Keep Calm and Raise A Dog

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Shravan and Anu Boo โค

It is hard to adult when I am with Shravan (my nephew). He says I am a child in an adult’s body, but I truly feel light and happy when he is around. Of course, we fight. He steals my ice cream; I refuse to share my murukku. I read a book to him and he asks me a random question about a random character. I lock horns with him again for not focussing on the protagonist, but he asserts that it’s okay to talk about other characters in the book.

Our brawls go on and on; I love our relationship that way. Maybe, I am his sibling whom he never had. And he is my sibling whom I lost to adulthood. (Krithi, why did you grow up?)

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One of those times when we weren’t fighting… ๐Ÿ˜‰

I know a lot about him. His favourite ice cream flavour. His favourite friend. His favourite everything. But I wanted to know more about him and as always, I tried the Proust Questionnaire on him. He was so Shravan when I asked if he wanted to answer my questions. With enthusiasm that shot through the sky, he asked me if I was going to do a video interview. I brought him down from the clouds and said that it’s a text interview. He still agreed. I feel grateful. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My dear reader, here is Shravan Sreenivasan AKA Thichi’s Boy:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A world with no school; a world with me raising five dogs.

What is your greatest fear?
My own rage. I am a little bossy, so I lose friendships because of that.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am not satisfied enough.

Which living person do you most admire?
My mom. She knows how to be happy. And of course, Calvin. He always chilled and he was the most loyal dog. (I reminded my 11-year-old nephew that Calvin is not alive anymore. He frowned, “He is!” Shravan was right in many ways.)

What is your current state of mind?
I am sad because I have to go back to America soon.

On what occasion do you lie?
I lie when I am scared. Also, I would have imagined a situation in one way and it would have turned out in another way.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Just kidding.

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Shravan with his mum and dad.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My family. And Arzoo! (Shravan evidently blushes. So you know who she is. Ahem!)

Where would you most like to live?
India. When I grow up, the Himalayas. I love the mountains.

What is your most treasured possession?
My stuffed animals. When I moved to the US, I was lonely. My mom got me Max with whom I started talking a lot.

What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty.

Who are your favorite writers?
RK Narayan, JK Rowling, Ruskin Bond, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Kinney, Stephan Pastis, and Fred Gipson.

What is your motto?
Keep calm and raise a dog!

I love, love, love Shravan’s motto. I am so proud of thichi’s boy. โค

A Feathery Secret

Capture
I doodled a feather. โค

I fear that I might sound ridiculous; I am still throwing caution to the wind and have chosen to relate a profound moment I shared with the Universe.

All my life, I was agnostic. Cynical. Bitter. I didn’t believe in looking for signs. I must admit that the cynicism stemmed from my inability to read signs even if one did an elaborate gig in front of me. (A friend once observed that I was terrible at reading signs. If there was only one way to interpret a sign, maybe, it should be called science right?)

Since May, I started spotting a lot of feathers. So white. So light. So free. They were floating in the air. I was far from them. So I couldn’t collect them. But I saw them floating and floating and floating.

On a particularly dark day, I told myself that I wanted to see a feather. I had a little conversation with the Universe and said that I would love to see a feather. I finished uttering the words in my head, turned to my right, and there was a feather. White. Light. Free. It was floating. It was there for a few seconds. I was entranced. Although my gaze was fixed on it, the tiny feather disappeared where it was. No. It didn’t float away. It disappeared. Like somebody swished a wand and made it disappear. Gone.

I blinked again and there was an orange butterfly by my window. I blinked one more time. That was gone too. I smiled. Did the Universe try to make me understand that everything was going to be okay? Was it a sign to be gentle and light?

I wanted to find the right word to name my feeling. But words were elusive.

Now I can grasp a word.

Miracle.

Somebody said I must have daydreamed. While this entire account makes me sound weird, it humbles me to realise that there are things which are utterly ineffable.

I see feathers everywhere now. Lifts. Pavements. Restaurants. Windowsills. Even in places where they are not expected to be seen. Sometimes, they are simply found. Sometimes, they come flying and land at my feet. Sometimes, they come floating and cross my path. I see them everywhere. Maybe, synchronicity works that way.

18740340_10213279876408404_8152275338973204828_nI see them in various sizes and colours. I collect and store most of them in a tin box. I do not know what I would do with all the feathers. But those are tokens from the Gods all the same. Witnesses of the conversations I have with the Universe. Wordless promises. Silent solaces. My version of love in the air. Surprise gifts at my feet. Messages from the beyond.

When I met a feather yesterday, I showed it to AK. “I think they are following you,” he smiled.

I couldn’t bear that weight on my shoulders. I looked at the grey feather one more time and said, “I follow them.”

The Semicolon

โ€œWhen you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.โ€
— Elizabeth Gilbert

10390320_10208436588969245_8875653394517465423_nI am 30; I am unemployed and I do not know what kind of job I am seeking; My bank account laughs at me, so my father feeds me; I am recovering from a relationship that questioned the purpose of my existence; I am in a relationship which I am still trying to grasp; I have walked out of friendships to which I couldn’t do any justice; I am anxious most times; I am depressed.

I was talking to a general physician about depression, who nonchalantly observed that everybody is depressed these days. But I wasn’t sure if he understood the difference between one being depressed because the dosa isn’t crispy, and one being depressed because one can’t quote one reason to be alive.

How will I make that doctor understand that I slashed my calf nineteen times in the last two months because I was haunted by my past, and I was intimidated by my future and I couldn’t befriend my present? How will I make that doctor understand that I imagined myself dead several times because I loathed myself? How will I make that doctor understand that I couldn’t muster the courage to confess, write about my mental health, because I was scared that this blog could be read by my potential employer, who would certify me unfit? How will I make that doctor understand that everybody could be depressed at some point in time, but most of us do not open up, and seek help, because we fear harsh judgement?

Today, as I wrestle with my demons who haven’t stopped smirking at me, who haven’t stopped ridiculing my choices, who keep crooning funny songs about my impulsive reactions, who label me useless, who try hard to convince that my life is meaningless, I tell myself that it’s okay to tell the world that I have been depressed, and I relapse often.

Yesterday, I might have posted a selfie on Instagram. Today, I might have written about my happy puppy on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean I am faking my episodes on depression. And it doesn’t mean that moment of happiness was a delusion.

The streak of light, and the cloud of darkness travel together in my head. They grant me no control, so I don’t know when I would see the light and when the darkness would smother me.

All I know is that I am their home.

I can’t drive the darkness away with that streak of light; I can’t fan the light with that darkness. I have to hug both of them, and feel them intensely. I have to gather all my courage to endure the darkness, and thwart its ruthless efforts to kill me.

Between that streak of light, and the cloud of darkness, there lies a semicolon.

It’s the most powerful symbol; the anchor of life.

When the waves of regrets and guilt and shame and disappointment and betrayal and self-loathing drag me further down into the deep, dark sea, I cling to the semicolon. I allow the wave to wash over me. It makes me breathless. It makes me believe that I don’t deserve this life. It whispers into my ears to let go of that semicolon. But from an invisible source, I receive a gentle instruction to hang in.

I listen to it.

We live through the phase of semicolon time and again. I hope we would be kind to ourselves when we take time to recover.

Our loved ones rest in that pause for a while. I hope we would hold their hands when the nightmares assault their souls.

We are all we have. I hope we would hold each other in our hearts.

โ€œIf you know someone whoโ€™s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isnโ€™t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness theyโ€™re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. Itโ€™s hard to be a friend to someone whoโ€™s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.โ€
— Stephen Fry

300 Things I Hope: Give Me More

I turned 30 on Friday, according to the Hindu almanac. So, I decided to celebrate my birthday again. (I celebrated one last month.) ๐Ÿ™‚

When I shared a sheepish post on Facebook, asking my friends to wish me, and send me presents, I didn’t expect them to play along.

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This is how I look when I am sheepish. ๐Ÿ™‚

Many sent me virtual hugs, and gifts. I was super happy with that. But Uncle OT sent an Amazon gift card. Like really! I love the Internet, and the book-blogging community. They know how to have fun.

This is how I looked when I received the gift card from Uncle OT:

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So, using the gift card that Uncle OT presented, I bought quite a few amazing books. But I want to tell you about this heartwarming book for now.

300 Things I Hope by Iain S. Thomas

CaptureIn the adorable book, the author hopes for 300 beautiful, moving, simple things for us. Just that. He simply hopes. Each page carries one hope, and some pages feature minimalist illustrations by Carla Kreuser. Most of them made me smile.

As I read the book like the world was ending that night, I told myself that I should make it a tradition to read the book on my birthday every year, and gift it as birthday present to friends. I am also thinking of writing postcards to some of my dear ones, with some ‘hopes’ from this book. As the world is becoming more cynical, hope is the panacea, isn’t it?

Here are my favourite hopes from the book:

  • I hope you never become something you hate
  • I hope you always have a pen
  • I hope you never have a sleepless night
  • I hope you always have something to say in a lift
  • I hope you discover a book written entirely about you
  • I hope you get to meet yourself as a stranger
  • I hope you never sit next to someone in a movie who tells you what’s about to happen before it happens
  • I hope you discover what it’s like to lose an argument and be ok with it
  • I hope you have catnip or a fish with you every time you meet a cat
  • I hope you have a cat with you every time you meet a dog
  • I hope love moves through your heart like light moves through glass

And, how did I look after reading the book, and while writing this blog?

Like this:

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As I have read an uplifting book, I must pay the good vibes forward. Hence, I hope a few things for my friends here.

For all the book-bloggers, and the visitors:

  • I hope everybody reads your blogs
  • I hope you receive enlightening comments
  • I hope nobody spreads hatred
  • I hope you discover amazing books
  • I hope you forgive the books which disappointed you
  • I hope the spammers leave you alone
  • I hope you create time to read, and write more
  • I hope somebody tells you that they are your fan
  • I hope you tell somebody that you are their fan
  • I hope we spread more cheer
  • I hope we fill the world with more smiles, words, and memories

Thank_you

One Last Time

โ€œBecause dogs live in the present. Because dogs donโ€™t hold grudges. Because dogs let go of all of their anger daily, hourly, and never let it fester. They absolve and forgive with each passing minute. Every turn of a corner is the opportunity for a clean slate. Every bounce of a ball brings joy and the promise of a fresh chase.โ€

— ‘Lily and The Octopus’ by Steven Rowley

“Cheech, is that you?” I instantly recognise my friend K’s canine friend because he is holding a tennis ball in his mouth. Cheech can’t answer because I just told you. He has got a ball in his mouth.

There can be a million of German Shepherds in the whole wide world. But there can be only one Cheech. And he is my K’s, and hers.

“But Cheech, I haven’t channelised my inner Sybill Trelawney today. You didn’t even give me an opportunity to look all hippie, and redo my room with flashy colours, and crystal balls, and all that to summon spirits,” I begin to complain. Cheech drops the ball, and walks toward me. He might be old, but senility can’t deter Cheech’s invincible spirit, and his unconditional love. I scratch behind his ears; he plonks beside me. “What are you doing here?” Cheech doesn’t answer. He simply sighs.

It’s been one month since Cheech passed away. Ideally, he should have gone home, if he wanted to have a quick chat with his folks. But no. He is here, in my room.

He doesn’t seem to be in a mood to answer any of my questions. So, I would never know why he chose me for this rendezvous. I am grateful all the same.

11133901_10206425851262059_4589740014763179636_n“Cheech, what do you think of death?” I make him field the question that’s been haunting so many of us since he left last month. He yawns. “Don’t you think death sucks? Everybody is missing you. K wishes that she could be with you for just five more minutes,” I persist. Cheech scratches his ear using his hind leg. He licks his paw which touched his ear, and lies on the floor. His eyebrows rise, and crash.

I want to call K, and tell her that Cheech is in my room. In his spirit-form. But K would kick me in my derriรจre because she is a militant atheist. Hence, I decide to have the conversation all by myself.

“Would you like some ice-cubes, Cheech?” He tilts his ears. That signature gesture. That tilt which can change our world’s axis. That tilt that can exorcise our demons. That tilt that can fill our hearts with happiness. I rush out to the living room, collect a couple of ice-cubes, and offer one to Cheech. He gently collects it.

My room now echoes the beautiful sound of Cheech enjoying his ice-cube.

“Kruk! Kruk! Kruk!”

I rub his belly, massage his chest, and suddenly remember that I must tell him important things. Like everybody loves him, and everybody misses him… But no. Cheech is here not for that. I am not sure what has brought him here. But no. I am not going to let the futility of words fill our meaningful silence. This moment. This has to be just this way.

Three hours? 30 minutes? I am not sure how long we spent like that. But when I wake up, Cheech is lying next to me. I see his ears which are dancing to the tunes of July zephyr that enters through my tiny window. His fur reflects the thin rays of evening sun. He takes a deep breath.

Peace.

If I had a jar that was enormous (or a Pensieve), I would have captured that moment, and preserved it. I would have taken it to K only to replay the moment. I would have taken it to her grieving family to give them that extra memory. But there can never be a jar big enough to hold such a precious moment. It is beyond sizes and shapes and thoughts and words.

Maybe, my thoughts were loud. Cheech wakes up. He stretches like a seasoned yoga master. Who said old dogs are lazy? He walks briskly toward the balcony door. I understand him. “Did you hear the squirrel, Cheech?”

I open the door, as a wave of sunshine washes over us.

Cheech steps out with his gaze fixed on a squirrel who is working on a nut. He takes his first step. Slowly. He takes another step. Slightly faster than the first one. The squirrel drops the nut. Cheech now begins to trot, and then takes a long leap, while the squirrel tries to escape.

The duo hides, and seeks, and they repeat.

The evening sun goes down, and they play, and play, and play.

Dirty Martini: The Resurrection

Dirty MartiniPreethi is now called a bitch. She rides a Royal Enfield, wolfs down beer, indulges in flings, and she is supremely independent. Also, somewhere in the darkest corner of her heart, she misses being loved, and wanted, she misses being able to trust another man, she misses knowing love for what it is.

Preethi was called a bitch, only because she was trapped in the circumstances of life, only because she followed the norms established by the society, only because she lived the life that she was expected to live.

She did what she was asked to do. And that almost killed her.

So, she now does what she wants to do. To discover what life is all about, and to surprise herself with her vulnerability, and strength.

Kavipriya Moorthy’s meditation on how a woman transforms when she uncovers a bag of dirty truths about her marital life, and how she processes all the emotional baggage, and the unsolicited advice that family, and friends hurl at her, is painfully true.

How is a female divorcee treated in India?

She is pitied. Poor woman must have gone through a lot.

She is judged. The monster must have driven her husband out.

She is blamed for her husband’s mistakes. She must have been so terrible that he chose to cheat on her.

She is exploited. She must be sexually frustrated. It’s okay to try.

While women recover in their own ways, their methods are judged too. No. She can’t choose alcohol. She can’t choose men. She can’t choose sex. No. She is expected to imprison herself in the memories of her past, and do an autopsy to know what were her mistakes, and replay events to see if she could have saved her marriage somehow. Or she must marry a divorcee.

If she rises from the ashes in ways that are not conventional, she is shot.

(But we shall keep regrowing our wings to take another flight.)

Dirty Martini is an intense, moving account of a woman, who finds her strength when her life plummets. I love her because I see myself in her broken shards. I love her more because she is strong, and weak at the same time. I love her even more because she recognises her true self.

As Preethi, the protagonist recovers from a harrowing past, she finds a bright light in Raghu. The man loves her for who she is; he is her home. Kavipriya Moorthy doesn’t allow us to take a deep breath, and relax there. Preethi’s cocoon breaks. What will she do when her banyan tree is uprooted? Life finds its way.

The book starts with this quote:

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

— Paulo Coelho

Dirty Martini is like a loud alarm that goes off in the morning to wake us up from our prejudices. It reminds us to not be cuffed by the insensitive notions of the world. It tells us to hug our lives, and listen to the relentless beat of our hearts.

Above all, we often have to be reminded by a book like that.

One Moment At A Time

โ€œThat my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.โ€ 

— Cheryl Strayed

My thoughts were dark, when I asked Mother, “I am going to turn 30 next week. What have I done with my life, amma?” Mother nodded, and looked pensive. She was turning my question in her head. “I don’t know too,” she offered. I sighed.

Words were too tangled, emotions too loud. So, we shared a moment of silence.

After that brief conversation with Mother, the Eeyore in me reminded me of everything that went wrong in my life. Relationships which were sabotaged. Jobs which I ruined. Bank balance that laughed at me. Harrowing memories which raided my dreams. And a soul that was battered.

I saw the shards of my life; I let out a muffled cry.

Then Eeyore plonked himself in a corner. His eyes, which carried years and years of sadness, were trained on me, and posed a question quietly.

“What have you done at all?”

I wanted my room to swallow me. I wanted to sleep forever. I wanted to slip into the oblivion.

The ancient darkness slithered into my room. And I surrendered again.

*****

Today, I turn 30. Before I blew the candle out at 12 AM, I made a wish.

The darkness might always seem to inch toward me. But I desire to float in a pool of light all my life.

After all that life has shared with me, I realise that darkness cannot be dispelled. But, I have begun to try befriending the melancholy. To create space in my head, I tell the demons, “Fine! You all can be here. But allow me to collect the shards, and hold them against the light.”

The demons smile at me. Quite benignly. They are not that bad after all.

When they grin, and move aside a bit, I bask in light — the light that takes many forms.

Anu Boo’s wordless dialogues.

Father’s thoughtful messages on Whatsapp.

My pregnant bookshelf.

Mother’s dreams about my life.

Sister’s love-hate love.

The sea of sweat I shed after workouts.

My two-wheeled Calvin who loves the roads.

An insane, and ridiculously kind soul whom I call my home.

Friends who understand when I withdraw. Friends who bring me out of my burrow.

A non-judgemental journal, and an empty doodle-pad.

Butterflies, and feathers. Dead leaves, and fallen flowers.

Sun-tinged clouds, and starry skies.

Waves that rise and crash. Pebbles that sleep in my pocket.

And all the lucky charms that shield me.

Light. Light. Light

CaptureWhen they are tired of burning bright, the demons pirouette in my head. I watch their arrogant performance. They think that the darkness will stay young forever.

Just when their performance reaches its crescendo, a tiny spark flares up, driving away all the darkness with a humble ray of light. Then the demons rest, and tend to their tired feet.

Like a cat, I curl up in the light. I preen and purr.

That moment, I live for eternity.

That moment, I live for all the beings.

That moment, the scars smile.

That moment, the soul sings.

And that moment, the cosmos winks.