09 August, 2013

When Chocolate (our little stuffed dog) went AWOL ....


(That is a picture of Chocolate onboard Garuda Indonesia, on our way back from Bali, in 2011.)


It had been cold during the night.  The others seemed not to mind but he had been cold.  He had been quite tired when he got to bed late the previous night.  Yet, despite his weariness, sleep did not claim him.  Tired but awake, he lay listening to the frogs croak.  It had rained and the smell of the wet earth, of swirls of soil and dust rising in the air after the first drops of rain hit the parched earth, seeped in through the large French windows and permeated his nostrils.   The impertinent little mosquitoes hummed around, seemingly oblivious to the vile smell of the mosquito repellent in the room.  Even these little sounds of nature in the background could not lull him into slumber.  He finally snuggled into the soft, velvetiness of the quilts and sighed as the quilt wrapped him in a warm embrace. 

The birds were chirping yet again, but this time they seemed particularly loud.  There was a humming noise which he recognized as the lawn mower.  He could hear the swish of the little blades as they unthinkingly ripped through the blades of grass in the lawn.  He wondered how the grass must feel – did it feel fear as the blades moved closer to wiping it into oblivion.  “Come on now !  Stop being sentimental, you old fool” said the voice in his head.  In the midst of all the noise around him, his senses were humming – for they had identified the lack of the usually inexhaustible source of din - the children.  He could not hear them fighting, he could not hear them whining or bickering with each other, like they normally did.  The sounds were usually painful enough to make him want to stick his paws into his ears but it had never quite been possible.  Today, there was blessed peace, he thought, grinning to himself, ear to ear, as he leapt out of bed.  One look around confirmed that there was no one about.  He waited for them to get back from breakfast while he sunned himself on the porch.   He watched a caterpillar lazily make its way to the lawns, blissfully oblivious of the centipede which was following it.  He looked at the squirrels foraging for food and at the birds streaking across the sky. 

About an hour later, the bells in his head started to ring out warning tones because the children were not back yet.  Neither were the parents.  The initial euphoria over freedom was now giving way to a slight trepidation.  Could they have forgotten him here ?  Was that really possible ?  He had not even considered that possibility.  What was he going to do all by himself in this strange land ?  He moped and he whined, he sulked at the unfairness of it all as the sun started beating down, heightening the heat and humidity.  “Ok lazybones” said the voice in his head.   “Time to go look for some food” the voice said.  He padded out onto the porch.  Looked around and found no one.   He took off into the gardens, his sense of freedom now heightened, his sense of adventure awakened. 
  
“We had asked for a taxi” he heard the man say to the lady at the reception.  “To the airport” he said as he paced up and down.   Crouched among the little bushes in the garden, Chocolate almost jumped for joy.  There it was.  His ticket back home.  Once he got to the airport, things would be pretty straightforward and he could hop onto an airplane heading back home.  He almost jumped and yelped in sheer joy.
The airport was a huge maze.  Chocolate had managed to get into the car unnoticed and had sat quietly, his head down on his paws throughout the car ride.  He had managed to slip out of the car, unnoticed, once the car reached the airport.  The big man was busy paying off the driver when Chocolate padded off through one of the many doors.  “How do I know which one leads back home ?” he thought to himself.  “All the doors look the same” he realized, in dismay.   He was tired and just wanted to sit someplace and get back home.  That was when he spotted a long, large, black belt.  All the boxes were lined up on the belt and they did not have to walk.  The belt took them wherever they wanted to go.  “I should do that too” thought Chocolate as he hopped on to the conveyor belt.  He was amazed at the sight of so many boxes, all different sizes, shapes and colours.   He stared, slackjawed, at the multitude of rainbows that seemed to be moving all around him, in unison.  The effect was almost psychedelic.

The screech almost brought the entire airport to a halt.  Guards rushed in, guns drawn and fingers on the trigger.  The airport staff had all but ducked under their respective desks.  Chocolate stared in wide eyed terror as he identified the source of the seemingly unending screech.  There they were – like a gaggle of geese – all yelling at the same time, trying to make their voice sound louder than the others’.  To his horror, he realized that all their fingers, however, were pointing in the same direction.  Towards him.  As the security guards turned around, Chocolate leapt off the conveyor belt and ran like he had never run in his life before.  He could hear people screaming all around him, he could hear bags toppling, high pitched voices that made the whole airport sound like an insane scene from one of the Die Hard movies.  Oh Yes !  Chocolate was a huge Die Hard fan, like the rest of his family.  The only person missing at the airport that day was Bruce Willis. That would have been just picture perfect, he thought to himself, as he ran all the way back to the resort.  Atleast people there would not be chasing him around with guns or screeching at him like chimpanzees in a frenzy, he pondered and sighed.

He had reached the familiar grounds of the resort and had rested a while in the shades of the trees as he watched the gardeners trim the bushes and clean the ponds.  He watched tiny little tadpoles being washed away in a stream of water and he watched the huge bumblebees looking for nectar in the abundant flowerbeds within the resort grounds.  Restlessness grabbed him soon and he stretched himself. 

He walked onto the busy road and soon found himself in the market place.  There was loads of food there as well.  He was busy gorging himself on the scraps of meat when he heard a low growl.  He looked around, his eyes little pools of liquid chocolate, now wide as saucers as he saw the huge alley cat cowering at him, hissing menacingly.  “Hey there Tom”  yelled Chocolate, a false sense of bravado taking over now.  “Waiting for Jerry, huh ?” he said and guffawed, only to find himself looking into a pair of sinister eyes that had turned into mean looking slits of bad intentions.  “Uh Oh” Chocolate thought to himself and decided that the flight response in this case was infinitely better than his rather non-existent fight response.  One dialogue that the elder sibling in his family often repeated, came to mind and Chocolate tried to sound all zen and said “I am a peace activist.  I mean no harm”.  That sinister ball of fur crouched and leapt towards Chocolate as he yelped and fled.  His head held high, he dashed through the aisles in the market.

Something landed in front of him with a huge thump, made his eyes smart and his nostrils twitch.  He saw chillies, a sea of chillies and he was right in the midst of it all.  He looked up just in time to see a humongous shop owner come after him with what looked like a very dangerous looking instrument.  “Coconut !!!!” she yelled.  She cut a rather imposing figure, this woman.  She was huge, with folds of her belly straining to hop out of the tight apron that she had squeezed herself into.  Her eyes were rather bloodshot and the jowls in her cheeks quivered as she moved like that of a Pit Bull Terrier.  She yelled one more time “Coconut !!!” and advanced towards him.  “Yikes !!!  Yo !  I’m not Coconut.  My name is Chocolate” he yelled but to no avail.  She kept coming towards him with the huge cleaver held high.  “Oh God ! She’s drunk” thought Chocolate in horror as he dashed across  into another aisle, this one wider than the previous one and darted out, a streak of brown and all of a sudden he felt icy cold.  He found himself dripping wet.  In all the confusion, he had managed to dart right into the legs of yet another fat man who had been carrying a whole basket load of fish.  Something was staring at him and he almost yelped out aloud when he saw that he was face to face with a shark.  It took a while for him to realize that it was a shark, but a dead one.  He shook his head to fling aside the octopus that had landed on his head and heard the man yelling this time.  The man looked like a beached whale, lying there as he yelled at someone to give him a hand and help him get up. 

Sensing that he was at the end of the market, Chocolate made a dash out of the market, reeking of fish and suddenly the world turned all colourful.  He was surrounded by colours.  “Oh !  Maybe the fat lady killed me and I’m in heaven” thought Chocolate, as he moved from a pink hue to a bright yellow one.  he felt himself being lifted as bright sunlight shone on his face and he realized that he was pretty much still on Earth.  He had run into a bikini which was about to be put up on a mannequin and much to his horror, he found himself stuck between what seemed like two little mountains on the mannequin.  His head stuck out, right in the middle.  “Egad !!  Boobies !!!” muttered Chocolate as he busied himself, trying to wiggle out of the top of the bikini.  There were tourists milling about and they were having a good laugh.  A little dog caught between the boobs on a mannequin !!!  yelled one of the badly sun-burnt tourists, as he reached for his camera. 

“Coconut” yelled someone and Chocolate looked around in horror as he saw the fat lady with the meat cleaver wobbling around in his direction.  Yelping and cursing, Chocolate wiggled for his life, trying to get himself out of the bikini and flopped onto solid ground.  He ran like he had never run before and heard thuds all around him.  “Yikes!!” he yelped.  “I am on a minefield”  he thought in horror as he remembered reading about minefields in one of the many books back home.  The thuds continued, each one louder than the earlier, as Chocolate zipped around, not wanting to be the first dog victim on an old minefield.  It took a whole plastic pot of spices on his head to realize that it was not a minefield but a whole cart full of spice pots.  In his mad rush, he had run right into the skirts of the lady selling the spice mixes.  She had freaked and hopped around like someone gone insane.  Her voluminous skirts had, in the process, wrapped themselves around the hapless Chocolate and the Spice Lady hopped around to rid herself of the thing in her skirt while Chocolate zipped and zoomed, trying to find a way out of what seemed like a never-ending sea of cloth. 

Once out of the folds of the cloth, Chocolate ran into an empty stall which seemed much safer than the insanity of the marketplace.  There were a couple there, busy chatting with each other and suddenly, they got up and left.  On the table, they had left behind a couple of glasses still half full of some colourful liquid.  It looked wonderful, with condensation dripping from the icy drinks.  Seemed like a mannah from heaven – those icy drinks in the hot weather that had completely parched his throat.  Since there was no one around, Chocolate stuck his mouth into the glass and lapped up the icy drink.  It did taste weird but it was icy cool.  By the time he had finished the liquid in both glasses, the world was beginning to spin around him.  He felt good !!!!  He was in a mighty happy place !!!

His head still felt woozy and he was sure he had a goofy grin plastered on his face.  The grin that had just come on by itself just refused to go away, no matter what.  The last thing he remembered was two tall glasses of icy drinks. 

He was still grinning when he heard the all too familiar, loud “Hallo” … the voice seemed to float towards him from high up above, as did the owner of the voice.  She sounded very familiar and the voice was comforting and cheerful.  He felt himself being picked up and being embraced by what felt like a very safe pair of hands. 

He awoke to a faint buzzing sound the next morning.  “It’s a bee” thought Chocolate as he flapped his paws around.  “Funny !” he thought to himself, “the bee seems to be inside my head”.  He shook his head a couple of times but the bee just wouldn’t go away.  “Hallo” floated the same voice again and Chocolate opened his eyes, only to find himself staring at a pair of legs.  He looked up, squinting against the brightness of the sunlight and recognized the owner of the voice.  The cheerful lady who cooked eggs at breakfast.  The ever smiling lady who always seemed to be in a happy, cheerful place was now patting his head and stroking his fur.  Someone in the restaurant brought him a bowl of milk which he lapped up gratefully.

“You were missed and your family has been looking for you” said another voice.  This voice sounded much less warm and Chocolate paused and looked up.  He recognized the bald manager, the same manager who Chocolate had often seen around the resort.  He remembered seeing the manager, many a times, hopping around the resort like a headless chicken and Chocolate had always found him an incessant source of amusement, for, not only was the manager confused most of the time, he was quite adept at perplexing the staff to such an extent that some of them seemed to have perpetually bewildered looks on their faces, every time they were with the Manager.  By the time Chocolate looked up again, the manager had disappeared, presumably to go shopping for crabs or some such.  He just had to do everything himself.  “What a control freak” thought Chocolate morosely, as he thought about his family.  He missed them and wanted to be back home. He missed the insanity and the lunacy that was omnipresent in all members of the family.

Enough of my adventures, thought Chocolate.  It was fun but like we say at home – "Too much of anything is good for nothing” he thought to himself.  He longed to be back home, he yearned to hear familiar voices, he craved to hear the kids’ voices, even though, more often than not, they bickered with each other and were constantly at each others’ throats.  He missed all of that and much more.  He felt acutely homesick.

“Do you want to go back home ?”  asked a voice.  It was a soft voice.  He looked up and found himself staring into the warm eyes of the young girl he had often found in the Reception Desk of the resort.  “We will send you back home, to your family” she said, as she patted his head.  

They made sure Chocolate was comfortable and he had a very cushy ride back home.  He slept through most of it and woke up to an excited chatter of voices.  He opened his eyes, slowly, not quite believing what he was seeing.  Familiar faces, familiar voices, familiar walls …. everything was recognizable.  It was the proverbially insane household and he was back in it.  Yes, they were insane people and it was a mad family but he had missed them …. badly.  

Simply put, it felt immensely good to be back home. Woof Woof !!

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