Short story – “Lady With The Dog”

This was not the first time I saw her. Almost everyday, same time and almost at same place, we use to cross each other.

The jogging park – a place that means different things to different people. I am not a fitness freak. Neither I crave for socializing at public places. But somehow I like taking a morning walk much before start of bustling of mad city crowd.
I ensure not to be friendly with anyone while I perform my chore pretty religiously. This is my private space of time. Time to dwell on life and to think about the unfathomable depths of my own mind!

First time I saw her, she was taking her dog for walk. It was misty morning in late July. Rainy season poses a great deal of problem for all hounds. It wipes out their identification marks, leaving them utterly confused. Much like a metropolitan huber middle class people!! Identity crisis…. Not finding anything to cling… sigh.
The lady was having hard time controlling the puppy. She must be in her early thirties with kinky body and stern looks. With no trace of any hurry, she was trying to guide her doggy on the main pathway of park. I was vaguely observing their theatrical actions. When owner & pet almost collided with me, I had to give up my meditative state.
“Watch out”, I thundered, appearing as ruthless as I can.
“This stupid animal is going to put me in real danger some day” she said without having even a slight sign of repentance.
I chose not to extend the conversation.
She wasn’t interested in wasting time with nonchalant stranger either!

***********
Winter comes with ravishing new hopes in otherwise dull life.
With a steep drop in temperature, usually there is sizable reduction in Jogging Park visitors.
The reduced count, however, posed me much needed seclusion.
That day I entered the garden with both my palms snugly tucked inside overcoat.
After customary warm-up, I decided to hit the road – not before spotting her dog after so many days.
“She must be there around… Cranky lady”, I murmured myself.
First dense layer of fog resided & there was she. Helplessly running after her pet!
I paused for a moment and gave a smile.
“The beast is giving you a hard time, isn’t it?” my voice was sans any courtesy that was very much needed for breaking the ice.
She somehow acknowledged my intent and stopped for while.
“Yeah… yeah…” was the too pre-meditated response from purple clad woman “He is becoming more and more insane!”
I hate owners when they started talking about their pets as if they are speaking of any family members. But the magnetic modulation of her voice was enough to mellow my heart.
“You seem to be very irregular here”. I pinpointed.
“Yess… My work and other things. He suffers. Doesn’t get to come here.” She pointed to her dog who was waiting for our small talk to end.
“Yeah. I don’t remember when I saw both of you last time.” I brought a philosophical expression on my face.
“Do you keep eye on who come here?” She asked while laughing naughtily.
“Only if the subject is amusing”.
There was 3 stage transformation occurred in her facial expression. It travelled from shyness to anxiety. I must say, she looked atleast 10 years younger when she did that.
“What about you? You look like a life member of this facility!” It was her turn to interrogate now.
“Free Will. I chose to come as and when my mind orders. And I have lot of time to do so.” I had swallowed the word “Unlike Yours” painstakingly.
“Great.. Lucky guy.”
“Free will. Just exercising it.”
“Good for you. ‘Lear’ always has a craving to paint the town red. This is the place where I let him off somewhat”.
Got it. Lear – the German Shepherd – was the reason for this lady to grace this park with her presence. Ahem.. Ahem…

However I hated to do so, I started walking by her side when the lady was busy controlling Lear from troubling others.
“Lear is unlike other dogs. He loves & cares so much.” This was the typical sentence I must have heard almost 1000 times from owners of all kinds of pets. Mothers and pet-owners never see any fault in their possessions. Pardon them, I was busy in noticing the elegance and grace the lady was bestowed with!

“So what do you do for earning?”
“umm… I am a freelance Business Analyst. ERP solutions. Something to do with corporate softwares & strategy formations. ” I was looking for threshold between being elaborative & boring. She seems to have connected it properly.
“Great. Must be a white-collared, fat paycheck thing.”
“Depends. I don’t chase after lots of money. I take up assignments only when they are intellectually challenging enough.”
It may have sounded a cliché but I had to say that.

We paused under the only Banyan tree in vicinity. Lear didn’t agree to the idea to rest like a Lazy shopkeeper on summer afternoon. He was animated and loud.
“Sejal. And they sometimes call me Seju.”
The beauty finally gave away a neckbelt that was preventing Lear from running berserk.
Lear was happy to jump and roll on velvet grass.
Sejal looked at me with subtle grin. I was in no mood to appreciate or to talk about frenzy actions he was displaying.
“So… What’s the thing about you?” I carefully constructed my question without appearing too forthcoming.
“Huhh… Nothing. Do you want me to divulge too much to a person whom I have just met?” came point blank question.
“Free will.” I shrugged.
Moment or two passed in utter silence. Lear had started biting the empty Mcdonald thick shake tin.
I turned to her and said, “You are what you are looking for !!”
…(To Be Continued)