My friends had already reached the other end of the zebra-crossing near MG Road, and I stood petrified in the middle of the road. My friends are giants. Sometimes, I almost expect them to chant “fee fi fo fum,” as they put one incredibly long leg in front of the other. That particular day, the mismatch in our height was particularly frustrating.
We were on a quest to meet the Hound, an indie who we had affectionately named after the canine in the Hound of Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, owing to his lustrous black coat, tall stature, and glowing red eyes. We had befriended him during our frequent visits to the MG Road on many lazy afternoons after college. The hound was a difficult name, but we stayed committed to our degree in English Literature. The hound was incredibly picky with food— Parle-G was not genius enough for him, Marie was boring, we didn’t serve chai with it after all and if you brought out home food, he would shoot you a look full of such disdain and superiority that you have thought that he was Marie Antionette. His personality was so obvious and robust that we couldn’t help but be charmed. I crossed the road hurriedly and was met with many regal licks, and graceful wagging-of-the-tail, and was instantly appeased.
When my friends and I graduated from college, we made our way to different cities. I went on to pursue my Master’s degree in another country, which unfortunately meant that I would lose access to the Hound for a long time. After persistent inquiry, I heard that he was nowhere to be seen, and my group of friends and I grew silent on the subject, internalising our disappointments and fears.
A year later, when I returned to the city, I found myself visiting my usual haunts. Just as I was rushing to cross the street, I spotted a mass of black fur. And, my heart jumped. Curled up below a flight of stairs was the Hound. Like many kings of yore, the years had brought with them a few extra pounds. You see, unlike Marie Antionette’s affinity to cake our dear hound’s affinity was to ice cream. In fact, many-a-time, when we walked by the hound, he followed us to a Nandini Milk Parlour, from where he would refuse to budge. All those years, we hadn’t figured out the reason behind this behaviour.
On the day of our reunion too, he diligently followed me until the Nandini parlour, and there he parked his behind. I shot him a look of confusion when the shopkeeper helpfully, conspiratorially whispered, “Nandini, wants I C E C R E A M,” making sure to spell out the dreaded words. “Who is Nandini?” I asked, and to my horror, he pointed at the black canine, who they had named after a cow.