Tag Archives: Writing by OCs

2020 Christmas Letter / Vivek Bhasin

I managed to climb on top of the highest mountain..
the last married pair of swans
one-white one-black
come swinging in from the north; just swooshing past me
I bloody well jump…
just managed
to land on the black
this graceful elegance..
in flight heading south.
I held on to my pants more than his long neck..
Lo and behold I slipped away like a  well untrained skydiver knowing pretty damn well
I was going to fall
with arms flaying
clutching nothingness
my legs dangling
my eyes popping
my hair dishevelled a mess.

….myriad scenes flashed
some laughter
a few solid drives
immaculate chips
a fine line putt
longing desperation
deep blue lakes
sitting on the beach chair
under the rush of fir trees
drinking caffe
med cinnamon rolls…
yet my mind zig-zagged
never stopped..
I talking to my self
forced to anchor
engines on turning gear
this year.

In case June was the moon
yet not t’was too soon
come August this must be now
yet my bag stayed zipped
forlorn vacant with slow desire
September Simla not just yet
November cold dark yet fresh
inhale moss breath
kantarell yellow still sprout
surprise surprise yet annoying wild to the bone smug too
one slow car meanders..
slim long legged lass
on a two wheeler
following the footsteps of Cézanne
her cloth clutch
followed her following to the
Sunday market Provence
Lavender sabon
Butter croissants..

Just leave your dreams…
Yes I just left…

…Gasping for breath
inhale exhale I find my fall
turned to glide
I soar high’n higher
settled stable
increased speed I catch
the jet stream on my tail
a smooth ride..
adjusting my arms
straightening my legs
my hair now slicked
my Sunday suit and I
and stolen polish black shoes..

..and then slow descend
graceful swan am I?

I perch at the Main Gate
The Mitre, The Crest and all else is there..
I now remember
dark nights bright lights
our month
First December…
the sun nearly set
at Tara Devi’s height
The Good Shepherd gently fades into the night.

I’ll just hunker down inside the bare opening
of that great chestnut tree
and think back
on this year that’s been.
No no .. no sarcasm..
no tantrums ..
no frustration..
but squeezed juices of patience.

Sometimes even nothing
makes sense
is relaxing for the brain until
we shall .. hence.

Christmas is confusing
family togetherness
going home
coming to you
logs and chimneys
Mulled Vino with almonds raisins
table fares are individualistic
Candles and Stars
will Santa Claus arrive
will the Three Kings divide?
Is it just this time
we will stay away
just today even tomorrow
like lambs bleating astray?

Yet I still stretch my limbs
and stand tall…
soon December’s fall
will end it all..
will we stay confused
like that lady who nearly socked me, keep distance she screams ..
nor dare otherwise
others many
like the owl wise
and deep ravines
a sudden hidden troll
the new way
under branches fall?

I will sit cuddled in that nook of the tree and kill my thoughts
speak what sits on my lips…
this year’s camera of my eyes
recording slow motion..

Let the quietude
comfort you
Let us take our time
I tell you what
I pray to end upheaval corruption cloak and dagger selfishness
greedy land grabbers..
less jumble in the brain..
and pray the deep green forest approaching the Main Gate
always remains.

A Peaceful Christmas..
strain your ears to pick up orchestral melodies of the next year.. it better be better than 2020’s propellor wash ..

Vivek ( Bonnie ) Bhasin
Christmas 2020
Wishing Swans
those graceful wings
The Wide Winged Albatross
that cast her shadow over me
as I sailed through
The Straits of Magellan;
…my canopy.

Kindest Regards and Best Wishes,

Bonnie/Vivek Bhasin

John Long Gone Moved On..


flying back
I glided in..
soft landing in the courtyard
amongst my brooding friends..
We all ..
Birds of one feather .. the pigeons and I
the only grey..
walking amongst the lot.
I find my way amongst the
to where he was sitting ..
every morning..
‘Fore sun up
he was there …
perched on a rickety wooden chair
staring at nothingness
blowing smoke rings
up towards the heavens..
he never smiled nor sang two words
and hardly looked at us wings..
Just quietly sitting and forming rings …
as we arrived in droves..
a few stray hounds,
and three wild cats..
even a lonely mongoose
were there…
Our congregation swarmed towards him
not sure why..
‘Cause he never fed us seeds
nor crumbs nor morsels..
yet we looked at him..
and I coo’d ..my grey reputation.

But today … the chair was there .
But he not..
But why..? But where ?
But still did he need his part of the share ?

…Only the strum of guitar
…then a distant song..
If I was a carpenter…
A beautiful song …

I now sit on another perch
and wonder about that beautiful song ..
And where is John..?
Long Gone …

Bonnie Bhasin
On Robert Plant &
John Whitmarsh Knight
15 Nov 2020

That Green Hamam soap vs Head & Shoulders shampoo…

Every couple of days I wrote on a little slip.. Hamam Soap, Forhans Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish, Boff and Face Vaseline.. handed the chit to Lefroy House Master Mr ( Baku) Malvea to sign off at inspection; then headed to the store room that lay adjacent to the Garam Pani Kamra to get my supplies (that for some reason dwindled to nothing, zilch  in less than three days …).The deal with buddies was to loan boff measured as two bed lengths with an I.O.U to get the similar length back when mine was over ..😁

Back to the Pani wallah emerging from that blackened room stacked with koila (coal) for heating, this hard core khadu, resembling a chimney sweep hauling two steel buckets of steaming hot water hanging from a wide shoulder bow; staggering with the weight, bow legged he walked slowly towards the Master’s residences….Hot water for them… frikin ice water in the showers for us rascals( no sprinkler rose on the shower  – who the fcuk broke-it-stole it ?) just a bleedin pipe spurting water…hard cold water doused us POWs that definitely toughened us, and that bloody awful Hamam soap*.. the only respect I had for that bar was‘cause it was a shade lighter than Lefroy Green..!

I guess Hamam soap started this one …

In Command of the Ro-Ro / Container vessel MV CARTAGENA I sailed out one fine summer evening from the Port of Cartagena Colombia ( God! I love that country ;my vessel was named after that very cool city .. the folk, the cuisine, the salsa and merengue clubs, the naughty boys and girls…. every two weeks Cartagena was one of my ports of call…..).

But now I was heading north towards Jacksonville, Florida With a near full container load of cavendish Bananas and a few containers of frozen shrimp for US markets.

The voyage was approximately 1400 nautical miles and at a moderate speed of 15 knots it would take me 94 hrs to cover the distance; my intended route was to skirt the western edge of Cuba, take advantage of the strong Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current heading north along the US East Coast; off North Carolina it sweeps right heading transatlantic in an easterly direction to the UK keeping that Island’s climate pretty mild compared to the European Continent and Scandinavia.

Hence my route with the help of the strong Gulf Stream passing Cuba pushed the ship’s speed upto 19 knots; for the Chief Engineer a negative slip ((advantageous)) meant less strain on the engine, increased distance on same fuel consumption. 

My crew was Filipino, thorough professional seaman, short in stature but hard core, taking everything in their stride. They were dedicated, faithful and I respected them. They were happy go lucky souls in spite of being on board, away from home for months on end sending every cent ( well nearly every cent! )back home. The boys worked hard and when dashing ashore partied hard with their meagre balances ! Colombia was their beat and they enjoyed the booze, mariscos, the night clubs, the beaches and the mermaids ..!

I had warned them, read them the riot act, even put the fear of God in them to the dangers of greed… Colombia was known for the “white stuff” and cheaply available, but if caught with the stuff  in the US, penalties and punishments were severe and extremely expensive. A wrong step could jeopardise careers, lives and even the shipping business of the company. The boys understood and stayed clear of the trouble spots, dark alleys of the ports of Santa Marta and Cartagena but having a good time on tierra firma before clambering up the gangway for another day of blood sweat and tears.. I loved my crew; respected them and they reciprocated.

Two days into the voyage and still navigating the Caribbean, approaching Cuba, alarm bells sounding just after breakfast, I rushed up to the Bridge to confront the Third Officer to query the alarm. Switching on my walkie-talkie I called the Chief Officer who was on deck; he reporting a huge hulk of a being was seen in no:1 hold by some crew members who were doing maintenance to the cooling water systems.

They hit the alarm button.

Six crew members including Rudy Bocala the Boatswain went into the hatch and after a massive struggle managed to shackle the hulk, twice the crew’s height, and pulled him up on deck. It took more of a Herculean effort to haul him up to the Bridge where I was….struggling ..he was very tall, muscular and looked like one of those wild and demented boxers who gamblers bet on in a snake pit.

A Colombian Stowaway!! 

Goodness Grief. Besides Drugs, desperate folk from South and Central America were always trying to smuggle illegally on board ships bound for the USA( right to a land of milk, honey and the Big Bucks; a better life). Once discovered the Master had myriad obligations, stress and more to inform US Immigration, US Customs & Excise ( after 9/11 now renamed the Department of Homeland Security), ship’s agent, vessel owners, charters and ship managers at the next port, of a stowaway on board, sending maximum details, photos, finger prints, copies of any papers in possession; often they board with no papers to make Ship Captain’s lives more miserable; many apply for political asylum and do not reveal their identities nor nationalities and stuff attempting political asylum and some get to remain on board a vessel for years as no country accepts them without solid proof of their nationality (on an earlier vessel also bound for the US, we discovered fifteen stowaways on departing Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; these sorry souls had been stuffed inside a container on chassis loaded with pineapples.  The electrical containers were plugged on at departure and cooling of the pineapples commenced at 13 C. The blighters, including a pregnant woman started shivering and started jumping out from a hole under the container.. that’s another story..and an earlier one where my entire Chinese crew jumped ship in New York and vaporised into Chinatown …)

…So I got on the job… pretty upset, as we had carried out a thorough stowaway and drug search with Colombian Police, sniffer dogs and even underwater divers prior departing Cartagena after all shore side stevedores and other personnel had disembarked; nothing  found!. .. and now this dude !! Bringing an illegal alien(s) into the US calls for heavy fines imposed on to the carrier, penalties on the crew, not to mention delays in cargo handling and more additional costs to fly these critters back to their homeland with US Marshals.

Questioning this hulk : Fernando Luis Sagrada Xavier was the bugger’s name.He had a Colombian passport and also! Yes also!! a valid US driver’s licence, a New York Yellow Cab medallion! He had photos of a gorgeous looking woman, his American girlfriend he said and a stash of around two thousand American dollars in his torn jeans. Meaning he had been living and working illegally in the US, had been caught by immigration and deported earlier, which he admitted to, and was now making MY life miserable by trying to enter the US again ..O N    M Y    S H I P ! 

I was enraged but maintained an outward cool expression, knowing if we unshackled /un cuffed him he could probably throw us all overboard to the sharks and hijack my ship.

Diplomacy was key here…..The man smelt like a skunk, was tired and hungry, AND angry too for having being caught. He spoke pretty good English with an American accent ..” Hey Skipper” he tells me …” please let’s just do each a favour Sir… I will behave, won’t riot, no revolt; you can lock me up in a cabin. All I ask is as per rules for stowaways….Head and Shoulders shampoo, a perfumed bar of soap, your best deodorant, a clean set of clothes and a full roast chicken with loads of potatoes, a few cans of Miller Beer and clean bed to sleep in. And use of some 10 kg dumbbells to keep fit. Once you arrive Jacksonville, after the Immigration and Customs leave the ship stamping your passports, cargo commences with the arrival of shore stevedores, look the other way..I will just walk down the ramp and disappear into the cacophony of America. In that way life would be cool, no hassles,no stress,no big fines Capi!”…. looking at me .. “and you will never see me again ..so just look away …what’d ya say Capitan?”.

I must admit for a brief second I felt tempted but as Master in Command I had to play by the rules. There was no way I would succumb to the schemes of Señor Sagrada Xavier.. I had to do what I had to do. And did just that ..

“Now listen carefully Fernando; I  cannot accept anything you say when it comes to you slipping away into America’s heartland.. you have been discovered and you have to be documented, reported and are to be returned to Colombia. In fact I will have to keep you on board for the next twelve days until we return to Cartagena as my company will need to save the expense of you flying back to your country with two armed US Marshals with a return ticket and all other expenses. So no tricks, no pressure; I will provide you your comforts, Head and Shoulders shampoo and French Lavender soap, ( I wish I had Hamam in my dry stores to give this guy…)my Gillette MAC 3 razor, a spanking new toothbrush, a boiler suit / overalls as your size is only available in the Big & Large stores in the US; we have no size on board that will fit you, great food, sorry no booze. You have the freedom to roam the vessel, but any smart moves and you’re locked up in the paint store..all luxuries over, finito.. Is that understood ? Comprende?”.

The man was not happy with a perplexed expression, his silent words emanating something like “Capitan I’m doing you a great favour.. no hassles, no great fines, it ain’t no big deal”. “Sorry olé’chap” I conveyed in telepathy to him; “be grateful we are the humane type. Some other crew may have shackled you heavier and sent you to Davy Jones Locker ( they want no hassles, they take no prisoners ..and mums the word”.

Two days later we docked at Jacksonville.. I had no option but to lock up Fernando Xavier in a cabin. An armed US marshal was posted right outside in the alleyway; all fines and expenses had to be paid for bringing in an illegal alien into the USA. I had to sign an undertaking accepting full responsibility and consequences if Xavier escaped and I was committed to return him to Colombia. Of course the local newspaper Florida Times arrived, so did the Port Chaplain to Bless my crew ( and the stowaway ..) and even Amnesty International wishing to investigate if Fernando was being treated humanely.. ! I

mean Head & Shoulders, Lavender Soap and even Chicken Tikka Masala.. the same grub we all ate on board.

That was the story of the Colombian stowaway.. we kept him secure in ports and let him free to roam the ship when out at sea though keeping a sharp tab on him; although he made it to America he only saw the country from my ship and surely felt forlorn, dejected but on the other hand he had calmed down and behaved himself … my orders were to first call the Port of Santa Marta in Colombia and then Cartagena where he boarded, and where I was to disembark him. But this time the hulk reduced the length of my stress. He pleaded if he could get off earlier at Santa Marta and not Cartagena two days later “as Cartagena Cops and I go a long way” he said, “ I can dodge my way out from Santa Marta cops..”.

The Colombian authorities agreed I could release him in Santa Marta and the local Harbour Police would be on board.

We docked at Santa Marta around 1100 hrs; after immigration and customs formalities, the hulk was handed over to the local police. Before leaving he was escorted up to my office where I handed him all his personal effects. .. looking at me ..” Thank you for your hospitality Capitan” … no no there was no sarcasm in his tone … “ you take care Fernando, and please don’t try to snuggle yourself back on to my ship” I said… he smiled and handed me a crumpled note and turned away with the Colombian harbour police. 

As he was led down the ramp, I saw the cops having a brief chat with him and then let him go… he looked back at the Bridge where I was standing; he stopped, smiled and freely walked out of the gate… just as he wanted to do in Jacksonville USA..( some crew members reported whilst ashore in Santa Marta they saw him in a bar have a cerveza Cristal, the local beer..waiting to jump on to another US bound ship…I assume.

That’s the last I ever saw of Fernando Luis Sagrada Xavier…. I was trading on that route for the next four years with good fortune, following seas and no stowaways…and no drugs.

(( I looked at the crumbled note Fernando had handed me… …..a scribble of a telephone number in the US: “+ 1 800 609 8731 / ask for Fernando Xavier”…..I checked .. it was the toll free number of New York City Yellow Cabs…))

Kindest Regards and Best Wishes,

Vivek Bhasin 

World Travels of a Lefroyian  

Old Cottonian ( 1961-1970)

21 Oct 2020

*Hamam Soap: 

then : awful foul smelling and worse… 

instead of palming it off to others like Sanawar, Doon, Mayo…

today :it’s a blend of neem, tulsi and aloe vera extracts.. and Lefroy Green with Hindustan Lever adding more mileage to the green bar, targeting safety to women and girls in their latest communication strategy campaign #GoSafeOutside.. 🙏

Well – Well, all’s well that ends well…

The Hump on the Road – by Indi Khanna

I’m terrible with dates. While I need to shovel loads of fish down my gullet to simply remember even my date of birth date, the one date which is firmly etched in my memory is the 1st of January 1978. I was a young pudian (green horn) SD on Panniar Estate in the High Ranges in Kerala. An area teeming with elephants so that hardly a day went by when one, while going around the estate, didn’t bump into at least a couple of the pachyderms. The SOP was straightforward, you see a fellow, you simply swivel your bike 1800 and head post-haste in the opposite direction. Workers, whenever they encountered elephants, which was a regular feature, either turned on their heels or else ducked under the nearest tea bush and stayed put till the gentle giant(s) had ambled across. Perfect harmony and cohabitation. The man/animal conflict tale was, in those days, unknown and waiting in the wings to be played out many decades later.         

Back in the day the High Range Club was always buzzing and VERY active. With the district encompassing 26 estates, 23 Tata Finlay (now KDHP) properties and 3 belonging to Malayalam Plantations (of which company, I as an Assistant Superintendent, was a  teeny-weeny cog in the machinery) the strength of covenanted staff in the district was enough to ensure that the club was always alive and kicking. Never more so than on New Year’s eve. Which ‘evening’ traditionally ended the next morning with an early 0500 Hrs breakfast of dosas, leaving one just about enough time for us to get back to the estate in time for muster. The club on new year’s eve (besides other big bashes and inter-district meets through the year) was very pucca. Ladies resplendent in their best saris and all the men in formal attire – dinner jackets or ‘bandh gala coats’.

The accepted form back in the day was that, following the  New Years dance and dinner, on the 1st of January one attended muster, allocated the day’s work and could then take it somewhat easy through the day. I digress. So back to 1978 and the first day of the new year.

Leaving the club post a hearty dosa breakfast, still in my formal dinner attire, I rode into Panniar just in time for my morning muster at 7 a.m. As the workers trickled in, they were assigned their work for the day and headed off to the allocated fields. Around 0800 Hrs, by which time normally all the workers should have reported for work, my conductor Mr Balia (Incidentally NEVER Balia – always Mr Balia) remarked that he found it rather strange that not a single worker from the No.5 line had come in for work. Odd indeed. So I got on to my bike and heading off towards the lines. Nearing the lines I noticed a whole lot of workers and kids sitting on the roofs of their houses. Seeing me they started shouting that I shouldn’t come any further since there was an elephant sitting in the middle of road.

Did a quick about turn and drove up instead to the main office which was on the hillock opposite the No.5 lines, from where I could also sight the road leading up to the lines. Sure enough, there it was – this huge fellow sprawled across the road with his massive head slightly raised off the ground, resting on his tusks. On being asked, the workers shouted back that he had been there since midnight in exactly the same position. As to why everyone was perched on their rooftops, was told that they were scared to come down. By which time Mr Balia having also arrived on the scene, explained to me that the elephant on the road was the same one which had been visiting the lines regularly to raid their kitchen garden plots for banana and sugar cane which the workers had planted. Whenever the workers would hear or see him heading their way they would scramble up on to the roof and would start banging on the CI sheets to drive the fellow away from their homes.

This particular time, probably fed up of being chased off all the time and being robbed off the juicy cane, the tusker had trumpeted and raising his trunk to its full height, had charged towards the lines and had likely tripped and fallen over to end up sitting on the road in the position he was in. In all the pandemonium and egged on by Mr Balia, one of the workers finally picked up courage, clambered down from the roof and approached the elephant with a large rock in his hand, got close enough and threw the rock which simply bounced off the elephants back with not so much as a twitch from the mastodon. That gave all the others, including me, the guts to approach the fellow. Which is when we saw the high tension cable firmly lodged, running across through his mouth above his lower lip and him obviously dead!

By this time Rajah Pooviah (red arrow) who was the acting Superintendent  since Abid was away on leave, had also arrived on the scene. After much discussion we concluded that when the big fellow charged the lines, his trunk which was very high up in the air, had probably hit the electric cable dragging it into his mouth. And there it stayed with the electric poles on either side of the sagging cable bent inwards and leaning towards our poor dead pachyderm.

The matter being reported to the Divisional Forest Officer resulted in almost all the government functionaries in the district descending upon Panniar leading to two days of a merry-go-round with Rajah being threatened with arrest for having wilfully electrocuted the elephant. Two days of tension before the DFO finally accepted that the death was the result of an accident. Which led to a formal permission from the district authorities to the estate management to dispose of the carcass.

Ever tried to dispose off a 4 ton carcass? Easier said than done I assure you. 600 litres of diesel was brought in from the factory and poured over the poor fellow and from a very safe distance a burning rag was tossed on. Whoosh! A cloud of dense black smoke and a massive flame which died away as quickly as it had erupted. The smoke having cleared we saw that, barring only the hair on the elephants hide which had disappeared, the carcass itself was totally unaffected. After much deliberation and logistical planning a massive pit was dug across the road just behind the carcass. The estate tractor fitted with a winch cable and our two lorries were pressed into service to pull the elephant, dragging it into the pit. Following which the workers paid their respects to the tusker and conducted a Puja before the grave was covered over, leaving a massive hump in the middle of the road. Which mound, as the days went by, started settling down.

Fast forward to 2018. I had to visit Munnar for some work with KDHP and decided to pay a visit to my first estate. Went up to the office and looked down into the valley. Yup! Not quite as prominent as when we’d buried the hapless soul, but there it was – the hump in the middle of the road!

– Gurrinder [Indi] Khanna





The Missing Sibling & The Saga Of Kartoo – two writings by Gurrinder [Indi] Khanna

  • The Missing Sibling

While born in Simla, the entire formative years of our son Madhav till he went off to a boarding school, were on an estate in Upper Assam. The  upshot was that Madhav naturally grew up with and  adopted the ‘garden Hindi’ as his mother tongue.
A  language which I describe as the ‘estate lingua franca’. A beautiful amalgamation of Hindi, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Bengali and a bit of ‘huh?’ to end up with the lilt and cadence of a ‘musical composition’ almost akin to the  sweet sound of Swahili.

There being no access to either a nursery or a kindergarten, as is the case on all tea estates regardless of North East or South India, home schooling was the norm. Practically 24×7 my wife Kitty would, while not educating me on what the idiot Dr Spock had to say about bringing up kids, spend her time reading fairy tales and singing nursery rhymes to Madhav. Nursery rhymes which were Madhav’s only window to the world outside the estate.

Having done the trip many times after the kinds grew up, the first time we did our five day odyssey from Delhi to Upper Assam was when Madhav was all of two years old which is when we purchased our first second hand Ambassador in Delhi. Those were the days when roads, after one had emerged out of the ‘big’ city, used to be almost like a figment of one’s imagination. In Eastern UP and extending into Bihar the ‘highway’ used to be liberally peppered with what were, for lack of a better word called ‘pot holes’, but were in fact craters from the surface of the moon magically transplanted on the highway. Pot holes so generously expansive that when one dove ones car into one (there was no way one could circumnavigate the monstrosities) the roof of the car was well below the rim of the crater. But I digress, so let me get back to the main plot. On the third day out of  Delhi as we were getting close to Siliguri, the car had a flat. Just the fact that the tyres had brought us all this way having actually survived the UP/Bihar experience was in itself a miracle. Got the car to the side of the road, emptied out the boot and pulled out the jack. Once the car was jacked up, this being a part of his ongoing education, his mother informed Madhav that what ‘Dada’ had brought out from the boot and had put under the chassis was a ‘jack’. While I was busy removing the wheel, we noticed Madhav going around the car in circles, every now and then bending down to peer underneath the car. His search having yielded no results, he finally came up to his mother and in his most educated good garden lingo and with a very serious look on his face asked ‘agar Jack waha hai, to Jill kaha hai?’ (If Jack is here under the car, where is Jill?) Took us quite some time to stop rolling around in laughter and for the tears to dry up so that I could get back to changing the wheel and put Jill’s brother back in the boot to drive on to Siliguri.

The pleasures of growing up on an estate!

Another ramble from my planting days


In 1987 when I was the manager of Limbuguri Estate(↓) in Upper Assam our docile and beautiful Labrador Lady (thats her →) probably got out of the bungalow compound one day and managed to get knocked up by one of the many dogs from the labour lines  who would hopefully be hanging around the fencing whenever Lady was on heat.

Two months later with Kitty and the kids away on holiday to Simla, preparations had been made in the kids room for the day when I was to become a grandfather. The day arrived  and our bearer Japan and I watched in wonder while Lady worked her way around delivering eight beautiful Lab pups, five of them a lovely golden colour like Lady’s and three black one. And then with a final push, out came a rather strange looking animal. My immediate reaction was that this one was a runt which we would probably have to put down, however barring the fact that he was very different from his siblings, the fellow seemed to be perfectly healthy. A couple of days later after the pups had opened their eyes and had started moving around, I had a good look at the last arrival and decided that this was the one from the litter which the children would love and the one we’d keep.

He was just about the strangest looking dog one would ever see. His coat was reddish brown. Four legs which ended in white, dappled with black spotted socked paws. A tail which was thinner than a Labs but which ended in a white speckled tuft much like a lion’s tail. One ear which stood erect while the other was lazily bent over double. A muzzle which, like his tail and paws, ended in black speckled white and eyes which had a strange and beautiful golden hue.

There simply was no way that I could have named him other than CARTOON (this fellow ← with Muskan is not Cartoon though of the same size). And to the workers he became Kartoo. Much like Jacks beanstalk, Cartoon grew by the day. He ended up a very tall and large handsome specimen, living up to his name. He loved to wander and would disappear from the bungalow compound for hours on end, likely fathering cartoons all over Limbuguri, but would always magically appear in the dining room in time for our dinner. He loved to ride in my Gypsy and would accompany me on my garden rounds sitting proud and erect on the front seat. Driving through any of the labour lines, should he spot a chicken anywhere, he’d be off the seat in a flash and then would dart off with  the bird in his mouth only to be seen in the bungalow after hours.

I of course had to pay for the victims of Cartoons hunting expeditions, not just for the bird but also for the many eggs she would have laid. In addition to the hunting on wheels, fairly regularly I’d have workers coming to my office complaining about Kartoo having visited one of the six labour lines on the estate and having made off with a chicken. Always a chicken which was supposedly the ultimate egg-layer in the lines.  Went on for ages with the hole in my pocket becoming ever deeper , but try as I might I was unable to control Cartoons hunting expeditions. In Limbuguri labour lines Cartoon became something of a legend being famously known as ‘burra sahib ka murghi chor’ (the Managers chicken thief).

And then that day while walking out of my bungalow gate next to which was the bungalow staff houses, I spotted Cartoon sitting erect and very alert in front of Gokulchand, our rather lovable and regularly drunk house boy. I was taken aback to see the gentleman busy plucking the feathers off a chicken. It being almost the fag end of a month by which time most workers would normally have exhausted their salaries and would be scrounging, that scene stopped me in my tracks. The penny having dropped, I called Gokulchand and in my most stern voice asked him how on earth at the end of the month did he have money for buying a chicken? After much humming and hawing and shuffling of feet it was explained to me that on a regular basis Kartoo would bring a chicken for Gokulchand and that the bird would be cooked and shared between the two.

Other than glaring at the duo, both looking at me most innocently, there really was not much else that I could do. The bottom line was that Gokulchand kept getting his regular supply of protein and hapless me had no option but to keep paying for it. When we finally left Limbuguri in 1990, since there was no way that we could take Cartoon with us, we very reluctantly had to leave him behind to be adopted by his hunting buddy. With Gokulchand being of a ripe age, he and Kartoo must have carried on with their expeditions long after we had left Assam and would, I am sure be still at it in their happy hunting ground wherever that may be.