Archive | February, 2012

Of farmhouses, picnics and getting lost in the wilderness

27 Feb

I have never been a farmhouse kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for Wordsworth and nature and believe that exposure to it (in limited measures) can do a world to good to the mind and the lungs. What I do have my reservations about however, is owning a farmhouse and being burdened with all that comes with the territory, quite literally in this case.

Living in this large dump of a city of Bombay one longs for green pastures and running streams every now and then. However, I believe that I would rather stay put here rather than take a rocky dirt track paved with puncture inducing stones to get to a weekend retreat thereby helping the Orthopedic doctors earn a living. No sir, I would travel to a lush destination by air and not risk displacing the vertebrae of my spine any day.

The offspring of the Shroff family feel no differently. My older one seems disconnected from nature as it is and the younger one has no opinion of her own, as all her opinions are but an echo of the older one’s opinions. I however, have often felt the need to expose the children to nature and do so at every given opportunity.

My mother has an unparalleled fetish for picnics. My sibling and I have had to endure many such picnics during our childhood. We would return from school and there she was, all set to surprise us with a picnic. The mat, a picnic basket, and Ludo, which in my opinions is the dullest game ever, were all fitted into the boot of the car neatly. The overexcited dog would be peeping out the window of the front seat and we would dump our school bags, slip into picnic-wear and jump into the backseat of the car feigning surprised excitement all the while.

Our picnic spots were usually golf courses if you please. And God forbid if a game of golf was in progress, for then we would have to keep moving with the game as the golfer and his caddie moved up closer to our spot. It was like playing musical chairs except that there was no music and no prize at the end of the game either.

We would play Ludo and I would make some inane conversation with my kid sister just so my mom did not feel I made no effort with her. At home she was persona non grata for me, being five years younger, but we were expected to be the perfect ad-film family when we went picnicking. I had no choice but to keep up with my part of the bargain!

Sometimes the dog would pick up the golf ball and run away with it and we never thought anything of it. In fact, we would laugh indulgently, as though the dog had shown us a remarkable new trick. Looking back at that time, I wonder how my parents continued to be popular with the golfers in the neighbourhood in spite of such behaviour.

At times my wonderful mother would invite my friends to the picnic and we would even attempt newer picnic spots such as the sand pit of the said golf course. We would spend hours playing in the sand while my mother would sing some old Hindi and some mushy Cliff Richards’ songs and later play bluff with us. Those picnics were real fun because I had company and I did not have to make small talk with my kid sister who also had no original opinion of her own back then just like my younger one now.

Now that I am a mother myself, I value those picnics and appreciate the effort my mother put into them a lot more.  We usually end up in London every summer with the kids and pack the M&S picnic baskets and head to Hyde Park on a bright day. The husband plays with the kids and I get busy immortalizing such moments on camera.

This one time, I decided that my Hyde Park picnics were getting rather predictable, much like my mother’s golf course ones, and we ended at Kews Botanical Gardens in Richmond. I think that might’ve been the precise moment my older one went off nature. At that time the younger one was all of 5 months and the older one was nearly 5 years old herself.  The husband was at work and it was mommy’s day out with the kids. We walked around in the Kews gardens, which by itself, was a botanist’s dream but since my kids weren’t very big on horticulture at that age, the charms of the place were lost on them.

To make matters worse, my incompetency at reading maps made it impossible for us to navigate our way around and we got lost. I am sure Helen Keller is better at reading maps than I am and would have done a better job than me on this particular occasion.

While the younger one was in her stroller and fast asleep, the older one’s legs were hurting from all the walking and my forcing her to appreciate dandelions in bloom over an empty stomach was not helping much. We lingered on like Christopher Columbus in search of India for several hours till we reached the exact opposite end of the garden. This was the furthest away from the exit and a spot where the rumbling sound of the Thames was met with the rumbling sounds from inside our stomachs. It was a duet of sorts.

Very antipathetic of the Brits to not grow some trees with fruits around and leave us to be lost in the wilderness on an empty belly. At least Adam and Eve had apples to eat, we had NOTHING! We looked for traces of human life, but there were none to be found whatsoever. And, if the earth wasn’t round, we would not have ever found our way back to the main gates and I would not be sitting here in Bombay, blogging away like this. Looking back, I realize what a maternal nightmare it was and something I am certain my children will disparagingly blog about one day! The older one had seen enough greenery that day to last a lifetime. Give her a mall over a lush farm any day.

So anyway, back to the topic of farmhouses, everybody is not like me and there are people who do love living the simple life every other weekend in their farm retreats.

But then, there are also those who like ‘owning’ such places more than actually enjoying them. Within a few months of owning a get-away in midst of nature, the weariness of the said owners begins to tell on them. The initial  years they thrive on the popularity of their friends who are always willing to keep them company over the weekends but over time, the novelty of the farmhouse wanes as does the popularity of its owners. It is not uncommon to come across people who waste no time in inviting you over to their petit ferme if you seem like 1. Entertaining company or 2. If you are a person of good means and would be a worthy ‘contact’ to spend weekends with.

Cruel world really. Over time, from being ‘much sought after’ company they are rendered ‘avoidable’ company for fear of being forced to spend a weekend at their farm.

So there you are. These are my reasons. I couldn’t be bothered with maintaining a farmhouse, I don’t want to spend weekends attending to plumbing needs of my weekend retreat, I don’t want the husband to assume that we do not need vacations after buying a country house  and, most of all, I don’t want to get popular temporarily within my circle only to have to beg people a few years later to come to our farm just so our weekend can get entertaining.

However, I do not mind having friends who own farmhouses at all. It is time to reacquaint the children to the bounty. On my part, I promise to be good company, with much help from units of Pinot Grigio uncorked in the fine country air. On occasion I will ask the husband to accompany us so our hosts can be kept abreast with the  BSE, Nasdaq and the world economy in general.

Interested parties, please contact before the summer sets in.


Confessions of a golden age thinker

25 Feb

I have always loved period drama and have spent a better part of my life trying to lose myself to a story set in the 18th or the 19th century. I would read a book, and by the time chapter one was done with, I had fused my life with that of the protagonist’s, suffering her trials, facing her tribulations with fortitude, basking in her intelligence and consumed by her passions. When the book got over I felt as though my own life was over and I would look for another book or period film and start living my life through those characters once again. I had a happy childhood and shared my parents’ love for reading, so in my juvenile opinion at that time, I did not think that I trying to escape reality. My own life at that time lacked the drama of Anna Karenina, the passions of Scarlett O’ Hara or the agony of Tess and the romance of Jane Eyre.  And so I went about living from one book to another, recreating my life to fit the authors’ palette each time.

Over time I began to develop a sense of dislike bordering on contempt for the modern times. I felt that I belonged to another era and romanticized the lives of those who had lived during the Georgian and Victorian times. My mother not only shared my sentiments about our current times but spoke to the bygone era enticingly herself, based purely on her own insights gained while reading literary classics of her youth.

I loved it when the city faced a power failure at night for instance because for a brief moment I could make-believe that we were living in another time. I loved the corsets, flouncy petticoats; bell shaped skirts, the opera length gloves and fervently wished there could be a revival of Victorian fashion somehow. I longed to attend or at least witness balls and found the parties my parents went to rather lacklustre. I loved the air of formality with which life was conducted and wished somehow I could time travel into the previous century.

Not much has changed since then. Two decades later, I find I am still seeking out period dramas and living them with as much involvement as the main characters. A friend introduced me to Downton Abbey last year and there has been no looking back. When season one of this costume drama set around World War II got over, I found my life stuck between two worlds: my own real world and the world of the Earl and Countess of Grantham from Yorkshire. When season 2 came along in the shape of a DVD I sat down my older one and explained to her that I will not be physically or emotionally available for the next two to three days and that she should make her peace with that.

I find old cities alluring too and more often than not end up holidaying in Europe precisely because  the past coexists with the present  in cities like Rome, Florence and Paris. I can pretend as I walk down the cobbled streets in one of them that I am in another time. I can imagine hoofed horses riding past me. I relish the fact that I do not have to deal with swanky albeit cold buildings with steel facades or end up in shopping malls with identical looking stores selling almost identical wares.

However, when I watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris last week I discovered that this love for the ‘Golden Age’ is actually a psychological condition.  The protagonist of the movie, Gil is a disenchanted Hollywood scriptwriter who falls in love with Paris even as he falls out of love with his fiancée on a holiday in the world’s most romantic city. Mystically he finds himself in the Paris of 1920s where he finds himself attending elegant soirees with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and sipping wine in the beguiling company of Hemingway, watching Picasso paint and falling in love with his mistress Adriana. He meets Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, T.S Eliot and Man Ray and countless other artists and writers from the 1920s.

Even as I watched the film I was filled with a sense of cultural nostalgia and could identify with the artistic allure the past held for Gil, even though for him it was more for the creative revolution in arts and literature that the post World War I era had spawned.

Just like Gil is nostalgic about the past that he had never been a part of, Adriana his object de amour yearns for the Belle Epoque and finds the 1920s crass in comparison. There is also a pedant in the movie, Paul who spouts that nostalgia is denial – “denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

My friend M shares my love for drama and is almost always involved with characters from the past herself. Now I know that I suffer from Golden Age thinking and so does M. The only thing consolatory about the present age for me is the scientific and medical advancement because most other aspects of life and culture have only seen regression and ‘near degeneration’ since the last century. However, I am greatly consoled by the fact that I am not alone in my suffering. That there are people like M and Gil and Adrianna who are as disenchanted with the present times and seek escape in dramatized days of yore.

Now if only I could lay my hands on Woody Allen’s time machine. Hey M, will you be joining me?

REDRUM and how it made my life Shine

20 Feb

I’ve spent two consecutive weekends out of Bombay. The first was a family trip and the second was to fortify my spiritual pursuits. Having happily cast away a life where traveling alone was a routine part of my work, I now only travel for leisure. This means, I do not get to wake up in hotel beds every other weekend and that these two consecutive weekends spent in hotels were but an exception. My hotel stays now depend mostly on school breaks of the two children born to thwart my wanderlust.

Waking up in hotel beds is my favorite thing in the world. Unlike other people who complain that they do not get good sleep in hotels, I find that good sleep to me is synonymous with a good bed in a good hotel. I like living in hotels. I like living in hotels so much that I could check into one permanently if somebody allowed me. ‘Somebody’ being the husband. I like living in hotels because of the ease it affords to one’s life. Hotels offer you a life of not having to plan menus, train staff, order groceries and suchlike tedious matters.

I like it that housekeeping is just at my beck and call and will tend to the most ridiculous of my needs like steam pressing my socks. I like it that my room that can look like a bombed bunker in the mornings can fall back into semblance within minutes of flipping over the red side of the card dangling at my door in favour of the green one.

I like the turn down service and the dark-mint chocolate that accompanies it. I like the DND sign and wish there was a way to get it to work for me in my own house where the kids stay determined to not let me have a full night’s or a full day’s sleep, as the case might be.

I like reaching for the snacks in the mini bar while watching a movie late at night and not having to go scavenging in the kitchen and having to share my meager finds with the forever-hungry dog.

I like living in hotels to the extent that this one summer when I was rendered practically immobile owing to my expanding girth due to the impending birth (of our 2nd progeny) I would get the husband to check us into a hotel just so I could feel cheered up a bit. I took turns and did justice to at least 3 hotels over 3 months, all well within the length of the city. I say length as Bombay lacks breadth (oh and also breath) as a city.

At one point he sagaciously suggested that since I was mostly bedridden even in hotels, I could perhaps do with changing the wallpaper of my room routinely instead of moving from one hotel to another.

Wait, but there is a fly in the proverbial ointment. For all my love for good hotels, I am deeply traumatized with the thought of ever having to spend a night in one all by myself. This means that I can never travel alone should the need ever arise. I can only blame Stanley and Stephen for this. As in Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King. The two of them have such a lasting impact on my life that I feel I could well be on first name basis with them.

Unlike most of you, I had the nerve of watching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (based on Stephen King’s book by the same name) only when I was well into my 20s. By then most of my friends had already watched it and gotten over it. Nothing had prepared me for how Kubrick was about to alter my life with that one film. I watched it. All of it. The next couple of days, I was crippled with fear at night. During the day, I would remind myself that it was only just a story and laugh it off. But when night fell again, Jack’s face haunted me. I can’t remember if it was falling in love or my getting married subsequently that cured me of the aftermath of The Shining, but cured I was.

And then it happened. Months after my marriage, I was in Delhi on work and staying at the Taj Palace hotel. I was unable to sleep and felt imaginary ghosts from my childhood crouched under my hotel bed. I turned on the television to distract myself but it did not help. I tossed and I turned till I could take it no more and finally leapt out of bed, threw the hotel robe and dashed towards the door. All this, so the ghosts from under the bed would not reach for me. As I opened the door the long carpeted corridor of the hotel stared at me in deafening silence and unexpectedly I began to hear the sound of Danny Lloyd pedaling away on his bike in my mind’s ears. My mind’s ears also heard ‘REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM’. I felt Danny would do a full round and show up again on my side of the corridor any minute. I had to think on my feet, which by the way were unclad as there had been no time to wear slippers. I had to choose between dealing with the ghosts under my bed or having an ‘otherworldly’ encounter with Danny on the tricycle as I sprinted towards the hotel elevator at 3 am in the morning. I took my chances and ran like lightening towards the elevator, which mercifully opened just in time before Jack Nicholson or the other ghosts lurking around the passage of my hotel floor could get me. There were two bulky Russian men in the elevator and ordinarily they would be pretty scary by themselves. However, I was so overjoyed to see two humans, neither of who was Jack Nicholson, that I had to hold myself back from hugging them.

Seconds later, I was knocking at my colleague and friend Katy’s door who obviously spent a sleepless night thereafter, having had to wake up at that ungodly hour thanks to the thumping at her room door. I on the other hand, slept like a baby.

Between that day and today, I have been unable to stay by myself in a hotel room. Stanley has scarred me for life. I can only plan a trip if I can get a friend or family member to accompany me.

On the odd occasion that I have had to travel alone after this incident, I find that at night I am not by myself in my hotel room at all. I always have Danny and Jack joining me sooner or later.

Not a shining example on my kids am I? Well blame it on ‘The Shining’!

Of Airports, Massages and Halitosis

15 Feb

The world is divided into two kinds of people. The kind who don’t mind being at airports and the other kind, who detest airports. I belong to the second kind. For me the joy of traveling is often hijacked (pun unintended) by the aspect of having to go through the mind numbing process of security procedures at airports.  I get all worked up at the very thought of being inside the presumably good airports of the world to say nothing of the not-so-good ones, more specifically the domestic kind. I know their fate has improved of late, but the ever-increasing population of domestic passengers has made up for any infrastructural improvement of airports within India.

There is no denying that post privatization our airports are looking good aesthetically but they are none the better for it in many ways. The problem with CST in Mumbai for example, is that it has space constraints but we are better off than the passengers traveling to or from Delhi, who have ‘that’ carpet in Terminal 3 to contend with. Call it what you will, but ‘that’ carpet works to the nation’s advantage and guarantees security because no self-respecting terrorist in his right mind would dare go near that infinitely long stretch of woven monstrosity.

Anyway let’s leave terrorists aside for now, what boggles my mind about us Indians is that; since air travel became affordable why have people stopped brushing their teeth?? Everyone in those queues for security seems to be suffering from halitosis. Two pregnancies may have triggered early Alzheimer’s in me but on the other hand, they have done wonders for my olfactory power. Armed with this heightened sense of smell I can find most lost things in the house merely by sniffing them out. But this enhanced capacity to smell works to my disadvantage mostly in public places and there is no escaping this torture when you are standing crushed in the women’s queue for security enveloped by toxic fumes.

The other thing that defies my logic is that when our people are expected to stand in one queue why do they promptly form three, as though that were the natural order of things. Then they jostle to pass from under the security scanner by elbowing each other out like cattle at the Pushkar animal fair.   Have you even seen the body language of our security staff at our airports? Maybe the men do a better job of frisking, but the fatigued women go over you with that hand-scanning device as though they were doing you a favour. We have much to learn from the aggression with which the security personnel in the US or UK operate. Ever looked inside their eyes as they frisk you? I sometimes begin to doubt my own identity and start suspecting that I might be a terrorist after all. I am sure I even look all guilty under pressure.  Their frisking however does not offend me in the very least. To me, that frisking is the next best thing to a Swedish deep tissue massage in fact.  It is such a pity that one never gets frisked this way at our airports in India and our security chaps show such apathy towards the tired muscles of the Indian traveler!

Finally, just how many dozen government employees are required to check our landing card slips when we arrive at the International Airports in India? Are we a nation of daft people who cannot be trusted to fill up our slips correctly? Or is the mostly jobless guy checking slips just outside of immigration blind and may have left room for error so that another guy at the exit has to do the same thing twice over? Disguised unemployment for the government but undisguised annoyance for passengers for sure!

I think the Indian traveler meets the government halfway on the annoyance front. We lack basic courtesies and civic sense for the most part. We don’t wait for the plane to stop before we dig our mobile out and annoy our fellow passengers by talking loudly, we assume that the ‘tie your seatbelt’ sign is just a practical joke and we step on each others’ toes to retrieve our bags from the conveyor belt.

The Buddha said “We don’t suffer from others, we suffer from ourselves.” Holds true for us Indians doesn’t it? And so it is. We are not likely to change. We just get used to the chaos, within and without.





On parenting, Goa and stuff like that.

11 Feb

So we are in Goa for the weekend with our urban kids who are too well traveled for our own good. I will touch upon this aspect in a bit but first let me tell you about the risks involved in traveling on a flight from anywhere to anywhere with 2 small kids. The husband was already in Goa and I was to arrive here with the kids in tow a few hours later.

When one is used to traveling with another family member to help out with the kids one forget just how much fun it can be to travel alone with them. I was reminded about “that fun” just yesterday.

The older one who is nearly 9, has an opinion on everything already and the younger one usually echoes everything the older one says. This is how our conversation went,

Kid 1: “In how much time will be board mamma?”

Me: “In half an hour”

Kid 2: “In how much time will be boage the plain mamma”

Me: “In half an hour”.

Kid 1: “Is our hotel nice mamma?”

Me: “Yes it is.”

Kid 2:“Is out hoten nice mamma?”

Me: “Yes it is.”

Kid 1: “Is the beach in Goa white?”

Me: “No it isn’t”

Kid 2: “Is the beach in Gova white?”

Me: “No darling it is brown.”

This is just a sample of our conversation from the time we left our home in Mumbai and arrived at our hotel in Goa. And if reading it is annoying you, I can’t even begin to describe my feelings to you without being judged harshly for being homicidal or something.

Anyway the urban kids arrived at the Grand Hyatt, which is a beautiful but badly run property. Our check-in took forever and then keys to another person’s room were handed over to us. When the husband walked into the room he saw some PG 16 stuff happening between the couple who were obviously in midst of something. Coitus Interruptus truly.

He apologized profusely and walk back belligerently to the reception to give the spaced out guest relations staff a piece of his mind. Am not sure if it is ‘feni’ the local port, which runs in their veins that brings about a deadpan expression from the harshest of verbal onslaughts. The husband’s wrath failed to bring about the best in them and they took another hour or so to find us our rightful room that should have been ready since at least 6 hours prior to our check in given that we had arrived at 6 pm.

We finally had the GM, a Swedish gentleman come and calm down the irate husband who wasted no time in telling him that the head shower of this hotel had fallen on his friends’ head the same morning. I have a knack for conversation and within a few minutes had him telling me about his ex wife, half Lebanese half Polish, his stint in Qatar, his mother who is to join him from Sweden in 2 weeks, why Lebanese women have a big rack than their counterparts in other parts of the world and other such routine stuff. I should have been a shrink. That was my calling. Get people to talk about themselves for an hour and charge them a fat amount for that. Damn, I missed the chance!

Anyway, hours later, the kids were on a sugar high from the “apology” sweets and candies that were sent to our room in a hamper. The hotel owes me another apology for sending those sweets and candies that ruined our evening as the 4 year old behaved like a drunken hooligan and the older one found her inner Jeetendra and started jumping around the whole suite.

Shortly after that loud Hindi music began to blare on account of a big Marwari wedding in the hotel followed by at least 45 minutes of over-the-top fireworks that were spectacular but polluted the air to the extent that I began to feel I was in Mumbai again.

The beach of the hotel is an apology of a beach because it is along the backwaters and the oil spills have formed a Missoni like black pattern along the sand. We took sand toys along but the sand stank of oil. I saw a good number of dead fish lying around and made a hasty retreat to the poolside disgusted by the overall murder of nature oil spills have lead to.

I also saw bottles and bits of plastic strewn around. This was a good lesson for the kids who wondered why the sand was so “yucky”. I lost no time in giving them a crash course in ‘How not to abuse the environment’ because man and his environment are basically one. They are not two entities that exist exclusive from each other. One impacts the other and likewise.

Okay so coming back to the topic of ‘well traveled’ kids. The problem with that is they are over exposed. They have seen too much. They get disappointed easily because they have seen better and have higher benchmarks.

I read many books on parenting and not one of them said “DO NOT SHOW THE WORLD TO YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY ARE SMALL”. They should’ve because now it is too late. I get mad at my kids when they roll their eyes if something does not meet their expectations, but deep down I know I am the culprit.

Not that I had a choice. We do not believe in traveling without the kids and so have taken them with us on most of our sojourns. It may have improved their knowledge and sensibility but I am disappointed at just how many little things fail to give them joy.

As it is, being urban kids who have been raised in apartments, they fail to appreciate nature. On many of our scenic road-trips in different parts of the world, instead of looking out of the window they have complained that they are bored and the drive is too long.

Even yesterday instead of walking around in the sprawling lawns of the hotel and exploring the flora, the older one asked me if she could play on the Ipad because she was ‘so bored’.

But what is the solution to this? Expose them more to nature? We have done that on most of our holidays but living in Mumbai, nature really isn’t a part of their lives. Sadly.

Should we leave them behind next time we travel? It will just make them sad and disgruntled, as holidays are also family bonding time. Family bonding does not happen easily in Mumbai either.

I have never cared much about their so-called boredom. When my kids tell me they are bored I tell them “Good. Get bored. Boredom is a good thing because it will make you think.”

Bored was a word my father forbade us from using when we were growing up. He has taught me never to get bored and I never do. There are books to be read, food to be tasted, people to be met and thoughts to be thought. Where is the time to get bored?

When I say this to my kids, my older one tells me “Mamma that was so many years ago this is 2012.”

I am still searching for a good comeback to that one.

So what you gonna do with a dog like that?

9 Feb

Apologies for this long break. Been a week nearly since I last posted. Could not help it though, as life came in the way of blogging. It isn’t always a bad thing however, because life does provide fodder for writing.

Among other things I have been busy fixing up the dog. Banal yes? But life is made of banalities and banalities are fodder for writing, so not always a bad thing.

The dog (yes the geriatric one) is growing old so fast that sometimes I begin to feel like he and I are doing the movie Paa part 2. That’s right, I am his mother, at least that is what is written in the good vet’s records. When his secretary calls me on the mobile to reconfirm his appointment she always asks, “Is this Olly’s mom speaking?”

And so to love and raise a pup and watch him grow into a strapping young dog (okay I take that back since Olly is a shih tzu and not so strapping after all) is the fun part. But to watch him age before your eyes with the knowledge that you are going to outlive him in all probability, is the really difficult part. Which is why I compared this to the movie Paa because Vidya Balan watches her son Amitabh Bachchan go from baby to old man under her very eyes, within the span of a few years.

It all started over 12 years ago when I had booked a white piece of Shih Tzu fluff for myself from an agent who brought in exotic breeds of pets from other parts of the world. Olly came to us from Tashkent and the disappointment I felt as I first set eyes on him can only be matched to the one that an Indian mother feels when she is told “it is going to be a boy” and instead she hears “oh look it is a girl” from the al fresco side of the delivery table.

Olly was anything but white. He was a dirty black ball of confused genealogy and looked more like a gremlin than anything that belonged to any of the animal species on earth. Rather, he looked like what you would get if you created an intergalactic match between a bandicoot and a gremlin. Now I am not shallow or anything but ugly pets is not my thing. Definitely not something I would willingly pay a handsome amount for. ‘Handsome amount’ : oh the irony  of it in the case as our dog.

In those early days I would groom him and groom him and wait for his blackness to give way to inner whiteness. Apparently there was none to be found. Unbeknownst to me, my despair turned into love and my entire family embraced this creature from the mythical planet with exemplary fortitude.

The grandparents purchased baby rattles for him. The sister in law and her husband would borrow him over the weekend. Family dinners consisted of narrating exaggerated accounts of his antics. Olly was the first grand child of the family after all, born to be loved and indulged. He would wake me up every morning with puppy breath. Only a dog lover will understand the purity of puppy breath. But for those who don’t know, let me tell you, puppy breath is everything dog breath is not. Today when Olly is 12 years old in dog years and (12 x 7) in human years, my biggest weapon of defense at home from a potential robber is his breath. The robber will not only pass into immediate coma, he will in fact plead to not be born in this saha world again just for fear of my dog’s breath.

When Olly was still a puppy and his breath had not yet turned into a weapon of mass destruction, the husband and I cut short many a holiday because the mother in law reported helplessly that he was looking sad and not eating anything. I remember asking for the phone to be placed near his ear when I called him this one time from abroad to “speak with him” if you don’t mind. When the sound of my voice added to his anxiety I had to request the owner of his new girlfriend “Muffin” to kindly make them meet to take his mind off his missing mother. If I had been any less committed to shopping in that trip, I would have, in fact, been on the next flight back to Bombay as usual.


At some point in the dog’s early years, one of the husband’s towels was found unfit for human use and passed on to him. As the lady of the house and a career woman at that time, due to an oversight, I forgot to inform the previous owner of the towel that it had been handed over to our 3-year-old dog. I still get stitches in my stomach (what young kids today call ROTFL) when I remember the sight of the husband walking around his room with that towel draped around him, months after the dog had been using it. Trough peals of laughter and tears that accompanied it, I had to inform the man of the house that he was in the towel of the dog of the house.

For some mystical reason, our marriage survived this incident. But this was the first of the series of unfortunate events related to Olly that were to follow the husband like a dog follows his master. One morning he complained that the toothpaste was spoilt but I dismissed it. One had heard of toothpaste drying up but never heard of it getting spoilt! On close inspection it was found that the husband had used the Chicken Flavoured toothpaste that had recently been purchased for the dog by my best friend. At another time he complained he was getting gray hair before his time. On close inspection it was found that his comb and the dog’s combs had been switched by mistake and the grays were really stray strands of dog hair.

Oh well, we put all this behind us and moved on the the next level in dog parenting. We entered Olly in a dog show to be held by the Kennel Club in Lonavala. He won the ‘Best of Breed’ certificate and his proud father framed it immediately and hung it up on the wall of our den for all to see. Best of Breed is given to the best contestant dog in that particular breed. On that fateful day of the competition, our dog was the only participating Shih Tzu in the ‘Best of Shih Tzu’ contest so obviously there was no chance of losing to another dog. But we withheld this little fact from our family and let Olly have his little moment under the sun.

Quite unexpectedly Olly had begun to look handsome too and all his black fluff had turned into shades of gold and gray. Armed with his dog show certificate we decided to hit the marriage market and put a bold advert with a big photograph of Olly in the Mid-Day asking for interested parties to kindly contact the husband’s secretary on her mobile number for mating. She was found sobbing on her desk a few days later. It seems random men had been calling her on that mobile and asking her if she was keen to mate with them. Oh the things one has had to go through!

Olly’s thunder was stolen once the kids came. He was relegated from top dog to top accessory of the house. We did our best to play with him and involve him but his endless jealousy had made him embrace his inner Angulimaal and he went about on a biting spree every time our children or anybody else’s went to pet him. Angulimaal literally means necklace of fingers. For those who don’t know, he lived in a forest many thousand years ago and would rob passers by and keep their index finger as memorabilia, which he then wore around his neck. His target was to find 101 victims and therefore 101 fingers to embellish his neck. One day Siddhartha Gautama Buddha passed by from that forest and Angulimaal heard him speak. He fell at his feet and became his disciple, joining his order and becoming a reformed man.

Our Olly had a target of snapping at a 101 kids in those days. Fortunately for my kids, age has mellowed him and he is a reformed dog without even having met the Buddha. He has grown to love the kids and does a little happy dance each time they come back home from school.

He does that same with us even if we have returned home 5 minutes after we left it.

After all these years, it is hard to imagine a life without Olly.

I often look at him and wonder about the transience of life.

I look at him and see unconditional love in his eyes. I see that he accepts us for what we are.

He does no quid pro quo.

He does not brush his teeth either.



3 Feb

I found this hysterical account of a single guy trying to channel his inner Jamie Oliver. Worth a read.

The Dissemination of Thought

You learn a lot of new things about food, cooking and improvisation when you’re a single guy living on your own. Some of these revelations, like the fact that vanilla ice cream, cinnamon and beer make a reasonably satisfactory main meal, can save you from starving in the event that you’ve neglected to go shopping. Again. You learn how to prepare a few staple, almost impressive dishes without setting fire to your apartment or sending dinner guests home via the emergency department. Sadly, you also come to understand just how badly one can screw up even the most seemingly idiot-proof of tasks in the kitchen. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at 5 things I’ve established as a result of my single guy cooking escapades.

1. Instructions are important and should be followed.

They say that rules are meant to be broken; cooking instructions aren’t.

You know those tubs…

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