It happened over two years ago, when I ran into Bhairon on a hot summer afternoon in Kullu. If ever there was a “no-strings-attached” friendship, this was it!
As I was coming out of the parking lot in Akhara Bazar, I saw a dog sitting on an auto driver’s seat; all cuddled up. I spontaneously extended my hand to pat him. One stern look from him and I knew this was not the cringing type who would like to be patted by all and sundry. But pat him I did. The auto driver also snoozing in the back seat barely opened his eyes to caution me that though Bhairon is generally harmless yet he does not like to be disturbed during a siesta. Quite a name for a stray dog I thought; Bhairon; straight out of mythology1. I saw him again, a couple of times, in the same place apparently enjoying his siesta. I called out “Bhairon”, “Bhairon” and patted him a little but drew no response; not even a stare or a symbolic wag of the tail. Heartless fellow!
One day, while buying vegetables near the Kullu college gate, I was surprised by a firm nudge on my leg and quickly turned around to see Bhairon, wagging his tail ever so slightly and looking up to me with his soulful eyes, perhaps expecting a pat. This time he let me pat him quite a bit and expressed his pleasure by swifter, more vigorous wags of his tail and uttering some ‘missed you’ sounds. Soon, however, his attention was distracted by another dog (or was it a bitch) and off he sped, not to be seen again for months.
I had nearly forgotten about Bhairon, when one evening I noticed a dog running after my car. I slowed down and saw that it was Bhairon. Before I could get out of the car, Bhairon had jumped inside through the open window and was all over me. “Where the hell have you been?” he seemed to convey through the loud, weird sounds that come from a dog when the tail wags him or was he saying “I didn’t know you had a car?” After a while he was quieter, but refused to get off. “Let’s see your house”; and so Bhairon invited himself to my place. A colleague who was also in the car at that time, couldn’t stop laughing. It was not clear whether she was laughing at me or at the dog or both. Bhairon had a hearty meal, slept if off till nearly noon the next day and promptly disappeared.
This jumping into the car and inviting himself over, happened a couple of times more. Till Bhairon learnt the way to my house which is over 3 to 4 kilometers from his usual haunts. It appears that Bhairon is kind of used to a fast paced life among the many dark alley strays that freely roam our towns. Yet he is different, and clearly more intelligent. His turning up at my place to have a hot meal so to say and sleep out the hangover has become by now a fortnightly feature. The visitors’ chair in our small office is his favorite sleeping point. He hops on presumptuously and does a few roll-overs before settling for a good nap.
Once, Bhairon hitched a ride with me to Manali. It looked like his maiden trip for he kept looking out of the window as if soaking in the spectacular scenery. Not unexpectedly, on reaching Manali, he promptly disappeared. On returning to the parking lot, the watchman informed me that the dog came once or twice and waited for a while beside the car before vanishing again. All attempts to track him down were in vain. I returned, disheartened and slightly worried. After 3 or 4 days, I saw him doing the rounds in his regular college gate haunt. Satisfied that he is back, I did not bother him.
Bhairon apparently got hooked to travel by the Manali trip. He would now attend marriages and other functions at homes of my office colleagues even in far flung villages, stay with them a couple of days and generally want to accompany me on my field visits whenever he saw my car on the road. He seemed to be purposefully expanding his circle of friends; not that he is any less networked in Kullu town!
If one were walking with him in Kullu’s Akhara bazaar, one would be surprised to see how popular he is with taxi and autowallas there. Many a auto-wallah call out to him, make space beside them and in a jiffy Bhairon is there, next to the driver gleefully hitching a ride, one paw on the steering, tongue out. Which direction doesn’t seem to bother him, for get back he will, sooner than later. Reminds me of that old number, “Bimbo, Bimbo, where you gonna go you,….”
I sometimes wonder whether Bhairon would have been Bhairon, had he been brought up as a regular pet? Most unlikely! While millions of strays are condemned to lead sub-dog lives, Bhairon has shown that even strays can choose un-trodden paths and originality; be liked and respected.
Bhairom is worshipped both by Yogis and Saktas. He has eight to twelve forms but is best known as Kal (black) Bhairom. Particularly in north India he is represented with a dog;…..Again, Bhairom carries a club and a black bottle (not dark Bacardi!) and is accompanied by a black dog or rides on a dog. When he uses a dog as a vehicle he is called Svasva (‘He whom the dog serves as a horse’). Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis by George Weston Briggs; Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 01-Jan-2001