Goodbye Togo

Shailesh’s  “son”  Togo died today. And this is what Shailesh had to say:

Togo My PET Pomeranian died today.he was 13Y 5M 1 day…Arrived in 1999 …..
As Arthur Hastings says in Agatha Christie’s Last Book CURTAIN…Poirot died and along with him died a good part of Arthur Hastings ..Today i can say TOGO died and along with him died a good part of Shailesh Venkatadri….whole house looks so empty today..
Rest in Peace ..My Friend…..

I have never had a pet dog, or  no dog has owned me, but  I have more than bow-bowing acquaintance with a few  great canines, and I  believe  most of them  approve of me, and   some even feel they can trust me  as much as they trust their own family. I met Togo  about six or seven years back, and  that first time, he yapped sharply and incessantly as Pomeranians are wont to do. I was amused to learn that he had high cholesterol, and  watch fascinated as he crunched into a big piece of cucumber that Manisha, Shailesh’s wife,  gave him.  We sat on the floor divans , with a plate of “enmana” to munch on, and  talked about everything from  Enid BLyton, Agatha Christie, M&B,   movies and  remembered our childhood antics,  a couple of which we’d rather not remember, only we can’t deny it because Subri was witness. Well if he says anything,  its his word against ours.
In the midst of all this, I didn’t notice  that Togo had become silent, and  was not snapping or preparing to  bare his teeth as I made animated conversation, and must have waved my arms  in a suspicious (to him) manner.

It was soon time to go, and  Togo  rose , running to the front door ahead of us.and took up his high-piched yapping again.  This time though it was  to protest  against my leaving!!
In the last few months, Togo had to put up with many changes,  moving from a  house to an apartment , puzzled by all the noises and the slippery floor and other  annoyances that come with  life in an apartment.  I haven’t seen Togo since 2010 , but  I’m proud to know he approved of me, and  like to think I was a member of his family.

Dear Shailesh, Manisha and Shivani,  Togo will always watch over you , and me!

Thoughts of Train

Only the first time on an airplane is a flight of fancy. The monotony and ennui of  long  up-in-the-air  journeys watching the clouds  at the end of which you discover  neither God,  Amma or M S Subbulakshmi is going to  perch on the  wing outside your window and  treat you to an epiphany  is all it takes to  turn a plane journey into a chore that needs getting done as quickly as possible.

A train journey, however, has been around for two hundred years, but its thrill quotient has endured  with such vigor that I am convinced the frisson of excitement that I remember from  those  half-a-day journey to Madras on the Brindavan Express  is the same that coursed down Appa’s  nine-year-old spine   eighty years ago,  when the family travelled often and long, passing  charming little stations and watching  little India display its quirks and colours, the  fields and villages that whizzed past between stations.

S remembers  vividly  the  large presence of trains  in every day Belgaum life,. They watched the train winding its way steamily down the countryside,  while playing in the fields near the Fort, and they often heard the  siren wailing  balefully , announcing an arrival or departure.  Railway stations were easily accessible then and they often went to watch the exciting goings-on at the locomotive shed – engine shunting- there was a turntable for the engines, and it was manually operated. Of course in the eyes of S and friends,  this was the most exciting job in the world.  They played at  shunting, pushing  at the engine and pretending they moved it.

They often made short trips on the passenger trains to Dharwad or Hubli,  and S and Pandu . Once an old man toting his toddler grandson on his shoulders loped up to their window asking “Does this train go to Haveri?”  S and Pandu,  being in a cheeky mood as little boys often are,  informed him helpful, ” oh the next coach goes” , and  had a good laugh. But S felt a twinge of remorse a few moments later when he saw the old man struggling to hop on as the train had  begun to move, and the platform form was left behind, and he just about made it.

The trains of those days, with steam engines and coaches that looked like they were taking Cinderella to the ball,  were 30-seaters . Sometimes they were 8-seaters, used by attendants of  British officers travelling on duty, or  the servants of  the rich Indians who would be travelling royally in First Class.  Occasionally even royalty travelled in these trains, and the Mysore Maharaja’s guards resplendent in their gear added  intrigue and fascination to  the journey.  The Tungabhadra flowed merrily as the train wound its way in the June-July summer.

S remembers the “best idli and dosa ” that could be had at Harihar station,  a stall run by  a  man from Kerala. Since  the local people could never tel the difference between his Malayalam and Tamil, they  enjoyed his  offerings  in what they  assumed was Tamil. S and Pandu and his friends, of course knew their Tamil,  and their idlis.
Most  summer holidays they made the long journey to Bangalore, but  they often went to  Bombay and Poona or Kolhapur- . Bombay meant staying in the house of Bombay Ramaswamy, known to the family , whose bungalow off B P Wadia Road was a well-known landmark and is now a block of apartments still named Bombay House, It overlooks theDewan  Madhava Rao Circle, and remains as picturesque as the whole of Bangalore used to be ion the 60s and 70s.

S had  a wish  in those days.  They often clambered up a high mound on the field near the Fort, and watched the trains go by. His wish was to be on this high perch and look down on the train, and watch himself  travelling grandly in the train as it wound its way towards  Poona . Now is that possible?   About as possible as  the epiphany of    God, Amma or M S Subbulakshmi waving us on our way from Cloud Nine.

A  fine train of thought indeed.   Or  a flight of fnacy?