She has two names — some call her Jugni, most call her Kali. He was known by just one name – Ram Bahadur. Theirs was a strange bond, but to this day, what a bond. Names were immaterial in their relationship – what mattered was that they loved each other deeply. Come evening, and Kali – to call her by her better known name – would position herself near Mrityunjay, the florist’s somewhat ramshacakle table and begin her wait for Ram Bahadur. He too knew that she would be waiting there for him, and every evening regulars around would smile at the spectacle.
Kali would greet Ram Bahadur – who she’d seen off just that morning – as if he had returned from the moon. And Ram Bahadur, thin, somewhat frail and fairly tall, would bend and hug her as if he hadn’t seen her for ages. Ram Bahadur’s big smile and body language espressed mainly through hugs said it all – “Love you, I love you, I love you”. Kali, alas, much as she must have wanted to, couldn’t express her feelings through a smile. She was a dog – silky black with a small bit of white on her underside — hence her name, Kali (Black). But she expressed her love for Ram Bahadur unabashadly in every possible way that she could – she let out joyous barks, ran around him excitedly, leapt on him a couple of times, and had eyes for no one but him.
In addition to their love bond, there was another strange bond as well between Kali and Ram Bahadur – they both did guard duty at the same place. In fact, that’s how they’d met. When Ram Bahadur was hired as a security guard for several shops, he found that Kali was already on unofficial guard duty – ‘paid’ with a daily ice cream from red Giani’s ice cream parlour along with pats and occassional milk from some of the other shops. A bond that was mutually advantageous soon formed between the two.
Thanks to Kali, Ram Bahadur, who was in his late sixties, could lie down on bedding he would spread out on the main corridor floor and go off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that Kali, for whom he would lay out a bed at his feet, would bark furiously and wake him at the slightest whiff of trouble. And thanks to Ram Bahadur, Kali was assured of non-veg treats every evening, bedding, and lots of love and care. Their relationship grew over the years but alas, in the sixth year, Ram Bahadur was asked to quit as the shopkeepers, some of whom had now installed CCTV’s, refused to hike his pay.
Although a neighbouring guard, Munnulal, who was a friend of Ram Bahadur, took over Kali’s care, the bond between Ram Bahadur and Kali remained intact. On his way to his new duty place or on the way back, Ram Bahadur would make it a point to take a detour to meet his beloved Kali and watch contentedly as she gobbled up the treats he had brought for her. They both seeemd to have made the best of changed circumstances and preserved their precious bonds. But then Fate intervened again. At his new duty place, there was no Kali who would do guard duty while Ram Bahadur slept and no corridor either where he could shelter.
Leave alone sleep, Ram Bahadur could no longer even lie down. He had to be awake from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., in the open, on his feet part of the time, sitting on a chair part of the time. His somewhat frail frame could not take this tough routine, especially the winter nights, for long and he began keeping unwell. His daily visits to Kali became curtailed to two or three a week, and then stopped altogether. Munnulal, who was in touch with him on the phone told us that he had resigned from his job and once he regained his health, would look for a less demanding job.
We checked her for injuries and she seeemd fine but maybe something was bothering her internally. No amount of patting and soothing would stop her howling and whining..
We all felt for Kali, who was keeping up her daily waiting for Ram Bahadur near Mrityunjay, the florist, but there was nothing we could do except stroke her for a bit longer than earlier whenever we came across her. One night in late November last year, my own dogs set up a terrific howling in response to howling from a dog outside. Investigating, I found it was Kali sitting on her bed near Munnulal’s chair and she seeemd to be in great distress, howling without remission. What was wrong? Had she been wandering around and got hit perhaps by some vehicle? No, Munnulal assured me.
We checked her for injuries and she seeemd fine but maybe something was bothering her internally. No amount of patting and soothing would stop her howling and whining. Helpless, I walked back home. Her howls continued till early morning, when Munnulal came to inform me that she had refused to have daily milk too and he had to leave as his duty time was over. It was only a day later that we learnt that at the exact time when Kali had started howling, Ram Bahadur had passed away in a hospital about four kilometres away (Kali lives in Kalkaji, New Delhi and the hospital was it seems in Hamdard Nagar, New Delhi ).
The news saddened us all. Mrityunjay the florist, expressed what everyone was feeling: Kali will wait every day for Ram Bahadur but Ram Bahadur will never come again. “Ram Bahadur aur Kali ki kahani khatam ho gayi”. (“The story of Ram Bahadur and Kali has ended”). But Mrityunjay was wrong. Just a couple of nights later, Munnulal asked me to come and see something amazing. Kali was happily wagging her tail, moving hither and thither as if moving around someone. “Its Ram Bahadur”, Munnulal whispered. “The first time he came and Kali was overjoyed, he also thumped my forearm the way he always did when alive, but I wasn’t too sure. Now I’m sure”. I requested him to call me if and when he came the next night. Now its been more than a month of nightly watching and there’s no doubt that the bonds between Ram Bahadur and Kali have transcended death.