Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dog Diaries!!

I was eight years old and climbing steps to reach the third floor of my building. A white Pomeranian dog appeared from nowhere in front of me. It was so sudden and unexpected.  I got shocked and paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t move a muscle. He growled and I panicked further. Instinctively, I started running and didn’t look back. I stopped only when I had reached my flat on the ground floor. This episode put an end to my love for dogs. 

Later in my life, I was scared of street dogs. I never visited any acquaintance or friend’s house if it contained any pet dogs. Even watching puppies from a short distance was fine until they crawled towards me. That made me run away in fright.

My first curiosity towards dogs happened while I started reading Enid Blyton’s series, Famous Five. One of the most interesting things about the book which fascinated me was the bonding between Timmy, a funny-looking and brave mongrel with unusually long tail and funny brown eyes, and his mistress, George. Wherever George went, she was accompanied by Timmy in her adventures along with her other cousins. George herself stood in front of Timmy to protect him against any trouble and Timmy would not let anyone leave in peace if they dared to mess up with George. That was the extent of love between strong-willed George and her loyal dog Timmy. I liked re-reading parts in the series that shows Timmy up to something and ending up in an adventure. It was downright hilarious and brave many times. It made me think that to have a pet dog is not that bad and scary after all. 

Cartoons like Scooby Doo showed dogs in a friendly way. I used to sing all day along with the show Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you? Shaggy and his loyal companion solved many mysterious cases together. Scooby Doo was funny and uttered dialogues that made me glued to the television set whenever any episode of the show would start. I ended up in specks later like Velma, one of the characters in the show. Sometimes Scooby Doo turned out to be a big coward and would jump in the arms of Shaggy in fright. Many times, he would suddenly become very brave and solve a case unexpectedly. Bravo!  I was happy to know that dogs can make you laugh so much. And Scooby-Doo became an ideal dog for me. I badly wanted to have him in reality. I wanted him to come out of the television and sit next to me. By this time, thanks to Scooby, I had somewhat erased the dog fear from my heart. I didn’t run away anymore on seeing dogs on the streets. I learned to silently walk forward and that dogs won’t come to bite you if you don’t harm him/her. 

When I grew up, others around me were hypnotized by the magical world of Harry Potter. I too fell in the race of procuring those books and reading them till 3 am. I used to watch Pogo whenever Harry Potter movies was aired on it. Apart from so many characters in the series, the game-keeper, Hagrid, and his unwavering love for animals caught my attention. He has a boarhound named Fang, who he likes to keep inside his hut. Fang is lazy but looks strong. He keeps drooling and licking Harry and Ron when they come on their visits to Hagrid. He welcomes them with booming barks and goes mad with joy. In Chamber of Secrets, he follows Harry and Ron into the forbidden forest and has his own little adventure. 

In 2008, Hollywood released a comedy-drama film titled Marley & Me. I watched the film and decided to have a dog one day, no matter what! Someone just like Marley! A dog that is uncontrollable and incorrigible. He wreaks havoc in the whole house and is expelled from a class by a dog-trainer after announcing that this dog is a bad influence on other dogs! He is scared of thunders and lightening. He chews bones, carpets and sofa cushions. The actor in the film, Owen Wilson, is a columnist who writes about Marley and what mischief he did every day and that becomes popular in no time. The circulation of the newspaper goes up and he is appreciated for his writings. When the movie ended, it was with a heavy heart that I could view the private little gathering on Marley’s death. I didn’t want him to die! But nobody is immortal, I realized after one day of crying non-stop. Again I vowed to have a dog like him some day. My very own Marley. What a feeling it would be to write about your own loving pet!

When I travel in Shatabdi or metro, I see police officials walking on inspection duties and followed by Labradors or German Shepherds. Once a furry black Labrador passed close to my heels when I was seated and I watched it sniffing and walking lazily forward amongst passengers. I wanted to extend my arm to feel the fur and give a pat on the head. But I resisted. What if he barks? Worse, what if he inserts his razor-sharp teeth on my hand? Same happens when I go for my evening walks and I encounter a colony dog blocking my path. I wait for someone to overtake me and then I resume my walking, behind that person. The first flat that I happened to live in was just for three days. A pet dog of the owner, living on the upper floor, was nowhere in sight when we had first talks about the accommodation. The dog suddenly appeared on the main gate when we came with our luggages. We vacated the flat on the third day. 

My thoughts and reactions towards dogs are contradictory to each other. My reflexive reaction on seeing a dog is to run away. But my heart beats for a pet dog. I want my fear of dogs to transform into a love for them. I want a pet at any rate. My mother has many issues with dogs. When my dad talks about pets, my mother has only one thing to ask. Who will take care of it but her when everyone else will be going to office, schools and colleges? Adopting a pet isn’t easy and those who want to do it, stay at home and don’t bother me, she tells firmly. Of course, nobody knows what to reply. So we have dropped this idea for the time being. But I keep my eyes and ears open nonetheless. If there is an advertisement about puppies on sale in the newspaper, my heart starts racing uncontrollably. My latest research is to find out about different breed of dogs on the planet. :) 

I am harassing my roommate a lot on this topic, who is a dog-lover herself. Day in and day out, she answers to my silly questions patiently. One of the biggest revelation is the purchasing price of any pet. I have heard that Pomeranians and Labradors are cheaper when compared to German Shepherds. And cheaper in the sense with respect to a start of Rs. 5000. It can shoot up to Rs. 20,000 and more depending upon the type of breed you want. I don’t know which dog I would choose in the end but this is becoming confusing to me every passing day. How nice it would be, if somebody would just drop a puppy at your door-step and early morning you open the door and see that some small furry four-legged creature is chewing at the end of your favourite newspaper?  It would certainly be very happy times to have someone becoming your best friend for the rest of your life and doesn’t desert you in times of needs. Someone who is loyal, loving and brings you happiness. A little chaos in the house is ok for me. One day in my own house I would like to have a pet dog. No matter if it’s a male or a female. I just want a naughty and fun-loving pet. A best friend who I can write about. Another Marley or a Timmy. Hope that day comes soon. :)

With the below desktop wallpaper that I am using currently, I am signing off for the day. Wuff wuff!

“No arms, no legs… worries!”

This season’s Nach Baliye on Star Plus has Vinod Thakur as one of the contestants. He first shot to fame as a break dancer on India’s Got Talent. He had a rough childhood. He started repairing mobile phones to earn money.  He never had any formal training in dancing. He taught himself by downloading dance videos from an internet cafĂ©. When he starts dancing with a grin on his face, people openly gape at him unabashedly. When he came on stage to dance with his wife, Shilpa Shetty as one of the judges of the show, covered her mouth with her hands. This much astonished she was on seeing the level of energy and enthusiasm shown by Vinod. A man who was born without legs. 

Watch him dance and you will be surprised at his dedication towards dancing. Today inspite of having two hands and two legs, people criticize god for the way they look and talk. Some people are not happy with their heights. Some don’t like the shape of their nose or lip or arms. Have we ever wondered how life would have been if we had any disabilities? We look at our physical features and compare it distressingly with others. Ever wondered how life would be if those same not so good looking physical body parts are absent since your birth?

I came to know about Nick Vujicic during my engineering days. In one of the orientation programs conducted, we were shown a video of this man who was born without hands and legs. He was depressed by this condition in his childhood and contemplated to end his life when he was just 10 years old. But then he decided not to do so because that would hurt his loved ones and might make them feel immensely guilty. His parents made him go to a normal school. Because they wanted him to have a life like a normal kid. Something that he is very proud of today. When he was seventeen, he started speaking about his life in front of small groups. He turned into such a motivational speaker and so many listeners got influenced that he has visited many countries by now in a will to spread goodness and hope among others. He types with his toes, swims and plays golf. He writes and dresses with the help of his mouth. He has visited approximately 24 countries for public speaking till now and has his own private website.  

Vinod, Nick and many others like them throughout the world have accepted the way they are. There were many hindrances and issues they had to face. Maybe they face today too. But they haven’t given up. Nor their parents and companions. They are the creators of god and they do not complain anymore. What’s the point in complaining anyway? They learned about their talents or carved out a career and they are living a satisfied life. Vinod is an amazing dancer and Nick can calm the minds of any noisy audience with his influential speech. They have earned respect from the society. Throw all those pity and sympathies out of the window. These people do not need anyone to sympathize for them. They need others to empathize with their lives. We should learn from them to be happy with the kind of life god has blessed us with.    

Looking at their lives, my own personal problems and issues look so unimportant. Why feel angry at all at difficult situations? Why shout, curse or feel jealous? Why have hatred towards someone? Why neglect our health and boil our blood in the whole process and then blame our busy lives or the people in it? Don’t we have anything more important to do in life? When Nick can love himself the way he is, why can’t we too? When he does not have any complaints to put in front of god but prays to Christ every day, why can't we bear our troubles with a smile? When Vinod can dance to his heart’s content fearlessly, why can’t we come out of our own shells too? These folks have erased the word impossible from their dictionary. Why can’t we do the same? We face many problems in life. We stagger to keep up in times of troubles.  We crave for success and excellence. If we fail in something, we tend to curse fate. Whatever we have, we are never satisfied in it, are we? We want more and bigger. We easily become depressed and feel jealous of others who have more power. We strive to achieve perfection in everything we do. In this tough, competitive world, we often get distracted and end up getting frustrated. If somebody is not listening to our woes, we easily become annoyed and irritated.  If we suffer from a great loss, we tend to become suicidal. We forget to cherish what we have. What we were born with. In order to satisfy others, we often neglect our health. But look at these people. They are more fearless and brave than us. They faced many challenges in life. When they can do it so humbly and cheerfully, why can't we too? 

When someone is born with any disability, people immediately start showing pity towards him/her. It follows with a doubt on the disabled person’s future. Some outspoken folks even try to discourage them. The world is tough out there and they don’t stand a chance-such humiliating words are thrown at them. What one fails to understand is that just because someone has two hands, two legs, one head and no brains doesn’t give that someone any right to discourage/ insult/ or dishonor disabled people. It is in no one’s hands that a newly born child will have full organs in proper conditions. Of course, some people can always be counted upon. In some cases such children are abandoned by their folks because of their conditions. When it’s not even the child’s fault. Why punish an innocent heart when life is already going to be full of sufferings and tough decisions for the rest of his/her future? Who knows maybe the next kid born in their families would again have disabilities. Then what will they do? Abandon the new born again? And for how many times will this go on? When their other kids with full body parts become adult, get married and end up having their own children born with any disability, then what these same parents turned grandparents will do next? On second thoughts, a human being can land up in an accident and get his any body part chopped off by a speeding vehicle. He/she can become disabled for life. How would they feel if their loved ones desert them for their disability or dependency? 

In future, if my own children have any disability, should I abandon them like some others or prepare them for their future life ahead? This is in our hands, how to carve out a life for such children and make them ready to face the challenges ahead. Hats off to those parents who encourage their disabled kids to face the world with a smile on their faces. Else we wouldn’t have gotten to see inspiring personalities like Vinod and Nick at their best. Moral for the day? Have a purpose in life and enjoy with full gusto. We don’t know when our lives will end or for how many days we would live. Who has seen the future? Let’s just live in the present and be happy at whatever we do and whatever little/more we have. If a person with no limbs can have positive attitude towards life and no regrets, why can’t we too have the same feelings? Why can’t we too try to overcome challenges and fears just the way Vinod has? Let’s learn to love ourselves the way we are. Let’s live our god-gifted life to the fullest till we are alive. :)                          

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Bollywood Tale

My father likes to watch DD National. Especially on every Sunday morning when the channel airs a TV show named Rangoli that shows melodious old songs of Bollywood. These songs were filmed at mountains, fields and amidst greenery. Or in front of a house or on the streets. Such songs portray romance in a very gentle yet convincing manner. Bollywood actors of yesteryears didn’t need to go shirtless to attract female crowd. There was no extravagantly build sets. Most importantly, films were made to entertain the crowd with a good script and not for the sole purpose of commercialization. Achieving 100 cores mark was hardly the target. Actresses didn’t have an item song in every film they were part of. Yet such films had that wow factor in them. Something that could bring cheers and whistling from the audience inside theatres whenever their favourite actress came on-screen. 

Once I got hooked to an episode of the show. It played a song that showed Sunil Dutt trying to woo his love. The woman stood near a rock, sometimes on an edge of a cliff or hid behind villagers planting tea-leaves. Sunil Dutt followed her everywhere. The scenes were so beautifully picturised. I went back in time. In my childhood, I never missed watching Amar, Akbar, Anthonyif it came on TV. I loved the way Rishi Kapoor sat on top of a big ladder and tried to convince an older man to accept him as his son-in-law in Taiyab Ali pyar ka dushman haay haay. I liked the way he showed his love towards Neetu Singh on the stage in front of a whole crowd in the song parda hai parda hai. The next movie was Seeta Aur Geeta. Hema Malini totally rocked in the movie! She made the cops run amok in police station, played tricks on ropes in the streets to earn money and played a double role. And who can forget Sholay, a film that needs no introduction? It is by far one of the best classics ever produced by Bollywood. Hema Malini drove a horse-cart and audience started swearing by friendship of Jai and Veeru and greeting each other with kitne aadmi the. I liked the song yeh dosti hum nahin todenge where Jai and Veeru sing along on a road while riding on a motorbike with sidecar! 

There are so many memorable moments that are hard to forget. Old is indeed gold! Those golden moments in Indian cinema still continue to entertain us. But what about the movies that Bollywood is churning out since the last decade? Apart from a handful like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, 3 idiots, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Udaan, Lagaan etc, there are many films that came after a lot of promotion through reality shows and advertisements and we went like dumbs to view them in theatres.  Only to come out and realize that our money has been wasted. Many films opt for having grand sets, designer costumes and roping in famous actors at any cost. But the story line is a big zero and that is considered fine if the film has already grossed cores in its first week of release. There is tough competition between super stars nowadays and hardly any respect. Look at an actress today and compare it with how she looked 6-7 years ago. Apart from preferring to look stick thin and going for size zero, most of today’s actresses go under the knife to get that nose job done or correct those cheek bones. It seems that no director wants to portray natural beauty these days. Or maybe they feel the need of it so badly that they order their actresses to wear less clothes today and lesser tomorrow. Straight all-round natural beauty will be revealed. But what made Ranveer Singh to go shirtless in Ram-Leela? Is he trying to make Deepika fall in love with him by showing off that ultra-thin, toned body? Or is he promoting against malnutrition in India?

Some movies are made with high profile casts and lack any story. Films are supposed to have major influence on viewers. Social issues of the society and human behaviour and relations should be more focused. But instead movies are releasing at an alarming rate and turning out to be all about costumes and body displays. Like Sheila ki Jawani and Jalebi bai. The only thing learnt so far is that don’t go with children every time inside theatres because you can’t tell when an adult scene might start in front of you. Do such films leave any long lasting impression? None at all. Any morals or lessons learnt? Hardly any. Someone needs to invent a time-turner and hand it to Bollywood. They seriously need to go back in time and learn something from the past!

Nostalgic moments of an Expensive Diwali

This Diwali turned out to be as eco-friendly as possible. I didn’t explode any bombs and my neighbours resisted the urge to fire off rockets. We were left to see people from other colony bursting crackers which emitted ear-shattering sounds and reading in the newspapers the next day about the capital of India celebrating a noisy and polluted Diwali. 

What surprised me most was the unexpected twist in the exchange of Diwali gifts between the colony folks. 

Earlier when I was in Mumbai, my mother used to make various delicacies at home. It mostly included Chaklis, Besan laddoos and Chevda. If time permitted, mum made Gulab Jamuns and Coconut laddoos as well. The stock of evening snacks for the next one month was prepared in a single day. Thanks to Diwali! Sometimes my mum’s friends used to arrive at home for lending a hand. My favourite part was to become a food-taster. When a delicacy was finally ready, I was fetched and asked to taste the food item. Adults refused to taste it since they believed that it would lead to ‘spoiling’ of the food before it was even offered in front of the gods at the time of the evening prayers. Children were considered innocent and pure. Refusing children to taste any delicacy was considered as upsetting the gods :) So I got to taste nearly everything while it was made. My brother didn’t have a sweet tooth and so my coast was always clear. While the ladies deep fried Chaklis or finished making any laddoos, I used to hover in the kitchen deliberately and gobble everything that was produced in front of me. Those were one of the memorable days about Diwali. Later there used to be exchanged of these home-made delicacies between neighbours as Diwali gifts. Plates loaded with these food items were given to every aunty in the building. In return we used to get those delicacies which were made by them! If some aunty wasn’t well and therefore hadn’t made any delicacies, she used to put some sugar in the plate and return it back to us. A plate or a thali was never returned empty. Something eatable and sweet had to be put in it. That was the tradition followed by the ladies. Children and youngsters used to run up and down with plates on the floors of the buildings. That was indeed a must-watch!    

Nowadays the situation has changed drastically. Call it a busy life or life in a capital, but these days no one is interested in making anything home-made during Diwali. Even if delicacies are made, people store it in tin-boxes inside their kitchen after making it in a small quantity which is meant only for family and no outsider. This year, we got ready-made cookies and boxes full of Dark Fantasy and sugar-free biscuits, neatly gift-wrapped with a name and a Diwali greeting from neighbours. If somebody gifts us such greetings that costs around Rs.150 each, don’t such ladies expect something worth it in return? So mother, on realizing this new culture, had to rush off to the market to buy those last-minute expensive boxes containing biscuits and cookies, along with other desperate friends. So that nobody’s nose would be cut in public and everybody would be happy at the end of the day with the kind of gift they have received. Where is excitement and happiness in such kind of greetings? People give and take based on their social status in society and expect the same kind of presents in return. 

Plus a real shocker for the day turned out to be our maid. She demanded a mobile from my mother. Mum spread this news around and immediately her friends reassured her that their maids too have demanded the same. Apparently someone from the upper floor gifted a mobile to her maid and the other maids got it into their heads that they too should demand a brand new mobile from their mistresses. It didn’t matter that every one of these maids have a mobile already. After the Diwali night, the next morning our house was swarmed with the members of the cleaning department- garbage collector, laundry guy, sweeper, car cleaner and maintenance man. These folks didn’t need any old clothes or home –made Chevda. They only wanted Rs. 50 each.  The vegetable guy came in the evening and refused to leave until we had succumbed to his demand of Rs. 70.

The only lightening and brightening thing about this Diwali was that every Indian celebrated my mum’s birthday this year :) It was on this Sunday, 3rd November 2013. Even the Indian Cricket team couldn’t have given her a better treat! By winning the match and wrapping up the series the previous day made my mum to smile brightly the whole Diwali. My mother is a die-hard fan of Dhoni and has continued hating Australian Cricket team even after Shane Warne retired.  She started receiving phone calls since morning and got fed up by evening so much so that if anyone greeted ‘Happy Diwali’, my mum would answer ‘Same to you!’ When they greeted ‘Happy Birthday’, my mum would again answer ‘Same to you!’ I purchased 1 kg of Kaju Katlis and 1 kg of Mathri from the famous Bengali Sweets shop. I had wanted to give her this surprise on Sunday only but it turned out to be mission impossible on Friday night when I tried my best to hide the boxes from her. Goddess Laxmi had some other plans. I went into bathroom once and when I came out, my mother was grinning and distributing those Kaju Katlis to some aunties who had arrived at home. She declared proudly that her daughter had brought the sweets all the way from Chandigarh. As a Diwali gift! 

Ok, thanks mum. But those sweets were meant only for you! Not for those aunties! 

My birthday surprise for my mum became a Diwali gift for aunties. Some of those aunties I didn’t even know. An incredible Diwali indeed. Quite nostalgic and expensive!