Less than a year ago, he had stood on the doorstep of this new clinic, staring with trepidation at his own nameplate nailed to the wall. In bright blue, it read ‘Dr. Sunil Varma, M.V.Sc. Consultant Veterinarian’. From early boyhood he had always wanted to be a vet and had worked strenuously to become one, specializing in canines. He had pored over job openings and after debate and much daring, decided to venture solo. He assessed locales showing potential for career growth, choosing Ooty, a hill-station in the Nilgiris Blue Mountain ranges of south India; Teeming with retired army officers and tea-planters, every one of them rich enough to afford pedigree dogs and lonely enough to need more than one of them for companionship.
His clientele grew, partly because he happened to be the only Cyanologist around, but also because he was good at work. Soon, his bank-balance had him splurge on a swanky car and rent a quaint ‘tucked-in-mists’ cottage.
One late icy evening, as Dr. Sunil was shutting for the day, he spotted a pretty-as-a-picture young lady, agitatedly rush in.
‘Please, please, Dr. Sunil Varma, can you do something for Tarzan?’
Though Sunil was a trim, healthy, handsome, five foot ten macho male with ‘lady-killer’ looks, he had always held his hormones in rein: His stoic bachelor-hood was dictated, in part, by an upbringing where middle-class morality was integral, and partly, that he wanted building a career as prelude to romance or matrimony ? yet, this girl, now in his chamber with a tiny puppy in her hands, churned his insides. A tsunami of hormones had Sunil’s cheeks burning, heart palpitating and thighs quivering. Boy! She was class – petite with pageboy do, a bang of locks tumbling over her forehead. The saucer-like eyes, accentuated an impishly innocent paedomorphic persona. Much of what she said, between sobs, Sunil didn’t comprehend, wholly due to the proximity of her distracting attractiveness.
But vet needs preambles; he needs symptoms and signs: It took him two minutes to shake his head. The three-week old puppy, Tarzan, was a mess: it had a sinking heart, dying pulse and bloated belly – volvulus.
A paroxysm of shrill sobs rent the room and cataracts of tears brimmed over her big back eyes. Between sniffs and sighs and shuddering shoulders, she spluttered.
‘Boohoo, can’t you do anything doc? Please, I love Tarzan’?
He didn’t reply. Tarzan’s brief existence was over?..the pup lay limp and lifeless.
‘There, there, madam’, he said, ‘wipe yourself’, handing her a wad of surgical cotton.
She dabbed her eyes and nose, back turned her to him, embarrassed by the intensity of her emotions. Sunil felt an overpowering urge to hold her close and soothe her searing ache. Ethics, professional ethics?something inside him whispered and he tucked his hands into the safe confines of his white coat’s spacious pockets.
…He was the very army chap who had given him the pup, Jane. Sunil’s knees, this time they didn’t quiver….
‘Fees?’ she asks, digging into her handbag.
‘Nothing?..I never charge for patients I don’t serve or save’.
‘Thank you Dr. Varma’, her voice tinkled as it regained its composure and control. ‘I’ll miss Tarzan terribly??. I need a favor?if you chance upon a pup as adorable as my Tarzan, puleeeeze promise you’ll call me’
She hastily scribbled her cell number on a blank page of his prescription pad, then turned and left, wrapping herself in a shawl, walking off into the chill of night, cradling a lifeless bundle in her arms.
He couldn’t sleep: he tossed and turned all night, the hauntingly beautiful face appearing and reappearing in his mind’s ken. Was she real? Had he ‘fallen in love’ with one he had spent less than ten minutes with? Can anyone flip for someone this fast, this totally? Yes, yes ?his heart thudded.
Arriving at his clinic the next morning, he was surprised to see someone already waiting. No sooner had he stepped in, when the fifty-five something army-type personality walked in, sat down ramrod stiff and in a clipped voice addressed Sunil in a no-nonsense way.
‘Dr. Varma, first promise you will not say no?’
Sunil hedged, but caller continued, ‘You see I have this just-weaned puppy which refuses to eat or suckle. I made an error of judgment, buying it at the Kennel Club show last week: Now, I have a starving pup and as bad luck would have it, I’ve been ordered to a review meeting of the ordnance committee at our Wellingdon headquarters. A bloody mess!! Snafu – as we army call it. Two full days, out of station’
‘So?’ Sunil butted, ‘where do I come in?’
‘Well doctor, I must leave the pup with you. You vet chaps know how to feed it’ and then, he added, looking at the open window behind Sunil, ‘find it a loving new gentle owner?someone who loves dogs as much we both do’.
Without waiting for him to respond, the visitor clapped his palms to have a uniformed batman trot in with a hamper. Tucked inside was the most lively and lovable mutt Sunil had ever seen: It fair leapt out of its confines as he reached for it and slurped its little red tongue all over his neck and cheek. If ever there was a canid personification of Dennis the menace, it had to be this beady-eyed ball of fur.
‘Right doctor’, the visitor says, and without as much as a thank you (or sorry) clicks his heels and marches out of his clinic, batman tagging, but not before pronouncing,
‘Doc, my bridge partners tell me you are an eligible bachelor with much free time on your hands and much love to share??so you’re just the person to care for an orphaned puppy? Maybe you should drop in at one of our regimental ball sometime: you will bump into some gushing mem-sahibs, their nubile daughters in tow, hunting for matches and catches?..hahaha’
Excuse me!! Sunil screamed: but none was around to hear. Bah!! The gall, cheek, sauce and sass of the typically impudent military kind, barking orders before vanishing from the frontlines. Damn! Sunil muttered, banging his fist. The pup, squatting beside his chair, a puddle of mutt juice spreading under it, frenetically stirred its ridiculously tiny tail. Sunil melted: this fellow was adorable. He picked up the shivering animal, feeling a tremor course over its warm fur. Strange world! Just last evening, was a damsel weeping over loss of her pet and today, a dastard, who without the bat of an eyelid, was dying to palm off his. It takes all kinds!
Hey! Hold it!!! That weeping willow! She wanted a pup, didn’t she? Sunil heard his heart’s whisper: Go for it man?.maybe the loss of one pup and the finding of another, was meant to be. The recent events, so like coincidences, were but games designed by the One above, far above. He took a deep breath, mumbled a prayer and punched the ten digit number he had already memorized and as his adrenaline-suffused arteries frenetically pulsed and pulsated, heard her dulcet voice.
‘Er? uh?.um?this is me, Dr. Sunil Varma, the vet??you, yesterday?’
‘Yep, that was me alright, doctor, I’m so sorry for my dramatics. I meant to call you yesterday itself, but was a wee worried I’d burst out weeping, all over again. So, Dr. Sunil Varma, what’s up?
‘Actually Miss Tanya, I’ve some cheering news. I’ve got an absolutely lovable pup, a four-week old Cocker Spaniel that someone wants me to give away to any genuine dog lover, so’?..
‘A Cocker Spaniel? Four weeks?’
‘I know all this sounds contrived, these coincidences’?.
‘Dr. Varma, I’ll be there in ten minutes’
‘No, Tanya (note, how he dropped the ‘Miss’ this time) I must first de-worm, give some shots for distemper and anti-rabies. Everything should be ready by evening’
‘Evening? Oh no!! Sunil Varma’ (she dropped the ‘doc’ bit this time) ?. ‘evening sounds so far away’?.
‘Aw! Come on, its just a few hours more: I have some grocery shopping and need to be back to cook myself supper, so enroute I’ll drop by at your place, if you don’t mind, and hand the pup over. Now, your address please? (Sunil prayed she’d understand the what the loaded statement, ‘cook myself supper’ meant).
‘Thank you Sunil (note, she dropped the ‘Varma’ part this time), you’re chuch a chweetie, shopping and cooking too! All by yourself?Phew! Quite a drag eh, this being single?’
‘You bet it is!’?
Sunil chuckled internally. The chemistry was working, and catalysts as always, hastened chemical reactions. He scribbled the house address Tanya gave – and started counting time in seconds, to twilight and the tryst.
By seven, Sunil found himself racing in his car: the frisky Cocker Spaniel in a wicker basket beside him. In ten minutes he located her bungalow, the cherry blossom tree she’d described as landmark, was in full bloom and glory as he entered the gate. He stood at the door, gingerly extending his knuckle to knock, when as if in anticipation, it opened. Before him, radiant, coy and smiling was Tanya; Once again, Sunil’s knees shivered and throat dried.
‘Hi Sunny, come in, come right in!!!'(Sunny? From Dr. Sunil Varma to plain Sunil Varma to simply Sunil to back-slap friendly Sunny – all in under one day! Cupid was afoot and apace).
‘First things first’, he said, tremulously holding out the basket for her, ‘here, this is yours!’
The pup squirmed out and stretched itself up on tiny quivering hind legs as she knelt down, to lick her face with gusto.
‘Cho koochie-koo’, what’s his name?’
‘Tanya, it’s a she! We could name her Jane, like in – Me Tarzan, you Jane’!!! (note the ‘we’ instead of ‘you’!)
She smiled impishly, teeth sparkling and dimples deepening.
‘Sounds cool – Jane’, she responded, pressing the furry bundle to her bosom and planting a peck on its wet pink nose. (Oops! Sunil, keep those knees steady)
Protracted goodbyes over, Sunil rose reluctantly, to leave.
‘Hey Su, wait: you must meet papa before you go’ (Su? His heart thumped)
‘Dad, daaddy?come down, I want you to meet our vet Dr. Sunil Varma'(did she say ‘our’ vet?), he’s gifted me a new pup!
Coming down the stairway, palm extended was a stiff-gaited graying man.
‘Hullo doc! Was expecting you earlier?’
Tanya stared mouth agape. Sunil felt faint. He was the very army chap who had given him the pup, Jane. Sunil’s knees, this time they didn’t quiver, they knocked.
‘I knew you’d come?military mind, strategic planning’, hahaha’ daddy guffawed, tapping his temple and slapping his thigh in mirth.
Over the four-course supper served by the batman who wore a sheepish ‘I knew it’ grin right through, the Brigadier, between sips of rum-soda and ribald non-vegetarian jokes, chuckled as he recounted with relish, how he had discovered Tanya though upset, had flipped for the young vet and how he had deviously engineered the abandoned Cocker Spaniel pup episode.
All in all, the ending was worth the drama, they all agreed. Alls fair in love and war, proclaimed the brigadier as he rolled his eyes upwards,
‘If only Tanya’s mother were here,’ he sighed, stifling a sob.
The wedding itself was simple, a ‘sign-on-the-dotted-line’ affair at Registrar of Marriages at Coonoor, but the Regimental Mess reception was something else. Half of the Blue Mountain populace was in attendance. Present too, were mem-sahibs, molars grinding in envy, nubile daughters in tow, still a-hunt for matches and catches!!!
Dr. Sunil Varma has come a long way since that night. Beside him, as he drives, is pretty Mrs. Varma, nee Singh. Tanya Singh. On the rear seat is Jane, chin perched on the car’s window, long ears flapping in the wind.
‘Sunil?!! What if I told you there is going to an addition to our domestic population eh?
‘What the..? Aha! Jane!! You naughty girl’, Sunil turned around, patting the pet’s head.
‘Sooneel’ Tanya whispered, leaning over as she moved his palm from Jane’s head to hold it down her own belly ‘It isn’t Jane’?..
Author: Dr. Arunachalam Kumar- India