O Heavens, it’s a Girl!

 

We sat in the lobby, or reception as it were, surrounded by mothers and children, with various disabilities, or special needs. The Doc’s door opened and shut at regular intervals. Whenever his eyes met ours, he would smile warmly, asking us to be patient- and how well we recognized that expression. We had been patient, and we knew we would require far more with what we were going to share with him. We loved this doc, and we trusted him. We needed to trust him more than ourselves. He’s been our boy’s messiah and friend, and confidant for the longest time. We had just moved to Gurgaon from Bangalore, and we carried news, earth-shattering news, and rushed to share it with him: our son was a girl- he had gender dysphoria! What’s that?

As defined by google : the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.

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The boy has never had it easy, and therefore nor have we. At age 16 when your male child announces that he is ready to reassign himself to the female lot, you baulk. Why you might ask? Well, for one there had never been any signs thereof- how can one miss seeing the strangeness, which is part and parcel of gender dysphoria, right?

Then, apart from not reading the signs that should have jumped out at

us- he was always a naughty, wicked little fella, up to tricks that are

generally associated with ‘boys’; then he has had umpteen phases of

this and that- and none lasted beyond a week, or a fortnight, at best.

That’s not all. He’s always had girlfriends!

That should seal his boyhood, right? Not right.

What was this noise all about? So our reaction was nothing short of expressions betraying shock and disbelief, and rejection, totally so.

“Okay, so now this….honestly what next?”

“Why this- when did you feel this way, and why now?”

“Honestly, what else are you going to cook up?” “Enough is enough, try and finish your school education- that should be the focus, not another phase for heavens’ sakes!”

We tried shutting it down before it began shaking the family terrain, yet again….but could we?

The boy had been diagnosed with ADHD at 4 and a half years, and hypo mania (borderline bipolar) at age 15. The episodes were so hard for us to handle, and so terrifying, that we had sought help, at 13, when there had been self-harm. Only in Bangalore did a psychiatrist tell us that it was clearly hypo mania and he could very well harm himself irretrievably. Medication was imperative. So that was that, and there were periods of calm, punctuated with periods of manageable unrest. However all through our boy’s life, there has been a kind of indefinable angst, a sentiment that nothing is enough- he has always wanted more than what we’ve considered his fair share. The sister has taken the brunt of most of his riling, his angst, his fears and his grief. None of us could fathom what it was that made him so, what it was that would make him happy; what was it he sought from this world, from us, his family. We plodded on, loving him, taking it in our stride, communicating verbally- seeking therapy of every type- including cranio-sacral, reiki, PLR (past life regression). None of it ever worked because the boy has always outsmarted it all. The only thing that did, partially, was medication, which belongs to the physical world, so once ingested it helped a wee bit. Even in that sphere, he has cheated and even overdosed- to what end? To feel, said he. The day he took all of his tabs, he talked non-stop for ten hours at a stretch, and a lot of it was not gibberish. He repeatedly asked us for our forgiveness for hurting us through his life- for being who he was etc. It broke our hearts to see him spout what he did. Was this the dysphoria that made him thus, I ask myself.

Once he had said to me that he cut himself so that he could feel his body- because he felt nothing, at least hurting himself would yield some feel. But we knew better, we knew that he felt a lot- perhaps too much, but was unable to express what drove him, what exactly he felt. He would cry, then he would laugh. But mostly, his eyes wore an expression of another world- a world we couldn’t parry with, one we could definitely neither enter, nor attempt to understand.

Was all of it this, I ask myself, the dichotomy of his existence- who was he- or was she?

Today, we know our son’s a trans woman- we’ve accepted this fact. The Doc is by his side, as are we. He is on hrt (hormone replacement therapy). I have connected with many trans women, and tried to grasp what they have been through, and what they must continue to live. It is a hard journey in a country like ours, where trans are regarded as half and half- whereas they are wholly one gender or the other, trapped as it were, in the wrong body. I’ve been alerted to the existence of such folk, and the government, bless them, has provided for a third gender- it’s a beginning. Although I still wonder why a reassigned trans, who is then a woman or a man, as the case may be, cannot get the passport he/she merits after surgery?

People empathise with my situation. Friends understand that it can’t be easy, and it isn’t. As my boy undergoes both therapy and HRT, he has mood swings, dizzy spells at work, and nightmares that disallow a long spell of restful sleep. No, it is not easy. I birthed a boy- and I have now to contend with two daughters. Why is it that difficult? I’m not sure. Mostly I suffer with the boy child. I have learnt that the reassignment surgery is tricky as it is painful, and the recuperation thereafter, long, tedious and agonising. Talking to other trans’ helps, and they all say, despite the pain, they would not have it any other way. I didn’t ask for this, nor did the father. Yet, here we are. Time to celebrate perhaps- still the pain that the boy has had to undergo and suffer in silence?

Someone asked me, “But nature doesn’t make mistakes, does it?”

Well, you only have to look around you and see how many trans there are, to know that the possibility, while not huge, exists. Being a parent to a trans woman- it’s got to become my strength, not my weakness. I love my child, very much, and were he to have been born a girl for starters, would I have not loved her all the same? So the point of the matter is that there lies a person within this lean frame- he’s a pretty boy, and a soulful, caring person- a bit lost, a bit unworldly and very talented. I love this person deeply. The boy will soon be the girl- and we will embrace her in her new form with gratitude and complete acceptance. It is we, the parents, who will help the world accept her beauty, with her multifarious capabilities, and so she will start afresh, reborn as it were.

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A Forever Mid-Lifer

“Yes, I’d love some.” Said the fifty-something. She looked all right, quite stuffed actually but did not refuse the offering. This yes was to a kulfi, the quintessential feel-good Indian ice cream, which is unrefusable. You get it! I do.

Hang on, these didn’t look like friends- they were way too young. She stood out, although in a nice, nice way. I was curious and more. You would be too, undoubtedly. What was this group? I shifted my stool closer to theirs, in, what I considered, a subtle attempt to eavesdrop. “Tch, tch”, my mom would’ve said, “not good habit beta!” But I am a writer, I making a living out of eavesdropping, and honestly, what else would I do? This is something I’m adept at – it’s ‘The Art of listening without’. Have you tried it- and not got caught? So far i’ve been getting away, but i’m sure you’ve tried it and everyone knew you were eavesdropping. Now, what i’ve done is cultivated this, and boy, am i good at it! I’m around if ever you wanna take this up a notch.

Crowd listeners

 

I’m a mid-lifer – you know in my mid-thirties, and have already tried my luck, or hand, if you will, at various professions. You might ask, what they were, now that I have taken up property in the land of ‘all ears’. The thing is, baking, singing, writing screenplays, managing a day-care centre- all of this had an expiry date, apart from the singing, which I still do, for friends and at private gatherings. You may’ve heard me and not known it’s me.

  • The day-care Centre was a disaster from the word go. The little ones bawled, and I would read on, unperturbed. Within a week, two sets of parents removed their kids, and I was left with only 8 kids, who made their way to a ‘more caring environment’. I have to admit, I wasn’t heartbroken.
  • Screenplays : i cannot write fiction. After two rejections, I could tell this was a cul-de-sac. I turned around.
  • I found my calling pretty soon thereafter. I realized that my ears could become my ears, and vice versa, without much ado. It was like someone created a new being, with a brand new set of twin organs. I thought it a brilliant idea to cash in on this hitherto undiscovered talent. I am learning much, about so much.

ResPect

So you know how vital the respect factor is- like it’s imperative to lead a life with a decent level of self-esteem.

I could write a thesis on How to Forge Ahead with or without Talent. I don’t think it’s difficult to build talent, once you decide what your calling should be (so it’s mostly minus genius, and one teaches oneself anything one puts one’s mind to, clever eh!?)

Look at me, here I am, in a café,  tuning in to a conversation, because as i see it,  these are young folk eating out of the hand of a lady who’s got what it takes. The Mid-lifer is saying something about feeling free, letting go, about being in the moment – all stuff  open to misinterpretation, isn’t it!? Were I twenty-something, I would relate this advice to prohibited stuff. Your guess is as good as mine.

The young audience is agape. It’s a hip group, yet listening with rapt attention. I have observed (very often, especially when i speak 😉 listening skills are on the wane, but this one’s got it right. I am getting drawn in too. That’s what’s transpiring, am forgetting to take notes, mental or otherwise, to put to good use, to tweak and twist in my next article.

She has their respect, that she clearly does. You would too, were you here by my side, eavesdropping. I’ve heard enough; now those notes.

  • Don’t worry about success (when did I last hear that!)

(Luckily she stopped at that!)

  • Pay attention to details….God lies in the details, in the small stuff. People might say, don’t sweat the small stuff, I would say, sweat it. Be courteous; be attentive to the small people- coz they go on to become the Big People.
  • Small gestures for your own – folk that matter to you- like making an impromptu call, writing a letter (who does either anymore?), drop in on neighbours with a dish, or without.
  • CODE Word : JLT – just like that : talking about yourself and your life- engaging a person, communicating one way or another- ‘hey what’s on your mind, you’ve got that look? Share.’ You talk, they talk. That’s how it works.
  • Change a routine week- doing date nights just like that, driving off. A lot of ‘Just Like That’s’ become the foundation for healthy, long-lasting relationships. Makes sense.
  • Money is not God, but pretty close to One. Don’t misuse it, don’t abuse it- never take it for granted. If it comes easy- it goes easy. Ask the businessman, ask the 9-5 posh MNC gentleman, ask the guy on the street. Today : it comes, and it goes, in the blink of an eye.
  • Get the money-earning out of the way.

How’d it go with your Education? Mine was sad: tests, sorry results. Exams : sadder results, and i managed to scrape through. But i’m smart, and i know it. It’s my home that made me believe in myself, in my capabilities, in me. The school- college routine was mandatory, and in a worldly sense, we must all adhere to the routine. I’m sure you’ve been there, done that, right? I still don’t know how it helped, but i enjoyed the peer interaction, and it made the burden of the years of getting ‘educated’ , bearable.

You can forego it for the nextgen- home-school the kids. Tough call? Yes. You can do far better if you’re ready to listen, and to give of yourself; yep, tis hard work but the rewards, if you’re that kinda person, are astounding, and deeply satisfying. But hey, an international school will do just as well, if you’re busy chasing the big bucks! (Sarcasm? Think so.)

  • Education : lifelong

Borrowing money : a no-no.

  • Look ahead, always.
  • If you are constantly saying sorry, there is something amiss. You need to Forgive Yourself for your mistakes…and there’ll be more. But you know what to do – move on, rectify, forgive, learn, move on.
  • Low self-esteem : sagging confidence makes you are more likely to commit either the same errors, or similar ones. It’s an awfully sticky cycle. Go overhaul or get a new cycle, or perhaps something on four wheels
  • Laughter is king. Laugh a little everyday, and carry the mirth of it with you as baggage, nothing else.
  • Laughter

 

 

 

I had heard enough for one day. She wasn’t delivering a sermon, because all of the above was injected with a number of jokes about one or the other, and how obsessed one moron was with money- or the girl keen on repeating mistakes with her boyfriend etc. It was all very congenial, but it got me thinking. I went home and thought I’d start afresh.

This lady and her ‘friends’ got me thinking.

Meeting

But before leaving the arena, I asked the pretty lady at the bar what that was about, and a large grin appeared on her face. This was a teacher at the nearby college, and arrived once a week, with a group of students to refresh it all. It was clearly working!

AFRESH

Now I’m kicked. What did I really, really want? Well, money for one, plentiful.

To : travel, travel, travel and photograph every nook, every corner of planet Earth.

No marriage, no kids, no routine.

There have been solitary evenings, when I’ve nursed many a foamy beer, but not nearly enough.

  • Discipline : YES!
  • Love food so: cookery classes/girlfriend? Nah. Just the classes.
  • Love photography : classes and save the planet from mobile photography. Do the real thing. Yay!
  • Document my travels : Journal writing cannot be learnt, so perhaps find a girlfriend? Find myself a Ghost writer? Be the ghost myself? Friend in need- Jumbo writes well, can ask him. What would you have me do? What would you do?

So just write, and we’ll see. Pass it around for feedback, go easy on self-critique, and receive in abundance.

It all ties in nicely. This way I can remain a permanent mid-lifer. The secret, I reckon, lies in being a learner forever.

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I turn to the Mid-Lifer in my head. I see her agog with a joie de vivre, despite the aging bones, and a sagging chin. Her attitude, that’s just it. Embracing the moment, and being gleeful in the small joys that life throws up, every now and then.

I think my Mid-lifer journey’s begun. What about yours? Go for it.

I begin by interacting with strangers, and they begin poker-faced, and then warm up, and we end up laughing uproariously about this and that. It’s perfect. Try it, worst case scenario, you’ll be seen as queer, and that’s good, anything other than normal is brilliant!

….. a podcaster is what I shall be for now!

Letter to Myself On the Edge of the Precipice

Dear Me,

Does it bother you that you are galloping ahead, in real, physical years? Is the speed just right, or are you blown away? Do you feel intimidated by the fact that you can’t hold on, just a little bit longer to your fading youthfulness, because youth is long gone? Do you wish you didn’t have to stop pretending?

Well guess what, you’re at the threshold of the middle ages and perhaps a little further along.

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Listen up, this is not the gauntlet you think it is. Just ease in, gradually. It’s not going to destroy what you’ve been living and working at. Growing older doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up, it simply means viewing things with a wider lens. You’ve been around, looking after the family and their needs concertedly. Now, zoom in to yours. Well, guess what, you can be your life’s central character and start focusing on your desires and needs and whatever else you had put on hold for later, Later’s arrived.

So whatever you had envisaged gets put on the front burner. Go on, set it alight.

Dance, sing, write, play, move, and shake, whatever. But of course, you’re not quite as light on your feet as you used to be. You’re heavier. You’re not as energetic as you used to be, as a result of the time of life you are at. That’s interesting, because I reckon, you might be lighter inside of you, what with so many responsibilities gliding off your back. Yet you say, you’re heavier. Well, you’ll just have to live with it, won’t you! Guess what, there’s no time like the Now, especially when you know you can’t turn back the clock. Love this new, fuller you. It’s bounty, the reward of abundance. So was it a fair exchange- getting heavier without, in exchange for a lighter mind within?

Finding yourself will be a benefit that comes along at this stage too. Did you know that? Does it excite you, or, does it frighten you, this facing yourself? It can get ugly, but only so much. What’s the point if you can’t summon the courage to befriend yourself in a new light; you might unearth some chinks and cracks that enhance, not mar. Novelty much.

So far you had been busy living others’ lives. Yes, I get that it was deeply satisfying and all that, after all it is your family, your kids and your duty. The duty is now shifting, quietly, and the focus is now You. The greatest duty of all- rediscovering your Self. You can do it while fulfilling all that you had mapped out for your twilight years, you know all the plans for when your kids will have grown up and found their calling. Now’s the time, live yours. No more faffing about, just succumb to this spell that’s beckoning.

Haven’t you been writing private journals for the longest time- deep thoughts and musings- all that you conceal from the world out there? Well now is the time to enliven that process. Relook at the past, as one looks at a life lived; cull from it that which you need, the rest, you erase; there’s no need for clutter. Become your own living journal, and position all the missing pieces of the puzzle that you are bound to discover, together. The outline becomes clearer, and an image begins to form, trust me, I’ve been there endless times, in my head. It won’t be a spitting image of yourself though, not the one you’ve known at least. Be ready to fall in love, again.

Guess what, this  puzzle could be confusing and complex yet the intrigue of it will keep you busy for the longest time, one day at a time.

What do you mean you are too old to get out there and do what you thought you should have achieved earlier, far earlier? That’s such bull-crap! Yes, people say age is only a number, but it’s not, it’s more than a number- it’s experience and much collated and processed wisdom. You’ve brought that along from all these years you’ve lived. Age is the kind of affluence you can’t count, so no, it’s not just a number; it’s fortune multiplied. You can do it, whatever it is you thought you should’ve accomplished earlier.

Go for it, don’t allow anything to deter you, especially not the mind that tries to control, and influence and negate when you’re on the edge of the precipice that’s your launching pad. Guess what, you’re actually pretty close to that edge right now, so run, take flight.

Good luck mate!

What!?! It’s Only Been Two Years!

IMG_0494.JPGI wake up on a fine March morning. The temperatures, deeply pleasant, almost nippy, and realize that we have been in this wonderful home of ours for almost two years now. A new nest had been made ours, embraced and furnished, as is our wont, with much gusto, imagining that we wouldn’t last beyond the assigned two years, at best. It is tradition. We move, we settle, then we unsettle and move. That’s the pattern.

Yet, here we are, thus far- close to two, and more than settled, more than comfortable- bordering on complacent. Something’s wrong, or is something finally right? A question that throbs.

Have we broken and stilled an unerring pattern that had us in its hold? Are we now at an age when we can actually be ‘home’ for longer than what we had deemed a natural length of time- say two years? It’s laughable for many, yet it was us, the Natesans. We are good with two years, and then, ready to be up and running. My cup spilleth over. Actually deeply content, and not jumpy or impatient to start looking for packers, and movers. It’s happening! Praise the Lord!

To be clear about how this is coming to pass, collating factors that obviously come into merry play, is imperative for me :

  1. Started conducting writer’s workshops, a dream nurtured for the longest time;

2.  Imagined that our son would need to be in a steady environment to complete his graduation;

3. Husband would surely be in a job that would provide us our fair share of bread/butter and means to travel at will;

4. Within the first year, I rejoined my book club, which embraced me without much ado, and if anything, with open arms. Then joined another, a new group of beautiful women, who read, chat, pub. How does it get better than that? It doesn’t.

5. Being in Gurgaon opened up doors, and a whole new world of world cuisines, books coming at me faster than I could dodge; a brand new momentum within shed its grace upon me, shaking me out of a previous stupor.

6. The seasons in the north took on new meanings, with each lending itself to my creative instincts; every nuance observed, nothing was missed. A heightened sense of perception invaded my being.

7. A terrace garden- you’ve got to be kidding! That was what others always possessed, the wealthy folk! We actually had one, one that beckoned at odd hours of the day and night, seasons notwithstanding. This was crazy- we were living in the midst of exotic birds, and could touch real colours.

8. If that were not enough, a kitchen garden bloomed, and we were eating straight out of our homegrown patches. How does it get better than that! It doesn’t.

9. How could I not write, write, write. SO I started writing seriously, and began to look in earnest for publishers for my debut novel.

10. A new work studio was knocked into place, and inspirations began pouring in torrents. Was I thrilled!

So : the husband, the one that seeks newness in all, is actually content in his job.

The son quit college for more intellectual pursuits, and soul-satisfaction. In the meantime, the daughter in New York, completes her MSc and finds a job.

The summing up of two years, two very happening years, i hasten to add, encompassing, it would seem, a lifetime of events- or rather a culmination of hard work, and marking a continuum that should hold. I do believe we might just have plugged the stream that flowed from a two-year stretch, into a two-year stretch. It is now to be seen how much longer this body will nurture itself, in this new paradigm.

I want to celebrate this newness, one that I discover on a fine March morning. Upstairs, the flowers nod at me, smiling in summery fashion, telling me, ‘all’s right with the world girl, just keep going’.

Zorro, the Indian Irish Setter

DSCN2560He arrived home, oozing out of my husband’s arms, 3 months old. I could scarcely believe my eyes, a massive auburn beauty, with limbs splayed in every possible direction. It was love at first touch, soft brown fur, and pendulous ears, swaying rhythmically – a gorgeous pair of dark eyes that sprinted into my heart’s corners, establishing supremacy. I had not wanted a dog, I had not wanted a pet at that juncture in my life, I had been pretty categorical. There he was giving me that look- that irresistible doggy look. I was taken.

However, I quickly told my husband, who’d brought him along that fine morning, that we’d been cheated, that he was at least six months old if not more. My convictions quickly transferred to him, and we made a quick call to the breeder in Bangalore who confirmed that he was indeed three months old, not a day more. We were forced to believe him. As it transpires, his conduct was befitting of an infant’s, and stayed that way, to this day. Today I smile indulgingly.

I imagined then that he would not grow very much, since he bore a rather large muzzle, and oh those long limbs. Yet he continued to grow for over a year and became nigh a strapping of a pony. He was beyond all training, that had become increasingly clear. The door would be ajar and Zorro would disappear like a bullet while the entire family would hare off after him. The fear of his being hurt unwittingly by a passing vehicle put the fear of God in us all. We were in love, and we needed to protect him from himself. He loved us anyway, he knew no better.

Truth be told, I hated myself for loving him as I did. I had already left my professional life to embrace a domestic one in order to be there for the children. Our two children filled my hours with considerable homework, plus the housework, plus all the driving up and down from various extra-curricular classes- my life was full and my life was happy; there was no extra room for any extra work. Zorro was plenty extra work. He needed to be fed, he needed to be walked, he needed to be guarded and he needed loads of affection. He was one loving dog who refused to guard. He was a family dog that wanted to be petted when awake, and left undisturbed when asleep. He was full-time work. To top it he needed to bolt. When excited, he shot from one end of the house to the other, in uncontained merriment. He still does it, but now he slips and falls midway, after all he is 12 years old. How he managed to emerge unscathed from his jaunts was anyone’s guess.

Our son, hardly recognized walls of any kind. So there I was, saddled with two brats, and no stopping either. By the end of the first year of Zorro’s arrival, I had lost considerable hair, weight and was ready to resign. The daughter, bless her, tried to support me as well as she could, but given her schedule there was precious little she really could bring to my domestic table.

In his third year of life, we moved to Hyderabad. Whether it was some quirk of fate, or God’s reward for my good karma, we were able to rent a large mansion, with plenty of space for both son and dog to overlook the walls of the house, and run amuck. I had learnt to ignore the loud noises, the falls, the tumbling artefacts, and other such incidents, and would quietly put everything back in its rightful place after the storm passed. Patience, that’s what I learnt fast in my mid-years.

As far as the human child was concerned, he had a grown a little, and his energies were also put to better use, such as tennis and skating lessons. At home, exhausted, he would place his head on the pillow and sleep. Zorro, on the other hand, got burlier and more active.

One evening, as my husband was travelling, I had to walk him. Let’s just say, we tried to stroll and balance energies with one another, rather unsuccessfully. He would prance ahead and then break into a jog, gradually into a run- me flying behind him, hanging onto the leash for dear life, and holding my right shoulder, lest I lost my arm that was attached to it. That evening I was more tired than most days, and he broke free. I just sat down in the middle of the street with the leash dangling by my side, free of Zorro, weeping copiously. I pulled out my mobile and called my husband who was in some corner of some country at some godforsaken hour. When I told him what had happened, he coolly asked me to calm down and summon help. It was eleven at night, who could I summon without them declaring me a wacko! After much back and forth, the neighborhood watchman asked me to return home and that he would somehow find us our Zorro. I entrusted my Setter in his able hands. He did return him home, and had managed to lure him with an old bone, no less.

I filed my resignation- I put my foot down, I played truant- I yelled and said I had had enough and that Zorro had to be trained to walk on leash otherwise he could find himself a corner in the home to relieve himself. The husband promised that something would be done about this nuisance within the month.

The husband kept his word. In the meantime, our luck turned, and an old helper came looking for work at our door one fortuitous day. He was hired without much delay, and was able to walk Zorro morning and night for many years thereafter.However, we also found a military training school on the outskirts of Hyderabad, who were miraculously able to train this un-trainable pooch of ours. He returned chastised and seemed older and wiser. I breathed a little easier.

We moved to Bangalore where our beloved Setter fell badly ill within the first year. We were bereaved, and stricken. We learnt that his kidneys were failing and that he had a fifty percent chance of survival. That is when, with a jolt, we all realized what he truly meant to us- he was our eternal baby- as much as I had denied myself the love of a dog and hated him when he would run away- I was his mother, there was no denying it. He had to be saved at any cost, he was only four years old, and had a long and healthy life ahead. The vets were sincere in saving him, putting him on dialysis for a week, and then ensuring that his protein intake be limited. He had to be on a renal diet for the rest of his life, but he emerged fit and fine for the rest of him. He continued to run around the house when happy, and flopped himself where he could, when done. The ensuing years have been happy and disease-free.

Zorro has travelled with us all across the highways, during our moves from one city to another. His massive frame has had moments of disquiet, yet he has been exemplary in a nine-hour drive from Hyderabad to Bangalore in a small Getz, with much luggage, two kids and two adults. What a memorable journey that was! When we stopped for food at a wayside inn, he chased their hens, who clucked off for dear life, while he wondered why he couldn’t even harness one among so many, given that speed was his thing! Hens were faster, when it came to guarding one’s survival he reckoned, and ate his watery rasam rice, chastened.

He has received our undiluted devotion and love. He has been a terrible guard dog, and welcomed all and sundry without any bias, or distinction. Given his stature, we have had to do little to discourage strangers from entering.

He is twelve years old now, and continues to represent what he is best at representing, Love. He still pushes and paws me for attention, and still eats his rice and boiled vegetables with utmost excitement, as if it were a gourmet meal. He barks without any warning, and we still wonder what sets him off. His responses are slower with age, his hearing is wanting, he walks far slower, as his hips are giving way- he is aging with grace, and needs us more than ever. He is just as beautiful as ever- his limpid brown eyes still melt me just the way they had on arrival.

He puts his muzzle on my tummy every morning for extra petting- he chases, rather gently, a fly if he feels like, and absolutely loves putting his head on the keyboard when I type sitting upright on my sofa, like right now. His increasing affection makes me nervous- I know he shan’t live forever, that a dog’s life has its expiry date. I am writing this because I want to- because I feel compelled to. I hope when he does decide to take our leave, it’s on his feet. We love you Zorro, and that’s how it is and will always be- you are forever our beautiful brown baby.

 

Bhabhiji Me

In a new Avatar i suddenly find myself being addressed as ‘Bhabhi ji’ (sis in law), her role notwithstanding, and a moniker i’ve yearned for, the gleam of it, not wasted on me for sure. I have a spouse with no sis, no bro, and to top it he’s a Madrasi (you know Tam Brahm and all that), so i was and am always ‘manni’ to his cousins. I don’t mind, i’ve never really minded being called anything, but having heard and seen Bhabhi ji in movies, and having been fed on a worthy diet of Hindi movies, i wanted also to be seen and heard wearing this name tag. Essentially living in the northern regions of India, it’s a term that’s easier to relate to. It is one shrouded in mysterious affection- one that spelt – Man, she’s so lovely and so affectionate, all for family ties, she’s the one who ties it all together seamlessly; she oozes goodwill, she tolerates nonsense and yet never ever stoops to the level of the motherinlaw; one can count on her to sing at festivals, to dance flawlessly on any given occasion, if required, and her cooking abilities, o boy, none better and there’s no cuisine she can’t undertake, if new, she masters it with practiced ease. So Bhabhi ji was one character i so totally wanted to play, or perhaps even be. I am now.

Every family member turns to Bhabhiji for advice- when in trouble, any trouble; during exam time, Bhabhi ji’s the expert academician so younger members look up at her for math, geography, history, you name it; perturbations in the area of the heart (a burgeoning affair, a heart-break, a light infatuation), Bhabhiji, with her wide array of experiences, both pre and post-marriage, to the rescue; if ever there’s a need for monthlies to be paid, Bhabhi ji rushes to the cupboard and returns armed with green-bucks (rupees) for – the Iron man (Dhobi), the vegetable vendor, the milkman, the newspaper delivery boy, anyone at the door for longer than a minute or two. Bhabhi ji is the mother not just to her children, as well as to all nieces and nephews, because, believe it or not, she’s an amazing storyteller too. If other Bhabhis are professionals, there is no ‘ji’ added to their Bhabhis- it is only the one who manages every aspect of the home that is a Bhabhi ji. While Bhabhis go out and work, Bhabhi ji rears everyone’s offspring. Mind-boggling eh! Why would i not want to take on the responsibility of this amazing persona! See, the thing is, it’s a lot of fluff…someone with the gift of the gab and a reasonable exposure to our Bollywood fare can do the job, and walk away with the laurels every time- the Oscar of the Family it is! No mean title this.

My inner aspirations have suddenly found a voice : our new cook inadvertently fulfilled this almost-last desire of my heart, he addressed me – “Bhabiji where will i find a paraat?” This ‘paraat’ is a wide metal dish which one uses to knead the dough for chapatis (flatbread). He not only endeared himself to me instantly, he drove me completely out of the kitchen, taking over expertly, and who was i to stand in the way of culinary awesomeness, i scuttled out of my domain chuckling merrily to myself. I am certain now that this was ordained. To be called Bhabiji so late in life (after 23 years of marriage, takes some doing, bank balance of good actions have finally tilted in my favour it appears).

So everyday i will get to be called Bhabhi ji henceforth. i am She. Oh! the wonder of it- a perfect specimen of womanhood in any country, since Indians abound so do sisters-in-law i believe. So Bhabhi ji it is! God Bless north Indian cooks, and may many more Bhabhijis be born everywhere, everyday. Life is good.