Calvino, Drabble, Happy, I & more

It has been two months since I typed my personal blog. Not that dilemmas surrounding me have vanished or I have become immune to them but for a handful of reasons/excuses:

  1. My numb state of mind: So numb that I gave up on my only hobby i.e. reading. Though it could be to do with the fact that I picked up a few wrong books in my quest to read new genres and authors. After having googled for the quirkiest books ever written I picked up Italo Calvino’s “If on a winter’s night a traveler’ and I just couldn’t read it beyond the second chapter!
  2. Drabbling: After having patched up with my writer-editor friend (yet again!) I was introduced to ‘drabble’. Drabble is writing a short story of exact 100 words. Easier said than done. I have written 5 out of 50 drabbles till now of which the last 3 were considered by my esteemed writer-editor friend to be below the mark! I hope to improve every day though I am not happy with this drabbling business. Cutting down a story (as if making a story is easy!) to 100 words is not creative. There is no way you can try to fit in as much as you would like to tell in sharp 100 words. You miss out on the essence of the story. And with all that heavy-duty pruning, most of the story ends up being in your own head.
  3. Is this blog ‘worth’ it?: After writing for a year, I am asked (yet again by my editor-writer friend) what have I gained? I could have replied with a list of abstract/intangible/philosophical merits like discipline, acute awareness of my surrounding, honing of my skill etc etc but I knew what he was driving at. Did I gain more followers, more ‘likes’? Honestly, only a handful readers read what I write but that’s exactly what the intention was. I have been genuinely satisfied. This blog was always meant for me and my friends who enjoy reading. Of course I always feel good when a stranger reads and likes my blog. But to get even a 100 plus ‘likes’ of my writing would mean I take a thorough professional route and get an agent or a celebrity connection!

So I am back to blogging (and I hope to retrospect and write here on a weekly basis).

And what all happened in the last two months that I can recollect:

  1. Pop’s disease relapsed. We all are still trying to cope up and not give up in times like this. It is so easy to breakdown when in crisis but we get up every morning all fixed up to face another day. It is not possible putting yourself in the shoes of the patient as it is only him/her who is going through the suffering but I hope it all works out in the end and it would be just a nightmare that we would be woken up from. People and relatives who know him very well keep coming over to our place to meet him and for once I don’t mind uninvited guests. I see my father being happy at their sight. Happier than seeing me and my mum daily!

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2. Happy,our street dog, is back! Lovely, pretty, Happy returned after 2 weeks as mysteriously as she had vanished. (See my last blog: Remembering Happy/Julie/Goldy) If only she could speak and tell about her adventures. I realised that not only my daughter and I were happy with her reappearance but so many of our other neighbours too. They were calling up their loved ones too informing about Happy. It did take Happy a few days to get back to her routine. She looked little lost initially. She didn’t spend much time with her mate Perky. But all seems ok now.

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3. We have a trampoline. I am glad we purchased it on mum’s saying and she is setting a good example of practicing before preaching by using it daily. Hopefully my daughter and I will get inspired and follow her soon. We are too lazy to even jump on a springy surface! I always thought mum had an excuse for not resuming her half-an-hour walk ever since papa returned for good from the city where he was working but this seems like a great option too.

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4. Saying ‘Namaste’ – meet and greet the ‘Indian’ way: I re-learnt to fold my hands to greet people especially those who fold their hands too while greeting me. Our community park gardener, who must be an octogenarian (or even a nonagenarian) does that every time I pass by him in the park. He joins his hands and raises it to his head to greet ‘Ram Ram’ with a toothless smile. So one day as he did it while I jogged I thought of the last time when I had folded my hands to greet people. After all, it is in our culture to do so. I couldn’t recall. I don’t ever remember having taught my daughter (who is 11) to do this. Has she ever greeted anyone a ‘Namaste’ with her hands joined? I don’t think so.

And on this note, I better switch on to drabbling my 6th one, lest my temperamental writer-editor friend resumes behaving like a pansy! :p


pic courtesies: all except the last one clicked by me. last one is from: thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/indian-hand-greeting-posture-easy-to-edit-vector-illustration-namaste-floral-design-41901074.jpg

Remembering Happy/Julie/Goldy

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Happy has been missing for the last five days. It could be even six. Nobody knows where she is. For the last two years she has made our lane and the adjoining ones her home. Everybody knows her. As I have gone asking people usually dog walkers, security guards and temporary labourers about her, I have realised that she has been very popular and called by different names like Julie and Goldy. I smiled when I heard her being addressed as Julie and why not, just as the name sounds, she is a posh lady-like creature. 

Nobody seems to know where she is.  Everyone, i.e. the concerned ones, are speculating where she could be. Nobody has seen her being taken away by the animal NGO van (after all she was sterilized at birth) or the municipal authority (but then why would they only take her when rest of the strays are happily roaming about and in fact there are some new faces too?) or have seen her breathless body.

In the past, I have gotten to know about the fates that our lane strays have met eventually but I am yet to hear about Happy.

“I am sure she has gone to the moon, mummy?”  my daughter said as we walked last night from our lane to the other to feed another old stray. I smiled thinking how she had started to mix reality with fantasy to justify Happy’s vanishing act.  But only to realise a minute later that there was no fantasy involved in her newly developing logical mind.

“Do you know Lalita?” she asked.

“I don’t.”

“The dog who was sent to the moon by the scientists?”

“Wasn’t she called Laika?” I asked.

The daughter was least interested in arguing about the real name.

She continued:

“May be some scientists took Happy away too to send her to the moon.”

I looked at the moon.

“Maybe,” I said.

As I go to collect my daughter from the school bus stop daily I miss having Happy accompanying me. Her chasing small kids, cyclists and motorbikes away and at the same time wagging her tail endlessly was an amusing sight.I have never seen a dog wag its tail and bark at the same time before.

She has the most peculiar bark and just as my daughter has described in the poster below. She made some three missing posters hoping that somebody will tell us about Happy.

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Over the last decade since I have seen many strays of our area come and go. I never had the courage to open my doors for them especially in times of rain and extreme heat as we share our building with two more neighbours. It was only about feeding them in the mornings and evenings. Of what they did the rest of the day was not my concern. Some times as I drive the car from the lane I see them looking for food in the garbage bins. After all, my one packet of biscuits for one dog a day is not going to keep their tummy filled for the rest of the day.

What have I learnt from Happy going missing? Nothing. Life goes on. Someday another dog will fill in Happy’s place. Perky, her mate, will have another mate. He will then not look at me with his pleading eyes asking me to search for Happy. Or perhaps he knows what happened to her as they were together most of the time. He looks at me helplessly knowing he will never be able to tell me the truth. .

I avoid reading articles that talk about the ill treatment meted to the strays in different parts of the city, country and abroad. I purposely avoid reading them as I feel utterly helpless. I remember my first job as a research assistant for an animal welfare organisation some 15 years ago. The founder, country’s most famed animal activist, said ” good for the pup!” when she was told that one of the strays that they had brought in her bungalow had passed away. I was fairly new then and didn’t know why she would say that. I thought she was being very mean. Now I know how wrong I was. This world is no place for strays.

I will wait for Happy and someday she will return. Older. Yet as pretty as ever. She would have stopped chasing motorbikes by then and would chide the younger dogs from doing what she did in her youth. 🙂

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(Happy joining us to the park every evening)

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(Happy enjoying the sand)

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(Happy running with my daughter)

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(Perky, Happy’s best mate)

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(Happy enjoying the puddle)

In the loving memory of Lovie

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I have just one picture of Lovie. And I am glad that I do. I have a few pictures of Happy and Aie Choo Choo too. These are the names given by my daughter to our frequently-visiting stray dogs. Happy always looks happy so she was named Happy. People always try to shoo the other one away and keep saying, among many expressions, “Aie Choo Choo” and hence he was named the same. And Lovie was named Lovie because she was so affectionate, so lovable. She would be wagging her tail and climbing onto our legs every time she would catch the sight of us. She came to our neighbourhood quite late as I hadn’t noticed her before. A month later after witnessing a handful of dogs after her I realised she wasn’t neutered.

I wondered if it was too late to get her neutered now when she was on heat. Other than donating money sporadically to animal welfare organisations (AWO) I haven’t done anything active as such for the cause of animals as much as I would like to and I do admit that I don’t have that volunteering spirit in me (read:boldness). So was this a calling for me, I wondered. I had to do something for her. I could see her getting tired with all those dogs vying for her. I called up our local AWO who explained to me that the dogs can get neutered even when they are on heat. They would be happy to help me. The process was relatively simple: They call you an hour before they come to pick up the dog. You chain the dog before they arrive.  The dog is then neutered and kept with them for 2 more days as a post-operative care. Easy. The only bit that I wasn’t comfortable with was that they returned the dog to the same person who handed it to them. Why would they return Lovie to me? She didn’t belong to me. I was just trying to be good. I nevertheless wanted to go ahead with this mission. I could of course release her once she was handed over to me. All I had to do now was to arrange for a dog chain and tie her an hour before they would pick her up. It was to happen the next day.

I warmed up to the whole plan. After all I wasn’t going to be the first one who would be doing this. Somebody had already got Happy and Aie Choo Choo neutered before, along with many other stray dogs in our neighbourhood. So after unsuccessfully asking a few neighbour friends who owned dogs if they had a spare dog-chain (I must confess that in a way I was boasting too of the deed that I was going to perform.) I bought one from a pet store an evening before. Next day I saw Lovie roam in our lane with one alpha dog who didn’t let any other dog come close to her. He only subjugated before Lovie’s barks at him. The AWO was to call me up in the noon which they did. I looked out and couldn’t see Lovie. I took our domestic help along to search for her.

“You are not doing the right thing,” my domestic help said to me unexpectedly. I understood what he was up to. Coming from a village, he has a conservative view on life, despite having two wives! “What do you mean?” I asked. “Lovie must have conceived. Why would you want the pups to be killed. Let her have babies this time and then you can get her neutered,” he said.  “You know what will happen to all the stray pups, don’t you? Some of them will die of hunger and some will get crushed under the cars. So why should they come to life?” I said rhetorically. He just nodded his head from left to right and walked with me from street to street looking for Lovie. Unfortunately we couldn’t find her. I called up the AWO who were equally upset to hear this and told me to keep an eye for her and let them know if I found her in the next one hour. I didn’t. Well, at least I had tried.

I didn’t see Lovie after that for nearly a week and when I did I was happy to notice a shaven patch on her left side of the body. It was as if somebody else had read my mind and got her neutered. I felt so thankful. At least a litter of stray pups were saved from being born in this cruel world and Lovie too was saved from going through the traumatic process. Every thing was fine. At least I thought so.

After a week or two seeing Lovie in the neighbourhood I didn’t see her again then. She must have shifted her base, I thought, to a place where she was being fed better. Now that the weather was getting chillier, I even saw her wearing a coat and was happy that she was being specially taken care of. She had a new benefactor. Perhaps the same one who had got her neutered.

And then I got to know.

On a long journey last Saturday I asked my domestic help, who is also our driver, if he had seen Lovie.

He looked at me from the rear view mirror of the car with a face of disgust.

“I told you not to get her neutered,” he said.

“I didn’t and you know it too. Somebody else did,” I retorted. I continued, “why what happened to her?”

“She died,” he said in a staid tone.

“Died? How?”

“Infection,” he replied.

“So nobody helped her ?” I asked as I began to feel the shock.

“Nobody got to know. She looked fine. And one fine morning she was found dead . The security guards then took her body away,” he said.

I was speechless for a while and looked out of the window trying to grasp the entire conversation that had just taken place. I wished I had looked at Lovie one last time and spotted the signs of infection and taken some action. I wished she had climbed onto my legs one last time as I walked out of my house.

My dilemma?

Does our responsibility end after we have performed our duty/volunteering act? In this case, after the stray dog was neutered do we just shrug it off?  I must admit I would have sent her to the streets right after she would have been back after the surgery. My job was done and I had done a good deed.  Were 2 days of post-surgery care by the AWO enough? Or was I just passing the buck on to somebody else?

Or like my domestic help said, was Lovie better off having the litter of pups this time? Did we play with nature and tried to hamper its course? He proved his point whereas I couldn’t. Only if Lovie had lived longer I would have told him how important it is to change his traditional way of thinking. I lost. The village boy won.

Lovie’s blood is perhaps on our hands. Volunteers need to do beyond just this. What would I do if I was to come across a similar situation in the future? Will I be then bold enough to resist my parents, and some neighbours who disapprove of the acts of the stray dogs in our area and get the dog neutered? More than that, will I be able to give shelter to the just-operated dog for a few days?  Or will I just ignore like most of the people around me and carry on with my work and just give that one-off donation to an AWO? I don’t know.

RIP Lovie

(pic: my daughter and Lovie some months ago in our local park)

the bees, the snake and a dog

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It is quite close to being called a bucolic setup where I live in an otherwise busy city which is home to many call-centres and multinational companies. I am barely five minutes away (car drive) from a popular road which is chock-full of malls on both its sides. Yet, as soon as I am back to my enclave, I am surrounded by trees and greeted by variegated tweets of the birds – some shrill, some soothing, some musical and some of them sound so impatient! Oh yes, then the peacocks and the peahens. They have a baritone! You can hear the human and motor sounds too but they are subdued by the sounds of these birds.

Living in harmony with them (the birds, the bees and the other animals) often clashes with living in harmony with my neighbours (some of them). And then the dilemma arises. Who do you side?

As much as I like to feed stray dogs I cannot let them in in my three-floor apartment as the neighbours on the other floors get peeved. The dogs have been very understanding in the past except for one who with one foot in her grave already chose to sit on the marble floor of our stairs or on the porch to escape the scorching summers. I chose to ignore her as this allowed her to sit there for more time until I could hear my neighbour screaming and shouting and even kicking her out of the gate. I didn’t put up a fight. Teaching compassion to a full-grown adult, who also came across as a nuisance otherwise, was like hitting your head against a brick wall. I also overheard him saying once that if I was so fond of the dog I should either live in an independent bungalow or adopt the dog and allow it inside my house. Maybe he had a point. Unfortunately I couldn’t do either of them. I chose to remain passive. The dog died one day and the saga got over. In fact the nuisance neighbour also shifted from there . And then history repeated. Recently, a new stray dog decided to come right up to our door (see picture; first image from top) and sit there. Only this time, I did not ignore its presence. I drove it away – nice and loud. I drove it away the next day too. I perhaps did it because I wanted the neighbours not to react like their predecessor. I didn’t want to get into an unnecessary argument. I had perhaps matured with time and experience, or had I become more timid and even hypocritical?

And then came in the bees – a swarm of them who decided to make not one but two beehives right outside our floor on the roof. The beehives were becoming bigger every day and so was the cause of worry for everyone around. I remember being stung by a bee two years ago. I was asked to get rid of them which I delegated to my house-helper. He came in one fine evening when it was dark and with a big stick demolished both the hives. I could see the bees feeling lost the next morning. They were clinging on to the fallen hives on the floor (see picture; 2nd image from top). My guilt only went a notch up when I happened to read a few days later that the beehives don’t do any harm and should be allowed to thrive. Should I have ignored them in the first place?

I believe there are many passive people like me who choose the easier path perhaps to live in peace. Passive pacifists?  It takes a lot to be an activist (for animals or any cause)- both mentally and physically since it can drain you completely. However I am happy that the activists do exist and unknowingly they fulfill another role – to put people like me to shame who wish to take a stand but choose not to. And one such activist happens to live across the road.  Two Sundays ago, a snake, cobra to be precise, paid a visit to our lane (see picture; last in the collage). It was an unusual sighting though there had been instances of snake-spotting long time ago. This cobra had got stuck in a drain pipe. Presumably due to overeating. (You can see its bulged tummy in the picture…mouse dish?) This led to a brouhaha in the lane.  Everyone started gathering near the drain pipe. Nobody dared to go any closer lest the cobra got out of the pipe and stung its venom out on someone. At that point nobody knew it was stuck there. You could just see its tail. Had it not been for my animal-activist neighbour, the cobra would have been, after sometime, beaten to death by the onlookers with sticks and stones. She called up the wildlife helpline and a snake-catcher reached in no time. He managed to rescue the snake and take it back with him where he said the snake would be checked by a doctor and then released in the wild.

My neighbour, my hero, I wonder if she has any dilemmas in life at all?