I first saw him on the streets of Manali… Mall Road, to be precise. His calm demeanour and his thick, glossy coat devoid of any hideous bald patches were in stark contrast to any stray dog I’d ever laid eyes on. Granted, his thick fur coat was more of a defense mechanism against the harsh winter, an adaptation. He looked far well groomed for someone who lived on the streets, surviving off the meager scraps that came along occasionally. He bore a striking resemblance to my Peggie, which was probably what drew my attention to her in the first place. He was a cute, little furball. It was quite chilly, and I was bundled up in layers of sweaters, sipping my steaming cup of tea. He was sitting on the pavement, at a calculated distance from the passing vehicles. (On an entirely different note, I have always observed that strays are quite accomplished when it comes to being ‘on the road’.) There he sat, resolutely imploring the bystanders to share a few scraps of their toast with him. He didn’t hover about, bark incessantly or show any signs of hostility. Rather, he meekly accepted all the tidbits that were thrown to him.
I stayed there for three days, and each passing day did not bring about the slightest difference in his daily routine. I looked out for him, whenever I was out on the streets and I felt reassured each time I found him. I knew there was no way I could take him home. But that thought didn’t trouble me much for he looked happy and I would have hated to take that away from him. Nevertheless, when it was time for me to leave Manali, I felt sad to leave him behind. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping to get a last glimpse of him. But it was all for nothing. He was nowhere to be seen. As my bus wound through the road, I stared at this picture I’d managed to snap the day before.
I knew wasn’t going to see him again. I wasn’t going back to Manali anytime soon. He was on my mind, all through my return journey. I wished that he was safe and happy, wherever he was. Months after I was back from my trip, I often thought of Manali and my four-legged acquaintance. I missed Manali, the breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks in the distance; River Beas, the sunlight glinting off its clear surface; the cool mountain air; the apple trees laden with fruit ripe for plucking. But my thoughts kept invariably circling back to him…
© 2015 Shweta Suresh. All rights reserved.