THE MAN & HIS DOG

He was the spit image of a Senator from Caesar’s Roman Empire, robed in knee length toga of thick white fabric and flat soled sandals held in place by two leather straps entwined around calves. But this man that we encountered in 1976 was a Member of Parliament from the Lok Sabha, in his signature spotless white muslin tailored Kurta, a gracefully tied white cotton Dhoti and feet shod in polished light brown, leather ‘Jutties’. His well groomed hair and gentle comportment lent him a certain sense of dignified presence.

We were at the car parking lot of India’s most prestigious, veterinary dispensary situated within the premises of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate, essentially to care for the horses of the President’s Body Guard. But over time, as there were no parlours or clinics for pets in those days, this dispensary also attended to the canines of Delhi’s Diplomatic Corps and those belonging to a few lowly but lucky citizens as well.

Dachshunds are of high strung temperament and impetuously volatile, especially on sighting a strange dog, utterly unmindful of the consequences. Once, on the out skirts of Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) a cat had crossed the road about ten meters ahead, the Dachshund on my wife’s lap shot out of the window of the moving car, appeared a bit stunned on impact with tarmac but gathered his wits and like the bolt of lightning was on hot chase after that dear little puss. My wife and I learnt never to take chances when out of doors, with our two bundles of potential dynamite.

Dachshunds are of high strung temperament and impetuously volatile, especially on sighting a strange dog, utterly unmindful of the consequences. Once, on the out skirts of Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) a cat had crossed the road about ten meters ahead, the Dachshund on my wife’s lap shot out of the window of the moving car, appeared a bit stunned on impact with tarmac but gathered his wits and like the bolt of lightning was on hot chase after that dear little puss.

Even before alighting from the car at the veterinary dispensary, we had gently but firmly cradled one each but my grip fell slack for a moment while locking the car door. Fortunately, I had had the loop-end of the leash slipped through my trouser belt but the direction of his lunge pointed to the man in kurta & dhoti. He was not startled one bit as he turned his broad face over his broad shoulders to look in our direction. He had the gentlest, winning smile and we smiled back as much out of grace as to mask our embarrassment by the belligerence of our pets.

But he understood full well a dog’s unconditional resolve to fend off even the slightest perceived danger to his masters. Cradled in the crook of his left arm was a Pomeranian whose white fluff melded so completely with the white Kurta that but for the three black spots (nose and eyes) and flesh pink tongue, that adorable Pom would have escaped our gaze, altogether.

That too, was Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee!

Was he a lover of dogs? Does this personality trait find mention in his poetry? Let us wish him a happy reunion with his Pomeranian in their lives up and above.

POST SCRIPT.
The above text was published by The Tribune on Saturday (08 September, 2018) on its Editorial Page as the “Middle” (“Chance meeting with Vajpayee & his Pom!”). Mr Jaikaran Sandhawalia who happened to read it, mailed it to a friend who is intimate with the late Prime Minister’s family and enquired whether ABV was a lover of dogs? An hour later, we were thrilled to receive the mail reproduced below:

From: Jai Sandhawalia: Sep 8 (I day ago) to: me
All his life, yes ABV was a avid dog lover. He once lost his pet Loli (pom) and had several sleepless nights, and the dog was eventually found and returned to him from someone in Panipat (Perhaps in 1985).

Commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in July 1956, Lt Gen. Baljit Singh, AVSM, VSM, retired on 31 July 1992 after 36 years of distinguished service. A keen sportsman, accomplished writer and noted environmentalist, he is an active promoter of Conservation of Nature, more so within and by the Armed Forces.

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