Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Our Puppy Champ

I wish I could begin with some eloquent quote about Dogs being man’s best friend or narrate a heart-warming tale of the magic a dog’s love can weave. Well. I cannot. I have a rambunctious puppy at home that has all but managed to send me to a mental asylum. He’s fun to play with, don’t get me wrong but he’s also managed to make my husband and me question our sanity and certain life decisions (such as adopting said puppy) at 4 a.m.

Let me introduce Champion Suresh Vance to you. He’s a frisky young 11 month old (the size of a calf) that thinks he’s as light as a feather when he goes and plonks on my husband’s lap. At such times, only the guttural sounds being emitted from somewhere beneath the mound of black fur indicate my husband’s continued, but laboured worldly presence. Champ is the sort of dog that takes pleasure in life’s little things. Like chasing after scurrying bunnies, (and now that autumn’s set in) he even runs after dry leaves that swirl in the wind. All this would seem adorable if he didn’t have a full fledged adult attached to him by a leash. I have to narrate one particular incident here, to demonstrate his behaviour that leaves one exasperated, and him well deserving of a thwack.

One chilly morning, when I took him for his usual early morning walk, I didn’t realise how cold it was, and that there were layers of thin ice formed on the pavement. After Champ finished his business and we were on our way back to the apartment, he spotted a couple of bunnies on the front lawn. Now, under normal circumstances, I’m fairly prepared for his manoeuvre of a lunge-tug-and-drag-startled-owner move. But not today and not on thin ice (!) To make matters worse, he jumped over a small fence to get to the bunnies faster. For anyone who’s lived in places where it drops below freezing temperatures, you probably know that water freezes easily on sodden wet wood. I didn’t. I smartly did the only thing I thought would make me rein him in- Stand with one foot on my sturdy fence and pull on his leash. Except that my sturdy fence wasn’t so much sturdy as slippery, because it had a layer of ice! And what would be my next course of action do you think? Instead of putting both feet on the ground, I went ahead and actually stood on the fence. All for a glorious 2 seconds before Champ gave one last happy leap.  Needless to say I landed face first into the nearest bush and ended up with more than just injured pride.

Champ for some reason, also has this ritual of running in circles as fast as he can, around our coffee table. He derives great joy in doing this but it results in shoes, magazines and unidentified objects flying pell-mell in the room. At such times it’s amusing to watch my otherwise reserved and sombre husband exclaim:
“Champ! Sit!” Only to have him continue to run wildly.
“Champ! Stop!” To have him to run wildly, with his tongue out gleefully.
“Champ! Heel!” To have him run wildly, with his tongue out and go skidding on our hardwood floor.
Champ’s foster mother has assured me that our dog WILL grow out of this lunatic-puppy phase and he’ll eventually stop doing things like diving for people’s crotches as soon as he meets them (much to our collective embarrassment), that he’ll stop giving unsolicited bear hugs to victims lying on the couch, and will actually listen, when we give him a command. Until then we have to put up with him being our designated alarm clock (that goes off at freaking 4 am!) our paper shredder and yet, our lovable warm ball of fur that lets us cuddle him.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dosti :)

 If I were to ask which your favourite movie was, on friendship, I'm willing to bet that 9/10 of you will come up with names of films that either dealt with a bunch of guys who took on challenges for their country; Or went on a holiday to Spain/Goa, or a college-friendship-turned-love-story or finally, that yesteryear movie with two guys on a side car scooter. 
If you're in the 1/10 category, yes, to be fair, there have been movies about girls and their friendships, but they've more often than not, been veiled under layers of Dolce and Gabbana and Maybelline or had an underlying social message about being wronged by the male sex. Just how many movies give us a real idea of what female friendships embody? (No not lesbian, just pure strong friendship between girls.)

For the longest time, we've been fed rubbish about "Aurat hi aurat ki sabse badi dushman hai" (A woman is a woman's worst enemy) and it irks me no end when our friendships are spoken of in the past tense once a girl gets married and leaves. I know FB posts have probably gone overboard with their portrayal of everything a girl has to do for society, (men?) but my argument here is why our friendships are so underplayed and why are our equations and ties with the girls we love most expected to take the natural course of "...but that's how it is". 

One of my closest friends got married recently and as happy as I was for her, my heart ached at the thought of her moving cities to live with her husband and in-laws. Another childhood friend of mine can't make it for my wedding (Yeah, there'll be a whole other post delving into that subject) because of familial pressure due to the timing. In both cases, it took two more girl pals of mine to 1) Cry with me, on the night of the Sangeet about how we'd deal with life without our common bestie and 2) Explain that the poor friend in question is torn between her family and me and it's not fair to hold her at ransom for it.

Maybe the point of my post is to give you, my dear readers, an idea of my understanding of what long standing deep friendships between girls stand for. Or maybe (because of everything that it's portrayed to be) ... tell you what they DON'T stand for. 

They're not about sexy pillow fights on sleepovers: Yeah, sorry to shatter the illusion. We don't wear skimpy things to bed either. We're usually dressed in baggy pyjamas, loose t-shirts and all we do is binge eat. And belch.

They're not about taking duck-face selfies: Hell no. Even if we've been guilty of trying to do a pout, we fail so miserably that the next few selfies are blurred from the phone shaking so much while laughing.

They're not about excessive PDA: Except for a casual hug when we meet, girls do not blow kisses to each other. (Unless they're making fun of people who do) 

They're not about shopping: This has got to be a huge myth buster. Yes girls shop and yes they like it, but strong friendships (I don't believe) have been built on cooing about the latest discount sale at Mango. 

They're not about bonding over boys: Of course not. Just like there's a bro code, we have a woe code. Men cause us woes and we don't like getting our love lives tangled in our friendships. (Disclaimer: Cat fights over boys usually happen in movies.) 

And lastly, they're not about being politically correct: We call each other out if we're doing something exceptionally dumb, but join in the fray if it’s within the limits of acceptable stupidity. We also use expletives to address one another. None of those saccharine sweet nicknames. We reserve those for our gold fish, puppy, or boy friends'.  

So maybe our world isn't ready for full blown female friendships where the men in our lives work around our social circle (of forming cliques with our friends’ husbands') but I hope to live to a time when they do...  I'd like to end this post with one of my favourite quotes on friendship. "Nothing lasts forever. Dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships...They never go out of style."

Here's hoping every girl out there be blessed with buddies she's willing to die for because the best lesson this relationship can teach is that if you want a friend, you have to be one first.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I confidently walked into one of the retail branches of a popular health and wellness store to pick my best friend up something for her birthday. She's the kind who keeps up with latest beauty regimes and is almost always fashionably well groomed, so I thought buying her a lip gloss here and a body scrub there, among other things, might make for sensible items for a gift basket.

Little did I know that on entering the store, I'd be ambushed by over enthusiastic salesgirls detailing and remedying everything in my outward appearance that was wrong.

"Ma'am why don't you try this DD cream to cover dark spots? You have some on your face"

"Ma'am this is a scrub with special crystals to remove blackheads."
(Uhh, okay. I didn't know mine were that visible...)

"Ma'am this is a skin whitening cream, it has got many good reviews"
(Your point is..?)

"Ma'am this sunscreen has an SPF of one million. Prevents darkening and makes you fair"
(But I don't want to look...)

"Ma'am this face mask helps to remove dead skin and gives you a glow"
(Oh my god, lady! I was born brown!!)

Then, they shifted gears.

"Ma'am this is herbal medicinal lip balm... For cracked lips"
(Gee thanks. Now I'll keep licking mine self consciously.)

"Ma'am are you looking for some shampoos? This is anti dandruff and hairfall"
(Are you seriously looking at my hairline?!)

I don't know what it is with marketing, these days. When I'd learnt about it briefly in college, I knew it was about enticing customers into 'wanting' to buy. Not belittling them by having these hawk eyed women swoop down on anyone who doesn't look straight out of a Vogue magazine. I understand  the concept of demand and supply in this biz, and that it is keeping pace with our looks obsessed society (I'm somewhat in the business of outward appearances myself, so I Know!) but I think there should be a limit to this (not-so) subtle form of criticism.

Then there are also women you encounter at the salon. I am of the firm belief that when you visit such places, you should feel pampered throughout, not have to brave comments like:

"Aapke baal patle hai." ("You have thin hair.")
 I've come very close to saying, "Toh kya karu? Ugaau?" Loosely translated: "So what, should I start cultivating some?"

There's also the "Aapki skin bahut oily hai, pimples bhi hain." ("You have very oily skin, and pimples too.")
Realllyyy? I've lived with them for over 2 decades and would have Never known!

And the cherry on the top (at least in my case) has got to be "Why don't you go in for a Pearl facial? It'll make you look fair.."
Make it stop! Make it stop already!

I will not understand why it is assumed that Everyone HAS to be discontented with what they look like. I'm not saying I'm supremely confident. I go through phases of feeling pretty ugly too, but it's not something I obsess over all the time. And anyway, there are far more important and justifiable things to feel under confident about (!)
On that (slightly) comforting note, I have decided that the next time I have a brush with these smart alecs who go off about every perceivable body defect of mine, I'll either arm myself with a baseball bat (Hello there, prissy glass bottles) or adopt the Zen philosophy of being relaxed and not worry about things I cannot change. Namely, skin tone, texture, open pores, scars, blackheads, white heads, stupid heads, dunderheads ...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Lady I Loved.

It's been almost a year and a half since my last post... possibly one of the longest breaks I've taken from writing. Any kind of writing.
I lost my Mother to breast cancer 15 months ago and the journey since the time she was diagnosed till the time she passed on to the 'other dimension' has been stormy. Yet, there were some good times and deep friendships and relationships cemented during the period. Most importantly, rediscovering Dad after he had voluntarily taken a back-seat in our lives during our growing years when Mumma was the centre piece of my sisters' and my existence.

Mummy was the proof reader for all my blog posts. Good, bad or ugly, she patiently read through them and toward the end, had me read them out loud to her. She made suggestions now and then, but mostly let my work stay as it was. Possibly because she wanted it to retain my "style".

Renu Suresh was a one of a kind lady. Every girl probably thinks that about her mother, and I'm no different, but I honestly think she was a class apart. She married for love back in the day (in a society that hardly accepted it) and not just to someone from outside her community.

 She was a triple graduate. Again, for a generation where women barely made it through college, she was far more educated and at a point, even better qualified than dad. She went on to have three daughters and kept them all (!) Yes, 'kept' us at a time when well meaning friends and relatives volunteered to adopt one of us (Me, actually, being the youngest) because daughters are a burden to support. And three, God forbid!
Ma brought us up to the best of her and Dad's ability. They were always there at every school programme, ensured we were never shabbily turned out, kept us healthy and gave us as good of an upbringing as kids those days. For as long as I can remember, mummy also worked jobs. First, full time and then later as we grew up, she worked for half the day. Finally, in the last 15 years of her life, she ran a play school and kindergarten. She worked hard. Very hard. At everything she did.

While she was alive, I never got around to writing about her. Though anyone who knows me, knew that I hero worshipped and would've spouted poetry about her if I could. (Wait, I have in fact, ha ha!) One can't imagine life without such an integral part of your being. It's an impossible scenario to fathom. In conversations, if the topic of death ever came up, I'd maintain that I'd leave this earth with her, in one shot. Dark humour or what, but I had cocky confidence. Needless to say, since I'm hammering away on the laptop, I didn't.

Mummy was just as human as she was a super hero. She was adorably cute in ways that only those close to her knew she could be.
There are few instances which when I think about now, always send me scurrying for tissues to wipe away tears of mirth about how unintentionally funny she was.
There was this one time I wanted to use her phone to make a call. Since I couldn't find hers, I decided to call it from mine to hear it ring. Mummy, who had had it next to her, was immersed in reading the newspaper till it buzzed. When it did, my naive mum took the phone in her hand and looked from the screen to me in complete wonder. She then proceeded to answer the phone with a tenative "Hello?" as I stood in front of her with an incredulous expression. "But it said you were calling beta..." she said sheepishly smiling with childlike innocence.
Another memory that stands out from the rest is watching her as she used the computer to write articles or send emails: She would stare intently at the desktop while typing, with her head tilted slightly backwards and move from left to right gradually. Then suddenly when the cursor would jump to the next line, my adorable mother (brought up in the era of typewriters) would jerk her head to the left when she'd spot the blinking cursor. After the momentary pause on spotting it, she'd resume.

Mummy was also endearing in least expected ways. While having arguments with her adult daughters, there would only be a slight variation in what was being said, from both parties. Reason, she would repeat our argument with the prefix of  'What'. Example:

Me: But I like staying out after 7!
She: What "I like staying out after 7!"
Me: ...

Me: I don't care what my hair looks like!
She: What "I don't care what my hair looks like!"
Me: Means I don't care.
She: What "Means I don't care!"
Me: ...

Me: I think that guy is cute.
She: ...

Usually the silence would be followed by the Hindi version of  "Are you crazy?!" (Paagal ho gayi hai?! to be exact) But there you have it, Ma wasn't the best at rebuttals but she still more often than not got her way with things around the house.

She may have seemed vulnerable with us at times, but was our rock of Gibraltar. There were numerous times she came to our rescue. When I was in high school and a terror for a teacher cornered and humiliated me in class one day, my mother took it upon herself to tell her off.
 After having watched me bawl my eyes out for hours, mumma picked up the phone, went to the next room and gave that teacher a earful. Needless to say, that teacher stopped picking on me thereafter. Mum taught us never put up with bullies.

There are so many memories and my whole life almost (the good parts, haha), which stands testimony to her slightly conservative but kind upbringing.
One single blog post can do no justice to her impact on our lives but I know it's a start. I hope she's proof reading this article and approves of it, from wherever she is. And if she is, I might as well have at it, and leave her a message here.

I love you Ma. And miss you much more than we thought I would. I miss telling you about my day and miss sharing small joys and sorrows. I know you're around though, guiding our lives and you're doing a superb job of it ... But I miss just being able to hug you, give you the personal space-invading-patented kiss of mine. Hearing your foot steps around the house and I miss your familiar greeting on the phone. I miss you.
Yes, we've been coping well, and I know we'll get better too, but I can guarantee that all of us here are looking forward to seeing you again. Maybe not looking forward to the process involved, in order to see you (!) But we want to, alright :)
Take care Mumma.
Until later, then.
Tunjee Ashlu Raja.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


There's always something beautiful,
In every facet of life,
If only we would stop and think, 
And not surround our self in strife.

There'll always be things that are bothersome, 
And things that'll get us down,
Doesn't matter what age or race you belong to,
There's plenty of worry to go around.

Yet it's in the madness and cacophony of life as is
That we've got to make way for the smiles,
For little bursts of sunlight and laughter,
Through wilderness that'll run through miles.

It's about being in love no matter the obstacles, 
And loving without being scared
It's about doing things for someone you love,
Regardless of who else cares.

It's about looking into one's soul in wonder,
With all the strength that's there,
And marvel at the steadiness of your own heart ,
When all in the world's not fair

Because beauty isn't something
That you want to just look at with your eyes
It's the feeling that'll fully engulf you
When you hear the phoenix cry. 

(Poem dedicated to my resilient Mom.) 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Herald of Wisdom

I have decided to become more regular with writing. Not because I want to keep in touch with the wannabe writer in me, or because I want to seem erudite and voice my opinion vociferously about the political scenario or important aspects gripping the nation, city, town or my neighbour's balcony. I'm writing because it occurred to me, that the only way to chronicle some part of my life is by writing now, so I don't suddenly find myself being a whiny 47 year old cat lady unsure of how I got there.

The reason I'm writing this entry is to make a sequel of 'It took me 21 years to get this'. Now, four years hence and all the wiser (not!), I have come up with a brand new set of whirls of wisdom. Read, ponder and repeat...the entry, I mean.

1. Don't balance a bowl of mushy food while carrying a toddler. I have learnt this the hard way thanks to my beloved niece and nephew who could put the most accredited theater actors to shame when it comes to being dramatic. Heavens forbid they be in a bad mood, and decide to flip the second-only-to-holy-chalice, brace yourself for a shower of lumpy warm food and a child who can double the mess in a matter of seconds by helpfully rubbing it in your face. Literally.

2. Don't ask women for road directions... Unless you're fond of going for long drives you never intended going on. And certainly not if you don't appreciate navigating through narrow gullies that don't really have a point in existing. I have contributed generously to our government and the oil companies in the middle east and have understood that I can display my pride in being a woman and seeking help of another, in other ways than being led into taking a road trip without my consent.

3. Ensure your niece/nephew/child is with you before you begin cooing. It does not bode well to baby talk in front of an aquarium of a mall about the body parts of "fishies", when the child in question has wandered off. And do not forget to stop addressing yourself in third person with the suffix of a 'masi' (aunt) while talking to full grown adults.

4. Do not trust a car in the hands of someone who is just about eligible to vote. Also, the dash board is a precious, precious part of the car that is highly underrated. This piece of advice is for anyone out there who has had the misfortune of sitting in, and the good fortune of emerging out alive, of a car driven by an eighteen year old. You can however count on the sturdy dash board that will be with you in (car)sickness and (mental ill) health, and happiness (at a traffic signal) and horror (of a free way).

5. Don't buy toys that are sound sensitive. It is not a good idea to watch scary movies about possessed dolls and then merrily invest in toys that go off on their own while you're tip toeing to the kitchen for a mid night snack and manage to stub your toe noisily. I have no idea what the makers had in mind but I'm sure scaring the bejesus out of a harried peckish aunt was not on their agenda when they tuned the doll to sing 'Mary had a little lamp' in the dead of the night.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Along came Anvi :)

       It may be a year and a half since my lil niece was born.... but I remember events leading up to that day as clearly like they happened yesterday... Coming to think of it, a lot was happening in my life around that time, but some events stand out more distinctly than others. Like the day before she came into this world.
      I was getting ready for college and hadn't the slightest idea that that day was the eve of a life changing event. I woke up at the usual, but (of all days) I'd spent an hour talking to a friend in the morning. As a result, I rushed out pretty late. I remember which street I was driving on when I my phone buzzed. It was from home and my other sister informed me of my eldest sister being driven to the hospital right then. The baby was expected soon. I pulled over to the side of the road and cried.

    I distinctly remember which classes I had that day. Not much of what was being taught, of course, but I remember staring out of  the window whilst sitting in class and thinking of how different our lives were about to become... I left college early because I didn't want to miss being there...
   I got home sooner than usual, and to my absolute surprise I saw my eldest sister sitting serenely in our living room (instead of in a hospital room as I'd imagined she'd be) in the company of a couple of neighbours and a family friend. They may have come just to wish her luck, or as is in our Indian tradition, they came to give her gifts and wish her well with the baby... The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur. The guests left, we had dinner and then every half hour or so we were subject to my sister going in and out of what I later came to understand as contractions.
That night my brother-in-law and mother were constantly over the phone with my sister's doctor. I of course steered clear of anyone that either had a baby bump or a phone stuck to their ear listening to instructions. I may have gone to bed around 11, I'm not sure... I slept on the couch that day because we were accommodating more people than usual. At around 4.30 a.m, I was awoken by the sounds of people scuffling around and opened my eyes to see my sister waddle out with my mother and brother-in-law in tow. It's not everyday that someone wakes up to be a first-time-aunt...

I don't need to mention that I couldn't sleep a wink after that. In fact, neither could my dad, my other sister, or the old relative at home. So we decided to get dressed and visit my sister in the hospital.
I'm not the sort that takes long to get dressed, but even I managed to set myself a record of being ready in a matter of minutes... I don't know what we thought by arriving at the hospital maybe an hour after my sister was admitted. I probably thought the kid would be delivered and would look as cute as the babies in diaper ads. Wrong, On both counts.
My sister, we were told was very much in labour and we were asked in no uncertain terms to bugger off and be back when the child was actually born. Having nothing better to do at 6 a.m, we left for breakfast and then home. My mother promised to call us at 10 a.m to tell us the of the status quo. The baby would most probably be out by then, she said.

The rest of us meanwhile, reached home. I informed my classmates of my taking the day off and decided to take a nap seeing as how there was nothing to do but wait. I set the alarm for 10 a.m and miraculously woke 5 minutes before it went off.
    It so happens, that the day my niece was born, also happened to be the day we seniors (at university) were throwing the juniors a welcome party. And as (ill) luck would have it, I was set to compere the event.
By 11 am, there was still no news from my mother so I thought I'd go the beauty palour and get spruced a bit. (There was full chance of my sister having the baby on the next day, and if that was the case, I could not chicken out from attending the party. Well, turns out I couldn't chicken out in any case, because I did end up finally going, but oh well)
I returned around 12 pm and still no news. I was getting my clothes together for that evening's party when my dad's phone rang. My sister and dad were presumably in the same room and there was a whoop of joy. I entered the room and beaming, Papa handed me the phone.

"Congratulations Ashe, you're an aunt to a healthy baby girl" an exhausted young mother said.

The gamut of emotions were immense. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Being treated as the baby of the house for 23 long years was finally up. Now there was someone who I would lovingly pass on the mantle to.
Anvika looked every bit a shriveled bundle of baby, when I first set eyes on her. A thick mop of hair, alert eyes, and translucent skin. That's how I remember my baby niece a few hours after she was born. I can't say I thought she was the most beautiful baby et al, because she wasn't. Yet, when I did look at her and it actually sunk in that that little being was my sister's baby, I felt my eyes get moist.

Turning an aunt is a one of a kind experience. You're close enough to feel the full impact of welcoming a new being into the world, but far away enough to not be woken up for 3 a.m diaper changes. All in all, I think being an aunt is the most fun of all the equations one can have with the child (at least till they can be called that) You have all the energy in the world to monkey around, yet you don't have to be responsible for feed and sleep timings. I love being an aunt. I became one for the second time round this year, and feel almost completely comfortable around babies now. (At least I'm not scared of them anymore!) .... To this day, I look back fondly on August 12th 2011. It was the day that set the precedent for how things would be for the rest of our lives and what changed the dynamics at home completely.