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.

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.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Beasts of Our Lives (Part 1)

I'm an ardent animal lover. Animals have been a huge part of my life. As a little child all creatures fascinated me. The crows, the pigeons, the sparrows and even the squirrels scuttling about had my eyes go wild in gleeful excitement. If we passed the temple, I had to feed the cows. I had to ride the horse every evening. When we went to the park, I wanted to ride the elephants, the camels - I'd probably ride every creature I could.

I was lucky to be born in an animal loving family. My genial and obliging grandfather even had encouraged a crow to stop by every morning and caw obnoxiously for his daily biscuit as my grandfather had his cup of filter coffee at his desk, nose buried in a newspaper. My grandmother came from Udipi. They had raised cattle, poultry and mules in their yard. That stopped when my great grandfather got older. But he always had a dog and a litter of cats romping the yards. And here and there amidst our relatives we have canine pied pipers who will spoil the neighborhood dogs with treats and be followed home by armies of them every evening.

It is no wonder that as a kid I was a pied piper or dog whisperer of sorts myself. Puppies were my favorite playmates ever. Human children make good friends for kids, but they are nothing compared to puppies. And boy did I have a knack for finding puppies to play with much to the chagrin of my family. I've crawled into gutters, rolled in the dirt in tight spaces to find where a new litter had been birthed.

People would often warn me not to play with puppies, especially when the mama was around. They said bitches are very protective and would attack human threats. I was sternly warned to at least keep away from pups till their eyes opened and they romped about. Such advice is pointless to six year olds. The mama dogs grudgingly welcomed me when my childish curiosity found her latest secret birthing place. Instead of nips and bites, I received friendly licks. They looked upon me with maternal affection as I too became part of her pack as her pups grew up. I wish I could have taken each and every one of these pups home with me. Unfortunately, that was not feasible. Sadly, majority would either die or simply vanish from my life forever. But I was still lucky to have many beasts that became a substantial part of my life.

I don't know why I never wrote much or documented the lives of my beasts. They would have made excellent subjects for the times when I've suffered writers block. Recently, I made a new friend Zoya and read a book she wrote about her life amidst dogs and I was inspired to pay some sort of humble tribute to my furry friends. Besides, I recently lost another baby. So this is apt way to say goodbye, a remembrance for all my friends.


Pickoo was the first pet in our family. She came into the family well before I did. My aunt brought her home one day. From the story that I am told, Pickoo had two other siblings Chickoo and Bickoo. Unfortunately, their mama was run over by a truck and they had no one to care for them anymore. My teenage aunt brought home Pickoo, while her friends took home the others. Pickoo was my aunt's pet, but she was grandpas favorite.

They say you can't train cats, but somehow my grandfather had managed to train a cat. I remember him sitting in the hall and loudly saying "Pickoo come here" and slapping his legs. Pickoo would immediately go and sit on his lap for a lengthy pampering session. But that was not all, the real miracle was her toilet training. We don't have litter boxes in India. Most cats are indoor/outdoor cats who would wander outside to do their business. However, Pickoo was one scaredy cat and petrified of the outside world. So my grandfather had her toilet trained. She learned to do her business by the drain in the bathroom and as soon as she had done so she would meow loudly, signaling to us that we had to go wash it down the drain. Later when we moved to Vashi, she learned to do her business in the potty - making our jobs easier. All we had to do was flush. She was the smartest darned cat I've ever known.

She was also a guard dog of sorts. Perhaps she thought she was a dog. She would be very possessive about items in the house. It was prudent for people not to open drawers or peruse through our things if no family member was around to supervise. For if someone did so, she would instantly go into attack cat mode. 

She was a finicky eater though. She only ate raw fish, and that too of one particular kind - Raja Rani. Sometimes during monsoon it would be impossible to find, but my grandpa and dad would go scouring all fish markets in town for it - or else she would go hungry. On several occasions upon not finding her food, we would try feeding her a similar fish - but Pickoo would know it wasn't the real McCoy. As a cat she also loved milk and cream, but her most favorite treat in the whole wide world was fresh grated coconut.

When I was a little kid growing up, Pickoo was my first and best friend. I would crawl around and follow her all day. When everyone worked in the kitchen we would crawl in for our favorite pastime. We'd both sit in our own large giant steel bowls and have the grown ups spin us in it. Although, I think Pickoo considered me more of a pesky pest rather than friend. If I followed her too long or too close, she would turn around and smack me on the face. Let me tell you there is nothing better to teach your child discipline than a stern mama cat. Later she would discipline Socks our dog in a similar fashion. Even when he was a fully grown stocky dog and she was old and frail, Socks was a timid baby around Pickoo.

In her early life Pickoo was grandpa's favorite, but later on she became my baby. She would curl up on my lap while I sat on my desk to do my homework. Especially, in the last few months of her life, she spent as much time with me as possible. My mom says she knew she would be going soon and she wanted to spend time with her baby. In many ways, I was like her little overgrown kitten.

She lived a fruitful healthy life to the ripe old age of nineteen before she succumbed to mouth cancer. I remember discovering the brown lumps under chin. I had freaked that Socks may have scratched her, but it turned out to be something worse. She passed away a few months before her 20th birthday. I can never remember dates. I don't even remember when my grandpa died, but I remember the date  Pickoo passed away. It was December 11th. I was in my seventh grade scholarship class after school, and had a bad feeling all the time. I literally ran home when I was done, and knew what had happened before mom could tell me.

Pickoo left us with some great memories. My grandma and dad narrate this hilarious tale of Pickoo playing with her fish and tossing it up to the prayer stand where the idols are kept, and then everyone had to sneakily get it out of there before my great grandmother opened her eyes and saw the holy shrine all desecrated and impure. My favorite moments are when she smacked Socks and he would run crying out of the room or how she would always come when I made my bed and get tucked in as a lump on my bed.


When I was in third grade and walking to school, I saw the funniest looking dog ever. He was a short stocky pit bull-mongrel type you find on the streets in Bombay. He had a tightly curled tail, funny misshapen ears and eyes as large as flying saucers. Despite his ugly appearance, I found him adorable and befriended him. He soon would frequently show up when I walked to school. My best friend at the time and walk to school buddy Rohan thought we should call him Owleye for his big giant eyes. Before I knew it, the mutt had found out where I lived and settled in front of our doorstep.

He was an endearing dog and would win over everybody in our neighborhood. My parents started feeding him scraps. So did our neighbor. Soon he had a permanent bowl in front of our two doorsteps. It was our neighbor who christened him with the name that stuck - Chibud. Chibud is a fruit that is horrifyingly ugly to look at, but tender and sweet. Thats what this dog was like, and the name stuck.

For a stray dog Chibud lived a fabulous life. He had the scraps from our house and the neighbors, usually it was milk and rice or milk and chappatis. He received curd rice with tadka from the Telugu family upstairs. Lele uncle on the third floor had a Pomeranian. Whenever he took his Pom for a walk in the evening he would feed both his dog and Chibud biscuits. There was a young lady Pinky who would feed him a whole Cadbury's bar every evening. Whoever said dogs cannot eat chocolate? Then we had a Bengali family who gave him fish curry every time they made some. Whoever said dogs should not be given fish? The Muslims at the other end occasionally fed him Biryani and goat curry. Then there was the hotel, where they fed all the dogs leftovers at night.

Chibud was a stray and never officially became our pet. It would have even been cruel to try and domesticate him. But eventually dad had him neutered and tagged, because it was the responsible thing to do. We also took him to the vet and had him get shots. If he got to smelly, we'd give him a bath.

Even though Chibud was never an official pet dog, he is the pet dog every owner dreams of. Barring his ugly face, he was a magnificent muscular beast and exceptionally intelligent. He would walk me to school and be there waiting to walk back home when school let out. Whenever we went shopping or ran errands, he would obediently follow us if he was around. He would patiently wait outside stores for us. He knew his boundaries, where he would be let in and where he had to keep out. If only I could find a dog that heeled and stayed as obediently.

He was also a splendid guard dog. When no one was at home, no stranger was allowed to touch our door, not even friends or neighbors. We could forget to lock the door for all we cared. Chibud would rip apart anyone who dared breaking in. And you didn't want to be one taking on Chibud. For all his lovey dovey adorability, he was a powerful dog. He was the bully and alpha dog of the town. He's gotten into scrapes with gangs of neighborhood dogs and emerged unscathed. My dad would always say, instead of paying for guards and gorkhas - everyone should adopt a stray. Only a dog can be trusted with everything you have.

Being with Chibud also taught me a valuable lesson Cesar Milan like lesson about understanding dogs. As much as we love our pets and give them human traits and treatment, they are a different species. As awesome and cute it is to get a dog that does tricks, the more important thing is to establish yourself as a good pack leader and build a bond of respect. He taught me to be an assertive pack leader and that is why as a kid I could give a cold stare, raise a palm and calm down gangs of dogs and even breakup fights. That is why despite him not being a pet dog, he was the most obedient, well trained dog I ever knew. I attribute that to the fact that he was a not a pet. He got more opportunity to be a dog than household dogs.

Chibud had a good long life. He was pampered with special treats by everyone and lived like a king. His life long quest was to catch a BEST bus. No matter how hard he chased them, how loudly he barked them down, or how close he got to nipping one in a bit - he never did catch that big bus he wanted. He apparently died peacefully after we came to the states. My one real desire is that all strays get the love and caring they deserve, just like Chibud did.

To be continued.....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Divine Intervention?

I just finished reading ‘The Vow’ yesterday. The movie is on my to watch list. Typically, I am not a fan of romance. Most definitely not the sappy emotional kind. If I indulge in romance it has to be a comedy or something kitschy out of Bollywood. The reason I ended up reading this book is because it was on a $0.99 special sale, and I bought it. But that is not all. If I’m completely honest, I must admit I was intrigued and fascinated. It is one thing to read love stories or watch them. They’re pure fiction. You see them, feel good and then you dismiss them. Something is different when it is real though. In an era where divorce rates have sky rocketed and no one works anything out anymore, it is heartwarming to know that there are still people out there who take their vows seriously. I’m not a fan of marriage, but it is the kind of stuff that restores your faith in humanity. I mean who can  stand by someone who has absolutely no recollection of their courtship and marriage.

The story of Kim & Krickitt Carpenter really did warm my heart. It wasn’t an amazing read by any means, but it did make me smile. They are one swell couple, and it feels good to see people happily together. But one thing really bothers me. Not just bothers, I’d say it downright makes me furious. The stars of this love story aren’t Kim and Krickitt, but God. It is all nothing but God’s orchestrated play of life.  I respect the sentiments of people who place their faith in God. I consider myself a person of faith; but, some aspects of faith, I will never understand. I can understand crediting God with miracles when medical science gives up. There is no way Krickitt should have survived that accident. There is no way she should have recovered to a full healthy lifestyle. The ER doctors were sure she was a goner, and rightly so.  I can see why people tend to overlook the effort of medical personnel and credit God’s miracles.

However, medical science and anomalies are one thing, personal emotions is something completely different. I’ll never understand how people credit/blame God for their accomplishments/failures in life. Relationships especially are something which I mark as my own personal realm. There are no external forces shaping my emotions and actions. It is just me. If I’m with someone, it is because I want to be with them, not because it is God’s plan. Precisely why I don’t get marriages. I don’t want to make vows because of ritual or God. My promises won’t be sacred  because of God’s witness. If I take those vows it is because I want to. They will be sacred because they will come from deep within me. Maybe I am selfish, but if I was Kim, I could never credit God for everything. He’s obviously head over heels in love with her. His universe revolves around her. I don’t see his ability to stand by Krickitt as God’s doing, but the act of a man who’s crazy in love, the act of a man with passion and integrity. I’d rather place my faith in humanity than God.

I don’t consider myself an atheist. But my faith has always been different. I tend to see the miracles and magic in human resilience, human will and human emotion rather than God.  I want the assurance that the events of my life are the doing of me and the people in my life, not some higher power. And when people love me or want to be with me, I want it to come from their hearts, deep within them. Love me for what you want, I’ll love you for what I want, let’s not insult our feelings by making them part of some plan.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Taiwanese Snack Bag

One of the most exciting thing about traveling is experiencing the local flavors and cuisine. And Global cuisine has evolved and expanded. For example, almost every country has a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut and a KFC. But each of these franchises is adapted to the suit local culinary taste buds. Indeed, when traveling one must try McDonalds in every country and experience the difference.

But it is not just fast food that is catching on around the world. Just like we Americans love to snack - our pretzels, our bags of Doritos and stacks of Pringles every culture has their own snack/junk food. Whenever, I am in the Indian grocery store I'm nostalgic about Indian snacks - tapioca chips, spicy roasted peanuts, peanut brittle and the likes. I'm nostalgic about our Uncle Chips that came in flavors like Masala and Chaat, about Hajmolas and the plethora of Indian candy.

I discovered my taste for global snacking in Brazil last year. There is just something about being in a gargantuan grocery store in a foreign country and having no clue about the language. There is a certain thrill about picking up bags of chips, snacks, fruit candy just because it looked interesting. I was scurrying like kid in a candy store at a Super Mercado in Sao Paulo. I came back home with a shopping bag of snacks. It was an exciting thrill opening each bag to taste and discover the contents. That is why when one of my friends visited Taiwan recently, I asked her to pick me a goody back of local Taiwanese snacks.

Too bad I didn't log the contents and tastes of the Brazilian snacks. The only thing I saliently remember is the bacon cheerios. I don't know what it was, they had the shape, texture, and slight taste of cheerios but with a very heavy bacon flavor. I actually liked them very much. This time I decided to review each one.

The big red box on top is chocolate sticks. They kind of look like Pocky sticks, but they are more like wafer pirouettes filled with chocolate. They taste just like the chocolate wafter pirouettes you get in the states. Light, airy, with a satisfying crunch and delicate chocolate taste. Very addictive, especially for chocolate lovers.

You can probably see the big white bag with Tom Yum written on it, that is Tom Yum flavored potato chips. Tom Yum is a type of Thai curry that is spicy and sour. It usually has lemon grass, kaffir lime, fish sauce, and crushed chillies. The chips were ridged and quite enormous, not the thin frail weak potato chips you get sometimes. I bet these chips could hold up to some very heavy dipping. The flavor was interesting. To a certain extent it reminded me of Masala Uncle Chips back home. But it had more sour notes. I found more hints of tomato rather than lemon grass or kaffir lime though. I think I really like these chips, I want more. My sister found them strictly OK, while her fiance did not seem to like them at all.

The green packet on top of the Tom Yum chips is candy. It sis coke flavored chewing candy. It even has a cute little coke bottle in the corner. Upon opening the packet you are faced with individually wrapped chewing candy. The candy actually looks like small brown dots like Hajmola in India. When you chew on it, they have the texture of a really soft ├ęclairs or caramel chews. It has that burst of cola flavor but without the carbonated fizz it tastes like warm flat soda. I actually do like flat soda, but I doubt most normal people would find it appetizing. These dots should be bigger as well. They get disappear very quickly.

To the extreme left we have a purple packet that is dried plums without seed. This is by far my favorite Taiwanese snack so far. Gosh, I wish I had a giant purple bag of them right now. They are oh so delicious. Tiny sour sweet packages of absolute tantalizing goodness that just explode in your mouth. They are like a better, tastier version of sour patch kids. The first taste is extremely sour, but then you get into the flesh of the plum and it is delicately sweet, soft and chewy.Who knew plums were so delicious.

Right next to the dried plums we have a green packet about the same size. This is the crunchy pickled plum. These are most definitely an acquired taste. The first plum I had was actually quite revolting. But by the time I got to my third plum, I was getting used to this unusual flavor. It is a little green plum, that is ever so slightly sticky to touch due to the pickling. The flavor is sweet and briny. The texture is a cross between that of an apple and a grape. It has a pit that that you need to spit out. I tried biting into it, it is not edible.

The last packet below the two plums is thin dried cod. This is by far the quirkiest and most interesting snack food from the bag. Thin dried cod looks like strips of dried noodle. The packaging is hilarious with a ball of strip cod holding up an umbrella. If Bobby Henderson would have been Taiwanese, I imagine the Flying Spaghetti Monster would have been The Stringy Cod God instead. As for its texture and flavor - I'll call it fish jerky. It has a slight fishy smell. The thin strips of cod are chewy and leathery like beef jerky. They have a strong fishy flavor. I'm not sure if I really like it, but for some reason I feel quite addicted to it. I keep popping strings in my mouth and chewing. Is this how people get addicted to chewing tobacco?

Now for the fun challenge aspect of it - I'm asking myself: What would I do if I had to make a three course meal from these ingredients?

For appetizer I would make a crispy pork belly with a sweet and sour plum sauce using the dried plums without seed. I'd probably use a Japanese plum wine to make the reduction. I'm not sure of accompaniment but perhaps a light calamari salad for a fun play on surf and turf.

For the main course I would make stir fried cod balls crusted with panko and tom yum potato chips. I would make a playful brothy noodle dish with rice noodles & the thin dried cod. I'd flavor the broth with crunchy pickled plums and a dash of some Tom Yum flavors. Of course utmost care has to be taken to make sure I top the noodles with my cod balls at the very end. If not they will disintegrate and lose their texture. Timing is key in this dish.

For dessert I would melt the chewy cola candy into some heavy cream and make an ice-cream soda flavored ice-cream. I think I'd try to make a brittle with the two plums and powdered chocolate sticks to top of my ice-cream - kind of tying the meal together.