Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Pets Revolutionised Parenthood

I have seven children. And the number keeps growing. They are furry, always hungry, run on Duracell and masters in the art of emotional blackmail through expressive eyes. Yes I take dance class, but most often, I am found dancing to their ‘paw’ tips.

And I did all this without a guy! I guess the notion that you need a man to be a mother is passé. Welcome to the new kind of motherhood, parenthood. Interestingly, most often I don't adopt these babies - they adopt me. 

For years, Mum's been openly expressing her desire to see me married so I could give her grandchildren to play with. So the other day, I put a month-old homeless puppy in her hand and said, "Here. Your grandchild." While she stood deciding how to react, I told her that these were the only grandchildren that she would ever get out of me (as per my current belief). 

I look around me and realise that I am not alone. The number of people - single, unmarried couples, married couples and many more than I know of - who adopt animals and treat them as their own children is increasing. I'm not an expert on this nor have I conducted massive surveys to reach this conclusion. I just see so many social media posts and converse with like-minded people who are simply delighted to have four-legged babies and give them the same love and care that human babies usually receive.

My friend, Ammu lives in Bombay with her husband and their two canine children - Sheroo and Boltoo. She tells me that "Adopting our two furry babies are two of life's best decisions my husband and I have taken. We have both grown up with pets so we are animals lovers, but keeping pets in Mumbai can be a logistical nightmare. So when we adopted our first kid, it was really a compulsion to rescue her from the road. She is blind from one eye and would have found it difficult to survive. But when we adopted her, everything fell into place, we found a friendly neighbourhood, a house-help and could think of adopting our second child, who we got from World For All."

See, there are ways of working around it. It's like family planning and making similar arrangements. She goes on to say, "As a young working couple, having kids is not in our present scheme of things. But having pets is like bringing up kids, it's just that they remain a child all their lives and their world begins and ends with their human parents."

My children are seven dogs - two inside the house and five outside it. The rivalry between the two sides of the gate is fierce, but one thing is common - they adore me and I'm nuts about them. If the day's been a stinker, rubbing Pichku's round little belly which she openly displays to me after a meal is the high point for me. Then Bozo butts in with his large jealous head for a scratch to which he believes he is entitled. All this, while Ollie glaringly watches from inside the gate, waiting impatiently for me to come back inside and be 'his' again. If I knew doggie language, there'd be a lot of abuses being hurled at my gate everyday, between the two sides. Benny of course, the old grandpa drags himself to the scene and watches on curiously, occasionally throwing a bark at Ollie who he cannot stand for some reason. Dog politics man! Just like human children and their bickering. 

When I get home in the evening, either from dance class or a late night out, whatever the time, Ollie waits for me at the door with his ball. First, he peeps from the window and watches me drive in, and then strategically runs away with my socks to get me to chase him. So no matter how tired or dressed up I am, I have to sprint with him to the terrace and play ball with him, romp and run a little, till the little master is satisfied and had his "play time." Even Benny watches out for me with expectant eyes, even though he can't run anymore. The outside gang gives me a grand welcome at the gate and demand a pet or scratch before I can enter the house. It feels warm and fuzzy inside that in addition to my parents, there is a whole 'wagging' party waiting for me.

I guess Ammu and her husband's lives are no different. "Our two babies, Sheroo and Boltoo, have a huge influence on our lives - we don't carry work home, we are now morning people, we take our health seriously because they need us to be fit and they are such stress busters! The best ever company on any given day. I strongly believe that we don't rescue them; they rescue us. Imagine coming back home to two jumpy kids who have been waiting for you, to give you a grand welcome, every single day? A dog is proof that God loves us. Period."

Who is a mother? What does it take to be a parent? I guess only we can define this. So for my caring friends and distant relatives who'd love me to have babies one day, I have news for you - I stepped into motherhood long ago. And my pack, is ever growing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Crayons

The other day I found a box of crayons on my niece’s desk. Unashamedly, I picked it up and took a long, pleasurable whiff. “Yes! They smell right,” I said to myself with eyes closed and a silly smile on my face. My niece stared at me as if I was not quite in my senses. But that’s okay, she doesn’t know.

There’s something about the fragrance of crayons that sends you shooting back to your childhood. To those countless moments when you sat scribbling in your colouring book for hours, struggling to keep the colours within the outline or trying to be creative and experiment with some shading.

Some crayons smell the same as they did then. I like things that never change; a constant in your life. Like the fragrance of rain on dry earth or cement, or the sweet-smelling Harsingar blossoms. Thank heavens for these things that stay the same, in a world that’s constantly changing like a stage backdrop.

Crayons, you still smell delicious. I could eat you.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Garden

Every morning, I awaken and saunter into my garden. Winter makes sure I feel his presence, and my arms go around me in response. The Harsingar tree is my favourite. All day and all night, there's a perpetual whiff of its fragrant white and orange flowers, that drop silently from the branches like snowflakes from the sky.

The garden dances each day. Seedlings making their slow progress skywards, flowers showing off their best party frocks, and trees singing in the cool breeze. And when the sun falls, they all bask - lazy and golden.

I await to see my Nasturtiums and Pansies. Their seeds were planted two weeks ago. There's a 'natural' suspense to it. The tomatoes in the back garden seem to be doing fine, while the melons have simply sprouted from the seeds in our homemade manure. This isn't even their season, yet they want to survive and shine.

I sit and watch the gossiping Babblers, hunting for tasty snacks in the grass; the occasional Hoopoe or Red-vented Bulbul; the flippity Sunbirds. They love the garden, I think even more than I do. It is their home, their feeding ground, their social hangout. A sip of water here, a peck at a wriggling worm there, and they're happy.

I watch them for myself. Because what it produces inside me is almost meditative. What a start to a day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Birthday reflections

I sit where I sat last year. Perhaps wiser, more in control and happier. This year has brought immense pain and suffering, but concealed cleverly, crucial lessons of life, understanding and street smartness.

Happy birthday to me.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Musings of a Fat Dancer

Yes, I am fat. And I am a dancer. For some people, it may be an oxymoron. Quite a few presume that I take dance classes to lose weight. So when I meet aunties at dreaded social gatherings, they look me up and down and say, “Weren’t you going for those dance classes? Have you lost any weight because of them?” "Beta, why don't you join the gym?" It’s beyond my patience to make them understand that my reason to dance, to learn dance and perhaps someday to teach it, goes much deeper than that.

I dance because it is the only place where I am myself – unashamed, unapologetic, naked and pure. It is the only thing that binds me to this world and keeps me away, at the same time. It is the hinge that gives me wings, so I can swing in any direction and express feelings that words cannot. It is the only way I know to respond to music.

But I am not your usual dancer. Uh..uh. A passerby may look at me and never fathom that I could lift my leg, leave alone do a pirouette or a split. I don’t blame him because I don’t have the perfect, lean, slim form that dancers are wont to have. Dainty on their feet, not an inch of fat, structured legs and oh those perfectly framed arms. I can just imagine Natalie Portman in The Black Swan. She’s the picture of what a dancer ought to look like. Stereotypically.

With a body like mine, I struggle. Every class, every day, every rehearsal for stage. For my slim fellow students (and I love and respect them all and know that they toil too), the struggle is to get that step right, or to accomplish a certain feat that will make them stand out, or to perfect technique to be able to apply it while dancing. For me, the strain is double. I have to grapple with the weight first. And then with everything else. So the uphill climb becomes steeper for dancers like me. Not to forget the emotional and psychological beating that we give ourselves for failing. It takes a mammoth amount of motivation and self-encouragement to get started again every time we fall.

Fortunately, I’ve been wacky enough to believe that no amount of ‘fat’ can stop me from dancing or trying to be better than before. It has been a testing challenge, but my passion has consumed me, often enabling me to turn a blind eye to my less-than-perfect shape, that doesn’t represent the quintessential dancer.

It is true that sometimes my body defeats me. I work hard and in my mind I know I can do it. It’s the performance where I sometimes strike out. In my mind, I’m a super ninja who can do killer roundhouse kicks and blow the enemy away with a single iron fist punch. The truth is, I can perhaps injure the enemy far worse by sitting on him.

So while I’m on the floor, wrestling with the sweaty attempt to reach a full split or take my brush kick higher, I have two enemies to conquer – my weight and the inability to do it. Sometimes it pulls me down like rocks tied to my feet, and probably nobody can understand how it feels. There are days when I go back home from class cursing myself for not being able to do a step because my body came in the way.

But still, I dance. I may not be the best but I certainly try to be. I’ve never even won a competition but what I have is dance experience. I can tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re screwing up by watching you in class. I know what muscle will be worked out by what exercise and how to strengthen your core till it is rock solid. I know my music and can give anybody a run for their money when it comes to connecting movement to beats and pauses. And you should see me in my second split.

The star of the musical movie ‘Hairspray’ was a fat girl called Tracy who loved to dance in spite of how she looked. Yes she didn’t have the body, the perfect looks or the flawless technique, but man she could move! Some people told her that she didn’t qualify as a dancer, but she didn’t care. My first stage performance was on a song from this movie and maybe it was sign. And it’s still with me today because no matter what the odds are, or how much I weigh, “You can’t stop the beat.”  

Friday, July 01, 2016

The Auto-Pilot Mode

You know something is not right when you're constantly running in auto-pilot mode. Especially where work is concerned. Brief moments of introspection and self-questioning later, I don't feel any more enlightened than I was before. All attempts to 'figure it out' go awry somewhere.

Words like motivation, inspiration, excitement, proactive, drive - resound far away in a cloud of hazy white, which is putting me to sleep. I am half asleep. ALL the time. Is this condition medical, psychological, emotional or simple laziness? Hard to say actually. Could be a bit of all.

Sadly, life isn't fun when you're half asleep. There are opportunities lost, special moments missed and a lot of time wasted.

Sometimes I wish I could just snap my fingers (which is physically cannot do, so relying on magic) and wake up from this real-dream. Jump up and smell the coffee and go about my day like an excited, happy bunny.

Auto-mode off. Bunny mode on.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Pine cones

Almost every Delhi child from my generation would remember those pine cones we found scattered on mountain roads and meadows. Each one was unique and intriguing in its own way, resembling a tree. It often became a game to see who picked up the best ones (undamaged and near perfect in form) and how many.

Sadly, when it was time to go back to the burning plains, we were told strictly to leave behind most of our treasure. Whatever we did manage to sneak back home, we painted with poster paints and sparkle glitter. There they sat on the table or mantelpiece constantly reminding us of the beautiful hills they belonged to, the 'needly' trees they dropped from.

It is only in Kanatal that we found purple cones. Yes, purple. From a distance, they seemed so obviously purple. Almost like large black currant ice cream cones. When I returned to the lodge from my walk, I told dad about them. He wouldn't believe me! He had to see them to be convinced that I wasn't Alice in Wonderland. Those purple cones, we never painted them. Their uniqueness was their colour.

I can close my eyes right now and smell the mountains, the cones calling out to me to come pick them up again and give them a brief moment of stardom.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Inner Peace

Maybe I'm a dreamer or a romantic or simply an incurable optimist. After being through the din and chaos of the world, there are times when there is silence. Inside. Time stops. Emotions cease to exist. And there is this fleeting moment of being alive in being still.

Two movies come to my mind. The first is 'The Karate Kid', more specifically that scene when Jackie Chan tells Jaden Smith, "Being still and doing nothing are two very different things."

The second is Kung Fu Panda 2, where the constantly bumbling Po lands up on the tough path of finding inner peace. In his case, he probably stumbles upon it, like a sudden realisation. Perhaps, I live in the same hope that it will dawn upon me someday, when I'm probably sitting on a park bench somewhere, or playing basketball or eating a dessert hungrily.

To be still. To be purely happy. To wish good for everybody. The search for anything other than this is insignificant, unworthy of the few days on Earth called life.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Calling

What am I meant to do?
Such a long life and the decision couldn't be tougher,
When I stand at a threshold with multiple doors.

Am I to be an artist - paint all day long and sell my work for millions?
Am I to be an illustrator - doodle cartoons that make the world laugh?
Am I to be a writer - typing hundred words a minute, to win the Pulitzer prize?
Am I to decorate store windows and captivate the fancies of the shopping throng?
Am I to be a traveller - wander and experience the universe on a shoe-string budget?
Am I to be an educator - teach, play, nurture and influence the future?
Am I to be a dancer - pirouetting my way around the world?

One life. And there's so much one can be. Is there ever a time to decide? To give up one for the other? Would it reflect a lack of focus if I were not to abandon any? Something calls out, soft and musical, from the distance. I think it's the calling. What others identify so easily.

Perhaps it will come one day as I sit staring at the sea. Drop into my lap like a drop of rain. Crystal clear and shining. The calling. My calling.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Give bliss a miss?

When the dust and smoke settles down,
You can't help but frown,
The illusion was like sparkling wine,
Exciting, tasty, warm and fine.

But when the true eyes open and see,
You look so small before the fantasy,
Maybe you were better off without the trouble,
Now lie crushed, restless under the rubble.

Is there a way to say 'NO' to yourself?
To firmly put it away on the top shelf,
Where it can bother you no more,
So you can focus on a better door?

For true freedom means freedom from this,
Fleeting, mindless, shallow bliss,
As I slowly learn to fly with light wings,
My smile dances and my heart sings.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Twist and shout!

Life took a twist. But then, that's what life does.
Winding and snaking through unknown paths, braving uncertainty till it relinquishes at the finishing line. We have no choice. Nope, not at all.

We're probably as vulnerable as a new born baby, at any given point in life. It's like wearing a baseball glove and not knowing where the ball's going to come spinning from. You just have to catch it. If you do and stay happy, great, if you miss it and lament, the next throws are going to get tougher.

This is training for the super league.
I guess we have no option but to keep walking , hoping that we can take on whatever comes at us, no matter how formidable. And while we're at it, we might as well dance in our walk and twist and shout to celebrate life's twistiness!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who stole that smile?

She emptied out her bag. A jumble of objects toppled out noisily. Nope, not here. Looked into her cupboard, turned it inside out. Sat in the heap on the floor and sighed wearily.

"Where could it have gone?" Flipped through books, waded through the throng, searched the faces - familiar and strange. Nothing. Checked her pockets, shook her hair. No luck. Even the notes of her favourite song didn't bring it out of hiding.

She just couldn't find her smile. It had gone missing for a while. She couldn't even remember the last time she had held it. Distraught, she stepped out into the winter, hoping to bump into it again. That friend so old and deep.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The plight of the modern Indian woman in a relationship

(God help us)
We have seen our mothers and grandmothers (some even our great grandmothers) live through their relationships with their menfolk without burning the house down or severe bloodshed. Sure they had their share of trouble, but back then, there was no option but to 'woman up' and deal with it. Words like compromise and commitment held enormous weight and whether they liked each other or not, they made it work somehow.

Today's 'modern' Indian woman is in a soup. She has been in it for sometime, slowly brewing and shifting uncomfortably in what I can easily say is the biggest dilemma of this age. The clash of the traditional values of sacrifice, selflessness and unconditional love against the new-age independence, gender equality, sense of self and the need for ' personal space'.

"Okay so if I do the laundry, you cook," said many a new-age woman to her man. Life became easier since household chores were shared and she no longer was solely responsible for the chappatis or clean socks. She stopped changing her name and had a choice to never bear children. The in-laws took time to get used to the idea of their bahu acting a little 'alien', and actually preferring her powerpoint presentation over making laddus for their son (the shame!).

Travelling alone or with a friend (read - not lover) became a way of freeing oneself and proclaiming to the world an enjoyable non-adherence to stereotypes (main tumhare bina kahan jaaungi?). We take ourselves shopping, drive ourselves home and put off marriage till we're absolutely ready (and had our fun!).

In short, we've taken over what was rightfully ours and are having a party.

But do we feel totally triumphant? Let's take a look at our relationships with men. Hmmmmm.........
Not so good, eh? The neighbours probably take out their log book to make another entry every time the angry yells rise to the ceiling. We walk out of relationships as if it were a restaurant serving bad food. We break up a million times without thinking what it actually means. We know that if we leave, we're not helpless damsels in distress. "I can take care of myself. I don't need you!" said many a new-age woman to her man.

I hate to say it but here it is - the threads in the fabric of a relationship have weakened. They are beginning to wear out faster, leaving behind shreds and rags. Our new-found freedom may have come at a price - The inability to stick to our relationships, to stay happy and content with what we get from our better halves. To expect less. Now that we're up there, we want the world. The list of things we want from our men and relationships will probably finish off every piece of paper on Earth. We want. Sigh. Lots of wanting, lots of demanding, lots of unfulfilled expectations. Happiness quotient?

No, I am not saying that women don't walk out of relationships only for the wrong reasons. A lot of them deserve better and should find it. And then stick to it. That's the problem. The sticking. Neither am I sure about how men have evolved and deal with their relationships. Hence I'll refrain from making a comment. This one is not about them. It's about us.

Hence the terrible dilemma.

"I'm so mad at him....... but I want to make up now. Hmmmm....but if I make up, he'll think I'm giving in and more shit will come in the future. I don't take shit!........ But I love him and I know he meant well.....what to do?........Grrrrr."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fragrances

I was sitting at my desk today, designing a newsletter. The usual.

Suddenly I remembered the smell of new born puppies! You know when they've just come out from their mamas, groping their way around in this enormous world? Yeah, that smell. It stays with them for a few days making them more desirable to hold and hug. It might be the smell of milk or new motherhood, who knows. But I will never forget that smell, which was a small part of my vast childhood.

Interesting how these fragrances from the past suddenly dawn upon you bringing back a cart full of memories. You just cannot help but smile at them :)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Understanding Women

There is not a task more uphill than understanding women. I am a woman and I admit it.
Most times, I struggle to understand myself. And it is not surprising considering that spontaneous, reckless people seldom follow the same pattern. You never know what you're going to do next when you're in that zone.

The mind works in strange ways, the mysteries of which has and can never be solved. It's not that we are indecisive. That would be oversimplifying it. It goes deeper than that and just how deep, nobody knows. If you throw a stone into the pool of a woman's mind, you will not hear the splash, leaving you to wonder just how deep it goes.

We are never one person. Never. Some days we are honey and sugar and others, we can make you cry. There are hours of fear and then of courage and boldness. We fight, we make up. We fight, we make up. And we do both with an equal rigour. Complicated yes?

Flashes of thoughts, picture memories, decisions, resolutions, quiet reflections - can all co-exist together at the same time. Yes, this is humanely possible. We do it every day.

I empathize with men. Most expectations of understanding their women are laid at their door. Men are built differently. Their thought processes, behavioural patterns and actions differ from women, and since they are well versed with their own ways alone, some times they find it excruciating to put themselves in a pair of peep toes heels and walk through a woman's mind with the bleak hope of getting it right.

Perhaps some things are better left unexplained and not understood. Maybe that makes a woman's journey more intriguing, the 'not knowing'. Our quick minds can process information and analyse thoughts at top speed and even the computers of today are no match. Our brains have superpowers and scarcely do we realise it.

And just like a free spirited superhero, our minds will never follow a straight drawn line. There will be swivels, swooshes, deep dives, high rises and a tangled path of smoke behind us.

And just like a superhero, a woman's mind will never be conquered.