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.