We decided to call it a night. It was late (about 11 pm) and I had a chemistry paper the next day. I liked chemistry. We got up from the dining table and looked around for Elsa. It was a daily ritual and a habit before sleeping ;like sleeping itself, no matter what, we’d always take Elsa out for a walk; be 10 at night, or 2 in the morning after some party, and not any of those short- do your sussu walks, but a long walk. The walk was a healthy custom. Especially during our (dad and me) stormy fights, we would always resolve it on our walks, it always initiated a dialogue, then a discussion and finally a reconciliation. You see in these walks, Dad and me could never walk apart or too far away from each other. Elsa always made sure of that. If one of us would lag behind (it would always be me), Elsa would stop, and not budge an inch, till the person caught up.
When my parents were in Bombay, we lived on a tiny hill which was a small army cantonment with only one unit called Kalina military camp. It is a really charming place, with lots of trees, plants, flowers and a massive play ground. Very green and picturesque. It looked as if a small hill station had been compressed between two gates. There was only one concrete road which stretched between these two gates. Our walk started from one gate to the other, it was a reasonably long walk. Elsa loved these walks and would always get excited.
So this particular night, just when Dad was about to leash Elsa,I’ll have to stop here and interpose,Elsa loved chasing dogs, cats and lil children. When I look back at the initial years with Elsa, most of my memories get eclipsed by the chases. They were classic out of the movie chases; Elsa would just zip out and off we’d go running behind her, the entire camp echoing with my, my dad’s and Munnu bhaiyas screams. .. Elsaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. It used to be quite a spectacle. The chases were innumerable and each with a unique twirl.
Back to the story; door was slightly open, there was a dog outside, sleeping (blissfully I am sure), Elsa barged out, my father was unable to leash her on time, and Elsa ran behind the dog. My father panicked.I’ll have to stop here again and include another piece of information;couple of nights before, an officer of the unit had lost his dog Pasha, it was a smart mountain breed, and it was never found again.
My father ran after Elsa, his slippers came off, and off he went chasing Elsa barefoot with extremely loose jammies on. I followed, went a short distance, came back picked up the forgotten leash and started again. I could see my father had already reached the next block. Now between our house and the next, there was a dark patch, no street lamps and flanked by heavy undergrowth. I kept running, panicking at the thought of Elsa being lost and sound of my father screaming.
Suddenly in the middle of the dark road, I noticed a silhouette and an outline of two standing ears. Elsa was sitting in the middle of the road, quite shaken. She had not gone very far, I think our screams and shouts and her inherent nature of not being too far away from us made her stop in her tracks, my father of course missed Elsa in the dark and continued running. By the time I called my father back, he’d already sent a search party out -perks of being a commanding officer in the army.
He bellowed at Elsa, who was clearly befuddled by our reaction. I could not help but grin after a huge sigh of relief…. My father had outrun Elsa.
We got home and related the entire story to mom, she infuriated dad even further with her Milkha Singh jokes. … Elsa retreated to her safe corner.
We were abruptly awakened at 2 in the night; Dad had forgotten to call off the search party… Elsa retreated even further off.