I was living in Mumbai for a couple of years in a rented apartment in Juhu. I shared the top floor, one bedroom set with my dog Tarzan, a mix breed, half boxer, half mutt. And might I add he got the best genes from both sides. A big, butch fellow with a lovely brindled coat, immaculate manners and the swiftness of a ninja!
Even though we spent many happy weekends in each other’s company, I always felt he needed more room than our apartment afforded. I often took him to the beach to play, but in a city like Mumbai, the beaches are always crowded, dirty and thronging with stray dogs. I never felt at ease, letting him off the leash. He would look at me with those eyes, “Set me loose! I want to run! I want to run free!!” And every time my heart would ache.
Finally, my guilt got the better of me. On a long weekend, I planned a trip to Kashid, a beach town about 4 hours by road from Mumbai. A lesser known destination with long stretches of sandy beach, clean, quiet and sparsely populated. It seemed perfect for my baby and me.
On Thursday evening, on my way back from work, there was a spring in my step. There was a smile on my face. We were scheduled to leave early next morning. My very first vacation with Tarzan. The bookings were done. The cab was ordered. We just had to pack. Packing for a vacation is always fun. But this time, what made it more fun was watching him choose his favourites for the trip. I opened his drawer and watched him pick out a frisbee, a glow ball and a squeaky duck floaty. Such intelligent choices!! Well I can say the same about me – shades, sunblock, swimsuit and book!
We woke up at 4am. The cab was scheduled to arrive in an hour. I was getting ready, co-ordinating with the driver and taking care of last minute details. Tarzan sat on my bed, staring at me, confused, “It’s still dark! Why are we up so early? What are you doing? Who are you talking to? What’s going on?!?!” I kept looking at him, with a naughty grin on my face. “You have no idea buddy! It’s a surprise! It’s going to be legend-ARY!!”
The cab arrived. Crew and luggage loaded. Ready, Set, Launch!
After exiting the city, the windows were rolled down and Tarzan happily snuck his neck out. His ears flapping in the cool February wind, his excited panting settling into a smile on his face. Every once in a while he would turn back in and lick my face, just to say “This is so much fun! Thank You!” He was already happy.
We reached Kashid just after 9. I had requested an early check in and the staff was very accommodating since I was travelling with a pet. We were welcomed with 2 coconut waters, one for me and one for my pooch. He loved it! We settled into a lovely sea facing cottage with a small garden upfront which opened up to the beach. So peaceful and serene, just him and me in paradise!
Meals were in an open air, beach facing restaurant. And it revealed, that since Tarzan knew he was on vacation, the regular meal of bread milk and egg just wouldn’t do. After many attempts at many combinations, he made a very unlikely choice – rice idlis with plain yogurt. Who would have thought there was a ‘desi boy’ in my Tarzan! He polished off 3 plates every day with ripe bananas for dessert.
I realise, pets are great conversation starters. People would often walk up to me and say things like, “what a handsome dog!” or “what’s his name?” or “is he friendly, can we play?” Tarzan was the star of the resort. And I was his honoured consort! He was showered with attention and hugs and little treats. He made friends with all the children. They shared their toys and he shared his, they ran and he chased, rolling in the sand, frolicking in the sea, squeals of laughter and approving nods from parents. I find, there is so much warmth in people around a pet. There is a general feeling of trust. And there are always…always smiles.
My favourite moments, though, were our alone ‘Beach time’ in the evenings! He just couldn’t believe his luck when I set him free. The first time he just stood there a moment, looking at me inquiringly, “Are you serious? I can run? I can run as fast as I want on this long sandy stretch? You’re really letting me do that!?!” I smiled and threw his frisbee in answer and off he went like a rocket. Feeling his disbelief and watching his delight, brought tears of joy to my eyes. This is how he is meant to be! My love, run free!