This one goes years back. I happened to be in sixth standard at that time. I still clearly remember that cold January morning. My exams were going on, and as a routine I woke up to revise before appearing for it. It was chilling and I decided to pay the balcony a visit to comprehend exactly how low the temperature really was (There was no google weather in those good old days. Shiver per second was the only unit to gauge the temperature). Anyways, the real reason for me to go there was that there were new born puppies in the colony, and these cute little devils happened to be my particular area of interest.
Something was unusual that day. I couldn’t see these guys nor their mother anywhere around. After having investigated the surroundings for a while, I decided to come back to my books. Just then I heard a little cry coming from somewhere. Had to bend a little over the railing to see what it exactly was. A black pup was caught in the drain line and was helpless. It was normal for these guys to get stuck there. But unlike every other time, there mother was nowhere to be seen for rescue. And he was tired and giving up with every passing moment. His siblings surrounding him from all the side, wagging their tails, unsure of what to do. You could only imagine how that chilled water must be torturing him. I knew I had to step out, and that too without knowledge of my mother, or else thrashing was inevitable for me.
I did what was supposed to be done. Saved that little thing and tip toed back into the house. Revision was done, exams were taken care of, and I was back to home. And from that day onwards, I developed a special affection for him. I convinced dad to put a bed for these guys outside the home. A little resistance came from mom though, but even she could not oppose it in that weather (It was
shit cold). We were practically together all the time, except for that time when I was being thrashed by mom for touching a stray dog, and forced to wash my hands with Dettol. He was not exactly a pet, neither was he a random stray dog. Unlike normal stray dogs, his friendship with me was not based out of the fact that I fed him. He grew very special for me with time.
Sixth. Seventh. Eighth. Ninth .. Twelfth. My schooling was done. Engineering was next. Hostel life called me. I had to leave. Leave Lucknow, Leave home, Leave friends and Leave Kaalu. Ecstasy of a new phase overcame the grief of separation and I was lost in the new life. Kaalu’s image blurred away with every passing day.
Holidays after the first semester. Everyone was returning home for the first time. The entire college was filled with a colorful buzz. I can never possibly express that feeling or feel the same again. It was the first time that I had been away from home. And the first time that I was returning. Everything from the doorbell to my bookshelf was there in mind. Would the garden be full of flowers? Will my desktop me at the same place? What would have happened to all my trophies? Will the park be the same? Will my room be the same? And … Will Kaalu be the same? Only time will tell.
I was told that he left the very next day I left, and never came back post that. Mom could spot him at times at few random locations, but never did he come to this side of the colony. I was somewhat reminded of Neelu. The same story being repeated again. A little heartbreak, I went outside. Stared at that tree which used to serve the purpose of stumps in our cricket matches. He used to sit just there when I used to bat. Accompanying me from home to park, and back to home. Those puppy eyes making me helpless in front of him. That constant knock at the door to let him in. I could still hear that characteristic sound he made by banging his paw against the door. In his own rhythm. His knocks were growing louder in my memories. I was drawn back to the real life. It was for real. Those knocks had come right out of my memories. Kaalu had come out of my memories. He was right there, banging the door harder than ever. Desperate to come in. I was not going to waste any time, was I?
I fed him like a king that day. He slept in that day, and for all the other days I was at home. We again went around together. From park to hair saloon to the market. One of the best part of my childhood was back with me. But for how long? I had to come back. I had to leave him alone again. I looked at him. It appeared as if he understood. Afterall, he was a big boy now.
The routine continued. He again left home as soon as I went. And to no one’s surprise, he came back once I did. No matter at what time I came back home, he used to be there in a matter of time. I can never tell how he knew that I had come back. No one could tell afterall.
Two years back. Engineering was done. MBA was in progress. I came back home for Diwali vacations. Kaalu was not there. I knew he would come. I waited but he didn’t come. Mom came to me and told me something I was expecting by then. He had passed away. I knew his time was done. Just that, time did not permit me to to bid him a proper goodbye.
Years passed by. MBA was done. I came back home on the Diwali vacations once again. I once again heard a knock on the door. Not like Kaalu used to make, but a very weak one. Something was brushing against the door. Opened the door. There were these little pups playing all around. Out of the lot, one little black prankster reminded me of Kaalu. I never expected what came next. Mom told me he is the grandson of Kaalu. Didn’t know what to say. I just kept looking at him. The same face. Black puppy eyes. Held him just the way I held Kaalu after taking him out of the drain. Life had suddenly taken a complete full circle.