My son and his girlfriend have been living in Delhi for six months and in that time have acquired two knives, two forks, a compulsory gardener for their square metre of third-storey balcony, a maid for their two modest rooms, and a dog. The dog is a Street Special, found cowering in an open sewer during Diwali, the whizzing, banging festival of light when Hindus commemorate the return of Rama. Their pyrotechnics make Guy Fawkes look positively polite. Diwali is hell for Delhi’s stray dog population and this pup had injured himself trying to flee the festivities. Son and Girlfriend carried him to an animal shelter but we're so appalled to see the creatures on the lowest rung of Delhi's misery ladder that they couldn't bear to leave him there. So Chalu moved in temporarily with them. He was there to meet us when we arrived at the Offspring’s apartment, though his foster parents weren’t. Chalu took the opportunity of the chaos of luggage bearers, an open door and an open gate, to bolt out into the street. Daughter, who has played sport at international level and is still pretty fit, set off after him. After a long chase she lost him at one of Delhi's manic intersections, returning white and shaken at the thought of having to explain to her brother that we'd lost their already traumatised dog within three minutes of our arrival.
We embarked on a squelch through flooded streets, (yup, I also thought it only flooded during the Monsoon) looking for a mutt we'd had only a fleeting and aerial view of as he bounded down the stairs. Biscuit brown and about so-high, I thought. Turns out, so is every stray in Delhi. And every security guard in Defence Colony seemed keen to help us by pointing out every stray; soon the search party comprised street children, the local squatter families, the lady from the corner shop, the ironing walla, the cardboard walla and a pack of interested but not-Chalu dogs. A white women with purple hair would have been a less obstrusive newcomer to the neighbourhood.(Scroll down to Indian Impressions 1.)
To cut a long search short, Chalu was eventually found in the place he is habitually walked in; at first he evaded capture, speeding round and round the park like the Duracell dog. I got down on all fours and did some dog-whispering; curiosity got the better of him and he crept closer and closer; when I produced his lead he leapt at it and seemed to be not just ready, but eager to get home. Must be the right dog, I thought.
And it was.