Not without his master

Not without his master

Wg Cdr JS Bhalla (retd)

During the lockdown, the things that mark our day — commuting to work, sending kids to school, having a drink with friends — have vanished. Life has come to a standstill. However, stray dogs, who have the roads to themselves, can be seen sunbathing in golden silence. I observed a few enjoying pollution-free vatavaran in front of my house. This reminded me of Boozo, an adorable pet of Flt Lt TK Chaudhuri.

I was posted at the Ambala Air Force Station in 1961. Chaudhuri, a fighter pilot and a teetotaller, was my next-door neighbour. After days of flying, he would relax in the corridor, playing guitar. In squadron parties, he would render soul-stirring melodies of the past, keeping the audience spellbound.

His brown dog was a companion who brought joy to his life. It was a delight to watch the dog delivering the newspaper to his master. The dog would wag his tail to express his happiness whenever Chou, as he was called, was home.

In early 1965, when tension was brewing across the western border, we moved to our operational locations. The Air Traffic Services were made operational in a wooden hut, where one could barely squeeze in with the equipment neatly stacked. Trenches were dug all around to jump in during air raids. Choudhuri, along with his squadron, flew to Halwara. He gave the custody of Boozo to his trustworthy sahayak, Gopi.

In the beginning of September 1965, Pakistan attacked Akhnoor sector, destroying the Akhnoor bridge — a vital link of communication for us. The induction of the Indian Air Force into the battle at that time ruined the well-thought-out plans of the Pakistan army. During an air battle, Flt Lt Trevor Keelor was credited for the shooting of a Sabre by his invisible Gnat. We yelled and welcomed the news by thumping the tables. We were still in the midst of our rejoicing when news trickled down that we had lost Chou in an operation. Words froze in my throat; I couldn’t budge an inch.

Things were not normal with Boozo either. He was no more playful, and wailed a lot for his master to return. He refused to eat anything. It took him some time to realise that Chou had gone forever, and when he did, his health declined rapidly, leading to a frightening visit to the vet. We were told that he may not last long. As he lay dying, Boozo went quiet, but his eyes expressed the pain he was going through. We were all sad when he passed away. The demise of his master was too harsh for him to bear. His death exhibited the sacred bond that existed between the master and his pet. He was given a befitting burial.

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