City Obituary – Kaloo, Jorbagh, South Delhi, & Cholsey, England
The passing away of an extraordinary life.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
He was born and grew up on the rough Delhi streets. Later in life, when it would rain, he began sleeping on the verandah of a bungalow in Jorbagh colony. The inhabitants of the bungalow once walked to the far side of the neighbourhood for a dinner party. They had just sat down to eat when there was a scratching at the door. It was him, following his destiny.
To reach the dinner party, Kaloo had had to cross the territories of several other stray dogs, find the correct house, climb three flights of stairs and then know to scratch on the door.
From then on, he lived in the bungalow’s indoors, taking his walks outside thrice daily on a lead with friend Rajesh Kumar. Kaloo was better known in the colony than his new parents and people would greet him by name. The landladies, his beloved Sukesh and Sarla aunties, would toss tea biscuits down to him from their balcony. And finally, he emigrated with his parents to a charming village in faraway England, close to the university town of Oxford, where he died this Thursday, aged 17.
“Kaloo was a brave and feisty doggie who will never be forgotten. We buried him under a cherry tree,” says his human mother, Solveig Bang, on WhatsApp from England. “He was the victory of love.”
Biographers might find it impossible to trace his lineage, but to this day Kaloo, the former stray, is fondly remembered by longtime security guards of Gate 1, Jorbagh. He had a somewhat mixed reputation — loved by many but also dreaded for his sudden flashes of anger. He wouldn’t mind an occasional bite of strangers and friends alike. Kaloo became amiable only after being adopted, and receiving unconditional love. He was also the kind of person who didn’t forget his street days and, in fact, convinced his parents to adopt his old friend Brownie, another Jorbagh stray.
He and Brownie’s new home, thousands of miles away, was in Cholsey, a village that Agatha Christie devotees will immediately identify as her burial place.
An hour-long train ride from London, Cholsey is surrounded by meadows, its pathways lined with pink, cerise and white peonies. As in Jorbagh, Kaloo enjoyed a private garden. (The accompanying picture of Kaalu and Brownie enjoying a village meadow was mailed by their mother; the other picture was shot by The Delhi Walla in Kaloo’s Delhi home).
Did he miss Delhi? When it came to the city of his birth, Kaloo kept his feelings to himself. “But he still understood some Hindi—aaja, bhaitho, dost, paani,” says his mother.
Scrambling under a day bed on hot days, Kaloo, in England, would imagine he was still lying under the parked cars of Delhi, waiting to sink his enamel into passing joggers.
This fateful Thursday, when he stepped out into the garden at dawn, Kaloo saw a little hedgehog cross his path. (He never learned his lesson with hedgehogs, routinely putting his jaws gently around them before remembering why he shouldn’t.) He then made one final inspection of the grounds before lying down under the apple tree.
Kaloo, Brownie and their mother, Solveig Bang