Category: Musings

Life Lessons From A Cocker Spaniel

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Three days ago, I came home in a pool of tears, terrified I was going to lose my right hand.

I could see a vein pulsating in my wrist. My thumb, index and middle finger were on the verge of numbness. At the slightest twitch of my wrist, a dreadful electric shock ran through my arm.

In a wave of panic, I imagined doctors shaking their heads. They would have to amputate my right hand. I wouldn’t be able to write, type, play keyboard, draw. Literally everything I was half decent at would slip through my fingers.

The more I thought about it, the more I wept. I had never quite wept that openly before. My mom panicked along with me. My dad meekly suggested an ointment for want of something to say.

Today, nothing about my hand has changed.

The numbness isn’t gone. My right hand lies limp on my thigh as I type with my left, backspacing and retyping to get the spellings right. The self-diagnosed carpal tunnel still taunts me.

But I’m not crying anymore.

Because I spent a day with this dog.

This is Chap.

He is a Cocker Spaniel. His mane is handsome as a lion’s. His fur soft as a baby’s blanket. His demeanour, adorable as a puppy! But he doesn’t have the gorgeous big puppy eyes that people fawn over. Instead he has his eyelids stitched together so they don’t get infected.

Chap is a blind dog. He was born blind.

When my friend adopted him as a few weeks-old puppy, he thought his eyes were infected. Eventually, the vets had to clean out the cavities completely and stitch them up so they wouldn’t get infected again.

I’m not writing this so you sympathize with Chap.

I’m writing this because I’m in awe of how Chap goes about his life.

Chap walks around his home with a striking sense of familiarity. The confidence in his gait, the sureness in his paws when he leaps onto the gate and the menacing growl he has in store for strangers will hardly make you sympathise with him.

When he smelled me, he trusted me at once. He propped his shaggy head on my knee as I sat down. I gingerly placed my right hand on his head. He licked my arm, the warmth of his tongue comforting my brittle arm.

To me, it felt like he was pitying me.

Pitying me for the little discomfort in my hand.

And suddenly, everything seemed so ludicrous. My tears, my panicked state, my overstated emotions that trapped all those around me. I was put off by my own desire for attention.

A hand pain. Seriously.

I went to the doctor today; he gave me pills and sent me off. Said it’ll be alright.

It’s going to be a while, though, before I can wave it off as a setback, like Chap has done with his sight.

Isn’t it amusing how life throws so many lessons at us and we almost always turn a blind eye to them?

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An obituary

This morning, I woke up at 6.30. As usual, the first thing I did was check my phone. Twitter prompted me to read an article about the habits of a successful entrepreneur. “Start your day with positivity. Exercise.”
I thought OK, that’s easy and went for a jog.

I had hardly run a 100 metres when I saw a dog. No collar, quite skinny, no owner around. A stray dog. He was lying on the pavement, apparently sun bathing. My instinct took over, I jogged towards the dog. It was only when I went up close that I realised he was dead.

Eyes sealed shut, one leg stuck upward, the rest of him like he was just taking a peaceful nap. No injuries, nothing. Just a dog who was walked onto the pavement to take his final nap.

A freshly dead dog. No flies around him. No foul smell.

I didn’t know what to think for a few seconds. Should I be sad? Should I be shocked? Should I continue jogging?

He’s dead. It won’t make a difference to him whether you stay or go. Positivity. Exercise. Go away. It’s alright.

Last option it is.

I continued jogging, my eyes on the road ahead of me, but my mind lagging behind. It’s not fair to let him lie on the street, his meekness open to the world, is it? If I was dead, I wouldn’t want anyone to see me splayed on the ground. In fact, personally, I wouldn’t want anybody to see me at all! I would want them to remember me as I was alive! Like a dog, I would love to go away from my home and rest in peace at a place where no one can see me.

Perhaps the dog would like that too.
He’s in a better place spiritually, but not physically. Get him out of there.

I went back, and told a sweeper about the dog. She said I’ve to call someone else. I went ahead and asked a man who was clearing up garbage. He told me it’s not in his jurisdiction to pick up the dog, but was kind enough to point out a phone number to me. Stay positive. I made a call, a courteous BBMP person picked up the phone and within half an hour the little mister who was so peacefully asleep was gone from the spot.

I don’t know what happened to him afterwards. Perhaps they buried him. Maybe they burnt him. I’m not sure. But he was not lying on the street for everyone to see any more.

When a human dies, grand funerals are arranged, meals served, ceremonies conducted, anniversaries remembered. When a stray dog dies, nobody even bothers to look twice. But for all you know, the dog made thousands of people happy in his 14 year long lifetime, possibly more than a human did in his 80 year lifespan.

The milkman the dog went galloping after. The newspaper man that the dog greeted happily every morning without fail. The watchman who shared his afternoon meals with the dog. The shopkeeper next door who gave the doggy Parle G every evening. The toddler who crawls around at the construction site. The girl who just came back home after a long day at work. The young boy who just had a fight with his girlfriend and went out for a smoke. I’m sure stray dogs make someone’s day everyday, no matter on how small or big a scale.

These dogs touch a thousand lives. And yet, they don’t get a goodbye, forget a funeral.

So this obituary is for all dogs out there that died unceremoniously.

Thank you for giving us your untamed love! You were special to at least one person everyday. You will be remembered for your beautiful innocent eyes, your wet nosie and your flappy ears that always swung back when you saw us. If you ever growled at us, we forgive you. And we apologise for having been mad at you too. Anger happens sometimes.
Usually, obituaries say “survived by so and so” about the person’s children, but you are survived by thousands of people who will remember you fondly for that one day or everyday that you made special.
We love you doggie. Hope to meet you in heaven and be with you forever.

On a more personal note, thank you to every single dog for instilling positivity in me. Whether it was Ramu, Simba or Gunner, all three dogs I’ve seen go away, you’ve all made a very big impact on me during different phases of my life. You’ll never be forgotten.

PS: If you find a dead dog, call your local BBMP incharge. You’ll find this number written on the auto that comes to pick up garbage every morning. Note it down sometime. You’ll never know when it could come of use. The least a dog deserves is a decent removal, if not a burial or a funeral. Do what you can.

Respect all dogs.

Peace. Love. Adopt.

Why I’m not too thrilled about Bakrid

I’ll pick up where I left off in my last post.

In it, I was basically trying to disconnect religion and celebration of festivals. I would request you to read this article with that mindset, because otherwise, 1.57 billion people are likely to be offended, which is definitely not my intention.

As you may all know, today is Bakrid.

If you know me, I think you already know what’s coming.

Goats. Slaughter. Cruelty.

My boss, Arjun, brought up an interesting point today. He pointed out how Nepal completely banned the Gadhimai cow slaughtering festival, where 200,000 cows are slaughtered meaninglessly and right in front of each other, once in five years. Even I remember signing an online petition against the festival, although I don’t know if that made a difference. But he said how nobody even bothers to raise a voice against slaughtering of millions of goats during Bakrid. Even if someone does, their voice is drowned, because newspapers like to pick up stories like this one instead. (Seriously, just read that headline.)

This afternoon, when we were discussing it, I said it’s completely horrible to slaughter animals, especially in people’s homes, where there are children watching. When we’re supposed to be teaching children to love animals, they watch their family axe one in the neck instead. Seriously, there’s no love lost in this country as it is. Why add to the unpleasantries?

My colleague was (a bit too) quick to point out to me that Hindus are no less. That Brahmins slaughtered and ate meat before too. I was a bit irked because my argument had/has nothing to do with religion. Whether it’s a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim slaughtering a cow or a goat, I’ll hold it against him. In fact, the whole cow-slaughtering festival in Nepal was a Hindu affair and I am dead against it. My whole argument is about the lack of rationale. Any person with the ability to rationalise his actions, should not be slaughtering anything. That’s about it.

Even if you want to eat mutton, or as the festival calls for it, distribute it to the needy, then go buy mutton and give it to the needy. There’s a certain procedure to slaughter animals and believe it or not, the kind way of slaughtering them is officially called the Humane Method. There’s a reason it’s called “humane.” Ideally, you’re supposed to render the animal unconscious and then slaughter it, if you have to do it at all. Not hold it by its hands, legs, pin it down and then struggle to slit its throat with a regular house knife and let the poor animal bleed to death. (The fact that the Humane Method is not practiced in most meat shops is a completely different story by itself. But that’s no justification for this.)

My point is, it does not make sense to carry on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years simply “because it’s there!” Heck! I don’t think most people even realise the significance of Bakrid! In fact, the story goes that Allah, to test the faith of Abraham and his son, Ismail, asked Abraham to sacrifice his son through a recurring dream. When Abraham agreed and was in the process of slitting Ismail’s throat, he was shocked to see that there was a lamb instead of his son. Basically, Allah saw that Abraham was so faithful that he was ready to sacrifice someone as dear to him as his son, and replaced his son with a lamb.

The whole idea of Bakrid stems from this story. You’re supposed to sacrifice something dear to you. Not a goat that you buy off the internet the previous day. There’s nothing near or dear about that.

So, please rethink your values and principles, not as a religious person, but simply as a person. Think about it from a non-violent angle and please put an end to this mindless practice.

About being a harried 24-year-old tax payer

Life has suddenly gotten too overwhelming, hasn’t it? People my age will probably understand. I’m 24 right now. Will soon turn 25. As each day passes, I expect things in my head to get sorted out, but it turns out there are just more and more complications!

This evening, I found myself debating taxes and insurances with my parents. I’ve to shell out Rs.40,000 a year from now on for insurances, just to be exempted from paying taxes, but unfortunately that amount happens to be more than I’ll ever pay for my taxes! What’s the point? My parents say they’ll pay the amount; but apparently, I have to pay my own insurance money to not pay taxes. And if I mention anything further to my parents, they lose temper within minutes and I’d just rather say OK and get on with it. Aaaa it’s irritating to even think about it.

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Why can’t we just earn, keep the money in our house, spend it and be happy? Who the hell invented banking and insurances and taxes and shit. I truly hate that person. (I might not be saying that many years later when I get my money back, I’m guessing. I’ll be richer than ever! I had better be.)

Well, money is perhaps 10 per cent of what’s eating me up. All over Facebook, people are getting married and having babies. People my age!! Some girls I went to school with and sat next to, on the same bench, wearing pinafores and drawing margin lines in notebooks, have two babies already!! And here I am, thinking about whether I like pizza or pasta better. Sigh.

I’m not saying I want to have two babies. I’m not going to have any. I’m going to keep puppies instead. But the point is, I don’t know how they’re all confident enough to have babies!

But then again, babies aren’t even the problem right now. I suppose marriage is. There’s so much pressure from all sides to get married. It’s not just me. Even people around me are being pressurised everyday. It’s so ridiculous. My parents don’t bother me much, but my grandparents won’t let me hear the end of it. If I relent and say “Fine, I’ll get married,” they start attaching dates to it.

“How about next April? Like your sister?”

“No, tatha. I don’t want to get married in summer. I prefer winter. Maybe December.”

“Really? This December? Wow that’s great! Now we’ll just have to figure out whom you can marry.”

The concept of prioritising just went flying out the window.

Fine, let’s say I’m alright with getting married, which I kind of am, I guess, since I’ve found someone and everything, but the next ten questions pop out at me like boxing gloves. Kapow! Where, how much to spend, what kind of wedding, on what scale should it be, whom to invite, should I do it how I want to or should I relent and let others organise a traditional wedding. My god! Really, it’s mental!

I told my grandpa last week that I will have a simple wedding with 50 people, if I do. He lost it. He said, “Look, the wedding is not about you or how you want it. (Wait, what?) It’s about us being happy about the occasion and sharing the happiness with others.” At most of our family weddings, everyone gets to invite everyone they want. So there’s usually about 2,000 people.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t exactly want to have my grandpa’s walking friends or some tenants who lived twenty years ago in some house we built. It’s so pointless. I just want to have people who mean a lot to me and no one else. Why can’t I have things my way! Why can’t life be easier, god?

Even on the work front, there’s so much going on! Working at a start-up really is a rollercoaster ride. I’m literally playing some ten roles at work and I wish I could add two more hours to my everyday.

Home (my room, specifically) is the only place where I’m at peace, in my mosquito net, with a book in my hand. And it kills me to know that I’m gonna have to give my room up and go away if I ever get married. Which is so ridiculous. Why does the girl have to move into the boy’s house and why not the opposite? Life is just so worrying man.

Turning old sucks. Wish I could go back to college and deal with mindless assignments and chemistry practicals again. That was so much simpler.

Now, I have to deal with too many complications and I’m not ready for it.

How am I gonna tell my grandpa that his walking friends aren’t invited?

Sigh.

PS: I just needed a place to rant. :P

About being alone, but not lonely

You know, there was a time in my life when I was really depressed. Well, not clinically depressed. Just mentally. I was 16 or 17, living my teens – awkward looking (a bad hair cut, undone eyebrows, baggy clothes), not-so-confident and from a state syllabus school when the rest of my mates were from CBSE or ICSE. I had very low self-esteem. I would come back home from college everyday and crib to my diary about how everyone in my life had boyfriends/girlfriends and other best friends.

I would list down names of my favourite people and next to their names, write down the names of their favourite people and it burned me to know I wasn’t on anyone’s list. Not on my best friends’, not on my sister’s – they all had boyfriends (and wonderfully, they’re all still with the same people). I would indulge in self-pity, listen to music with depressing lyrics, mostly Evanescence and Avril Lavigne’s pissed off songs and once in a while, just cry it all out.

That feeling of having no one sucks, doesn’t it?

All of a sudden, I feel this looks like an ad for Whisper. Thu!

My parents have been out of town for 45 days, leaving me home alone. Now “home-alone” would prick many ears and make them imagine parties, alcohol all over the place, boxes of pizza lying around and loud music playing. At least that’s what I think of when most people my age tell me they’re home alone. But I had zero parties. My friends came to stay over maybe five times and that’s it. I was with myself most of the other days, cooking cleaning, washing, mopping, sweeping, the usual household chores.

I even fell sick, went to the doc, got medicines, nursed myself back to health, and took care of myself. Usually, I have my mom fussing over me when I’m sick, making kashaya, getting me Homeopathy medicine from Hattangadi, giving me hot rasam rice. But I made my own rasam, drank milk with turmeric, gargled and drank hot water for four days. Perhaps only when I was sick, I indulged in a bit of self-pity, but nothing more than the permissible amount. Permissible as set by me, I mean.

I’ve realised it’s difficult to live alone if you’re the self-pity kinds. I, for one, am not that kind, not any more. Perhaps I was, when I was 16, 17 but after that, I grew to look quite decent, speak well, learnt a bit about everything in life (you know, sports, politics, people, behaviour, etc) and promised myself to never feel bad for myself. I learnt to respect myself for who I am, and enjoy my own company. I talk to myself, sing to myself, dance to myself, cook for myself and life alone over the past 45 days has been breezy! I didn’t expect that, really.

I realise I’m ready to run a house on my own, including paying all the bills, cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes, removing dead cockroaches and sometimes pigeons from the terrace and balcony, COOKING good food, serving tea/coffee to guests and hosting other people at home.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to work hard and go to sleep feeling real good about yourself, thinking about how many things you did in the day.

I’m writing this mostly because, over the past 45 days, I have realised I don’t need anybody else in my life. Haha! I just realised how that might have come across to my readers. :P I don’t mean to offend any of you, all you people in my life. (Except you, Nuvena. I don’t want maamis around me. :P)

What I’m saying is, if, at some point in life, I have to lead my life alone, I’ll be able to manage it. It’s like a life-skill that I can use, if need be. But I must add that given a choice between living with people and living alone, I’d any day pick living with people.

I think living alone for some time in life is something everyone must do. You realise what others mean to you and how much others do for you! You learn to be independent and self-efficient, something I notice that a lot of people my age aren’t. Even I wasn’t until 45 days ago. I did not know I could cook for myself for 45 days, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and survive it. I did not know that the electricity man just cuts off the electricity if you forget to pay the bill (and I learnt the hack to get electricity back without yet paying the bill. In your face electricity man!). I did not know that I could change a tube light, as simple as it may sound; I’ve never had to do it in my life! I did not know that I could keep 30 fish alive and nurse my dog back to good health when she had a stiff neck.

I did not know what perfect parenting was like until I saw myself imitating my parents everyday when they weren’t here, trying to repeat their daily actions – be it squeezing a tomato to put it in the rasam exactly like my mum does or fixing a light bulb and half-immersing it in the water like my dad does.

As much as I missed my parents, I’m glad they left me to fend for myself. I learnt of my own capabilities, which is why my self-esteem has shot through the roof. Hehe.

So, if you’re living alone, make the best of it. Don’t feel bad for yourself that you’re alone. In fact, you’re lucky that you’re alone and can be your own person. If you’re not living alone, throw the other person out of the house for a while and make sure you live alone. :P

Tips to live alone:

1. Learn to cook. It will take up most of your time.

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Cold pasta salad

2. Invite some crazy people over. Even if they are donkeys.

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3. You go over to meet people

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4. Listen to music. Morning, afternoon, evening, night, 3 am. Doesn’t matter. Listen when you want to.

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5. Have a sleepover in a tent on the terrace.

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6. Pay attention to nature. It’s the fastest way to put a smile on your face.

7. Find a hobby. Something like making bookmarks. I made them for charity.

8. Visit your grandparents. Nobody loves you like they do.tatha

9. Go on a mani-pedi date with your best friend and party with her.

10. Go for a wedding. In this case, your best friend’s wedding. :)

11. Read as much as you can!

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I’ve read a bit toooo much over the past month and a half.

12. Build an  army of doggies to protect you

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Kuntea and Puppy. Piccolo was somewhere around the corner

13. Finally, keep in touch with your parents and do something nice to welcome them back.

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That’s all now! Good day! :)

PS: I logged onto WordPress today and it said, “Happy anniversary!” It’s my second year anniversary with WordPress! Thanks for reading! :)

Must stop making Disney movies out of everything in my head

A few years ago, I saw a meme that said, “When you see something that disgusts you, say, a worm or a lizard, and you want to kill it, just pause and make a Disney movie in your head from its point of view.” Or something on those lines. And for some godforsaken reason, that meme has remained etched in my head from that day.

Sheepie :)
Sheepie :)

Initially, I didn’t think of it much. But it was one of those thoughts that become louder and louder as years pass by. Now, it’s just messed my mind up badly. I think from every animal’s point of view, and since it’s a Disney movie in my head, everything is hopelessly cute, even a snake, even a worm. Every animal has a family, a child with an adorable baby voice and big eyes, waiting for Daddy Worm to come home. To give you a perspective, I make a Finding Nemo movie out of every animal’s life.

Looking at it from this point of view has made me think a hundred times before doing anything. Before I sit on the ground, I look for ants to make sure there are none. Before I pour water into a plant, I make sure there aren’t any catterpillars on it. If there’s a spider web in my room, I let it be. If a rat scuttles by me, I don’t mind. If a mosquito bites me, I le- ok no, mosquitoes gotta die. Every single one of them.

Anyway, it’s all right with me that I don’t want to cause harm to these beings. But what’s getting to me is that if I harm some living thing by mistake, I won’t hear the end of it from my brain. My mind tortures me about it for hours. The other day, I was doing the dishes, and just as a poured water into the sink, I noticed a small insect in the sink and before I could do anything, it got washed away and went right through the drain. I got into its head for ten seconds, I got flushed down a dirty black pipe. I grew depressed and shed a tear for it. Another time, I injured a big black ant by mistake and broke one of its legs. Immediately, I went into the ant’s head and saw a huge, monstrous me, out to finish the world, raising its hand and breaking its leg.

Clearly, I don’t know where to draw the line.

For instance, when the beef ban was announced in Maharashtra, I was celebrating like never before. But then, I read this article yesterday about how the economy of the country will be affected and how many people will be left unemployed. On the other hand, I read this article about how eating less meat is the best way to tackle climate change and saw this effective campaign by models in China fighting for animal rights. After reading these, I didn’t know what to think.

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Sheep in the mountains

There are many other things that add to this mind-boggled state of mine. My colleague, Vivian, was once telling me about sheep and cattle in the Himalayas, and how the shepherds there make a living from their products. When they’re alive, they provide milk, and subsequent milk products, they help control the landscape by grazing excessive vegetation. When they’re dead, their meat is eaten, their wool is used to make warm clothes, their skin is used to make leather, their horns are used for something else. Every body part of the dead animal helps the shepherd make a living. And they’re all well taken care of, as I saw for myself.

I’ve even read a lot of James Herriot, who was a countryside vet. He wrote in one of his books about how a few farmers would weep to send their ageing cattle to slaughterhouses because they were too attached to the animals. This made me realise that a lot of these people don’t want to kill and use these animals just for the heck of it, but they have to make a living out of it.

So I’m left in a very confused state. Is it OK and ethical to breed them, take good care of them and then kill them after they’ve had a good life? Or should I get into the animal’s head and be shocked at wtf is going on when I’m being taken to the slaughterhouse? I’d be enraged if I was the animal and not having my Right to Life. But I’d be equally upset if I was a broke farmer, who couldn’t put bread (or meat) on the table.

One thought that came to my mind when I read the above mentioned article about the beef ban was that it’s ok to have beef. But it’s NOT ok to slaughter them unethically, illegally and heartlessly.

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#LifeSucksAndThenYouDie

My friend, Sanjana, once did a documentary of illegal cow slaughter in Chennai. Slaughterhouses are supposed to follow a process that involves sedating the animals and then killing them. But none of that happens in most of these butcher shops. They just take the animal to the backyard and chop it’s head off with a blunt knife and most times, the head doesn’t even get chopped off fully. I do not want to be inside that cow’s head, or outside it. Unfortunately, Sanjana witnessed this first hand and was really upset for weeks together.

As you can see, this topic has really put me in a fix and I sure am glad that I’m neither an animal farmer nor someone who makes the rules. Even as a mere onlooker, I’m muddled up.

I’m not arguing for vegetarianism or against meat-eating. That’s a completely different topic. But I just had to put these confused thoughts down.

I wish my mind would stop wandering and entering other being’s heads. Sigh.

Maggi can take a hike

You know, I’m so glad about the way I’ve been brought up. This post might seem like a tribute to myself, but it’s every bit a tribute to my parents for having brought me up so perfectly. I’m not saying I’m perfect (although I might be), but that my upbringing has been perfect.

Feeling suicidal
Feeling suicidal?

In fact, this post is stemming from all the ruckus that Maggi has created. And then Cerelac, and then Haldirams and whatever else. Honestly, I’ve lost track because it doesn’t make a bit of a difference to me.

A few weeks ago, I went and bought myself a box of Kellogg’s Chocos. As I ate it, I giggled and revelled in the luxury I felt. It was probably the third box of Chocos I’d bought in 24 years of my life. I’d always thought it too expensive to ask my parents to buy it. Not like we’re poor people, but I’ve been taught to spend only where necessary. So, I’d always thought of Chocos as a spoilt child’s snack. In fact, when I was around 12, I did ask my mother for it once. She bought it. But I forgot all about it, until a year later, when I found a jar of soggy Chocos and threw it away. Maybe it was out of guilt, but I waited literally 12 years to buy the next box, with my own money.

The thing is, ever since I was a baby, my parents have thought a thousand times about buying packaged food. I was never given Cerelac as a baby. I was instead fed vegetables and fruits or just thuppa anna (plain rice with ghee and salt). I think the only packaged food I was spoilt with was Bournvita.

So, thanks to being brought up with such food habits, I grew up loving rice, rasam, ghee, salt, milk, curd and other home-made things. You might think it strange, but I wasn’t even introduced to cheese until I was old enough to go out and dine at a restaurant with my friends.

That’s when pizzas, burgers and sandwiches entered my life. I was perhaps 13 or 14. At first, I didn’t really like the taste of white sauce pasta, or cheese omlettes. It was all so bland. But then the taste grew on me and I began to appreciate it. Thankfully, though, my taste buds were already accustomed to homely tastes and I let fast food remain an occasional thing.

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Epicness

Last week, my sister and I ordered pizza, and both of us laughed at the fact that it was probably the third time in life we were ordering pizza. We never order anything home. Nothing tastes better than my mom’s rasam rice with kothambri soppu at the end of the day. And no meal is ever complete without curd rice.

So with a lifestyle like this, I was shocked to see so many of my friends worried about the Maggi ban. Maggi has been a rarity in my house, compared to most households that I know. I liked the taste, but seldom ate it. Same with fried food like chips, fries and other things. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily bought a packet of Lays or Kurkure. Ew!

With such good habits, it’s not difficult at all to stay thin and healthy. I feel bad when I see so many friends just gorging on unhealthy food, ordering in pizza every other night, drinking bottles and bottles of alcohol and bloating up. Fat is not nice, not because it’s socially unacceptable or something. It’s just unhealthy.

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I’m not saying I’m the epitome of good habits. I have bad habits like biting my nails incessantly, scratching my skin too much to leave marks behind. (Sigh.) I also have my share of alcohol, but I don’t overdo things, as my parents have taught me.

My dad drinks, but rarely. We have unopened bottles of scotch at home, and they’ve been lying around for years. My mom might be the epitome of good habits though. I can’t imagine anything she does wrong. She even does yoga thrice a week. It’s too hard to be like her.

So thank you amma and appa, for helping me stay thin, inculcating good habits in me in the right way, without ever having punished me. Thank you for making me like healthy things, rather than keeping me away from unhealthy things. You guys are awesome parents and hope the next probable parents, Su and Anand, become parents like you someday. (Muhahaha!)

Thank you! :)

I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic

I took my sister on a ride yesterday on my Scooty Pep+. It was the usual ride from my house to hers – one kilometre long. We’d done this ride a thousand times.

This time, however, she suddenly exclaimed at my riding. “Why you riding like a lunatic? I’m in no hurry and I don’t want to die. Ride slowly. I hate people who ride like this,” she said.

In another 30 seconds, while still in motion, I took off my helmet and kept it at my feet. Again, she showered me with some cuss words. “This is how people have accidents. Continue doing all these antics while riding and go crash into a tree!”

That’s when I realised I had started riding like a boy.

I’ve been riding in Bangalore for the past 10 years. Malleswaram, Vasanth Nagar, MG Road, Koramangala, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Kanakapura Road, Bannerghatta Road, Bellandur, Hebbal, name it, I’ve been there on my 85 cc bike. I’ve mastered the art of weaving in and out of traffic. All this with zero accidents. (Yes, touch wood.)

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On my Scooty Pep +. Picture courtesy: Komalaaa :)

I’ve been jeered at, that women can’t ride, I’ve been angered by that comment, then gotten over the anger and have eventually seen a few girls behind the wheel and thought, “Ok I guess women really can’t drive.”

Now, I’ve reached a been-there-done-that phase, where I couldn’t care less about what people think of my riding skills.

The thing is, even though I know that I’m awesome at riding, people on the road look at me, a girl, and think, “Oh there’s a girl riding. Surely, she’ll do something ridiculous on the road.” No matter what I do, they’re going to think it’s ridiculous simply because I’m a girl. So I take that as a license to ride however I want – whether I want to ride really slow on the right lane or whether I want to zip past vehicles by cutting across them rudely – because hey, I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic!

Well, I could do all that, but I don’t have a general disregard for rules. So, right now, all I do is overtake vehicles, be it in slow moving traffic or fast traffic. I glide smoothly from the right side to the left and overtake trucks, cars and buses alike. I ride like most of those boys that sit on the back seat of a Dio or Activa and stretch their legs in front of them.

It’s actually very liberating to do that and to get told that I ride like a boy. To stand out of the stereotype that girls can’t ride. In fact, I’ve been told that before too. When I used to play football in college, my coach once told me, “You play football like a boy!” I beamed at him. In fact, I was so happy that I came back home that very day, opened my diary and made a note of his compliment.

Now, I’m not saying that girls suck at riding or at playing football. I’ve seen girl footballers that can run circles around defenders or execute neat freestyle moves. I’ve also seen girls who can pull off some wicked stunts while driving (only in videos). But these girls are rare to find. Anyway, I’m sure all girls who have been riding for years in India will relate to this.

The thing is, I’ve always battled with myself about whether I should feel happy about being told I’m like a guy or whether I should be all feminist and get pissed about it. But no matter how much I try to get pissed at the statement, I don’t. Well, it depends on what the compliment is for. If someone tells a guy that he multi-tasks like a girl, then he should be very proud. On the other hand, if someone told me that I carry myself like a guy, I’d be very sad. So, that’s kind of what I’m talking about.

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Being classy on an RX-100

I like being told I ride like a guy. Since I apparently have the skill, I have now started riding an RX-100, my dad’s newest buy. Well, it isn’t a new bike, obviously. I’m sure it has been owned by at least six people before. My dad is the master of buying second, third, fourth, fifth-hand things. After buying them, he repairs them, paints them, modifies them and makes them as good as new.

And guess what! It took me just 90 seconds to learn how to ride the motorbike. It’s so simple! Even my friend, Nisha, took 30 seconds to learn to ride a Bullet!

So, once I figured out the bike, my first question to my dad was why girls don’t ride motorbikes. Just why?

It’s so liberating! That krranng sound when you kick-start the bike, the smoothness you experience when you shift to third gear, the idea of laughing at lameass guys who ride dabba motorbikes, it’s amazing!

I really think girls should start riding like guys, and start riding motorcycles too. I want them to be revolutionary, so much so that a few generations later, men should be complimented that they ride like women. (Actually, if someone told a guy, “Dude you ride like Swathi,” then it’s already a compliment. Haha!) I wish there are more girls who’ll take that extra step and be awesome at this seemingly male-dominated skill.

Nothing can make you feel more independent and awesome. Trust me.

So, come on girls! Time to be badass!

The puppy that never lived

It’s quite a strange evening in my life. Nothing funny. Nothing amusing.

I’m sorry little puppy, but I need to write this down.

Just half an hour ago, my dad and I walked to a dark, dingy railway track with a shovel, a metal rod and a heavy sack. The sack grew heavier by the minute. Strange, because the content of the sack wasn’t as heavy just ten minutes before. It was light. It was also hungry and scared.

I had taken it home, given it biscuits and some warmth.

Now, it lies under two feet of mud, a mere bundle of fur and body.

It’s strange how life changes with the blink of an eye, isn’t it?

My evening started as usual. I got home at 7. It had just stopped raining.

Before I could even take my helmet off, my dad said, “Did you see the new puppy? It was outside the house just half an hour ago. You won’t believe it! It looks just like your dog!”

“What!” I exclaimed, a wide grin forming on my face. I threw my bag down right on the door mat, took my helmet off and ran to the next road. My mum, who was probably thinking, Oh God here she goes again! shouted after me saying, “Swathi! Don’t bring the puppy home! Play with it wherever it is and come!”

This was the usual drill when someone told me about a puppy in the vicinity. I always ran after it, my mother always shouted after me. I ran although I knew I couldn’t keep it. No one is at home to take care of it. We all work. Even my current dog half lives inside and outside the house. I can’t manage another one.

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The little puppy girl

But I ran anyway. I found the puppy. She was adorable. She had big black eyes. I went up to her cautiously, trying not to scare her. It took about ten minutes to gain her trust. She finally let me scratch her ear. But she kept running away, on the road, after people who she thought had food with them. That’s when I realised she was really hungry.

I picked her up to bring her home. She was shivering. As I carried her, a young man came up to me. He had a DSLR in one hand and a veg roll in another. He introduced himself as Sameer, said he has a blog and asked if he could click a picture of me and the puppy. Instinct told me that he was a nice enough guy and I let him click a bunch of pictures.

He asked me what I was going to do with the puppy. I said I’d call a few people, try and get it adopted. He was visibly impressed. He said, “You do this with all puppies you find?” I said this was the first one I was trying to get adopted. “The previous puppy I found stayed with me, and still does,” I smiled.

As I had said, I came home, put the puppy down and called Let’s Live Together hoping to leave the puppy there for the night. While the phone rang, I saw the puppy walk all over the house leaving tiny paw prints behind. I called six times and no one answered. So I clicked a picture of the puppy, posted it on Bombat Dawgz, asking if someone wanted to adopt it. After that, I gave the puppy five Parle G biscuits. She ate hungrily.

After this, the puppy started scratching the door and whining. She wanted to go out. I let her go out thinking she wanted to pee or poop. I didn’t go with her. After all, she had been on the streets ever since she was born. I would go back out after changing my clothes and bring her back in.

Meanwhile, Supriya called me up. I spoke to her and told her about the puppy. Told her how I ran after it, told her how my mom shouted when I brought it home. We both laughed. “How typical of you and your mom!” she laughed.

Then my dad called out to me from outside. “Swathi! Your puppy is here roaming around! Come and take her,” he shouted to me.

I gleefully hung up, and was getting down the stairs to the main door, when I heard a blood-curdling scream from the road. Another louder scream followed. My mom looked at me with terror in her eyes. “I think someone’s chain got snatched!” she said to me.

I ran out.

But before I even went out, somehow, I knew what had happened – exactly what I had dreaded.

Five people stood on the other side of the road, crowded around a small bundle on the floor. I crossed the road, still without my slippers. Just like my first meeting with the puppy, I took cautious steps. This time, not because the puppy was scared, but because I was scared. I saw a man take a water bottle and pour it into the small heap that lay there.

I went to take a closer look. I don’t know what exactly the man said. Maybe it was “She’s gone.” “It’s dead.” I don’t know. All I remember was running across the road, back towards my house, wailing and unable to control myself. I ran straight up to my room, wailed and wailed into my pillow, shouted at myself for letting the puppy go out.

But then, I had to get my act together. Still wailing, I went out, back to the road. By now, all my neighbours had come out listening to the screams and my wailing. I ran towards the puppy. Sat next to her. I stroked her belly. It was still warm.

There was no blood. The bike probably ran over its neck and snapped it clean. It had died in a second. No one heard a whine or whimper.

I looked around me. The girl sitting next to me was a friend from yoga class, Veena. She has adopted a dog herself and dotes over dogs. Another girl I saw weeping across the road was Saraswathi, a girl known all over Malleswaram for her love for dogs. It was strange that the three of us had to be there at that spot, consoling each other.

My dog, Piccolo and Veena’s dog circled the dead puppy, sniffing at it and fussing about. My dad said my dog had been playing with the puppy earlier in the evening. It depressed me.

We sat by the dog for some more time. Another lady came by, with her daughter, and asked if she could help by taking the puppy to the vet. She didn’t know the puppy was already dead.

Then my dad came. I suggested we bury the dog. My dad said we could bury it near the railway track. The shopkeeper nearby gave us a big gunny bag. I didn’t want to touch the dog anymore. My dad took the bag and put the puppy into the bag. He handed the sack to me. I lifted it. I was shocked at the weight. I told Veena that I’d make sure the puppy was buried properly and that she could go home without worrying. She went home weeping.

It’s strange to think that all this happened within ten minutes. The photographs clicked by the blogger, the biscuits, the phone call, the scream.

I carried the sack home, then saw my mom. She was bursting with guilt for shouting at me when I brought the puppy. She wept. “I should’ve never shouted at you and asked you to take the puppy out. I’m so sorry.” My heart really went out to her and I just gave her a long hug. It wasn’t her fault. Once guilt gets to you, it becomes the dripping faucet at the back of your mind. I wasn’t going to let anyone blame themselves. Even my dad was already blaming himself.

But he’s a brave man. He took me to the railway track. Both of us dug a three-feet-deep hole. “Should we bury it with the gunny bag?” he asked.

I said no.

“I can’t bear to look if we take it out of the sack,” he said. My heart went out to him this time.

I said I’d do it. I emptied the gunny bag. It was dark, so I couldn’t really see the puppy. She was just a tiny, black and white bundle. My dad was turning away. I told the puppy I’m sorry.

We covered her with mud. My dad mentioned “Hanuman” something. I didn’t quite catch him. I was about to burst into tears, but I fought them back. I had to stay brave for his sake. I just said “Rest in peace puppy,” under my breath and left.

We rode back. When I reached home and opened the door, I saw the puppy’s tiny paw prints on my floor.

I took a cold shower. I deleted the “Up for adoption” post from Bombat Dawgz.

I was and still am too shocked to do or say anything more. I don’t know how to react, whether I should cry some more or just assume a matter-of-fact tone. My voice is coming out straight, but my hands won’t stop shivering.

I’m on the borderline between blaming myself for the loss of a life and blaming it on fate. But the more I brood over it, the more depressed I’m going to get.

All I can say to console myself is that the puppy is in a better place now.

And hopefully, resting in peace.

I’m glad whoever is reading this is with me to share my joys and sorrows equally. Thank you for sticking to the end. Don’t let this ruin your day. Hundreds of puppies die everyday like this. You can’t change the past. You can’t undo what happened even what happened ten seconds ago. Just tell yourself they’re all in a better place now. But the next time you see a stray puppy, make sure you take it into your house, come what may, and keep it in your house till you find a foster home or a permanent home for it.

Don’t make the same mistake I made.

I don’t need your civil war

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been afraid of war. I know that sounds like the kind of statement that would come from a war-experienced person. But no, my life has always been pink and happy. The idea of a war, however, has always scared me.

I remember, back in sixth grade, in 2001, when the World Trade Centre was struck, there was speculation of a Third World War. I didn’t know much about war, but I was scared. The next day, when I went to school, the topic of the WTC came up in the first period. Miss Juliet was our class teacher and she was generally talking to everyone about it. No one seemed perturbed except for one girl, who began to sniff and cry. Yeah, it was me.

I don’t know why I was upset. For the rest of the week, I had nightmares of everyone I know being dead. My house was a rubble of cement and bricks. I woke up one night and threw up because my dream was that bad. I don’t know if it was the same fear of war or if it was something else. This hazy memory brings to my mind a quote I read in The Sense of An Ending, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

Anyway, I prayed that no one would start a Third World War. I had no sense of international relationships back then. I didn’t know who was pissed off with whom. I didn’t know which country was deemed bad and which one, good. I knew Osama Bin Laden was a bad guy. And I was scared of him. I once dreamt that he was in my balcony.

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A Star of David bookmark for Exodus. Most of you may know it as the branding that was stitched onto Jews’ clothes during WWII

But that’s history. Fast forward err… 14 years (Ok I’m getting OLD). Yesterday, I finished reading this book, Exodus, by Leon Uris. The book had sat in my cupboard in the Will-never-read-these, don’t-know-where-they-came-from section forever. Just out of curiosity, I opened the book, read a few lines and I was hooked. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a classic novel that documents the history of Zionism (influx of Jews into Israel from all over the world) and the creation of Israel. It’s part fiction and part truth. It’s a powerful book with deep characters. While reading it, I felt like I was part of everything. I felt like I took part in the creation of Israel, a region that is portrayed as overwhelmingly powerful.

The book documents the numerous wars that happened between Arabs and Jews over Israel (especially the Civil War), about the British pretending to help the Jews, but never really helping, about WWII concentration camps, about unrest, about terror, massacres, air raids, genocides, murders and destruction of any means of livelihood. And yet, it’s a story of victory, faith and courage.

Through out the book, I kept thinking, “Oh this was all so long ago. These people are such barbarians. Nobody hates the Jews any more. Thank God it’s all over.” The book was published in 1958 and it documents history right from the 1800’s until 1949 I think. I don’t know why I thought that was long ago. It was some 60+ years ago and the world hasn’t changed much since then. I was but a fool to think it’s all over.

I feel so naive to have convinced myself that during those wars, people were uneducated and they just wanted to be dumb and fight for land. I look around me now and I see mindless violence everywhere. It’s so frustrating! One day, I see that 147 students have been massacred in Garissa University, Kenya, and the next day, I read that India is evacuating people from Yemen, because some two sects of the same religion are fighting each other for power. Actually, the intensity of the situation hit me only today when I read this personal account of what it’s like to be in Yemen right now. It sounded strikingly like a girl in Exodus narrating a war scene. Added to that, today, I saw my own country, amidst all the heroic evacuations, has turned into the first country to use weaponised drones for crowd control.

I just don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. I wrote this post to simply rant about how ridiculous everything is. I recently saw a picture of a bunch of men standing over a writhing cow, whose throat was slit off. Why? Beef ban. Because the cow signed some papers and made the ban? Why are people so bloody irrational all the time? Why do they let their minds be directed by anger and violence? Why can’t they pause, think and talk it out? What ever happened to the idea of a compromise? Or forgiveness?

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