I had never realised that Vandana would leave me, high and dry with me at my lowest ever-lowest in the sense that I had just left my job at the National Rock Café for her sake and I had not much work to do at home and it frustrated me. She never liked me working at the café or for the matter ladies drooling at me and I quit my job so that it makes her happier. To be true, that’s what I had told her after being sacked from the pub thanks to a fight I picked up with one of its most valued customers. May be an apology could have saved my job but then I refused to apologize to the person and turned off and packed off my DJ instruments at the peak hour on a Friday night leaving the owners of the café red-faced and in shame. If that wasn’t bad enough I went as far as threatening the DJ’s with dire consequences, who came to apply for the job there.
I had applied for a job at various other pubs after that but having lost a job at the National Rock Café, the city’s biggest and most prestigious night club didn’t really help me bag another. Also my dwindling reputation thanks to the threats made by me made it that much more difficult for me to bag another job. The funny part was that even the places where I had given interviews after the incident were scared of telling me the truth regarding the exact reason for rejection, as they felt the truth may make me lose my temper and leave them with broken bones and black eyes. I never realised that the one incident at the pub had changed my image from a charming and energetic DJ to the bad guy who beat up people and spoke foul in public. With my current reputation, it was more than obvious that I would not be having a job anytime soon.
I know I am not a great guy; in fact I have far from being a great guy. I agree I am moody, sentimental and very short tempered. She often insisted that I should go with her to see a psychiatrist who she believed could help me in controlling my short temper. A lot of her most valuable things had fallen prey to my temper, including her Pierre Cardin pen that was gifted by her father after she had got admission to an IIM and her IPad, which her sister had brought for her from USA, amongst a lot of others. I just don’t seem to know what I do when I am angry. I can hardly remember the next day what I said to her the previous night when I was angry. I am sure I never mean a word of the abuse I hurl at her but can’t stop saying all those that I say at those times when I am angry. I knew it was not normal but still visiting a psychiatrist-am I mentally ill; like am I mad or something that I should visit a psychiatrist. I don’t need a psychiatrist.
I always felt that she was mine and she would forever be mine, when one day on returning home, I found her bags packed. She told me that she was tired of me and my temper every day and that she could not tolerate it anymore and that if it weren’t for Landon she would have left me a lot earlier. It tried to stop her but she refused. I was devastated and miserable till a couple of weeks later, I learnt from one of her friends that she had getting married to a Bryan something, an NRI born and brought up in the United States of America and who had once worked as an administrative head in the India division of one of the American banks and now started his own financial consultancy company. I learnt that she had been dating Bryan for over two years, when he was her boss at the Bank and that short trip to her home last summer was not because of her mother’s illness but because of her engagement. If the fact that she left me pained me, that she was cheating on me for over a year made me miserable and hurt the most. I never thought she would leave me in this way and especially at a time when I was at my lowest.
Apart from me, there was also another one who was extremely pained at her decision, so much that he rejected to even have his meals or go out for the regular morning and evening walks with me. Landon, my pet dog had got particularly close to her after she came to live-in with me. I still remember the first time when she had come to my house, how he had initially barked at her and then how he had then stopped barking, went close to her, smelled her and then started to show his happy dance, running from one end to the house to another wagging his tail when I introduced her to him as my girlfriend. His happiness knew no bounds later when she shifted to my house and he understood that now he was going to have two people, instead of one to play with him every morning and night. Through the days, he became all the more close to her and even started refusing to take his meals if it was not served by her.
After she left me, whenever I sat down dejected on the sofa and cried a silent tear, he would come and sit down beside me and lick my face wiping my tears as if to say “Don’t cry and be brave. Why are you crying when I am with you?” He would never have his meals till I had brought mine. Whenever the phone rang, Landon would run and pull me to the phone thinking it might be a call from Vandana and then he would sit down with his head in between his paws, in a sad dejected manner finding that it is not.
As time passed sensing me still miserable, he would run to me to play with me as if to cheer me up. He would press the TV remote with his paw till some cartoon or comedy movie comes up so that I smile at the silly things shown there and laugh or smile at little. However, it made me more miserable when he did that as it only reminded me as to how Vandana taught him to watch the TV and use the TV remote to watch his favourite cartoon shows and how they would be sitting in front of the TV all through the morning hours watching Tom and Jerry and laughing uncontrollably till she had to go for her shower before leaving for office. I understood that he was doing all this to make me happy and acknowledged it and so I continued to watch it with him and laughing half-heartedly at the silly jokes so that it makes him happy. However one day, I guess he sensed my fake laughter during one of the movies and from that day on, he would not put on the TV anymore and sit near me licking my face to express his love and to assure that he be my companion for life.
As days passed, I tried to forget her and as a first step towards it, I removed the large wall-size picture of Vandana and me along with Landon that was there on one of the walls at the drawing room. I was about to throw it when Landon came from behind, headed straight towards me and bit my leg real hard, causing me to bleed. He would not stop biting me till I put the picture back in its place. Landon had always been a very stable and well-mannered dog and had never ever bitten me in his entire life till that day, so when it bit me that day, it really surprised me and I scolded him and even used the cane on him. He took every beating of mine and never once barked till I stopped. That night I could hardly sleep, not because of pain from the bite of Landon but because of the fact that I had hit Landon for the first time in my life and even more because he never retaliated when I beat him. The next day when I tried to remove the picture a second time, he repeated the same exercise and again bit my leg. Once I left the picture, he brought me the cane in his mouth, with which I hit him the previous day and laid down in front of me as if ready to get caned. It just moved me to tears. I now understood what he wanted to say. He didn’t want the picture to be removed from where it was even if it meant getting caned by me. For him, the picture was the last memory of his small little family-me, Landon and Vandana.
As the days passed, I moved on with life. I started my own music store from the money that Vandana had left me with. I cannot say the business really flourished and to be honest, it never really sold much, though it was a good distraction and kept me occupied through the day. Once it was during one of the regular days at the shop that I met Jennifer, a young British girl who had come to India to explore and learn Indian classical music. I shared whatever little I knew of Indian music with her. I arranged for her meeting with some of the stalwarts of Indian classical music and she learnt from them. It was during one of the trips with her that she kissed me on my lips and professed her love for me. I accepted her proposal straight away. We dated for a few days and one night, I brought her home. When I brought her home, Landon would not let her in. He barked uncontrollably threatening to bite her if she dared stepping inside the house. Unable to allow her in, I left her at her service apartment where she was staying. On the way, she told me that she was upset with the way Landon behaved with her and warned me that I shall train him to love her or let her go away from my life. I told her and assured her that I would train Landon to learn to love her.
On returning home, I scolded Landon for his behaviour. He looked at me, made a sad face and pulled at my pant and brought me to the drawing room and made me stand in front of the picture of his family. I shouted at him “Wow! You can’t be doing this again. Look Vandana is gone. She won’t come back. She is a bitch. She left me and she left you. She never thought once before leaving us. She won’t return ever. You get it. This is not your family. It’s me and Jennifer who are your family from now on.” Saying this I tried to pull down the picture from the wall and once again he jumped on my leg and bit me, thus giving me a negative answer to all I told him a little while earlier. I couldn’t even hit him this time. I closed my eyes and sat down at the sofa as I didn’t know what to do- on one side there was Jennifer, someone who loved me and wanted to be with me and on the other hand, there was Landon who had none but me in his life and who had stayed with me through all my good and bad times. I opened my eyes to find Landon still licking at the wound that was drawing blood thanks to his bite. I just wiped my teary eyes, held him close to my chest, hugged him and went to sleep there itself on the carpet.
The next morning I woke up to the tring-tring sound of the phone. I picked up.
“ Hey, good morning.”. It was Jennifer on the other end of the line.
“Good morning. How are you?”
“I am okay. Thank you. Have you thought about what I said yesterday?”
“I can’t get you. What are you talking about?”
“Do you want to live with me or do you want to live with that stupid dog of yours?”
“Don’t dare call him stupid. Landon has been with me when you had not even come to my life. He had stayed with me through my tough times, when I was at my lowest, when I contemplated committing suicide. It is for him that I am still alive. Else I would have been long dead after all that had happened in my life.” I shouted at her. I just couldn’t control my emotions when she called Landon stupid.
“I got my answer.” She shouted back and hung up.
I kissed Landon’s forehead, “I won’t leave you. I won’t ever leave you.” He licked my face all over acknowledging my love for him and reassuring his love for me.
Days passed and slowly I became accustomed to my daily life. Each day was pretty much the same. I wake up in the morning, take Landon for his morning walk; come back, take my bath and have my breakfast while Landon eats his morning bowl of milk along with pedigree. I would put his lunch bowl at his eating place and cover it. I will then go to the store and sell music CDs and return home late at night to be welcomed by Landon, wagging his tail and hugging me as soon as I keep my bag down. Then I would play with him for some time; cook dinner for me as well as for him and take it together, before retiring to the bed with him in my arms.
A few years later, Landon became ill. I took him to a vet who said that it was due to his old age and could not be cured. It dejected me. I was going to lose the sole companion of my life. Landon would no more go out for his morning walks; he would not play any longer. He could not do all, that he once used to do. I put on the TV for him and put on the cartoon shows that he once loved but he won’t even look at them now. He would not even have the meals regularly. I would often find the lunch box still uneaten when I returned home. He would sit at the drawing room and stare at the picture of his family.
One day when I reached the store, I found a letter with my name at the top. The handwriting seemed familiar. I opened the letter and found that it was from Vandana. She wrote that she had separated from Bryan. She had an unsuccessful marriage. He did not want her to work and made her leave her job. After a few years of marriage, he started dating other girls and came back home drunk and would often hit her. Unable to tolerate his torture, she divorced him and came back to India. She asked for forgiveness and asked me to call her if I didn’t mind. I called her and talked to her for the first time since she left me. She asked me if I had married and I told her that I had not. I told her about all what Landon had done after she had left us. I asked for the address where she was staying after she agreed to meet me. I picked her up that evening from the address and took her along with me to my home. On the way, she bought Landon’s favourite ‘Kaju Barfi’ which he would earlier demand from her every day.
As we entered the house, we saw Landon sleeping in front of the picture. As he heard my voice, he opened his eyes and on seeing her, he lifted his body a little and tried to walk towards us. He could hardly move and fell down after two steps. She ran to him and patted his head and he kept on looking at her as if to ask, “Where did you go away? I had missed you so much.” I also came towards him and patted him. Tears ran down her eyes and my eyes. I held her hand tight. Landon got up a little, put his head on our hands, looked at us and closed his eyes forever.
There have been a great number of love classics that I have heard about and read about. But this unusual love story of Landon and his love for his family will remain the most amazing love story I have ever heard about. He could not speak, could not do all that we as humans can do but there is no doubt, there can be no love greater than the love that Landon had for his family-Rakesh and Vandana..