Monday, October 29, 2007

Laika

I remember I had fallen asleep after an elongated tantrum. This wasn’t the first time. Neither was it the last. What my parents had written off as just a fondness for puppies, had grown into a full blown obsession. Ultimately, after countless tantrums and promises of standing first in class, they finally caved in. This is how Laika entered our lives. Don’t know why suddenly today I am writing about her. It’s been 2 years since she passed away. But I had been carrying baggage from her death for a long time and finally decided to set it free on the web now and find some closure. Laika came to our family as a shabby little one month old pup who couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without tumbling down a couple of times. Lapping up her milk was even messier. For a week, the house smelt like a dairy. Seeing her transform from this awkward, clumsy pup into a graceful German Shepherd was like a parenting experience for me. Right from cleaning her crap to staying up all night when she fell sick. And she bore into all our hearts. Even aaji was not spared. She became the constant companion to all of us. Every time you turned around, she was there, staring at you, tail wagging, and a strange anticipation in her eyes. It was her eyes that always caught my fancy. Maybe it was the fact that she was brought up in love and care, but her eyes never resembled those of other dogs. That fierce, guarding gaze was absent. It was a look of total submission. Sometimes it made me wonder, if by domesticating her, we had accidentally killed that wild spirit. Maybe what we thought of as obedience was actually a corroboration of the fact that she was absolutely dependent on us. Or maybe she always held the pain of separation from her mother, which we brought about. But we never heard her complain. That constant companionship was soon upgraded to a family membership. And a privileged one!! She became the queen of the house. Anyone who came in through the door first had to meet her. Then the rest of us. And not just meet, but shower a minimum of 5 minutes of admiration. Her welcome ritual became as much a part of homecoming as the quintessential "gajar ka halwa" that the hero’s mom always has ready. It was always heart warming to come back home after the day and be greeted like you just came back from prison after 20 years. And with her, you always knew it was sheer love. No ulterior motives. Even aaji, who dint particularly appreciate the concept of pets, came around. Laika proved her part too. Usually she stayed out of aaji's way. But when aaji was alone at home, Laika took up the duty of not letting her feel alone. As if she knew that aaji is old and may need help. Aaji later confessed that it was a big moral support for her. The lupine instincts of protecting the pack had endeared Laika to a non-believer.
3 years later, we decided that her genes ought to be passed on. Laika became the proud mother of 7 pups. 3 boys, 4 girls. It was chaotic, to say the least. A team of 7 rambunctious pups, combined with a protective mother, and 4 family members, at the end of their nerves. Their appetite was a no holds barred contest. One whole pack of Cerelac a day. Table manners were taking a serious hit. Their motto: if you can’t get enough from standing outside the bowl, jump right in the bowl and eat around you. So we had 7 pups, smothered in Cerelac running around trying to eat each others' limbs. Soon, time came to bid them farewell as they all went to their new homes to start a life, like their mother did 3 years ago. However troublesome, giving away that last pup was awful. It was like we had betrayed Laika. She started gathering toys and placing them in the bed where the litter had been. I guess she was trying to fill the void. But that’s a dog’s fate. To be born to a mother. And then to be reborn as someone’s pet. I just hope all those little Laika's are keeping up their mothers reputation.
A couple of years later, Laika’s health started degrading. She suffered from stomach blockages and was operated twice. The third time, she kind of gave up. I saw her; motionless, lying on the operating table with her stomach being stitched, and saw the gleam in her eyes fade. She felt no pain even without an anesthetic. Or maybe she did, but dint show. Laika never complained. The decision had to be taken. What is termed as humane death, or "putting her to sleep". No matter how much you round the edges off the name, it still stings. And it stung badly. A decision about letting someone live in pain or die in peace is never easy. Because nobody asked Laika what she wanted. In the end, it was her pain filled whine that tipped me to make my decision. I decided to let her go. I could not keep her in pain for my personal gratification in making the right decision. A tearful goodbye later, Laika drifted off to sleep. Everyone feared going back home, knowing the fact that there will be no greetings at the door now. No wagging tail drumming the door. No playing fetch till you got bored of throwing the ball. No wet nose searching bags for goodies. No muddy paw prints anymore. No Laika anymore.
I still sit and doubt whether I did right. That just by being her owner, did I have the right to end her life? What if she would have made it through? I guess these are questions Laika should have answered.
I buried her favorite tennis ball in her grave. I hope wherever she is, somebody’s playing fetch with her. Because she loved it when you threw something, and she brought it back. I had to throw her life away. Laika, fetch.
It doesn’t end here. We finally mustered up the courage to move on and bring a new life into the house. Sarah. I won’t tell you if she's better or worse than Laika. My only prayer is that she doesn’t give me a chance to write such a blog for a long long long time. And another thing I hope is that Laika, wherever she is, doesn’t get too jealous of Sarah. But as I said, Laika never complains.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kindered Soul

okay, first the background for the uninitiated. Kandi (*names changed for privacy and to avoid public humiliation) is being harassed incessantly by mosquitoes (we call them Macchar to avoid eco activists' ire). Mani (* repeated ) has a rare medical condition called Spontaneous Disclosure Syndrome. The condition makes him instantaneously belch out various theories that would make Newton and Einstein not only turn in their grave but do somersaults. So the theory today is that if you simply ignore the macchar, he wont bite. this was a revelation to us all as we were unaware of the fact that macchar has pride and wont bite anyone who refuses to be irritated by it. so this is an eulogy of that fallen macchar.

there once was a macchar,
happily he buzzed around,
till one day his self esteem,
was brutally crushed to ground.

odomos dint kill him,
neither did good night,
but then Mani found out the one thing,
that the macchar couldn't fight.

"ignore him" ,commanded he,
to kandi on his side,
for he knew to hurt a macchar,
you need to hurt his pride.

how dare you ignore me,
the macchar screamed in ire,
i shall now sting you,
even on your pyre.

so assault on assault he laid,
to poor kandis dismay,
and Mani won the title
"Scientist of The Day".

but kandi still persisted,
and ignored the macchar's litany,
and refused to be irritated,
by him, or by Mani.

"may be something is wrong with me,
maybe im not doing this right"
and to answer these questions,
macchar went to his mom for advice.

who are these people ? she said,
come lets go and see.
and together they buzzed away,
to see you and me.

"you can never harass them, son"
not when cloudy not when sunny,
for these brave souls are accustomed,
to being with Mani.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Kanha

Urban living is hip. Contingents of people leave behind the throes of poverty and migrate from rural areas to these urban jungles. Definitions of comfort and luxury are being rewritten and luxury is fast becoming necessity. However, from time to time, nature comes calling back. An urge to return to the wild existence of our ancestors manifests itself. To experience what their nights might have seemed like, and to hear that piercing sound silence that a city dweller rarely experiences except in states of unconsciousness. And when this call of the wild comes, it is best to throw caution to wind and submit to it. We got the call, and we answered a positive!!! So began our journey into that untamed world called Kanha National Park. To digress a little, the planning of a journey is sometimes just as exciting as the journey itself. You take a group of 9 testosterone filled 22 year olds, and throw them into a discussion bout an upcoming journey, and then sit back and watch the show. Tempers flaring, irrational suggestions, earth shattering attempts at humor, arguments on time of departure and then finally that discussion on the budget. Even the Finance Minister would have been frazzled. Coming back to the topic, after reaching consensus on budget, transport, shelter etc, we finally set off on the trip.

7 hours can pass by like a snap. That is, unless you cram 9 people in a car meant for 7!! And, unless you are the butt of every joke. I’m sure a couple of them had a nightmare ride. But it was a reunion of friends, and what’s a little discomfort between friends?? ITC laughed all way to the bank. Reaching there at night, we all changed into our comfort clothes (300 km away from city, anything is comfort clothing). Once again the nostalgia and reminiscing of time spent together begins. Nights in the forest seem to be pleasant always, no matter the season. That smell of foliage, shrill noises of insects in heat, a lonely bird keeping watch, even a bristle in the undergrowth become pleasant music. The sky seems flush with stars; the moon seems brighter and bigger. Living in a miasma of sound and sight in the city, we become practically immune to these background noises. But here, in this wilderness, suppressed senses come alive. And along with that, suppressed feelings and emotions come alive. The loner aches for a mate, the heartbroken aches for his lost love, the happy ache for company of loved one, and the distraught aches for closure. Slowly, under the watchful eyes of the stars and the moon, 9 starry eyed boys drift off into dreams. Big day tomorrow.

4 o’ clock the alarm rings. Even the clock is surprised to be set off at such an ungodly hour. It joins in the amusement and screams with more fervor than it would at 9 o’clock. All are dressed, some of them by the use of brute force. 5 o’clock gates open and we venture out into Kanha. We feel the excitement that Kipling must have felt while writing The Jungle Book in the same place. An hour passes by with small rewards of rare birds and herds of deer. The guide tells us about the forest and trees and other species that live there. But nobody is really listening. Everybody is fixated on seeing just one thing. And that Big Cat remains elusive. Eager eyes inspect every movement in the forest for that ultimate prize. We award the second prize to the Bison. 500 kilos of sheer muscle power on 4 feet. And an attitude to suit the built. The alpha male does not appreciate the attention from tourists and charges at a Gypsy, as a warning. We all have pelted stones at cows and buffaloes at some point in our lives. This one charge by the Bison seems like a revenge for that. Everyone holds their breaths as we slowly slither past the herd. Phew! At Elephant Point, we are told that two tigers have been spotted. We see excited tourists shrieking in ecstasy as we near the spot on elephant back. And there they are… we approach a grassy stream, and suddenly as we turn a corner we see two magnificent tigers wallowing in a stream. We all have seen this many times on National Geographic Channel, but nothing can compare coming face to face with a tiger. True to its name, the Royal Bengal Tiger is royal in every sense of the word. Every muscle built to specification, a gleaming coat and that stealth characteristic of a cat. But most captivating are the eyes. That pride in them, that feeling of power, which can only come from a sense of invincibility. He is the king of the jungle, and he knows it very well. Unperturbed by people, the two tigers enjoy their cooling bath. Our guide motions the mahout to return. But we just can’t peel our eyes off this creature of beauty. But its closing time and we reluctantly leave the spot. An eerie silence settles as we leave in our Gypsy. Nobody talks to each other. We have just experienced raw nature and it is humbling, almost surreal. We realize our powerlessness. We may be highest up in the food chain, but we have reached their based on tools and weapons. Take them away and we are helpless.

Exhausted from the excitement, we head back to our hotel for rest. Everyone is looking forward to the evening tour. One more, just one more look at the tiger again please. Our evening tour begins with a promise. Tiger sightings are reported. As we are hurrying on, our Gypsy breaks down. Prospects of getting a lift are nil. So our guide decides to take us walking back to the gate. Nothing can be scarier than this. Still, bolstered by our guide, we start walking. Our guide tells us what to do in case a tiger crosses our paths. It does more harm than good. Because now, we are all thinking of that eventuality!! Possibility of a tiger lurking behind the grass suddenly becomes real. The shades of the forest however offset that thought for a while. The fading sun paints the sky a deep orange. Tall trees draw out shapes in their shadows. Beyond, a hill rising out of nowhere beckons us like a guardian of the forest. A bunch of Gypsies distracts us from these thoughts and then the gravity of the situation dawns upon us. A tiger. With never before seen athletic zeal, we clamber up one of the Gypsies for safety, and sure enough, about 100 meters away sits a tiger. A concoction of fear and absolute awe ensues. We gaze and click the beast admiringly, till he decides that it was enough exposure for a day. He vanishes into the cover. Still heady with the sight, we head back too. Rest of the trip goes in contemplating what would have happened if we, on foot, would have spotted the tiger. It gives rise to nervous laughs and jokes. We are lucky to have seen 3 tigers in a single day and that too in such an adventurous way. We are, and will be, one of the very few tourists who will ever walk on foot inside Kanha. We head back to our hotel with a head full of memories, and moments forever captured in our hearts.

Some celebrations never change. We crack open our drinks and ease up into the day’s happenings. We recount the day’s events. How scared we were, how beautiful the forest was. But etched deep into our psyche is still those two eyes burning like the sun. Kudos to the creator!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Outward Bound

Nothing has romanticized populace more than freedom. Yes, that shining beacon of civilization. And then, nothing quite has been subjected mutinies and tyranny as that same freedom. Want for freedom is that universal emotion that transgresses boundaries. Physical, political and mental. That pendulum trying to swing past its projected path, defying its stated purpose of periodic rise and fall. That child on the swing, taunting the pusher to go higher, and higher. Sky bound. "We are often too afraid to become, what we envision ourselves to be in our finest moments" said somebody. That hero of our day-dreams is more of a possibility in just dreams. For, to realize that hero in real life would mean changing direction, and being somewhat of a renegade. That’s just too much damn work. This cocoon of familiarity is just too cozy. So, that hero revels in our psyche and we smother him with material possessions and self-defined victories. But the calling never fails. For this same hero inside you, raises its head above water for one last gasp of survival, and manifests itself as the Oprah-publicized 'Mid Life Crisis'. Its time to let that hero free. In an increasingly permissive world, he can survive. Time to break free from the shackles of predictability. Freedom is after all, a state of mind. It is not granted and it does not just come about. It has to be affected into being by individuals. You and me. We are simply guinea pigs in this light-year old experiment of Evolution, creatures to test the effects of life in order to improve future generation. And, as with any experiment, results are not found without testing under various conditions... And, as with any experiment, results may vary!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Form-idable

Many interpretations to this one here!!
We spent the first significant years of our childhood simply sharpening those motor skills that make u a tangible person from that flailing lump of flesh we all started out to be. Once in control of our bodily movements, we set about using them to form things...used them in a handshake to form bonds with fellow sapiens. As a corollary to this, we formed, in our minds, impressions of these people. Some of these impressions transgressed their appropriate territories and formed themselves as prejudices. Prejudices notwithstanding, we formed our own individual attitude and personalities. Formed peculiar habits. I’m guessing these peculiarities are what formulated our moves. And carelessness, procrastination and scapegoats are just forms of apathy. No wonder then that I paid so dearly for my exam forms. (14K+) So did Dhruv with his CAT form being rejected!! But, so did Ganguly when he lost his form!! Form ICL and Kapil gets in trouble. Form an opinion and extremists thirst for your blood. Form a nuclear deal and communists strangle you. Form a government and you sit on a chair with 3 legs, each a bit unsteady. Form a drug habit and you are down from ramp to rags. (A beggar in a corset and skirt!! Now that’s new). Forms spell trouble...

* form a blog and suddenly everyone's a free lance writer!!

Vidhu Vinod Chopra – “I’m constantly saddled by a viewer who’s cinema illiterate. It’s like trying to talk Shakespeare with Khem Bahadur, my Nepali cook. My fear is that through constant simplification and trying to talk Shakespeare with Khem Bahadur, I’ve lost the ability to discuss Shakespeare with people who know Shakespeare”.

Arshad Warsi as ‘Circuit’? Or Arshad Warsi as the SSP in ‘Sehar’? The underplayed, but more real to life role played by him in Sehar has virtually gone unnoticed in the market. So the question arises, is the Indian audience ready to embrace real-life portrayals as such? The producers’ mind still battles with these questions, of portrayal of the over-the-top hero who comes in and makes everything glossy against the real life trials of a man who is good at heart. And after all said and done, economics weigh in on the intelligence quotient of the film. Why do we still find the need to have a protagonist with absolutely no flaws? One can understand the period of political and economic uncertainty which gave rise to such characters, where after spending money and three hours of time you needed to come out of the hall feeling optimistic. But now that we are in an age of rapid development and competency in the global market, do we still need such idols, all white and no grey? The hero curse has prevailed through years, not only in film making, but in everyday life too. A perfect man with no faults or fissures in character, whatsoever. Our concept of a social worker is a man who gives up wearing jeans to don a khadi kurta. We refuse to identify with a person who does good, while making a living for himself. It’s this xenophobia and lack of respect for money making that prevents a lot of people from actively participating in social justice. Our Nehruvian roots of economy have always emphasized on wealth distribution, all the while conveniently forgetting the precursor of wealth creation. The populace can starve to death, but the moment it is offered two meals a day in exchange for 8 hours of work, we speculate exploitation. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme simply offers crutches to a man who, with a little help, can walk on his own. We compel Bajaj to continue production at a factory that it deems unviable. It is about time we stop opposing for opposition’s sake. There is bound to be collateral in this process of moving forward. Darwinian Theory dictates the survival of the fittest. Those who cannot keep up must perish in order for new initiatives to sustain themselves.

Indians are not good tinkerers, says Gurcharan Das in India Unbound. It basically stems from our divided social system, a general contempt for manual labor, and where to move up the social scale, knowledge was the one and only option. While it justifies India’s exceptional Knowledge Based Economy, it also binds a person's choices. Our education system rarely allows room for foray into diverse fields. Trivial, as it may seem, one thing made me realize this lot. When we, as students, learn Newton’s theory of Gravity, we are forced to accept it as the only and correct explanation for objects being attracted to earth. The onus is on learning, not on thinking. The distinction between a theory and a law is never made clear. A theory is liable to challenge. Thus begins our rote method of accepting everything printed in the book. A stifled mind can never be a ground for invention. A friend’s brainchild about a professional quiz firm was thus a refreshing change. We can safely lock up our pasts in the closet. The days of job insecurity and economic dictation of career is behind us. Gone are the days when medical and engineering formed the core career choices and arts was left to the unfortunate low scorers. As the day and age provides us with that soft cushion of IT and ITES jobs, it is becoming more and more important that we venture out into the market beyond, to rise above our label of the global back office. IIM’s have already started the trend of entrepreneurial initiatives. Sabeer Bhatia, in an interview with Reader’s Digest said “Silicon Valley is the only place where you can walk into a bank with just an idea and walk out with a $100,000 loan." Hope the trend catches on. Here’s wishing Rohan all the best!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

What type are you??

Countless characters of the human mind. Outcome: countless forms of lovers!! So you have the quintessential studly bad boy who treats his mate like doormat. Oddly revered by men, frowned upon by women (although sometimes secretly admired). Then there’s the personification of the age old poetic cliché “I’d give my life for you”. Successful in the long run, where stability makes a compromise for immediate eye-candy effect, but always the substitute shoulder in short flings. The territorial nature that our wild forefathers left for us in our genes creates that ever so jealous partner who shoots from his eyes, anyone taking a peek at his mate. Now he is a person I pity for he is in that ever lasting conundrum of having a mate who is strikingly gorgeous, but who one doesn’t attract leering eyes. My best guess is he settles down at around 50 when he can take a sigh of relief in the fact that his mate is still pretty, but not appealing anymore by the sheer reason of age. Some, still carrying the momentum of the "poorna swaraj" call, settle into more convenient "open" relationships. Like I said, characters and love styles will be infinite. but the ones that take the cake are the fully Bollywood inspired type, who feast on Karan Johar flicks, then confuse reel life for real life, put themselves in SRK's shoes, and although spontaneous orchestras are difficult to arrange, try to make the relationship as dramatic as possible. Encore, I say. My balcony seats to such a show were worth the hassle. She doesn’t eat, he doesn’t eat. She cries, he cries. She fights; he stands on a road divider in the rain and shouts out her name in a public display of catharsis. A 102 degree fever, two days of starvation, a handwritten letter (composed by plagiarizing 50 love songs, one cliché at a time) and a whole lot of heart broken looks later, the happy couple is back. Intermission. This is the cue for you to go relieve yourself, get your popcorn, samosa and coke, and prepare yourself for climax after climax after climax. Not the Viagra kind, though!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Of Rain and Mobility

rain ain go away..starts the nursery rhyme.little johnny might have had his wish come true, but we certainly didnt..rain brings out a certain character in everybody...be it trees, birds, animals or just a group og testostorone glands like us.. we thrive on mobility... 7' o clock in the clock may not stir up emotions in people, but that cave man craving to get out of the den takes over us... past six odd years, we have followed the routine without fail.. so much so that our biological clocks are intune with that...lungs crave new air!! bike bellows to be saddled.sensory perceptions heighten for even a whiff of that fabled and elusive SHIKAAR...the road, like the proverbial doormat screams to be treaded upon...and i guess after such a set routine the happy lovers on the lake side too wait, to bask in the jealous gaze of by-passers...with that ultimate compliment of someone giving his girl a cat call...sheesh, people can find validation in the most uncivilized of acts...
but then the rain god decides to break this seeming monotony...possibly the old indian rain dance has been answered.. n now suddenly we are paralyzed with the fear of wet underwears!! so now we scamper around and pull up our sources to look for that saviour, that white knight in shining armour who would ride upon his chariot of the indica,wagonr or ikon make, and resuce us...but now there is that added problem of finding a new palace..that sureity of knowing where to sit our asses down is no more..and the quarrel ensues like a six headed beast.economics, geography,history of chic sightings, all come into play along with a pinch of ideological clashes and a dash of "if he goes left,i go right".
and then there is the road trip..one survey of Road to Heaven, with some experimentations of wheel traction on various kinds of surfaces..and that punctured tire..all problems set aside by constant stream of gibberish from everyone..and of course, shree's every confident "koi problem nahi"
time well spent,people...no harm done..none