On a cold, foggy morning, when the masters walk their dogs in the mist, Santosh Bakaya goes for a reluctant walk only to find a friendly tug at her heartstrings.
Jaipur had never been as cold as it was this season; all my forgotten coats, moth-balled for years, lying in oblivion, warm reminders of those days in Kashmir, finally came out of hiding, and gleamed with a new ardor – an ardor that comes from being deftly dusted and dry-cleaned. So, every day, I would step out of the house, in an old coat, (still smelling of mothballs) which flaunted a new look. Hands in pockets, head in cap, neck swathed in a muffler – that was the getup in which I had dared to venture out, to brave the cold and had succeeded.
Then I headed for Delhi, hoping that in a couple of days the cold would vanish, it was after all, February. I knew Delhi was four degrees colder than Jaipur. But I wasn’t prepared for the chiller I landed in. I almost froze the very first day that I headed out for my morning walk. Wisdom prevailed and I quickly retraced my steps and dived back into the snug warmth of my quilt.
But at night when the step-tracker on my cellphone showed that I had walked only 32 steps during the day, the guilt that descended on my heart was heavier than the cold. So next morning, I waddled out looking like a hanger of coats and mufflers out for a walk, only to find myself in the middle of a surreal canine world.
Was I hallucinating or had I really walked into an empire of canines? Collared dogs, robust and healthy, snugly attired in quilted coats, raised half a lackadaisical eye in my direction and went back into the warmth of their branded suitings. They dutifully trotted beside their masters (it certainly looked more like “walk the master” than “walk the dog” although my mental faculties also seemed to have frozen). Watching the spectacle, the collar-less emaciated dogs whimpered weakly and returned into the warmth of their skins. Shaggys, Tommys and Oscars and also the nameless ones, clad only in their own pathetic skin, curled up under tea kiosks and under cars, some lucky ones curled upon pieces of blanket which some Good Samaritan had provided them with, continued whining in the bone-piercing cold.
The canine conferences that always seemed to be in full swing in Jaipur – barking, whining, and whimpering in different tones and pitches was missing here. How could anyone possibly confer in this severe cold?
Let every Oscar, every Shaggy, every Nipper have his warm day in the cold, I said to myself and dashed back, yearning for a hot cup of tea. My legs had just refused to budge an inch after one round of the jogging track in the colony. Maybe, the tea would infuse me with some warmth, and I would walk some more within the four walls of the house?
Just as I was thinking such warm thoughts, I felt someone tugging at my shawl. I whirled back to find it was the most skeletal dog I had ever seen in my life! The poor thing wanted my shawl! Incredible!
I am definitely not a tardy soul, but I did not have the heart to part with my shawl, so I snuck into the house, thinking that I would hunt for some discarded piece of warmth for the mongrel that had tugged at my heartstrings.
But, first, I needed some piping hot tea to push my frozen blood into circulation again.
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