The Irksome Guest

I am full grown now and have a full time job as a guard dog. I have been trained to guard and protect. I was taught how to deal with bad people and other dogs if they attack me. I can take down 2 dogs at once. I take my role as guardian of the home very seriously. I carry with me the confidence in my strength and training whether I am at home or outside. I no longer bark unless absolutely necessary.  I can make the strongest of men and animals shiver with fear with just a low growl from the corner of the living room where I like to sit.

When Asha and I go for a walk, most folks give us a wide berth. Even at the park I keep my dignity and do not play rolling in the mud. Well, not too often and not too much. I may stop to smell the roses and root about on an interesting smell, but I am always alert for suspicious creatures who may be out to hurt Asha or any other member of my family. That is how I caught a burglar once and once I saved Asha from a deadly snake. I no longer have a puppy dog’s silly infatuation with everyone. I have learnt that it pays to be cynical and proceed with caution when it comes to trusting people.

Don’t get me wrong – I still like most people and animals. We are a friendly family and relatives and friends visit often. More often than not, they stay over for a few nights. Some are nice and bring me gifts and toys. Others slip me treats under the table. I ignore them as I was taught, but if Asha notices and says it’s OK, I don’t argue and gobble them up pronto.

If the guests bring their own pets and we get along, we share adventures and stories. If not, I just ignore them and let them be. Asha and Ma taught me to be nice to guests at our house and so I am. Every once in a while there are some guest pets though that have me running for cover. Like the Chihuahuas that one lady brought. They were so noisy, I was forced to growl at them just to make them shut up. The lady who brought them made even more noise than those two at that. So Ma asked me to take a stroll in the garden. I was happy to do so. I decided to stay outside that night. I only came in to the house when we finally saw them out of the door next day. Ma kept chuckling to herself and patting my head in passing all day. When Asha came home from school that day, Mom told her about how I came in the moment they left and they both giggled like little girls. Then Asha mimicked the Chihuahuas’ barking and they went into another fit of giggles all over again.

Anyways, today I want to tell you about the most irritating guest ever. He is a parrot and is called Mithu, but there is nothing sweet about him at all. He comes often with his owners, but they left him with us for a few days each time. The first time they left him, I thought he would be staying with us now. I tried to make friends, but he was not having any of it. I was still young then. It took me quite a lot of effort to first climb the chair and then on to the table where they put his cage. Did he appreciate the effort I went into? Not at all! Instead, he squawked and screamed and basically pretended as though I was about to gobble him up outright. As if! He was nearly half my size back then and had such sharp beak and feet. I had never expected a grown up bird to act so dramatic. Anyways, I learnt that he was one of those creatures best avoided. But would you believe it, as soon as he learnt that I was not interested the stupid bird started stalking me. First he squawked random words at me from his cage to bug me. He did this every time I passed his cage. And he would come to the side of his cage and bob his head up and down. I still don’t get why everyone thought that was cute.

Few days passed and we actually started letting him out of the cage. I thought he would fly away, but the strange bird did not even know how to fly. He would just walk around and sometimes climb onto the furniture by holding on with his legs and beak accompanied by a flurry of flapping wings. As if that was not irritating enough, he then did the bobbing thing. Always the bobbing, as though he had achieved something great in life. It was just too irritating to be borne. I learnt to give him a wide berth. But would he let me be?! Oh no! The more I avoided him, the more he followed me around. I started spending more time outside whenever they let him outside the cage, but still he would not give up.

One Sunday, Asha and I were playing inside the house as it was raining outside. She was teaching me how to dance. And every time I managed to stay upright on my hind legs as she danced us around the roo, she called me a good boy and gave me a treat from the box on top of the shelf. Then she patted me on my head. Luckily Mithu was locked up in his cage and not bothering me. He appeared to be sleeping, so we did not pay him any attention. But the naughty bird was only pretending to be sleeping, as we soon found out.

Next morning as I lay down for a quick nap after my meal, I heard him clicking close to me. I was so full and feeling too lazy to move, so decided to let him do his worst. I did not even open an eye. At first he just kept walking around me in circles. He seemed to gather courage after a few rounds and moved closer to peck at my tail. I flipped by tail, curled it under me and went back to sleep. He continued with the circling. I must have dozed off, but woke up to feel him snuggling up to the back of my head. I popped open my eyes and he froze. I pondered for a moment whether to shake him off, but was feeling too lazy to move. So, I just closed my eyes again. And you won’t believe what the infuriating bird did. He bobbed over my head as though patting it and squawked in his grating parrot voice “Good Boy!”

Again, I still don’t understand why everybody thought it was cute and made such a fuss. But they did give us both treats. As it turned out Mithu was quite the picky eater, so he let me have most of his share too. I had no problems with that! So it happened that the irritating bird stuck on to my collar like a burr sticks to my tail. Nowadays, when he visits, they don’t even bother with the cage, I am his default perch all day long.

Are you wondering why I put up with his irritating ways? Well, it’s not like he weighs a ton! When we actually started talking, he told me how he wishes to fly, but his wings don’t work. So, if he sits on my back when I run really fast, he holds on tightly to my collar and spreads his wings and that is the nearest he can come to knowing how it feels to fly. I have other bird friends and they can all fly. They say it is the best feeling ever, so I do feel sorry for him. I would hate it if I could not run! Every time I think of it, I have an urge to run my heart out. Every time I run, I let him hang on and imagine that he is flying. Other times, he tells me stories in funny voices. Sometimes, right out of the blue, he pats me on the top of my head and says “Good Boy!” Yes, he continues his irritating habits, but he is also a good friend.

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Neighbors and best friends, Pammi and Nicky, living in the government quarters are complete opposites in nature. Both are newly married.

Pammi is the village belle, never seen without the red lipstick and set of glass bangles. Her nail polish is usually chipped as she does all of the housework herself. Theirs was an arranged marriage.

Nicky is married to her childhood sweetheart who wooed her since she was 13. Her hair has pink highlights and nails are perfect. She has a full time maid.

They both have one pet peeve. Neither of them approves of their husband’s smoking. So they wonder about how to make them stop. Nicky is confident. “You just have to ask at the right time”, she says with a wink. Pammi is thoughtful as she knows she does not have that kind of hold on her husband.

6 months later, both couples are having dinner at Pammi’s place. The husbands excuse themselves from the table and go outside. Nicky’s husband lights up, but his host declines the offer.

Posted in The Subtle Feminist | Leave a comment

Day Dreams

I watch my little angel as she sleeps, chubby little fists close to her face, floating free and happy in her own personal dreamland. The summer morning light filters through the curtains and falls on her face. A naughty little sunbeam teases my darling and asks her to wake up and play. She scrunches her little button of a nose so adorably.I shift a bit on the bed to shield her from the naughty sunbeams.Let her sleep a little longer, it is Sunday today and I don’t have the heart to disturb her. Sublime content fills my heart as I think of how I will get to spend the whole day with her today. Tears of gratitude well up in my eyes and I send up a prayer of thanks.

These are the moments that make my whole life feel worthwhile. Those long hours at office when all I wish for is to be with my baby and not miss a single moment with her. She is barely two and already she has been going to (play) school for 4 months now. There are days when sleepy little eyes just won’t open in the early mornings. Yet I must wake her up, get her ready and drop her off to school, just because I need to be in office for that all important meeting. The sacrifices big and small are all forgotten in the peaceful morning as I watch my darling sleep.

As I gather my precious bundle of joy close to my heart,  I remember that one time in my childhood, when Ma sighed and finally gave up to my whining to make a call to my teacher. Dad grumbled about her spoiling me rotten when he saw me at the breakfast table all settled in for a day off school. What a day it was – just me and Ma – together all day! We made dough animals and colored together. Ma let me make roti’s and when I could not make mine round like hers, she said it was a perfect map of our country. Then she went ahead and baked them and put a lot of ghee on them and we fought over who would get to eat the ‘map’ roti.

After a small nap in the afternoon, Ma and I went to the park and played till the sun came down. As I brush a soft curl off my daughter’s face, I too plan for dough animals and a trip to the park today. Would that make her happy or would she want to introduce me to her favorite cartoon characters on TV like we did last Sunday? Would she prefer another trip to the zoo? It has been more than a month and she still asks so many questions about the animals she saw there. Out of nowhere, a nagging doubt creeps into my mind, would I not be a better mother if I were a home maker like my Ma?! Then again, I remember Ma telling me time and again, “Study hard beta and you need to be a big officer like your Dad, never dependent on others like your Ma”. The message had sunk in deep as I grew up and today my job was more a dedication to my Ma’s wishes than my own ambition.

What will I teach my daughter, I wonder?! Will I ask her to study hard to the exclusion of all other activities like my mother did; push her if she was lazy even if that was not her dream, but rather mine?! Will she be grateful to me for giving her a dream she did not know to have, or will she grow up hating me for being too hard on her? Would I be strong enough to let her dream her own dreams? What are my dreams for her? I try and take an objective look at the life that she is born into. More time than I would like, is spent with paid help. Caring, albeit a little too busy parents, who carry enough guilt to give her a few too many toys. Adoring grandparents who drop by often enough, and always laden with gifts to keep the spoilt angel looking forward to their next visit. All those around her eager to keep their darling princess happy and smiling always.

Suddenly my thoughts turn dark, the world is such a ruthless place. I sit up restlessly. She will not always remain in our protective circle. There are so many bad people out there who will try to hurt her. How will I ever protect her? I cannot even bear her pouts and childish tears, how will I ever bear her very real tears of pain as she discovers the harsh realities of the world around her? My lazy day dreams are lost in a whiff as I squeeze my eyes shut to mentally block out the images that pop into my head. I take a conscious breath to still my pounding heart. I resolve to be strong for her. I will indeed dream for her and I shall dream with my eyes open. I will dream the dreams of the strong woman that I am. I will dream to make her much stronger even than I am. I will teach her to dream of being the strongest, the bravest and better than the best. Whatever her interests be, I will do everything in my power to make them come true.

Once resolved, I slowly stretch out again and day dream pleasantly of all the ways I will help my daughter achieve her dreams. I dream of finding her the best coaches and then taking her to her coaching classes, be it studies or sports, no matter how early in the mornings. Reading up on anything and everything about her interest to ensure that she gets the best help possible. I will be the most involved mother ever, better even than Saina’s or Yuvraj’s! I spend some time trying to imagine what Sundar’s or Chandra’s mother did to encourage them. Whatever her dreams, it will be my dream too and my duty to make sure that she excels at it. Be it a doctor, engineer, sportsperson, artist, model or movie maker, if she wants it, I will encourage her to be the best of the best at it.

My concerns must have shown on my face, as hubby enquires softly from his side on the bed – “What are you thinking so hard about this early on a Sunday morning?” I look up to see him looking fondly at our daughter and our eyes meet in a moment of shared love for the trusting child that lies so innocently between us. A smile creeps into them as the memory of her constant chatter and questions and non-stop mischief when awake flashes through both of our minds at about the same time.

“What are you thinking so hard about on Sunday morning, mummy?” a little voice pipes up, echoing her father’s question, making both of us laugh out loud. She is smiling happily at waking up to a lazy Sunday morning with both of us still in bed with her. “Mummy is wondering what her little girl would want to be when she grows up. What do you want to be when you grow up dear?!” I ask her.

No hesitation on her part, just a small tilt of her pretty head as though she has already thought about it as much as possible and is now simply looking for the right words to express her wish. She draws in a deep breath, like she always does when she has a momentous declaration to make. Her eyes widen and she spreads her arms as wide as she can. Her answer will remain etched in our memories forever. With all the assurance of a two year old who knows exactly what she wants, she proudly announces, “A Bii…iig Pink elephant!

Posted in Pieces of Soul | Leave a comment

How I Broke My Tooth

This is a story from when I was still quite young and had milk teeth. Of course I just knew they were teeth and when they were coming in, my gums used to itch. Asha let me gnaw on her hand to relieve the itch. Few days later I got sharp pointy teeth popping out and then she would not allow me to chew her hands anymore. Anyways, I had these teeth in my mouth for a couple of months and had grown rather fond of gnawing on toys and twigs.

One day Ma gave me a bone to chew on and I chewed so long my jaws hurt. Asha tried to take it away, but I would not let her. When I just could not chew anymore, I looked for a place to hide it so no one would take it away. It was the best thing I ever chewed on in my life till then and I was not ready to lose it. I buried it under the corner of the carpet that rolled up when I pushed it with my nose. Then I slept right on top of it. That was the day I discovered my absolute favorite thing to chew. I am quite old now, and still my best dreams are those where I am chewing on a bone.

That does not mean I did not chew on other things too. I tasted people’s slippers and shoes whenever I got a chance. Slippers were allowed I think, because even though they would scold me, they would also laugh and just put them on anyways. Once I chewed up Asha’s school shoes and there was a lot of running around in the morning. Ma scolded me quite fierce that day. And then they started locking up all the shoes, so I could not get to them anymore. Then one day, we had guests and there was this little girl who took off her little shoes and was running around in the garden, I sneaked off with her shoe and had a good chew. Ma kept saying sorry to them, so I felt bad. I thought I would never chew other people’s shoes anymore, no matter how interesting they smelled. Anyways, I never got a chance to prove myself, because, now even guests shoes were carefully locked away. At least, back then they were, until I lost all interest in shoes.

Now, now, if you are thinking I was a very boring puppy who did nothing but go around chewing on things, you are very wrong. Actually, I only chewed on shoes when there was nothing better to do. Even bones, I hid after a bit of a chew, to take out later when I was too tired to run around. I was quite a busy fellow those days. As I was growing up, I had more and more energy. I liked to run around and play. If I got to play with other puppies or children, that was the best part of my day. If by chance, I got a chance to play with a bigger dog and he let me chase him, I was the happiest. If nothing else, I would end up chasing my tail round and round until I got all dizzy.

One day, we went to Asha’s friend’s home and they had a dog too. He was almost as big as my Dad, but such a goofball. He rolled on the grass and invited me to jump on him. Just as I gathered up the courage to do so, he jumped up and ran off. He stood with his head bowed low and again invited me to play. Now I was into the game with all my heart. Sometimes, he would let me catch him and then again he would run off so fast that I had to run really fast and kept toppling over. And still he panted and waited just out of reach as though mocking me, so I kept going. Asha and her friend clapped and watched. I had never felt so excited in my entire life so far.

Too soon for my liking, Asha said it was time to go and tied my leash. I was about to protest, but she said dinner was waiting. If you know anything about puppies, food is our biggest weakness. Now that she mentioned dinner, I realized how terribly hungry I was and agreed to go home with her. As we walked, I was not at all calm though and kept running in circles and getting all tied up in my leash. First Asha wanted to pick me up, but I squirmed too much she said. So she put me down and challenged me to race her home. I was already hyped up and as soon as I realized that Asha too was being like my friend earlier and expecting me to catch up with her, I started running full tilt. I ran so fast, I toppled right over her back foot and fell onto her leg. Instinctively, I tried to hold on to something and latched on to her ankle. “Snap!”, before I knew what was happening, my tooth broke and stayed in Asha’s leg and I was licking a drop of blood in my mouth. I was so scared, I whimpered, and sat down right in the middle of the footpath and shaking like the little baby that I was. Asha had stopped too and looked down in surprise at her ankle where a tiny piece of my long tooth was stuck.

I knew that when I bit too hard on my dog friends, they would snap and growl and me. I wondered what Asha would do. It seemed for a bit that she did not know what to do. Quietly she plucked the piece of tooth out and put it in her pocket. Then she picked me up and soothed me. I was shaking with fear, so did not squirm anymore. As she walked towards home, Asha soothed me with soft words. When Ma saw her carrying me home, she smiled and asked, “Tire himself out, did he?!”. “Scared himself silly, actually” Asha replied. Then she told her what happened and they both chuckled. Ma gave me a chip of ice to chew on and made Asha wash her leg carefully and wipe it with Savlon. Later that night, Asha took out the piece of my little tooth from her pocket and pasted it into her diary.  Then she wrote something there. That tooth is still stuck in that diary which lies forgotten at the bottom of her desk. I saw it once when Ma was cleaning out Asha’s drawer and took it out to show me.

I did lose all of my milk teeth eventually and grew in much bigger teeth; I put them to much better use too. But that first tooth that I broke was the most special one.

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