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A Friend Found and Lost

Veena Singh

It is exactly one year since my Sheroo left us. Sheroo, who had been an integral part of my life from the time he ‘adopted’ us on 3rd April 1989 when we met in Manali. It was destiny. There is no other explanation. It was Easter. I had taken a few days leave from office and along with my brother who was in town from Bombay and had never been to Manali, I went there for a short holiday. After off-loading at Kulu airport, we drove up to Manali, reaching Paldan Negi’s guest house an hour-and -a-half later.

We had barely stepped down from the taxi when Sheroo came and greeted us, rubbing against us like a kitten and very excited as if we were long lost friends. He seemed not to belong to anyone and there after remained outside our doors, in the verandah. He would follow us up to a point when we left the guest house to go anywhere, and then return to wait for us. He would share dinner with us and then would go away, we wondered where.

One day before we were to leave just as we turned towards the market, Sheroo encircled us, preventing us from turning towards the market. I said to my brother, “It seems he wants to take us somewhere else … lets follow him.” He then started going up the hill in the opposite direction and kept turning to look and make sure we were following him. He led us to a hay stack outside a Small Hotel run by a local person and stopped there. Once we had seen his place, he allowed us to go.

It seemed he had a premonition of what was to happen and therefore he wanted us to know where to look for him. It is uncanny! That very evening Negi, our host, told us that our Sheroo had been seriously injured and would not survive as his head was bleeding profusely. We rushed uphill to his place only to be told by the hotel owner there that Sheroo had been seen bleeding and had run-off! The same hotel-owner was to later claim him as his, but we shall come to that in due course.

Sheroo had run-off to our guest house waiting outside our rooms, his head full of blood! After washing him with antiseptic, we were relieved to find that it was his ear which had torn and he had no serious injury. We than set about looking for a vet. The solitary vet in Manali had gone off for the week end to a neighbouring village to his in-laws. We went there but could not find him. So, we returned to Manali and went to the regular doctor, got medicines and decided not to leave him in Manali, uncared for and unloved, We ordered a taxi so that we could proceed immediately to Kulu, return our air tickets for the next day, and take the road to Delhi along with Sheroo. As we passed through Manali market we were stopped by a tough looking man, the leader of the Manali Taxi Driver’s Union, who claimed that Sheroo belouged to his mother who owned that hotel with the hay-stack. So, we turned back and deposited Sheroo there, handed-over his medicines and pleaded with the lady to take better care of him. Having done this, we again set off for Kulu thinking we would spend the night there before catching the morning flight back. It is 1 ½ hours drive from Manali to Kulu and throughout we were quiet, not exchanging a word.

The taxi driver noticed this and suggested that if leaving Sheroo behind was making us so unhappy, we should have tried offering money to the ‘lady’ and that, this was what they were after. It had not occurred to any of us. Back we went, headed straight towards Sheroo’s hay stack, saw him tied to a tree in heavy rain, shivering and in pain due to his wound. The so-called owners were sitting in their room, around a fire with no thought of Sheroo! We requested them to give us Sheroo since we had fallen in love with him. They said he was like their child and they could not part with him! The moment we offered money, we were told to put the money on the table and take him from outside! No one even bothered to pat him before sending him. That much of their child he was!!

Anyway, we took him with us and went back to Negi’s for the night, planning to leave early morning, in time to return our air tickets to proceed to Delhi by road. Next morning we had breakfast, gave Sheroo his share and pushed off happily. We had barely come half way down to Kulu, when Sheroo started vomiting. We were in a dilemma. Would he survive the long arduous journey to Delhi and would he be able to live in that Delhi summer, being used to the mountains? Would it be kinder to take him with us, or to leave him behind with the uncaring people to look after him. Which would be lesser of the two evils?

We were plagued by these thoughts and once again, against our will decided to go back to Manali and leave him there with those wretched people. We turned back again! The taxi driver must have convinced himself we were mad! We handed Sheroo back begging the people to took after him better, did not ask for our money to be returned, and with heavy hearts, charged back to Kulu airport hoping we could still catch our flight back. The drive back was full of tears and regrets. We just about made it and our baggage was checked in when I spotted a crew member of the airline (‘Vayudoot’ those days) and on enquiring whether they allow a dog on the flight, was told that normally they do not but as a special case they could, having seen me so often fly between Delhi and Kulu.

We were being called to board the plane and we did, once again torn between thoughts “should’ we, or shouldn’t we” “to be or not to be”…. We reached Delhi. We reached home. My friends called to ask how my trip had been. I did not have the heart to answer the phone. My brother too was crest-fallen. My father suddenly announced, “if the two of you were going to be so miserable you should have just brought him!” That did it! We rushed to our Vet and asked him if our dog in the house would allow Sheroo to join our household. He said she would. Being a female she would welcome the attentions of a male! We then rushed to the Indian airlines office to enquire if we could get seats for the next morning. The flights were all full as the tourist season had begun. Waiting lists were long. Chances were bleak. We were in a fix.

The night was sleepless. Early next morning, impulsively, with just a tooth-brush and some money, we stormed the Delhi airport, to be told that there had been no cancellations and there was practically no chance as the flight was about to leave. Dejected, we were about to come away when a young couple on their way for a honeymoon suddenly had a change of mind and returned their tickets! If they had quarrelled, I hope they made-up later.

They were angels as far as we were concerned. We found ourselves on the plane. We drove like crazy from Kulu to Manali, and believe it or not, there was Sheroo, on the mat right outside our rooms at Negi’s waiting for us, as if he knew we were coming! Paldan Negi asked us where our suitcases were, thinking we had again returned from Kulu. When he was told we had been to Delhi, he nearly collapsed! When it had sunk in that we had come back to fetch Sheroo, he set about giving us advice. Told us not to feed Sheroo before setting off by road to Kulu, so that he does not vomit. That had been our mistake the last time! To be even more sure, we again went to the nice Dr. Khanna, who gave us an anti-vomit tablet which Sheroo had to be given half-an-hour before starting our return journey.

So, next morning we again set off for Kulu airport. An obliging gentleman at Paldan Negi’s guest house had managed two tickets from the V.I.P quota!! Everything started working out perfectly. Sheroo was the V.I.P. on that flight. The air hostess offered him ‘nimbu-pani’ in a bowl! That was in April 1989. Sheroo was our joy and companion for 14 years. He was presumed to have been 2 years old when we met. He was adored. We loved him. He loved us. He will always live in our hearts. If this is not destiny, what is?


 

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