My earliest memory of a train journey is of one that I did not go on. My best friend did. My darling, black beauty, wet-nosed friend, Judy. She left for Madras (now Chennai) from the New Delhi Railway Station by the G.T. Express along with my uncle and aunt one fine August day in 1970. She travelled first class. In a coupe. She had a ticket too. I did not. At 7 PM sharp, as the train rolled out, she was there at the window, snout slightly jutting out, tentative, scared. I bid her goodbye. And maybe to my aunt and uncle too (more about that later).
She came into my life a few years earlier though, in 1968. One of the earliest memories I have of her, is of both of us standing at a balcony of my uncle’s government quarters. She would raise her ears up, and listen for the sound of approaching vehicles. She had a chair for her to put her hind legs on. The front paws would rest securely on the cement ledge.
Family legend has it that she could hear my uncle’s scooter at least a kilometer away. She would give out a bark, and then wait till she spotted the scooter in the driveway. Wagging her tail away, she would wait at the balcony, till my uncle stepped into the stairwell, and then jump off her perch, and rush to the door to welcome him in the most delightful manner only a dog can possibly do. Day after day. Every day.
In our own 2+2 family, she bestowed the maximum love and affection on my dad. Followed by my brother, me and my mom. Err… that’s not really true. Even my mom was ahead of me. Judy just about tolerated me. My over attention, my strong affection, my puppy love – I am sure she found it rather stiffling.
I recollect playing with her in the park in front of their house. I loved stroking her from her head to her tail. On some occasions that she enjoyed this, she would roll over, and become my friend. Winter in Delhi was exercise time for her. Every few minutes, she would move from warming herself in the sun to sitting in the shade, and then back again into the sun.
Early in her life, she took care of her teething pains by chewing anything and everything in sight. Combs, socks, shoes, sofa legs, and even letters! My cousin who was studying abroad would write letters home. The postman would typically slide it under the door and leave. On more than one occasion, Judy took offence to being left alone at home by my uncle and aunt, by chewing up the cover and the letter inside, leaving them to read between the lines, literally.
We met again in the summer of 1972. In Madras. More on that in another article.