‘Stray’ into my heart


I grew up with a strong desire to bring a dog home. My dad, a dog-lover, always put his foot down and said no. It always broke my heart. He did get home our lovely cat. But he always refused to keep a dog.
We had three dogs guarding my uncle’s home -two Dobermans and a stray desi dog that dad had randomly adopted.

While the Dobermans were lovely, the loyalty of ‘Namu’ was something else. He would sense my dad’s arrival even when our car was more than a few kilometers away.

Namu died. So did the Dobermans We built a small shrine in their memory.

A puppy was lost near my building. I fed him a few biscuits and milk. He had distinctive spots on his body. Two months later, the puppy was all grown up and had made a home in the neighbouring park. He would recognise me. And walk with me whenever I passed by the park. A few biscuits were enough to make him my friend for life.

These two dogs and many more, convinced me that the so-called mongrels in this city are actually sharper than most pedigree dogs. One day, I told myself, I will adopt one of them.

And that day did come. I found Bono. He’s the apple of my eye. And when people ask me what breed he is, I proudly say he is a stray. Yes, people love expressing shock that I chose a stray over a lab or a pug, but the truth is, Bono chose me.

When people talk about stray dogs being a nuisance, I often find myself defending the four-legged ‘rasta’farians. If they are cared for, and if they are vaccinated, they add value to the community. Five gardens has strays that are regularly fed and vaccinated and they guard the neighbourhood. They don’t bark or chase regular walkers but if they think someone is dubious, they warn people with barks and howls.

This year, Twestival is supporting the NGO Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD). The organisation works towards vaccinating, sterlising and helping the dogs of Mumbai. You can read about their work at http://www.wsdindia.org

Check out http://WWW.Mumbai.twestival.com for more info. They need volunteers, donations and more. Do your bit. My dog and his relatives would be extremely grateful to you.


The Reason For My Absence

I feel terrible about ignoring the blog. Yes, I call myself a writer. I have a quill tattooed on my wrist and hence, there’s just no excuse for not writing. As usual, Prolific Dyslexic made sure I was reminded of the lack of writing and I was overcome with guilt. Since the last few months, I’ve been on some kind of a drug. Time never seems to be enough (well, not that I had all the time in the world but hey!) The reason? The reason may well be ‘Love’.

I never really shared it on the blog but my family lost our pet of 15 years earlier this year. This angel of a cat, in her passing away, had left a deep void in our lives. My dad had decided that there would be no other pets because nobody could take Mulayam’s place in our lives. But then life suddenly changed. As I sat wallowing in misery, unable to sleep I saw a tweet pleading me to help find a home for a puppy in a twitpic. I clicked on the twitpic and I knew it. This was my puppy. I don’t know how I managed to convince my parents. I don’t know how a dog hater like my mom managed to allow it, but the very next day I walked into our house with a tiny little puppy in my arms.

Of course, he was cute to look at but he liked gnawing on everything, he loved peeing everywhere and he loved pooping on the carpet. Horror! After spending days (and nights!) running after the puppy, cleaning the floor with Dettol and trying hard to train him, life threw another surprise at me. The stray cat who was adopted by the watchmen of our building died leaving behind five day old kittens. When I found them, they were a little bigger than my fingers, furless and their eyes were unopened. They were soaked in rain and in milk that the watchmen had tried to feed them. The three kittens were crying, literally wailing for their mum. She wasn’t coming back. Just the thought brought back traumatic memories of Bambi (I’m not forgiving the uncle who gifted me that video!) With help from some very warm folks on twitter, the vet and my mom, I started feeding the kittens and caring for them like they were my own children. This involved feeding them every 2 hours with a bottle even through the night, massaging their bellies so they can pee and poop and keeping them warm and loving them enough to force them to survive. In addition to Bono’s (my puppy) training and my newly found writing assignments, caring for the kittens consumed me!

Every now and then, the vet would tell me to be prepared because the kittens hadn’t had their mother’s milk and therefore were fragile. But my little kitties were fighters. In fact, after their deworming, one of the kittens- Yoda started throwing up, could not poop and started to lose strength. He lost weight and had stopped eating. I was too scared to check on him, too scared that he was going to die on me. But he didn’t. He fought through and became the most notorious of the three.

The kittens are now a healthy lot. They play, they run and they scratch. The puppy and the kittens taught me that I had a lot of love and care in me to give. And that the greatest joy in life was to selflessly love someone to make their life a better place.

Sometimes I catch my puppy looking at me with all the love in the world and my world comes to a stop right there. In that moment, I feel loved, I feel love and there’s this warmth that engulfs my heart and makes me feel so glad to be alive. I know I gave Bono a home. I know I gave kittens care and love of a mother… But what they have given me is much more. They have given me hope. They have given me a reason to smile. They have given me the ability to feel alive. For that I will forever be grateful.

And much like a new mother I’ve gone on about my new pets. In conclusion, the pawsome foursome is the reason why there haven’t been many blog posts. Compulsive Writer is now a Compulsive Pet Obsessed woman! Forgive her absence?

Raksha Bandhan

I studied in a co-ed school. A large chunk of the crowd believed that a girl and a guy could never be just friends (yeah, we’re all idiots in school). Also, girls (and boys) believed that by the mere virtue of a thread tied on their wrists, boys became their brothers and hence couldn’t ask them out. So there were best of friends tying rakhis on their best guy friends’ wrists and there were the hot chics, carrying the thread, threatening to take away a guy’s right to admire them and love them like Rahul loves K k k k kiran. Of course, the overly cheesy emotional adverts by greeting card companies don’t exactly make the festival very exciting to me. But I like the history behind it, and I love how every raksha bandhan, somehow every brother gets protective of the sister, despite the fact that he spends the rest of the 364 days irritating the hell out of her!

Well, there are many stories behind this tradition, some related to Lord Indra, some to Krishna and Draupadi. All the stories essentially talk about a bond, a bandhan. With the silk thread, the sister gives the brother her good wishes, her blessings which act as his strength and the brother promises to protect the sister from all evils.

Cute, no? I think so too. However, I do wonder, what happens if you don’t have a brother? Who, then, will protect you from all evils? I don’t have a brother. I am one of two sisters and the elder one. To me, Raksha Bandhan was about tying the Rakhi to my cousin brothers, who in turn gave me presents. I didn’t care if they protected me or not, but as long as there were presents wrapped in shiny papers, I was happy. Then I started growing up. As the eldest of all the cousins from both maternal and paternal sides, I thought it was my duty to stand up for the younger cousins and fight their battles for them. So, if they had trouble in school, I’d merrily sort it out. If there were mean girls troubling my sister, I went straight to the girls and jhapped them. And then, I thought, I offer ‘raksha’ so to speak, why the hell won’t my cousins tie me a rakhi? Why should the brother be the only one to get the honour? My mom bought my theory. From that day on, me and my sister tied a rakhi to each other. Of course, we also gift each other things. It started with a pen that we wanted to writing pads that we need for the unit tests that happened around the same time as rakhi. Until recently it went to buying nice dinners for each other… And this year, my sister is away.

I have been one of the girls from my school, yes. I have tied rakhis to numerous guys. I don’t even know where they are or what they do, but at that point they were my friends and well, rakhi was something that was celebrated quite enthusiastically in school. But now, all that matters is the promise that the rakhi stands for. The festival is now all about pampering your siblings. And the promise has changed too. My sister is an independent, intelligent woman who lives all by herself in a different country, a different culture. She doesn’t need me to protect her. But I can promise her this. When she needs to rave, I’ll be here.

When she wants to rant, I’ll be here.

If she needs to splurge, I’ll hand her my credit card.

If she needs advice, I’ll do what I can and point her in the right direction.

If she wants comfort, I’ll bake for her my coconut cupcakes.

If she needs a jolt, I’ll give her the kick on the backside.

If she needs encouragement, I’ll be the hand that pushes her.

And on a day when nothing makes her laugh, I’ll be the goofy older sister and I’ll do anything to get those dimples to appear on her cheeks.

Because that’s what sisters do.

Judaai Is Not The End of Pyaar

My dad’s friends’ love stories always amuse me. Some of them started dating whilst in college and stuck to their relationship even as they travelled to different cities to pursue their careers, post grad degrees and all that. ‘They didn’t even have telephones back then, letters were their only hope,’ says Dad. ‘Besides, breaking up was not an option for them. They had decided already that this person was their life partner. They did what they had to and made it work!’ And mind you. There were no mobile phones, no pagers, and no email back in their day. ‘People didn’t even have telephones, you had to go to the neighbours’ if you wanted to make a call’ Dad tells me.

Next morning my phone goes frantic. SOS messages. ‘I think I am getting dumped,’ one message says.
‘She’s moving to UK, I am breaking up!’ another message says. Wow! Last night’s gyaan is totally out of date, I tell myself as I get out of bed. Most of my friends, me included, strongly believe that long distance relationships are just not worth the effort.

‘My girlfriend went to Singapore for her masters and within 3 months all I had left was astronomical phone bills, crazy amount of time wasted on the computer, cartloads of angst and a dysfunctional relationship,’ says Mr. J. Add to it, facebook made it prominent that his girl was busy but with parties and fun outings. ‘If a guy flirted with my girl when she was here in Mumbai, I wouldn’t give a damn but a picture with a guy randomly putting his arm around her on facebook pisses me off now that she’s so far away!’ he adds. They finally broke it off because their relationship started becoming a liability.

‘There’s no point of being in it if everything about your relationship bothers you. Not having your guy around to hug you, to tell you it’ll be alright is just not cool. I miss him, but I don’t miss the online fights. I’m glad it’s over,’ says Mr. J’s girlfriend.

Kinda paints a bleak picture about long distance, doesn’t it? As Ashish Chand accurately puts it, for many people a long distance relationship is the kiss of death. Ashish firmly believes that they can work, however, this is conditional. ‘If you’ve just met someone and the relationship goes long distance, it’s going to fail. At this stage you crave for each other. You want to be physically close. But if you’ve gotten over the clingy phase, there is hope in spite of the distance,’ he explains.

Poo, a self-confessed commitment phobic agrees with Ashish and thinks that long distance relationships just get a lot of bad PR, ‘Long distance isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. If you are someone who values your space, it can be a boon.’

Of course, Poo firmly believes that in addition to constantly reassuring your partner of your love, you have to have mutual trust and the ability to be very open with your partner (which is where the Js failed) ‘With email, chat, skype and other such tech innovations, long distance is definitely possible!’

But what happens when you’ve had a bad day and all you want is a hug from your partner or when you miss them so bad, you can’t take it?

‘It takes a lot of time and patience,’ says RV who believes that one has to invest a lot of time and emotion to make up for time apart. Much like V had to.

‘Knowing that the long distance was only for a couple of months, made it easy. I missed him like crazy at times. Sometimes, it got so bad I almost thought of ending it, but then I’d remind myself of the big picture. You love this person enough to want to be with them? Then the long distance is just a hurdle you have to cross…’ says V. She is now married to the guy, so yeah, she crossed the hurdle.

If your partner is in the same country as you at least you are in the same time zone. Honey had to battle a transatlantic time-zone war to keep her relationship going. This essentially meant that when she slept, her guy was awake and vice-versa. ‘We both were sure we wanted it to work. Ending it was not an option.  We web-cammed, shared filmy music, shayari and photographs to reassure each other. If you want to make it work, you can,’ she explains. She also thinks that observing her parents, who shared a LDR for a while, has taught her that the distance can actually work in the favour of the relationship. It can make you independent, strong and it can teach you the value of the much spoken about ‘space’ between couples. ‘It is not for the weak hearted, though. You will spend a lot of time away from your partner and that takes strength,’ she warns.

In conclusion, if you really love this person and the idea of long distance is bogging you down, think again. Give it a shot, it’s worth it. And finally, based on the yapping I did on twitter, here are three things you should focus on.

1.    Be strong. Remind yourself of the big picture and be ready to do what it takes to make it work.

2.    Keep communication channels open. This will reduce misunderstandings and reassure your partner of your sincerity

3.    Use technology. Skype, email, IM etc are free. They will reduce your phone bills!
And yeah, good luck, I say!

PS: SMSers I hope you guys give it a shot. This one’s for you

Living a Dream

A day in the life of Shakti Salgaokar: The day that felt too good to be true. The day that was filmy.

A van pulls up in the building. Two girls walk out to the van and hug tight. One of them is dressed a little too much for Miami. Jeans, tshirt and woollen jacket get her some extra attention from people walking around. She hugs the girls in shorts again and nearly chokes up. ‘Have a happy Diwali, okay? And eat well, and don’t be out too late and…’
‘Enjoy NYC. Live it up and have fun okay?’

The girls part. She settles into the van and wipes a teardrop on her cheek. She wanted to see New York her whole life. And she had had daydreams about landing in New York. In those dreams, she always landed with her sister. But then she realised there was no point in fretting. She had to be grateful that she was about to see New York City.

She was early for her flight, so she settled into the lounge with a grande Café Mocha and a chocolate chip muffin. She tried to read her book, but couldn’t focus. A lot had happened around her and a lot is about to happen. Her trip to NYC is a lot more than just a vacation. It has an agenda to it. She has a gut feeling that her dreams are about to come true. She flips through the book: Spouse by Shobha De. A book about marriage and all that one needs to be prepared for. She laughs of many tips that the celebrity authoress dispenses in the book. ‘Why am I reading this?’ she asks herself.

She settles into her seat as soon as the aircraft boards. A window seat on the right, as instructed by her father, she rarely dismisses the father’s suggestions. She has heard about New York from friends, she’s had impressions about the city from movies, tv series and she has painted a mental picture of the city through the songs she’s grown up hearing. But her biggest influence in loving NYC before she’s even seen the face comes from the stories her dad has to tell. She loves seeing the way his eyes light up when he talks about the city. If nothing, she wants to see the city that is such a joy to the person she looks up to all the time.

She keeps staring out the window like a 5 year old who can’t wait for the car ride to end. She keeps staring at the ground below, scanning it to see if NYC is visible yet. And then the pilot announces that they’re ready to land. She sticks her nose to the window and peers. As they close in on the ground, her eyes start to light up. She sees them in a faint reflection on the window she’s stuck to. She smiles, she nearly jumps out of the seat when she realises she is finally going to see New York. And then, some flickering lights make her shriek with delight. Why, it’s Times Square.
She lands, she calls up the one person she wishes was sitting next to her on the plane.

‘Nani, I just landed!’ she says with a wide eyed grin. She knows, she knows its love at first sight, but yet she bounces about into a cab. And takes in the sight of every little thing… Thousands come to New York, why is she so thrilled? Because it was her dream!

I am so dreamy eyed about New York. I love walking the streets with a big smile. I love spending time with Raj and Pratibha and I love bonding with little Tara. I do miss Nani, but hey, we have our whole lives to see New York and many other cities.

Celebrating Love…

“Why are you going to the Queer Azaadi March?” asks a friend. After seeing me drool after SRK, Johnny Depp and Dempsey, she knows I am straight, so it beats her as to why I need to go participate in a cause that’s not mine. I did answer her, but not with something as lame as ‘I support it’. If you are human, have some common sense and sensitivity, you will support it.

The reason I went for the march happens to be a little different. I have a problem with people limiting homosexuality to the sexual aspect and nothing beyond. I have a problem with people not understanding the trauma of breaking the moulds of the society that are designed for the heterosexual majority. I have a problem with the fact that loving someone has to have a conditional clause that they should be of the opposite sex for it to be accepted.

I went because I think love is a beautiful emotion and it can happen between a man and a woman or a man and a man or between a woman and a woman. No matter who it happens between, love is beautiful and there should be no reason for one to hide it in the closet, least of all, because of who they chose to love.

I went to the march to say that I’m sorry. We heterosexuals are a majority and we’ve imposed our choices, our stereotypes on you. I wanted to say that I understand how traumatic it is to come out of the closet and I hope in a few years it will be easier. I wanted to walk the walk and say, you and I can’t be different just because of our sexual orientation. We love and live with passion and hey, everyone chooses who they want to love. How can that make you different?

There’s no I, me, you and them. There’s just us and together we’ll try to make it a better world, a better country (okay okay, I’m still obsessed with MJ, but I mean it!)

By the way, it was awesome to see such a turnout. It has taken us years to come on the streets and celebrate. And I’m damn proud of everyone who showed up in support. Thank you Piu, thank you ever so much for taking us along 🙂

The Way He’d Make Me Feel

I’m 25, I’m single and everybody except me is wondering why and quite a few have decided it’s their personal responsibility to set me up with the dream boy. Especially at weddings and family events, cupid sports a saree, big kumkum and comes smiling and ask fondly about my career, education and blah blah. “What are your expectations?” that question my friend, comes out to me in slow motion and I wince at every syllable that comes out of that heavily lipsticked mouth.

The question, in my humble opinion, is pointless. Which girl would ever say, “Yes aunty, bring on a drug addict, who looks like shit, doesn’t earn much and yeah the meaner the better.” Okay fine, I said it once to an aunt of mine but hello that was sarcasm! We all want the best!

But none the less, I want to think it out. What do I really want? Does he have to be rich, does he have to be a stunner, should he be funny, should he be a cook, should he blah blah blah!

And yeah, I don’t care about his profession, caste, complexion or whatever. I still wonder how those parameters help me decide if i want to spend the rest of my life with someone. So then what am I looking for?

I want a guy I can’t wait to see every day (yeah clichéd, i know!), somebody I can be myself with, somebody who understands why I do the stupid things I do, somebody who gets annoyed with those silly things and yet loves me enough to roll his eyes and put up with it. I want a guy who doesn’t make me feel like an idiot for being a klutz. I want someone who will catch me when I have my bizarre falls and then laugh about them with me. I want a guy who knows if I’m going to laugh or scream from the way my nose flares up. I want to be able to tell from his voice if something’s bothering him.

When we go out, I want him to know which table to pick, so I don’t crib. And I want to be able to order his dish, perfect to his taste without him having to say it. And once we place the order, I just want him to hold my hand and smile. I want to be able to sit with him, not say word and still feel content. I want to love his madness, his stupid ways and I want to love each and every one of his flaws. I want to crib about them, I want us to fight. I want us both to feel miserable after the fight, but still be eager to bury the hatchet.

I want all of that and I want to feel all of that for my man. Ab bolo, hai koi nazar mein?

PS: I’m singing ‘The Way You Make Me Feel‘ an old old song by Ronan Keating… ‘yeah, you somehow make things right :)’