Chance meeting with Vajpayee & his Pom!

Lt Gen Baljit Singh (Retd)

He was the spit image of a senator from Caesar’s Roman empire, robed in a knee-length toga of thick white fabric and flat-soled sandals held in place by leather straps entwined around the 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 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 of India’s most prestigious, veterinary dispensary situated within the premises of 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 outskirts of Wellington (Nilgiri Hills), a cat had crossed the road about 10 metres 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.

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 the loop-end of the leash slipped through my trouser belt but the direction of his lunge pointed to the man in dhoti-kurta. 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 man was Atal Bihari 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.

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