers shop to wholesale grain trading and made his pile. The colors’ on him & his wife had Martin almost reach for his aviator glasses. Such was the flash.

Looking around Baniya came and sat on the sofa beside him while his wife went to the food table. Baniya looked at him vaguely and smiled, Martin’s solitude was gone now. ‘Guptaji’ he said with a flourish and then Martin knew he was not recognized. He burst out.”Abbey Bhe…c..d Baniya… Gupatji kub se ho gaya re tu ?” Baniya had the grace to look sheepish and said “Martin…right? In all these years no one could swear with such a lovable fluency as you. Grain trading puts me with a lot of uneducated but smart and tough guys and it’s important to create an impression that’s why the Guptaji , Baniya explained. The eyes that twinkled behind the corpulence were Baniya’s. On finding out that he wrote for a living, Baniya was suitably impressed. He had to let go of his education when his father died unexpectedly at his shop and he had to step in. He said that he had done good for himsel and was happy. He got married early like they did in their community and the business grew, but still couldn’t speak or write English very well he said in a typically self depreciating manner that was charming. They talked a while then Baniya went along to meet the others.

He sat with his drink observing yet and lit a cigarette.

A lot of people looked at him with disapproval but the shamiana tent that they had put up was on the terrace of the club, it was not exactly indoors or public so he took a drag. One of the women whom he had not noticed earlier detached from a far fringe group and walked across to him. She was slim and superbly proportioned. Her hair flowing down well below her shoulders she wore a deep saffron colored chikan salwar kameez & looked extremely striking. “Hi Martin”she said & he was embarrassed as he could not place her. Her attractiveness made him cringe inwardly even more. "Can I have one too?" she asked. Even more surprised he fished out his pack and lit one for her. Inhaling deeply & blowing out the blue smoke she exclaimed, "gosh I needed that. All here seem to be prudes or afraid of their wives or vice versa". She laughingly exclaimed, "You still haven’t recognized me have you Martin?" Looking into her laughing eyes it came with a rush. He tentatively said "Miriam…is this you?" Miriam was the petite, slim girl who would sit in the class very quiet and contained. No wonder her approaching him had thrown him off track. Even in his wildest imagination he wouldn't have connected the shy quiet girl from school with this uniquely beautiful lady before him. She had excelled at Art then…yes it was Miriam and had she filled out well? Frankly appraising her, he said as god is my witness Miriam you certainly have changed. ‘Go on now, take a complete look and she twirled around herself and looking over her shoulder pertly asked, Is my ass too as good as my tits that you have been gawking at ?” Finishing her turn she giggled at his discomfiture and she punched his arm.

He choked on his smoke at being caught trying to take a peek at her swells. Well, he had not been very discreet after all. " I am an art designer at an Ad agency and was married briefly but didn’t work out. Thankfully I had not left my job then and continued with a renewed focus. Now I head the creative department there. I do read your articles Martin" and he blushed. "It’s just a job Miriam nothing special." "Still the same guy shying away huh?" said she stubbing the butt under her slipper. "Come let me re-introduce you around to some of the samples from then" and taking his hand she started to walk away. He stayed her a bit and urged her to go on ahead, He would rather be by himself a while more. "Ok" said she, "just don’t leave without a word with me Ok?" He nodded and lit another one. Wow, who would have thought the fine bone structured shy girl would become such a boldly sensual attractive woman as he watched her gently oscillating posterior. At that moment she turned with an impish smile, made a gun with her fingers and shot him. He grinned back.

He looked at the faces again and started sketching from a distant memory, seeing black in the hair that had streaked into grey and hair where some bald domes displayed none.The once firmness of bursting youth that had led to grooves on the faces, ridges of maturity due to the advanced body clocks. Lines added by responsibility, laughter and the weight of the world carried on the shoulders.Some carried it better than the others. Wonderingly he thought that a few of them had been his very close friends then. What had happened in between? Well he would know soon enough if he looked around and he did. Different educational interests, marriages and the social backgrounds had created walls around them all; that they were optimistically hoping to breach in one sudden evening of togetherness. Some retained the enthusiasm of youth as he watched these faces break into easy smiles and laughter. The party or get together was a living mass of people which like a psychedelically colored amoeba was morphing and re-morphing itself around familiar lines. Miriam from the middle of a crowd caught his eye and smiled as the party rearranged itself around a different design and color as people walked about. These lines had a timeliness that was predictable as people out of sheer habit in professions demanding networking did so furiously. Visiting cards were being hurriedly exchanged. Some like Jitesh despite spectacular achievements were sitting deeply staring into their drinks, families forgotten. He smiled and watched the interplay wondering as to how old was this bunch? He had touched forty so that made all of them in the same range give or take a year.Did that make them old and over the hill? He certainly didn’t feel like an old fogey himself but some faces made him realize that the dreams and stars in them had died a long time ago. A striking majority seemed to be in a rat race and running furiously to stay in the same place. 

Luckily the navy job had made enough money to sustain him for some years. He bought a small place for myself in the suburbs and one farmhouse in distant Igatpuri, the rest of the money was parked in secure stocks, deposits and commercial paper and he was set to write. Then when even that started paying for itself, his life was complete. It made him happy. He still didn’t own a car primarily because at Igatpuri he got by on a bicycle. And now looking around it he felt was so much better for it. For some faces here, life and its possibilities seemed to have ended at their parking lots assigned and otherwise.

These thoughts were playing in his mind as he moved along to the dinner table. Chetan was standing here and as he picked up a plate, complimented him on bringing this scene about. Chetan said the whole act was fun but was pleased all the same at the compliment. The food was wonderful and he started filling up a plate as a chiding voice said behind him, "What a gentleman you are Martin, didn’t even ask me whether I had eaten? To find Miriam again at his elbow, quickly apologized & tried handing her his plate. This she refused and said pile it up and let’s go into that corner, We can eat from the same one.

As they ate and talked they shared details, filled in the gaps from the years gone by, about what each had been doing and became friends. Truly speaking, he had not known her in school. Talking to the opposite gender was not such an acceptable thing in those days amongst their peers. This coupled with his being naturally shy had never worked up the courage to approach one at Church or elsewhere. He found it easy dealing with women in professional situations rather than on a personal level. Was this why he was still single? Miriam unwittingly had torn down his reserve quite like the chicken from a leg she was chewing on with eyes half closed. She was so absorbed in this simple act, her whole being seemed to be in her mouth. He wonderingly watched her. She opened her eyes and they twinkled as she said "I do love food, don’t you?" and without waiting for his reply continued "Now Martin, we shall quietly finish the meal and you give me one more of your smokes. Then let’s say our goodbyes and I shall drop you to where you stay." He feebly protested but she asked him quietly "Have you your transport, Nope na? then in that case its settled I shall drop you. I will then even know where you stay & this time I would want us to be in touch, would you like that?" He warmed up to her frank approach and acquiesced to her.

After all wasn’t this the exact reason why they had gathered here? He thought, banishing all his earlier rather judgmental comments on people. All of them were here to reaffirm their places on the terra firma and in time. To be in touch with all the faces who knew each other before the trappings of life had pulled them away on their unique paths. For this one night everyone wanted to be back in the same class, sitting in the same places, looking at life ahead with the same sense of abandon. This he definitely noticed from the people lingering about at the venue reluctant to leave, to get onto vehicles that would take them into their individual wheel of life; where they pottered away creating something new, demolishing something old or simply just continue spinning it. 

Some chords had struck though and the party had been an absolute success. Though most relationships of old were at status quo, time and experience had mellowed people, some friendships had been renewed, & like in his case new ones with some promise had been formed.He conveyed his byes while a voice yelled “Goodnight everyone, See you soon all, Thanks Chetan, Great job” and softly to him “Come Martin lets go” and he looked into the smiling eyes of Miriam.

07 August, 2009

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

The raindrops hit my face and I rolled out my tongue to taste the first ones as we sped by. Clackety clack was the rhythm of the bogey as it went on the tracks. I was sharing the compartment with a hobo. He had everything that he ever seemed to have ever owned in just one small gunny bag and had the happiest smiles I had ever seen on a man’s face. A small battery operated radio seemed to be his most prized possession. Fiddling around with the knob on it he he hit a western station and as song was playing…I recognized the voice instantly.It was Freddy Mercury of the group Queen.The number "Crazy little thing called love"…oh boy I loved the throb in his voice and it took me back several years to the time when I lived there… in Bombay, Dadar, Parsee colony.Freddy and I were born in the same area. I remember the monsoon from there. Yes it had been a special time.

I am not supposed to like monsoons as a species, but I did. Simply loved it, when the drops came falling down hitting the parapets , ricocheting from the branches of trees or the bumpers of the luxury cars as I lay under them and then on to my fur. Monsoons in Bombay have been unpredictable but that year it was fun; Heavy showers but no flooding, the kind of season to enjoy. I loved this area of Parsee colony –Dadar, and here I would wander about freely for walks. It was my domain; specially marked by shooting a jet with a rear leg raised. A drop or two was enough to notify the tribe that this was my turf. Behave when you enter here with the right respect (tails tucked in neatly between your legs) or be prepared for the consequences. I was born in the compound of an Irani restaurant at the base of Tilak Bridge, Dadar, in a litter of eight, five brothers and three sisters. Three of us survived a year and the last year the BMC dog van accounted for my other two siblings. That year, the streets had made me smart, swift and strong.

My name? Now that is another story which marks the next level of my growth. I answer to Homi or Hormuz but this is not just because I am a Parsee or of the Zoroastrian faith. I am agnostic. No one owns me too, am my own master. It just so happened that the restaurant whose steps I use for my afternoon siesta was an Iranian restaurant; one of the last of the surviving few in Bombay. The canine DNA has "loyalty" as a very strong thread embedded in it. Loyalty to the place that offered me slumber. Also it was but a few steps from the place I was born, am sentimental that way. This restaurant like all Irani Restaurant Stores has an open counter and the owner was an old Irani. A fossil from an era long gone by wearing the trademark sadra kashti of the community. He used to sit on the counter. That day he was dozing and I was wide awake swatting flies with my tail. It was that kind of a lazy afternoon. There comes this boy seemingly well attired who didn’t enter the restaurant. He just put his hands near the counter and seeing the man dozing pocketed 3 packets of cigarettes of the imported variety. I loved the packaging and had played football with the empty packs very often as a puppy. People feel us canines can’t read but this one had 3 fives & State Express written on it. They cost around Rs.100 a pack. I hate thieves so what if they belong to the biped variety. Instinctively I barked and caught his leg and wouldn’t let go. The ruckus jerked the owner from his nap and he saw a youth struggling to be free of me. He would have swatted me too hadn’t I jerked the leg of the thief further. This knocked the packets from his pocket onto the road and the old man caught on. Seeing the missing packs from the counter lying on the road he jumped out, caught the thief and gave him a sound whacking. He retrieved the packs as the youth ran away. Then he looked at me from under the bushy eyebrows as I stood there staring back. Stepping closer , patting me on the head said you are like my Hormuz, Homi and yells “Rajuu” to his waiter. “Doodh lao” and he fed me milk and one large packet of Parle-G glucose biscuits. I ate hungrily. Then he tells me, good boy, sit here and guard my shop and at lunch times you shall be fed.Rajuu...isko khaana khilaaney ka... roj. I nodded like the bipeds do but they don’t understand that we comprehend their language ,gestures and mannerisms much better than they do ours, so wagged my tail for his benefit and he smiled. Softly he calls again Homi..Homeee…and that was my christening the moment I looked up to his call.

Now what’s the point of this tale, is it to just highlight that we are smarter than what most humans give us credit for? We are but that’s for us to know and you not to figure out. This is a love story. Hello, did you say LOVE STORY, yes you heard me right the first time. But then shouldn’t there be a love interest here? Well there is. I shall introduce you to mine. Her name was Coffee. When I first saw her she was so well groomed and proper that it took my breath away. When I passed by and raised the hind leg on the hydrant she turned her nose away. She is a Labrador slightly smaller of build than me but very lovely with milky coffee colored fur. The moment she turned up her nose coldly, she became CC to me…eh? Didn’t get it…Cold Coffee…you humans , we have to explain everything. My breed is not catalogued but have some German shepherd blood running in my veins along with some other fierce strains. This makes me a big and rather mean looking customer especially when my fur is raised and the tail is straight out. Not an ounce of fat is on me and I rule my turf with a stern authority that sometimes even surprises me. But then what was it about CC that got to me? Try as much as I could scratch behind my ear with my rear paw couldn't figure it out. So like i heard it said thought C'est La Vie.

By this time you guys are laughing your guts out on the whole idea of a rough n ready street dog like me falling for an apartment bred beautiful bitch? Well that’s the funny thing about love… its strikes as it did me without warning. Love exists even for us quadrupeds, how else did you imagine there are so many of us around? Think about it. Walking you, getting you to chase us, making you feel needed when even your own kind doesn’t look at you favorably as time goes by. We love and get loved in return but remember let us be. I don’t like collars never fancied them. For some of our kind maybe they get used to it as they don’t know anything different. But the bipeds don’t have the sense that when they keep us they should be keeping us in pairs like Noah did on his ark. Else the balance of this world would be off.

So here was CC and here was me on my street and she being walked by the biped whose name was on the apartment she stayed in. She was irritated that all she could do outside was to use the five gardens around here as a big loo. No privacy too. She did see and smell my sign on the path and occasionally looked back, quite like the movies…oh yeah I have seen some where the guy says “if she loves me ...she will turn and look back”. I yipped a greeting and she smiled. That was enough for me to gambol past her and introduce myself. I am not bashful when I know my soul mate.

There is a spot around this place the third garden where her master would let her free and we would run around talking and making plans. Though she envied my life wasn’t too keen to be a part of it and I was okay. Our kind doesn’t go about building homes and buying things. We simply savor the time when we find love and soak in it and so it was with us. I loved her smell and she kind of liked me too. For her the bridge was crossed when one street cur had tried to bark in on her. That was it, I had simply growled to see him slink away. Well I knew where she lived but it was the mornings and evenings that were ours truly, out in the gardens. Before the master could catch in on us it was the month after august…She kind of started smelling delicious...I knew something special was going to happen when she yelped a “Come September” at me and went behind the bushes. Oh I knew a lot of songs too but this became our special song. I would also sing to her from the Beatles and she specially liked my rendition of ‘ Love- Love me do” too. She didnt know how hard I practiced. These practice sessions had even opened closed windows at nights to open as the bipeds yelled at me. In my opinion from time immemorial true talent has always been treated shabbily; it gets shunted around till it gets special recognition from a discerning audience. She even tried to ape my Fredun Balsara strut from ‘Crazy Little thing called love’. We were Parsee colony dogs after all and as I mentioned earlier Freddie Mercury and his band Queen were practically locals and neighbors. Loyalty remember.

Was her master surprised in mid-November mid to have a Scorpio sun signed litter of six healthy ones? Each one of them frisky and yippy and boy did I scrounge out a huge chicken from the restaurant to celebrate. But then the travel bug hit me and I decided to see the world and went there once to say goodbye. She was sad but understood. She had her brood to take care of and an apartment to guard while the open world beckoned me. Having lived and grown in Bombay it was an acid test of survival cleared with flying colours . I could now live absolutely anywhere. These were the thoughts running through my mind as we shared a meal; my travel companion & I.

Trees went whipping by, as the wheels ate the distance with a rhythm. The raindrops kept falling on my head…as Queen on the radio went about the crazy song that reminded me of CC and a sweet September moment of love.