What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Separate But Equal

If Rosa Parks was Indian, she wouldn’t have had a problem with being seated at the back of the bus. In fact she would be delighted over the reserved black quota seating in public transit. She would have supported the segregation of the bus into several reserved quotas for ethnic minorities. "Why not have a special black bus or a black compartment in the subway?" she might have even asked. 

You see, us Indians aren’t a big fan of integration. Our motto as Indians is “separate but equal”. Segregation is such a beautiful system. We are all special and unique. Segregation is the only way that lets us show how special we really are. The whole civil rights movement baffles us. This rush to integrate and blend just seems absurd. If black people had separate schools, special reserved seats and even their own toilets – why didn’t they just enjoy being special. In India, Brown would be fighting to create a whole special school for his daughter. Each day we Indians wake up and think “How can we segregate ourselves even further?”.

Last week the government of India approved the new state of Telangana. After years of separatist movement and strife, the slicing and dicing was finally approved. This move would divide the state of Andhra Pradesh into two parts: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In 2000 there were three new states carved out of similar separatist movements – Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh. Several other simmering separatist movements have started bubbling more profusely in light of Telangana. The most vociferous of them all being Bodoloand (carved out of Assam), Gorkhaland (for the hilly regions inhabited by Gorkhas) and Vidarbha (carved out of Eastern Maharashtra). Other rising movements include separation for Saurashtra (a part of Gujarat), Konkan (the western Konkani speaking region), Ladakh (the Buddhist region of Jammu and Kashmir), Delhi (statehood for the capitol region) and so on and so forth. There was a Khalistan movement to create Sikh nation which died down in the nineties, but could loom again. And then of course there is the hilariously fringe movement of separating Bombay as a Union Territory, one that I strongly subscribe to, but more on that later.

Just like civil rights and integration baffles Indians, India’s resistance to integration and obsession with "separate but equal" segregation can be equally baffling to most people. As an immigrant to the United States, integration is important to me. The civil rights movement is something I am truly grateful for. I have deep respect for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and even Malcolm X for all the effort they put forth to integrate races, cultures and ethnicities in America. Most immigrants and multicultural Americans see the value in integration. We strive to be a true melting pot, where we are together and equal. So it is a surreal tragicomic experience for me when I see folks in my homeland all lined up butcher knives ready to carve our country into bite sized morsels.

Let us put things in perspective. In many aspects the United States is an anomaly amidst the nations of the world. It is this anomaly that makes us a unique and great nation. Almost all other countries in the world have a deep rooted history and long standing ethnic, linguistic and cultural lineage. Ours is a nation of immigrants. We have a history and culture, but it isn't something that is deep rooted for centuries.

Way back in the day, during the era of colonization, the earliest Americans came from all across Europe seeking more freedom and a better life. The common thread for immigrants flocking to inhabit this new land was not a language, culture, race or ethnicity of any kind. Their binding factor was simply the love for freedom and a better life. Without integration the country wouldn’t exists. People from disparate backgrounds had to come together to make the country work. Integration is what made the United States of America.

It was not a perfect fairy tale journey. There were always many groups that had to fight for integration and equality. Every ethnic community has gone through their trial by fire to integrate – the Irish Catholics, the Chinese railroad workers, the escaping Jews and in our today’s times – the Hispanic immigrant. The African American struggle for integration is the longest saga that began during the civil war and still continues today with stories like Trayvon Martin shaking the foundations of our democracy. However, we all would collectively agree, integration is essential and vital for our success as a nation. There can be no true freedom or opportunity without integration. So indeed, the vociferous calls for segregation in India seem absurd and self defeating.

Then again, like the United States, India is also an anomaly. We Indians may delude ourselves claiming a rich culture and heritage with a deep rooted history. But the fact is throughout history, India has never been one unified nation. We are a land of scattered, disparate kingdoms. No sane man would have dreamed of modern India’s existence. It was only on that fateful day, August 15th 1947 when Indian began to exist. The Indian subcontinent stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar. Prior to the British Empire this region was always divided into several kingdoms, some antagonistic to each other. While empires like the Mughals came close to ruling the entire region, no one ever had absolute control. Even Aurangzeb who had the largest geographic region in his reign relied heavily on the allegiance of minor kingdoms rather than having his own kingdom per se.

When the Indian freedom movement gained maximum momentum, almost all the princely states and kingdoms of yore had long fallen or dwindling. Some had further fragmented into shadow puppets of the British Empire. The economic oppression and imperialism of the British Empire forced this fragmented bunch of multiple ethnicities, cultures, religions, languages and roots to band together in order to overthrow the British. So pressing was the common cause to gain freedom from the British Empire, that no one though forward 10, 20, 30 years ahead of time. After we overthrow the British – what now? Now that most of our kings and queens are gone, what now? How do we recreate kingdoms and glories of years past? How do we organize and govern ourselves? Are we to be one sovereign nation or a union of several sovereign nations?

And for modern independent India, these questions have bitch slapped her in the face. The first bitch slap, was partition. Although, we could call it more of a drop kick in the guts. Immediately after independence problems galore began festering. One of the immediate problem was the issue of multiple independent princely states that wanted to retain their independence instead of join the Indian union. While the smaller ones were easily assimilated, larger states like Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir posed bigger problems. Even today Kashmir still is a big problem that is still bitch slapping both India and Pakistan. Other than princely states there were still parts of the country still colonized by the French, Portuguese and Dutch.

Another issue was the matter of language. Each region in India has its own language, some splintered into further into dialect and sub dialect regions. Hindi being the most commonly spoken language across the largest geographical area was a favorite to become the official language. However, Hindi was alien to the south Indian states. They resisted Hindi and wanted a more neutral common language - English. So India became a country with two official languages and twenty five states roughly drawn out based on language barriers. But then a plethora of fringe languages and dialects like Tulu, Bhojpuri, Marwari etc. didn't even get their own state lines. Sardar Vallabhai Patel the home minister played the mighty iron-smith forging and hammering the disparate princely states and regions into unified India.

Thusly, India a country that wouldn't have existed came into existence. A hodge podge of different people forged together not by feverish patriotism, common history & culture or common love for freedom (our common ties evaporated with the retreat of the British), but by the practical smithing of a modern nation. Splintered loyalties and language were just the preliminary of India's bitch slap problems. The tacky glue of new found nationhood uneasily held together many disparate groups all "separate but equal". There were the divisions of religion - Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Tribal and more. There were the divisions of race the European descended Aryans in the North, the indigenous Dravidians in the South and the ever so forgotten Mongloid descendants in the North East. There was the caste system that fragmented every seemingly cohesive ethnic groups into more itty bitty pieces. Not to mention the wide yawning gap between the majority rural farming population and the colonial educated rising administrative class.

Thorny "separate but equal" demands have always plagued India. Despite being a so called secular country there are separate marriage and adoption laws for each major religion. Laws of meat consumption are also often implemented based on religion. To appease the uneasily integrated splinter groups and promote well being of the underprivileged the government of India introduced reservations for minorities. Reservation became the war cry of all Indians. Every group began to demand their own "separate but equal" quotas. And before we knew it Rosa Parks was rabidly fighting for her reserved back seat.

It wasn't too long before the existing states splintered. Almost every state has a region with few and loose common ties to the home state. Almost every state has an ethnic minority, cultural group or racial heritage that feels ignored, sidelined and undermined. Add to it the corrupt political system and vote bank agendas, demands to split off always crop up. Rather than integrate and work things out as people with a common cause the "separate but equal" doctrine sounds a lot more pleasing.

And exactly how bad is the "separate but equal" doctrine. Well during the recent Uttarakhand floods, Narendra Modi the chief minister of Gujarat flew in helicopters to rescue ethnic Gujaratis only. Imagine the Governor of Kansas aiding only ethnic Kansans after hurricane Sandy? Which makes me wonder what is an ethnic Kansan or Nebraskan, we're so integrated that we can't even define state ethnicities. Or think of Shiv Sena's attempts to restrict non Maharashtrians from entering Bombay. Thats like saying the rest of America is not welcome in Manhattan.

But then India isn't the only nation that faces such splintering. Barring Khalistan, most movements just want "separate but equal" recognition. They don't want to spin off into a new nation. We need to look no further than our neighbors Pakistan and Bangladesh. Despite having the same Muslim majority and the same Islamic interests, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) split from Pakistan over geographic as well as linguistic differences.

This isn't just a subcontinental problem. The west faces it too. Ask Canada about the uneasy truce between United Canadia and Quebec. Canada has been withstanding a separate Quebec movement for debate. Even the tiny nation of Belgium draws battle lines between the French Speaking Wallons and the Dutch Speaking Flanders. Why they are so disparate, that the two regions have separate Top 40 music charts. The Queen's crown doesn't rest easy either. The United Kingdom is a country loosely tying together four distinct regions, that almost consider themselves sub countries - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army has long terrorized England, while Scottish Republicans have been peacefully demanding separation for decades. Even the Welsh consider themselves separate from the crown in England.

Ethnic differences don't just create separatist movements. They create bloody war and even genocide. In the 1990's the collapse of communism saw countries split and go to war. The Soviet Union fell and shattered into pieces. Some of those pieces lie uneasy with friction even today. Yugoslavia's war between the Serbs and Croats was even bloodier and prolonged. In tiny tiny Rwanda ethnic differences led to the most horrifying genocide since the holocaust. Who would have imagined that so much life could be slaughtered in such a tiny region.

All being said and done, despite India's flaws and misplaced faith in the "separate but equal" doctrine there is still a ray of hope to be optimistic about. Ours is an unlikely democracy. We are the world's largest democracy. The fact that over a billion people from such disparate roots and backgrounds can come together as a nation is nothing short of miraculous. We have outlasted the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia by years. While we fight and bicker amidst ourselves, we are far from collapsing as a nation. While we have had violent riots and mini-religious genocides, we are far from the holocaust or the Hutu-Tutsi conflict.

And for all our differences, we do have a lot in common that binds us together: Our insanely religious obsession and bleeding blue over cricket, our neurotic crazy love for the movies, that uncanny zeal to celebrate with extravagant colors and great food, and our common loathing of our useless and corrupt government systems. The key is that we learn from the past and look to the future. We don't want to keep splitting our states so small that we fail to have stability and even collapse as a nation.

There is a lot we can learn from the big bad big brother - United States. Of course Unlcle Sam is an arrogant bully who likes to push and shove around his younger siblings in the world. But he has some qualities that are truly marvelous. When you come to the USA you learn that regional prides like being a Sconnie or a Cornhusker or a Hoosier isn't about deep rooted ethnicity, a long tradition of history and culture passed on from centuries - but from something created in the melting pot of integration. I'm a Sconnie, the white folks are sconnies, the black folks are sconnies, the yellow folks are sconnies and all those kids from around the world starting school in fall will be sconnies.

If only coastal Andra and Telangana knew, they didn't have to divorce each other. They could have created a new identity together.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am not Trayvon Martin

But, I could be.

Well, I am a South Asian female. Usually, we are an unlikely group to be discriminated against. We're considered the coy model minority types. However, I look Hispanic. When I cut my hair real short, I look like an Hispanic boy from a distance.

Many years ago I was mowing the lawn, when an elderly gentleman passing by told me he liked my diligent work. He asked how much I charged for yard maintenance. I smiled and told him politely that I lived here. He walked away surprised. I always brag about the incident as a testament to my fine lawn mowing skills. I do a really neat job. The lawn looks fantastic. But there is a sad truth ingrained within. It is a testament of our racial prejudices and stereotypes. A young Hispanic working in the yard is immediately perceived as a gardener, a manual laborer. The thought that he could be a homeowner or resident of the neighborhood still surprises.

A few days ago I was walking late night. As always I was lost in my own world day dreaming. In my daze of day dreaming I accidentally walked up to my neighbors house and tried opening the door. It took a while for it to register in my mind that I was standing on the wrong porch. My neighbors are also Indians like us. They know me well. Even if I had accidentally startled and awoken them, we would have laughed about it.

I shudder when I think what it would have been like in Florida. What if I was in a white neighborhood where no one knew me. What if I was visiting a friend and accidentally walked up to the wrong house late night. The fact that there is a possibility that someone could shoot at me is positively terrifying. The fact that people are so mistrusting and would immediately deem a person of color as a robber or burglar is disturbing.

The Trayvon Martin case has reignited the debate of race dynamics in the United States. Today President Barack Obama made a gutsy move by speaking to the nation from the perspective of an African American. His speech was eloquent, thoughtful and poignant. What was impressive was the fact that he acknowledge the fact that crime and violence is prevalent in the African American community. He showed an understanding of how and why stereotypes are formed and called for the nation to find solutions.

I'm not perfect. Despite being a colored person, I am racially prejudiced as well. Even I have been guilty of looking at African American men with suspicion. Sometimes I feel scared if I'm alone and there are plenty of black people around. I don't feel that fear around Asians or Whites. So I understand George Zimmerman's perspective as well. He saw a black man and got scared. He was genuinely concerned for the well being of his neighborhood and its safety. I'm not going to demonize him when I know very well I'm no saint. I completely empathize with him. George Zimmerman isn't a bad man. He didn't mean to cause death and pain. He made a mistake.

But that is that. Just because I empathize with him doesn't mean I feel his actions are justified. Even good men makes mistakes. And when you make costly mistakes like the ones that take innocent lives you have to have consequences and pay the price. And it is because I get him, I can say without doubt that he is a racist who profiled Trayvon Martin. I say that because I am guilty of the same, and I feel terrible about it. My prejudices break my heart and I want to be a better person. I don't know if George Zimmerman can say the same. He killed an unarmed boy and got away with it. This would not have happened if Trayvon Martin was a white boy.

Another important point to note is that had George Zimmerman listened to the 911 operators and gone back home, we wouldn't be discussing this today. It would have just been that brief moment of asinine profiling we all do and hopefully try to reflect and learn from it in the future. He defied the advice of the experts and took matters in his own hands. Instead of backing off and ending a scuffle with a kid and a bag of skittles he decided to fatally shoot the kid. Not a warning shot that would have told the boy to scurry, but a shot that took the kid's life.

No George Zimmerman is not a bad man. He is not a cold blooded murdered. He didn't want this to happen. But he did kill an innocent kit. It was a mistake. But he did defy common sense, authorities and human compassion and chose to take the fatal route. He is guilty of manslaughter or at least accidental death. He should pay a price for his racial profiling, defiance of authority and taking an innocent life.

Many people say that Trayvon Martin shouldn't have attached George Zimmerman. There is a point there. I agree. That was stupid and reckless. But if we defend George Zimmerman with stand your ground, what about Trayvon. If you are being followed and think you maybe at risk, wouldn't you want the right to stand your ground? What if Trayvon had a gun? What if he was scared to death of that creepy man following? What if he tried to fire a warning shot but his hands were so shaky he killed George Zimmerman? Would we defend him for standing his ground? Would we still say it was in self defense? Or would we assume the worst - that he is a black male prone to violence?

Let us not kid ourselves. We are all a bunch of fucking racists. We are all victims and propagators of prejudices. This post is not just about George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. This post is to ask a bigger question - How do we become better people? How do we build a better society? How do we make the world safer and better for the future?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 4)

It has been quite a while since I updated my tails (misspelling intentional) about our furry friends, the beasts of our lives. A recent comment on my blog spoke about childhood that made me nostalgic about my childhood again. I was reminded once again of these beasts that played their part to make my life magical.

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)
The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 2)
The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 3)


He is by far one of the handsomest dogs I have ever seen. He was the son of Chibud and Rani, and it seems he was a mutt who got the best of all genes. Tall, stocky, incredibly muscular, Rocky was built like a powerhouse. The Pitbull genes in him showed in his well built body. Sharp, sleek, elegant and regal, Rocky was a Mister Universe amidst dogs. The German Shepherd genes showed in his sexy good looks and intellect. Even as a little puppy, Rocky just towered above the rest.

Dogs like Rocky are frightening and intimidating. No one wants to get on the wrong side of a dog that is so quick and so powerfully built. But our Rocky was a gentle giant. Much more of a cuddly teddy bear than a dog. In fact he was quite a bit of a doofus. I don't think he had any idea on how massive his size was. I don't think he ever realized that he could probably rip apart a gang of dogs on his own. I don't think he knew that one bellowing bark could have sent humans covering away in fear.

The other dogs often bullied him and stole his chew sticks and food. Little kids found him an adorable mountain to climb and a fanciful horse to ride. Me, I loved having this massive beast rubbing against my legs like a pussy cat. I enjoyed having men who didn't know better shudder at the sight of this monster padding in my shadows. And I think despite his silly goofy cuddly nature, the Pitbull and German Shepherd in him kept a watchful eye on all us kids.


Soft, black, with the most beautiful soulful eyes, Ruby was another one of Rani's daughters that survived. She was the most unique of Rani's puppies because she was the only one with black fur. Also unlike her siblings she had longer hair instead of the typical soft hair.

Ruby is imprinted in my memory because my dad and I saved her life. We don't know if it was a fight or an accident, but Ruby suffered a major gash in her shoulder. My dad noticed that her gash had become infested with maggots. If nothing was done she could lose her limb and possibly even her life. So we took her to the vet where her wound was washed with antiseptic. The vet and his assistants too tweezers and scissors and deftly pulled out any remaining maggots.

I have a major gag reflex. The sight of real live blood and gore makes me sick to the stomach. I remember my stomach churning as I watched Ruby being treated. My heart wrenched every time she whimpered in pain. But I also learned that I could stomach anything and everything for ones I love. I remember checking her wound regularly and learning to tweeze out maggots. I became diligent about checking all my neighborhood gang of dogs for wounds, ticks, maggots - even though it grossed me out. When I remember Ruby, I wonder if I should have toyed with my fragile stomach and become a vet.


Most of Brownie's puppies never survived. One really startling exception was Sheila. Startling because she wasn't timid, weak or sickly like most of Brownie's puppies - but was surprisingly hale and hearty. Not only was she hale and hearty, but she also exceptionally playful. Every time she saw us, she would come to us running in leaps and bounds. She was so hyperactive, she was always bouncing off the walls like crazy. She was the kind of dog who wanted to knock you over each time by jumping up to you and covering you with many wet kisses. I think she was a favorite amidst my cousins.

The Others

Apart from our pets and our gangs of dogs in Vashi, many family members had pets that I knew throughout my childhood. Like Cookie, my uncle's adorable border collie. Dumbo and Puffer, Cookie's two precocious feline sisters. There was Tiger, the Doberman who intervened with barks to end every fight. Snoopy the very naughty, naughty poodle who rolled himself blue in pool chalk one day. Tipu, a big lovable lug of a goofy Great Dane who knocked people over in affection. I'll never forget Zorro, the massive overweight Doberman and Silver, the tiny little yippy Pomeranian who bossed him around. The love of my life was Pia, a most adorable cat at my great grandfather's place in Udipi and her whole brood of kittens. And of course the many Tommys and Dasus my great grandfather had including the one who chomped my jaw because he loved Pia more than me. And then the last time I went to India, I met Shaggy my cousin's fuzzball and Coffee a neighborhood stray whom my aunt was convinced had the soul of Socks in him.

Soon I will write about the beasts we met in the USA.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Dream of Dungeons and Dragons

“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.” ― The Little Prince

 Grown ups have such an exaggerated hurry about them. They are never still or at ease. There is always a rumbling restlessness about them as they run about their tasks hither tither. Always scurrying about in a purpose driven manner, like an army of frantic ants. Watching grown ups is like standing on a platform and watching bullet trains rush by. Life is a high speed train to them. They always have to dart down the track to the next destination. So much to do, so little time. 

To be honest, it simply appears like a caucus race to me. You know that absurd little race that befuddles poor little Alice in Wonderland? The animals just run in circles in a frantic frenzy. They are all thoroughly absorbed in running the race. The hitch is that no one really knows the rules of the game. No one really knows how one wins. They keep running for no reason, except for whatever insanity drives them in their minds. Grown ups are a lot like the mindless runners of that caucus race. Where exactly are they hurrying through in life. 

Don't let my age fool you. I maybe thirty-one, well past the prime of adolescence and youth. But I still dream of dungeons and dragons. Sometimes I don't even need to fall asleep. Eyes wide open, I'll seamlessly flit into an exquisite fantasy. I'm a wizard, I'm a dragon tamer, I'm a rancher at a velociraptor ranch. I stare out my window as I write this, and there is a herd of raptor hatchlings prancing down the bike path behind my house. 

Snap out of it they shake my reality, but I have nowhere else to go. Hurry up they urge me, but I have no train to catch. Grow up they chide me, but seriously the world is so much more fun this way. 

If you really introspect, I'm not really a lost child in neverland. I'm quite a responsible adult when it comes to it. But being an adult can be so dull and unimaginative. I simply don't understand why being grown up means letting go of your innocence. Why can't you be a grown up and still beleive in magic? Why can't you be an adult about it and still act like the world has wonders around every corner. 

I'm holding my grown up box now. I look fondly at my toys of imagination strewn all around. Should I pack them all away? Do we all reach a point in life where we have to pack our toys and keep the box away? Or is there a way we can grow up and play with them too?

Even the ever so angry Avril agrees

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sleeping on the Couch

For the past week I have been sleeping on my couch.

No, there isn't anyone who can kick me out of the bedroom. Nor am I stuck with a broken bed awaiting a new one. My queen bed has been just laying empty these days.

So then why am I sleeping on the couch?

My reasons are stunningly childish and innocent.

The world is a humongous place. The universe is so much more bigger. I feel so small and insignificant in front of existence. Moreover, I don't know why I exist and for what purpose. Honestly, I couldn't even answer who am I.

I stand at the crossroads of life, but rather than roads and opportunities I see an endless abyss. I don't know what I'm supposed to do or where I'm supposed to go. I'm graduating in a few weeks and I still have not figured out anything about the future. I'm nothing but the deer dazed in the headlights. I'm nothing but the lost little puppy dog whimpering for home.

Everyday that passes, I just feel smaller and smaller and smaller in front of the infinity of life, the universe and everything.

But on the couch, it feels different. On my couch, I am too big for my breeches; both literally and figuratively. Despite my midget height, my legs stick out over the edge. I curl up in awkward positions fitting into something too small for me to sleep in. It doesn't feel uncomfortable at all. In fact it rather feels safe and exceptionally comforting.

My bed is too big. There is too much room on there. So much room that it feels like it is being engulfed by the endless universe. On my couch the world feels miraculously compressed to its dimensions. This is my personal space in the world where I don't feel small or insignificant. On my couch I feel grand, almighty and powerful. On my couch I feel like the king of my castle. On my couch is where my dreams are fueled. On my couch is where even when I'm awake I merrily drift into my own Never Neverland. On my couch is where I never grow up and remain an eternal child. In this whole wide world where I will fall ceaselessly, my couch is the only place that wants to hold and comfort me.

I guess I can't sleep on the couch forever (or could I?). I'm not sure. But I think I'm going to be on my couch, till I am a grown up again.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pitch Fever - IPLitis

Six years ago when the first season of the Indian Premier League was launched I was not just skeptical, I was a vehement and vociferous opponent of this T20 league. Back then I was a cricket purist. A conservative cricket fan who stuck steadfast by the old ways and rules. Test cricket was the holy grail of cricket, the true test of a player's skill and mettle. The One Day International was the perfect length for a pulse pounding, thrill serving, fast paced cricket action. It was just the right size. Cutting it shorter would be bloody murder and would ruin the game.

Besides, who needs professional sports franchises and leagues? We are the blue billion. We're supposed to don our blues and cheer for Team India. We're supposed to bleed blue and nothing else.  The Aussies, the Pommies, the Pakkies, the Windies - they were opponents, not heroes we should cheer for. To waver from this path of blue devotion would be sacrilegious and treason of the highest order. Had it been my way, I would have courts-martial every single IPL supporter screaming "off with their heads"

Now six years down the road, it is a different story. Or shall we say, I'm dancing to the tunes of a whole different ball game. Not only have I changed and learned to see the positive side of IPL, I've become a passionate fan. Now every morning I have the scorecard open in a window, so I can follow each game. On weekends I flip on the TV to catch games. I'm part of a fantasy league and will spring out of bed at 5 AM to update my league team.

So what is it exactly about IPL that made me fall in love with it so much? How did a cricket purist learn to give up stubborn old ways and embrace change?

Here are some reasons, in no particular order

1. It isn't just a batsman's game

My greatest fear about IPL was that it would become a batsman's game. Just twenty overs with the goal of making as many runs as possible. Just twenty overs and no real break down between opening, middle and death. Just twenty overs with no need to build or pace an innings. Changes in field restrictions had changed One day internationals. The first fifteen and final ten saw brutal onslaughts by batsmen. Batsmen with brute power to clear boundaries were in vogue. Bowlers were being reduced to mere ball tossers to keep a game going. With T20 cricket I was convinced that bowlers would be reduced to accessories, like the machines in baseball batting cages.

But that is not the case. Bowlers adapted to the game too. In fact the bowlers managed to reclaim their lost glory. Dot balls and maiden overs that were just a good accomplishments, became rare and precious. Runs, oh they would come, but a bowler who can bowl dot balls - that was a magical gift. And wickets, if one could take wickets - they wouldn't just be heroes, they would be immortals.

The IPL saw bowlers like Dale Steyn, Sunil Narine and Lasith Malinga getting their due glory and honors, that one day international just didn't give.

2. Elegance still Counts

Another fear was that the art of batting would be lost. It is one thing to hit a brutal six. Big sixes thumped across the ground make the audience jump up with joy and liven up the game. Batsmen who whack the ball around are really popular. But the greatest thrill, excitement and beauty in cricket is in elegance. Batting that isn't just part of a game but a skilled craft. Where batsmen are not mere sportsmen but artists, creating masterpieces with their stroke play. Like the music of the crisp thwack of the ball as Tendulkar hits a sweetly timed cover drive. Or the mind boggling wrist work of VVS Laxman who manages to pierce the ball into a narrow gap. I thought this craftsmanship would become a lost art.

But the elegant craftsmen evolved with the game. The thing is the brutal exciting big hitters are unpredictable and erratic. They fail too often. Their lack of precision craft and artistry is their undoing. The true elegant artists, they are a class apart. They can score and perform in any setting. The elegant batsmen learned to combine their artistry with the need of the game. There were more cover drives, more pierced boundaries and a new breed of hard thwacks that weren't just brutal slogs, but genius at work.

3. Vintage Cricket

Every time a cricket legend retires, we mourn at the loss of a great hero. Sometimes, it feels like Olympus has lost another God. They fade into oblivion. Perhaps they are no longer young enough to represent their country. Perhaps they are no longer lean, mean and fit and have to concede their places to the next generation. But they still have plenty of game left in them. They can still play pro sport leagues. They still can mentor the next generation without compromising country.

I'm a Sachin Tendulkar fanatic and nothing is more pleasing that seeing Sachin score in the condensed T20 version of the game. However, the real beauty of vintage cricket is seeing someone like Rahul Dravid play. Man he was the most technically sound cricketer of all times. His slow scoring often made him highly underrated. But if there is any sportsman in any sport who has true spirit and grit, it is Rahul Dravid. Despite being well past his prime he adapted to T20. To watch him play strokes is like dying and waking in heaven. Not only does he represent everything that is beautiful and good about vintage cricket, he proves that Gods can never fall - they simply rise to another level.

4. We can be heroes

In a country of one billion people, making it to the national team is nothing short of a miracle. You can't just be good, you have to be exceptional. And with politics, corruption added to the mix of probability - dozens of exceptional players never get their due. We build gods like Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly - but other heroes just lie in the corner waiting. The local interstate tournaments simply don't hold the magic.

But now with the IPL and the rule for every team to have one uncapped player gives everyone a chance to be a hero. Take the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Sachin Baby, Srikkanth Aniruddha, Stuart Binny, Manvinder Bisla and many more who never had the chance to don Indian colors but became IPL heroes.

5. Second Chances and Alternates

It is not just for the uncapped. So many players make it to team India, but don't sustain. Rather than fading into oblivion IPL gives them a second chance to shine. Parthiv Patel, Laxmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra, Dinesh Karthik - so many made it to team India and faded unceremoniously. But now in IPL they become heroes again.

6. Fly like a cheesehead

For the longest time I thought bleeding blue was sufficient. National pride was the only thing that mattered. Anything else was too commercial, hollow and fake. But it was upon living over ten years in Wisconsin that I realized how important it is to have something more. National pride is great, but there is value to regional pride as well. There is something magical about our obsession with the Green Bay Packers. Even the Milwaukee Brewers, even though they don't win often, have an aura of pride, spirit and magic around them.

Whenever I step into a sports bar and see throngs of people cheering loudly for the Packers, noisily slamming high fives and fist bumps over touch downs - I realize that my like in India lacked something like the Packers. A while back our state was fragmented, shattered and divided over political lines. It was desperate and despairing. But despite our differences we had a glue that kept us together - our love for beer, brats and cheese and the Green Bay Packers.

It made me wonder, what if we had something more than just team India growing up. What if there was something local, something our own, something that kept us together like glue when things fell apart. And for me and Mumbai - I think Mumbai Indians are the answer. There is just an obsessive passion with pro sports leagues that is unlike any other.

7. The Spirit of Cricket

Sydneygate was an ugly ugly incident. It was the lowest low in the history of cricket. It was something worse than Bodyline. There was bitterness far deeper than the ashes. There were tensions that were racial, national and many other things. The whole affair was tragic and not quite cricket. It would seem that cricket was losing it's sheen as the gentleman's game. This was no longer a game of honorable gentlemen. It was now a game of sledging, oneupmanship and degenerating mind games. The spirit of cricket was dying. Me and many Indians like me loathed Ricky Ponting for being the swordsman who bled it to death.

But look at all of us now cheering for a marriage definitely not made in heaven. The highly unlikely and juxtaposed couple of Pondulkar (Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar). Look at all of us smiling in glee at the thought of two legends walking out together making each ground they set foot upon hallowed. Look at our hopes and excitements even when they fail. Look at us smile fondly at Harbhajan Singh warmly embracing Ricky Ponting after the flying Ricky snatches a catch out of thin air.

Truly cricket has a healing element that erases boundaries and builds bridges. IPL has had this uncanny way of making the unlikely take place. Cricket is whole again and the spirit of cricket lives. There are still the school boy fights, the dirty words and stares, the frequent scuffles. But once again the game is greater than the player. Each player now seems to be humbled and aware of the irony - opponent today, teammate tomorrow. Its given them a new found respect for team work and sportsmanship.

8. Love affairs with foreigners

It isn't just the power of Pondulkar. Bangalore cheers for Chris Gayle while Mumbai adores its lovable giant Kieron Pollard. Rajasthani's root for Watto and the Punjabis chant for Gilly. Dale Steyn is an everyday Indian hero. We all want Malinga to slinga and Murali to play his spinning tunes. We act as if the Hussey brothers and the Morkel brothers were products of our own backyards.

India used to not be that way. Even though we appreciated the likes of Brian Lara, the Waugh Brothers, Alan Donald etc - we never truly fell in love with them. Now we don't just cheer for them, we're irrevocably in love. And while that is seemingly inconsequential, there is something alluring and enchanting about these affairs we never dared to have. Now if only our neighbors Pakistan would be allowed to play. Sleeping with the enemy would surely be an affair to remember.

9. Woman Power

No matter how many jokes people may make about Nita Ambani, I cannot help but smile and feel a sense of pride when I see her waving the flag of the Mumbai Indians. What you see in the IPL is something you don't see in any pro sports league around the world - women in charge. Although the Mumbai Indians is owned by the Reliance Group, Mukesh Amabani's wife Nita Ambani is the Chief Executive off the team. In essence she is the boss/owner that all the players, coaches and staff report to. You see her talking to players, giving them advice and pep talk. You have legends like Tendulkar and Ponting talk to her like an equal. It is not just her. Everyone remembers the images of Preity Zinta and Yuvraj Singh at the first IPL. Shilpa Shetty is a fixture at every Rajasthan Royals games. While most pro sports leagues tend to be an old boys club, the IPL certainly has its share of women who play a role and make a difference.

With the case of Nita Ambani, it isn't just promotion and merchandising. She uses the commercial firepower of IPL cricket to fuel her charities and her drive to make education accessible to all underprivileged Indian children. 

10. #Sir Jadeja and all the other quirks and anomalies

Cricket has its own Chuck Norris and humor. IPL just takes it to a whole new fun level.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I've morphed into a Wasp

No. This isn't about a bizarre metamorphosis into an insect a la mode Kafka. Although, I do wonder if there is some metaphor or allegory hidden within my own transformation. Before I proceed I ought to tell you that the wasp in question here is the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. A wasp is a disparaging term typically used to refer to high society white people. Nowadays, it has become more generic as a catch all to any white person who isn't a part of any minority.

Obviously, I'm not white. I should clarify, I am not undergoing some sort of Michael Jackson phenomenon either. It is just a realization of the world I have become wrapped up in. On Sunday our trivia team was invited to the wild card round of the team trivia tournament. This wild card round took place on the east side of town at a place called Murphy's tavern. They were trying to promote Murphy's as a new location.

The east side of town is a part of town I rarely go to. The only time I cross the area is when I go to the airport. Otherwise, my extent of Madison stretches from the west side to downtown. And of course the Olbrich and Willie street neighborhoods. We west side folks are too cool or too posh for the east side.

So as we approach this tavern we realize it is a tiny, dingy looking place. The signs cash only, no credit card or checks isn't promising. When we finally enter, my jaw drops a bit and I immediately feel uncomfortable and out of place. I don't know how to describe the place. It is wide open, with a bar and a bunch of older blue collar type folks having beer on a Sunday afternoon. A typical Hicksville hole-in-the-wall kind of dive bar.  I'm totally feeling like a fish out of water. Typically, I am a fish out of water in most social places, but this kind of takes the cake. It is unlike any bar or pub I have been to. I must add - they also have a "meat raffle". You buy these raffle tickets that win you deli meat. Only in Wisconsin.

We find a place in a corner to sit while we wait for trivia to be setup. Whenever people enter the bar we can discern who is here for the drinks and grub and who is for trivia. Every trivia person has a shell shocked exceptionally perplexed look on their face. My friend joked how it was just like Ladysmith, the small middle of nowhere town up north where her parents are from. I started rambling about how I'm spoiled. I only go to bars that have good seating, good food and good service - the kind of place where you don't just drink - but chill and eat some tasty eats. Thats when my friend joked that in Madison we're privileged and tend to stick to waspy places.

No wonder they call us thirty square miles surrounded by reality. Not only are we super liberal. We're privileged in a way we don't even realize it. Even colored folks like me have been pampered with Wasp like services. We barely have any ghettos or projects. Even our worst neighborhood is like upper class Manhattan. Even our immigrants don't eat gas station food or shop at dingy places.

Madison, WI - Sodom on the Lake - Where every colored immigrant and minority is privileged like a wasp.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It is only funny........

Until someone gets hurt.

Then it is fucking hilarious.

I love that one liner, especially considering the only great talent I have mastered beyond certainty in my short span of life is personal injury and liability. No one can beat me in self inflicted pains and wounds, except perhaps my sister who was once hit by a parked car. True story! People tend to be real wieners about getting injured. Being a socially inept person, I never understand the pity party when someone is injured. I think people who coddle and fuss people who have been injured totally miss the big picture. Of course when you are injured it hurts like a bitch. Sometimes, I cry and scream and whine and wince like a little child. But once it is said and done you have battle scars. These are accomplishments you can be proud of and weave impressive stories out of. Most of the times they are not as impressive, but ridiculously funny. But that is OK because you will be giving people the gift of laughter. Most of the time they will be laughing at your excessive stupidity or unbalanced ineptitude. But that is OK, it is still funny.

As I said, my one true talent is self inflicting injury. I'm quite convinced I'm missing the hand-eye coordination of my nervous system. Rather than a human being I'm more like a wobbly mass of jell-o that gets into pickles. And I have no qualms telling tales of my adventures in ineptitude and self injury.

Lets go top to bottom, beginning with my face. I'll never ever wear clip on earrings in my life. You know why? Prior to my wisdom teeth being removed I have had only one surgical procedure in my life. I wore a pair of clip on earrings once. I pressed them in real tight and then forgot about them for a while. Eventually, I had to get them surgically removed because my ears grew around the earrings.  I had earrings embedded in my earlobes. Speaking of surgical procedure and wisdom teeth. I was so loopy and high after my wisdom teeth were removed. I ran across the parking lot skipping, waving my arms "Lets fly home. Lets fly home". My parents for all their skills in child embarrassment and mortification really failed in their divine duty of embarrassing me, by failing to capture this imagery. I would have fucking loved to see that.

Then once in high school I had a blue beard for a few days. It was a field hockey injury. I attacked from the wrong side when the opponent was about to hit the ball. A foolish mistake. Quite a cardinal mistake in field hockey. I got cracked in the jaw real hard with a hockey stick. My family must be descended from Iron Man's family because I'm surprised my jaw didn't break or crack. Because I heard a terribly loud crack ring in my brain and I literally saw stars. The next day, I had blue-green-gray shades of swelling showing up on my jaw. Most women would freak out about such a hideous deformity of the face. I was more like "Yeah, see that, I got whacked in the jaw with a hockey stick. Yeah, I'm pretty strong and impressive like that.

I'm not really sure if this constitutes as an injury because I was perfectly fine and unscathed. But when I was four or five, my parents had to rush me to the hospital. I swallowed one of my great grandmothers blood pressure pills because it was colorful and sugarcoated. I thought it was gems. I must have a bionic blood pressure system or the pharmacy manufacturers were filling the foil with gems because it had absolutely no affect on me at all. Not even a momentary abnormal drop or increase in blood pressure. If my father were to theorize, he would suggest that it exploded some capillaries in my brain. All my life I have been such an idiot savant that his one unfulfilled mission in life will be cracking open my skull to see what is wrong in the gray matter in there. 

Finally, a good chunk of my front incisors are fake. The dentist did a brilliant job with it. You can barely tell unless you look real close. The reason my sister hit me in the face with a door.  Yes, alcohol was involved - but would you believe me if I told you I was sober?  I was finishing up one bottle and going to the garage to get another when bang, my sister opened the door to come in and bang went my face. My sister, her friend and I all went into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. I just got smashed in the face with a door. How fucking hilarious. I'm still doubling uncontrollably at how funny this is when I notice the two staring at me horrified. I'm like what? They tell me my whole mouth is bleeding. I rush to the restroom and sure enough my mouth looks like a sloppy vampire who just finished a massive meal. There was blood everywhere. I was my mouth and rinse out all the blood. Finally when the blood is gone, I'm like where are my teeth. There is a fucking gateway of India in my mouth where are my teeth. I look at the bottle I am still clutching and lo and behold teeth pieces floating in it. My only thought was should I really drink alcohol that has my teeth swimming in it or should I toss it.

Unfortunately, despite all my face stories my sister still beats me. She cracked her head on the potty and split her eyebrow. She had to get stitches. And the only thing she was concerned about while being all stitched up was her tomato soup at home that was getting too cold. Tell me how do you beat that?  One of my classmates also beat me. She was my lab partner and inhaled sulfur dioxide that we made in a lab. For an entire week she would tap me on my back and go "I have sulfur up my nose" with an accusatory look and tone, like I did this to her. I can't beat snorting sulfur either.

I have a very teeny weeny scar on my left boob. I was about five when I received that. I was playing with my cousins when I got into a fight with my cousin sister. She got so mad at me, that she bit me. She didn't just bite me anywhere, she bit me on my left boob or rather left chest because I didn't have boobs at five. She didn't just bit me there. Bloody demon vampire child drew blood. I ran home bawling and crying. Not only was I bitten on my boob, but had to suffer the indignation of showing every adult what had been done. Apparently, they need to see the scar before they reprimand and punish. I just love making shit up about being bitten in the boob. Thankfully over time the boobs grew big and enormous that the scar is almost invisible now. Only I know the spot because of the indignity I suffered.

Now this one is not really an injury, but a story of how my sister and I were traumatized. My sister has to drive me to the hospital at 2 Am one night. I'll skip the details here for now. We park in the ramp and decide to access the hospital through the Sky walk. The attendant at that entrance is half tranced and gives us vague directions to overnight urgent care. Most of the regular entrances and wings are empty. We take more than a few wrong turns and end up at a dead end closed door. Some young intern sees us at the door and lets us in. We are walking around trying to figure where urgent care is, when we realize we are in ER and trauma ward. I tell my sister we have to get out soon before we see something gory. Thats when we hear a woman scream. Is that what I think it is? Please tell me she is dying and not what I think it is? She screamed again. Oh my God! I am going to faint. The woman behind this curtain is delivering a child. Behind this curtain is the result of breeding and child birth. Oh God save me! Thankfully another doctor found us and led us out a nearby door that was urgent care.

The above image is not a tiny misshapen penis. It is just my thumb. It is the only injury, I have photographed. And indeed what a magnificent specimen of self inflicted injury. I was driving home from work one day and feeling bored with the usual scenery of fields. My eyes fell uon the cigarette lighter and began to wonder how does this work. I pumped it a few times till it got red hot. I looked at the red coils and wondered how hot might this be, how does a cigarette light with this. Then I did the only logical thing to do. I took the red hot coils to my thumb and pressed it. Ow fucking Ow Ow Ow. The cigarette lighter had branded me with some third serious third degree burns. The picture does it no justice. For how painful it was, it was quite a pretty burn - nice concentric spirals. I wish the scar had been more permanent so I could show off. I wonder if I should burn myself with a cigarette lighter again. I'll do it if anyone wants to see me brand myself again.

Every now and then when I'm exerting myself like running, dancing or playing DDR or Dance Party my left knee will give and bend a little. That is because I mangled my left knee. I was going down the stairs in the dark and missed the last few stairs. Now what I was doing causing me to fall is my dirty little secret. I let out the shrillest screech of agony. I was like the lady in the ads "Help I fallen and I can't move". I simply could not move my left leg and was convinced it was broken. I'll let you in on a different secret. One of my fears is that I'll fall down the stairs and just lay there and die because my family is so oblivious, they may not notice me gone for a while. Thankfully, this time around my mom nearby and helped me to the hospital again at close to midnight. What was impressive about this injury is that the doctor offered me shots of painkiller for the terrible shape my knee was in when I got there, but I turned them down. I might cry like a baby, but I have a good threshold. They even had several x-rays worried about something broken, luckily it was just torn muscles and ligaments. The doctor said I could have a bad knee for life.

Once I was going to school on my birthday. My mom had bought me a nice new dress. I looked pretty without my uniform. I also had a big bag of candies to hand out. I was so happily skipping away that I lost balance and fell. I had scraped the skin off both knees and was bleeding. I got blood stains all over my pretty new dress. When I got home that evening, mom was baking me a cake. I was so excited when she was pulling it out the over that I ran to the oven door and kneeled on it. So on one of my birthdays past as a kid, I scraped and baked my knee.

I once chipped my ankle by tripping over my own shoe. That hilarious one liner makes for a great story. I vividly remember it was Christmas eve. I went to the garage for something, I don't remember what. That is when I tripped over my shoe and badly twisted my ankle. My ankle kind of banged on the garage floor. I hobbled back in, writhing a bit in agony. As a pretty active kid, I've sprained my ankle a million times. I never thought it was a big deal. Excruciatingly painful, but as common as a common cold. However, on Christmas morning when my family saw that it had bloated to the size of a gigantic blue alien potato and my shoe wouldn't fit they thought it was time to see the doctor. The doctor immediately had an x-ray done. Then he showed me my x-ray and how I now have a permanent floatie. I had chipped my ankle bone and one piece of my bone was merrily floating away from its home. They don't fix these things or remove the pieces. Your bone chip just floats in there. The poor doctor was trying to suppress a giggle as I told him how I did this to myself by tripping over my show. I must note, I still throw my shoes around and almost trip over them. Maybe someday, I'll have a right ankle floatie. But if you are around me and in my house, watch out for the shoes.

Sometimes I like to show feats of my non existent strength to impress people. My friend, the sulfur snorting lab partner was my partner in shop class as well. Which translated into, I did all the hard labor like drilling, sawing, lifting, clamping while she did light work like filing. Usually, the metal we had to work with was cut into manageable strips. But this one day all that was there were the full length iron rods that weigh as much as a few baby elephants. We had to lift it and clamp it into the vices along the table and cut to size. I told my friend that we could lift it together and do it. So we both lift the iron rod and we're about to get it to a vice when my friend lets go. The weight is almost too much for me to handle alone and I drop the iron rod on my foot. Thank god it rolled off and just left a few bruises. My mom poor thing had to take me on another one of many trips to the doctor. It was another one of those injuries which I could show off and say "Yeah, see that. I tried to weight lift a massive iron rod. Yeah, I failed, but it was a valiant effort".

There are a few more worthy injuries to mention like the one time I got clocked in the crotch while playing cricket, or the one time I had a twig pierce the webbing of my toes, or the scary incident when I was hit by a rickshaw while riding a bike and badly injured myself, or when I burned my hand while trying to save my cousin brother from burning his face - but those weren't really self inflicted. They were genuine accidents. But they are interesting and hilarious battle scar tales as well.

Oh well, the next time I do something stupid or someone else does something stupid, I don't want you to look at me and go aww. I want to you laugh, because it is fucking hilarious. And even if I am in a hospital bed with my body half mummified, I still expect you to laugh - because I'm sure no matter how grave the injury, I probably look fucking ridiculous.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 3)

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)
The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)

For the past couple of weeks I have been writing about the furry friends who have been a part of my life. Here, I continue recounting their adventures.

 photo Socks.jpg

Ah, the story of Socks is quite interesting. I believe fate wanted us to finally have a dog of our own. He wasn't ours to begin with. But somehow, after some long tedious times he was our baby boy.

A dog owned by our local sports club had given birth to a litter of puppies. I'm not sure if she was a breed dog, I don't think so. But she was a magnificent beast and her pups were in demand. A local sardar family in our neighborhood purchased two puppies - one male and one female. The male was light brown colored and the female white with black markings. They were plush and soft, like two little teddy bears. They were named Tinu and Sapna and the two sardar boys flaunted them. All us kids would spend an entire evening gushing over the two puppies.

Within weeks of getting the pups the family decided to go to Punjab for vacation. They told the boys, just leave the pups. They are old enough and will survive. The boys however, gave the pups to a friend to take care of. That friends mom said no way and told him to get rid of the dogs as soon as possible. So the dog got handed to my friends two buildings down. Even their mom refused the dogs in the house and told them to keep the dog outside. They could play with the dogs when they went out.

One evening I was going home after playing when I heard puppy howling from their building. I went in and saw the two puppies sitting on the floor howling. They had pooped and peed around and no one was caring for them. I picked them up and tried to calm them, but they kept crying. When they started suckling on my fingers I realized they were hungry. This will not do, I told myself. These pups had been abandoned. I took it upon myself to stake claim as a puppy momma. As I took the two pups home a shopkeeper was enamored with Sapna the black and white pup. Knowing him to be a nice trustworthy fellow, I let him keep Sapna. Tinu came home with me. I set him outside the door and had mom give him some milk.

That night when my dad came home he asked about the pup outside. I told the tale of the pups abandonment and how we had to take care of him, just like he cared for Chibud. My dad then said, why leave him outside. It was Chibud's territory. He's just a pup so we should raise him. My family thought Tinu was a stupid name for a puppy and we needed a name for the little fellow. Because he had white stockings on all four of his paws, my mom suggested Socks. I was worried that the Sardar boys would come and demand Socks back, but dad said anyone who abandoned a puppy like that is not a responsible owner and he would make sure we could keep him. Dad and I then took Socks to the vet, had him neutered, vaccinated and registered. As I feared the boys came to our doorstep and demanded the dog back. My dad engaged in a lot of argument with the family. Eventually, dad won and we kept Socks.

As Socks grew up, his white stockings started shrinking in size till they were reduced to just small white spots. For a while we were sad that his name no longer suited him. Then he found a way to live up to it. Socks was a world class socks thief. You could never leave your socks in your shoes, he would steal it. Leave your socks around for a few seconds, he would sneakily get to them. If you were missing a sock or two, chances are Socks was hiding under a bed with them.

Socks was one of the gentles most adorable dogs I've ever known. All us cousins would roughhouse and play all sorts of wild games with him. I would wrestle with him. My little cousin brother would try riding him. We would try to straighten his curly tail and we bother him in a million ways. But he had infinite patience with kids and never once let out even a growl at our antics. But don't mistake him for a soft fuzz ball. He was a ferocious guard dog as well. Once we were remodeling our home. One of the workers decided to try and open a closet in my parents room when no one was around. He had mistaken Socks to be just a loving dolt and nothing more. When Socks saw it, he immediately went into barking dog mode and attacked. My dad had to go and sort it out.

There was also a time when I was talking Socks for a walk. I was taking a shortcut to the beach. It was a grassy path next to an abandoned building. I saw a creepy man masturbating in the bushes. In hindsight, I should have taken a different path. But I was confident of having my guard dog with me. I didn't think anyone would attack a girl with a dog. Not very bright of me considering I was just a little thirteen year old girl with a little dog. The man came and tried to grab me. Socks instantly went into attack mode and clamped his jaws on the mans hand, snarling viciously. The man was terror struck and with all my strength and effort, I had to save my would be attacker from the attack of my dog.

And for his relatively small size, Socks was a very powerful dog. We would joke that no one took Socks for a walk, Socks took his people for a walk. Even with a choke chain, most people could barely control Socks. My mom and I were the few people who had the ability to actually walk him, unless he really decided otherwise. The funniest was my little cousin brother. Even when he was barely six, he insisted on taking Socks for a walk. It was the most hilarious sight to see. His back would arch, his hand would be stretched out, his heels would dig in the dirt as he skidded behind the dog taking him for a walk.

Socks also had a really bad habit - Running away. I think he did it because it was a game for him. Once when my mom had the door open while talking to a vendor, Socks darted out. I ran after him to get him home. I screamed to all my friends who were outside to help me catch Socks. So there was a small group of kids chasing him - and the idiot of thought it was a jolly game of chase. Yes, and us idiot kids also thought it was a wondrous game of chase. Soon "Catch Socks" would be a popular neighborhood activity. Socks would sneak out. I'd run in chase. All the kids who saw it would scream "Socks bhaag gaya" (Socks has runaway) and join me in chasing Socks. Kids from all over the neighborhood and other apartments would also join in. There have been times when Socks was having a gala time running like crazy in the playground, dodging 15-20 kids chasing him. Eventually, when we all were dehydrated, panting, and on the verge of collapse Socks would sit down and be like "Hey, put that chain on me and lets go home". There were a couple of times he ran out, without anyone noticing. We would open the door to a baffled dog at the doorstep with a dumb look saying "Hey, why didn't you come play chase with me".

For a dog Socks developed some very quirky habits. He would reverently follow Pickoo around. She had no qualms smacking him in the face, but he still adored her. Sometimes he would sun himself in the rays in the morning with her, behaving just like a cat. One of his favorite food items was peas. Whenever mom would shell peas, he would come to the kitchen. We would toss him a few peas. He would gingerly shell it with his paws and eat the peas. It was the most adorable thing ever.

The most heartbreaking thing about moving to the United States was letting go off Socks. Initially, I was supposed to go back to India and stay till I completed my undergraduate degree. But my parents wanted to keep me close and decided against sending me back. Since my grandmother couldn't care for Socks, my grandfather gave him away to a friend with a farm. One fine day Socks ran away and was killed when he was hit by a car. My parents lied that Socks had just run away and no one knew what happened. I wouldn't be told the truth till years later. But it is one of those things you just know. So compounding my homesickness of being in a new world was regret and heartbreak. I felt that I had lost far more than I bargained for. No wonder I spent years in chronic depression. Looking back, it kind of is a miracle I managed to scrape through the mental funk. It is the good memories with our furry friends and their touch on our lives, that gives us the power to plow through the rough times.

 photo Socks2.jpg
I call this "The Mask" picture

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 2)

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)

Last week I started narrating the tales of all the furry little friends who were part of my life. Together, they somehow made my life more magical, more fun and gave me fond memories to last a lifetime. This is a continuation of their furry tails.


She was Chibud's wife. Dogs are indeed wandering creatures. They copulate and multiply wantonly without inhibitions. But despite all that I do think sometimes they fall in love and become soul mates. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that Brownie and Chibud were soul mates.

Brownie arrived in our building to take shelter during a raging monsoon. She was a thin frail sickly bag of bones. She looked so sick and weak, we were afraid she was going to die soon. She had the most soft and lovely chocolate brown eyes that just begged "love me". We took pity on her and started feeding her.

Initially, she spent all the time on the ground floor entrance of the building. Over time she moved upstairs to the first floor, Chibud's floor, the floor we lived on. Chibud was highly territorial and no dog, not even his many girlfriends was allowed in this territory. For some reason, he did not seem to mind her presence at all. Eventually, they even began sharing their food and food bowls. On cold rainy days they would snuggle up. The mutual affection had my childlike mind convinced they had fallen in love and married.

Brownie would often disappear to give birth to a litter. I'd eventually find her though. I knew all the mommy dog safe havens. Sadly, none of her puppies ever survived and she remained baby less.She was an extremely timid and frightened dog who always ran away from people. It was virtually impossible to pet her as she would slink and run off. Not even my mom or dad who were avid animal lovers could win her trust. But I knew Brownie from a long time ago when I'd crawled into some gutter as a kid to find her pups. She must have built some affection for me as her only pup to survive. I'm even convinced that she chose our building to take shelter in on account of my scent.

After having Chibud tagged and neutered, I helped dad get Brownie tagged and spayed. She and Chibud lived contently outside our doorstep. Sadly, I don't know what happened after we left for the states.


The story of Rani is a miracle. I often tell her story to people to illustrate why there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and such dogs tend to have a bad reputation as aggressive ferocious dogs. They are nothing but a misunderstood breed. There is also a notion that aggressive dogs who have attacked people and drawn blood are not sociable and must either be put down or raised in an isolated manner. Bull shit I say. Listen to the story of Rani. It all depends on the owners and how well you take care of the dogs.

Rani was a German Shepherd mix. She looked exactly like a German Shepherd, but had shorter yellow hair. She was a regal and royal looking dog. Oh man she was a sleek and sexy beauty. Oh how I would have loved to play with her. There was one problem though. Rani was a ferocious beast. She had attacked several men. She was owned by some hoteliers and they would have to keep her tied all day. Try approaching her and she would growl, snarl and viciously bare her razor sharp fangs. Her owners frequently beat her in punishment for growling and snapping.

Then one day, the hotel shut down and her owners just left leaving her behind. So now we had this deadly beast roaming our apartment complex. We learned how to move about and stay out of her way. Even I would have my heart in my mouth and walk cautiously when Rani was around. But then without her owners Rani had no one to feed and care for her. She did not know to scavenge, hunt or beg like the other dogs. She started growing thinner and frailer.

There was another hotel in our building. The cooks and waiters felt pity on this starving dog. Some of them risked approaching her with leftover scraps. She snarled, but gratefully accepted the food and caused no harm. They told me that the dog was approachable if you offered her food. So even I would take risks offering her pieces of bread and chocolate. Gradually over time, Rani underwent a significant change. Her previous owners were clearly abusive. They kept her tied up and beat her. They didn't make an effort to socialize her. Once she realized not all humans were cruel and began to trust us, miraculous changes happened.

Soon there was a day when the ferocious and vicious beast known as Rani was a distant memory. We only knew of Rani, the gorgeous German Shepherd mix, the royal lady of our neighborhood. The real Rani was a kind and gentle soul. She was a highly intelligent girl who learned to play fetch, tug and one of the few dogs who actually learned commands and tricks. She could fetch a tennis ball or piece of stick for hours. She was extremely fond of little kids and would play games of chase and catch with them. It was heartwarming to see Rani run and play amidst a group of toddlers while their parents watched on with unquestionable trust in her.

Rani also had sharp instinct and the ability to read humans. If Rani ever snarled and chased someone, you knew that those people were untrustworthy. She bit men who turned out to be thieves and muggers wanted by authorities. There was a creepy pedophile guy in the town who touched little kids. Years later some of the girls in the building told me how long ago when they were little he had cornered them in a building, they were frightened, but then Rani arrived from nowhere and bit his hand real hard.

That is why I always suggest, if you want an unconditional, reliable and trustworthy companion who will love and protect your family - forget nannies or friends or even relatives - get a dog. And don't ever write off a dog as being too far gone or too aggressive. All a dog needs is a good responsible human to be a good dog.