Doggo Love

As far back as I can remember, I have loved dogs. I had a friend as a kid who introduced me to their loving world and I have been in love ever since. We used to sit together and dream about becoming veterinary doctors when we grew up, so that we could be surrounded by dogs all day long. On my 12th birthday, she gifted me the most adorable labrador puppy. We named her liza. She became everyone’s favorite from the moment she stepped foot in the house. I was happy beyond measure.

However as a kid I hardly knew anything about pet care, and unfortunately neither did my family. She was kept chained more than she should have, was not given the kind of food that she needed and didn’t get the attention and love she deserved. I moved away and went to a boarding school soon after we got her, so I could never completely be there with her. When she died, she was in severe depression. Nobody knew what exactly was wrong with her. I really, truly wish I could have done something. It will be one of my life’s regrets. She deserved so much more.

Fortunately, I am now grown and much more aware. I have 3 indie dogs that my DH (dear husband) and I adopted in 2017. They’re the life and soul of our house. When we adopted Brownie, we didn’t know how to go about taking care of her. Luckily for us we live in an era where we have a vastly resourceful tool at our disposal – internet. We read up endlessly and watched a million videos on canine behavior, well-being, health, training, diet etc. We were quite spooked initially because brownie didn’t seem to be settling in and kept wanting to go out. We considered letting her go back to the streets many times, simply because we couldn’t see her in agony. But we got a lot of support from online communities, where everyone advised us to give her more time.

 

Slowly, after a few hits-and-misses, she started recognizing our home as her home. She started to enjoy being in our presence (especially since it was laden with a lot of cuddling) and not to mention – our extremely comfy bed which she now fully occupies without any shame.

Once we got the hang of it and started to understand finer details of canine behavior, we felt confident enough to bring in more furry friends for our family. Over a period of 2 months, we got 2 more indie pups home! (I know, it can seem like a bit of an obsession, but its not. Really.) They’re name lizzie and bubbles. The most fascinating thing is that all three of them have different temperaments. Brownie is extremely territorial, alert and vigilant. She lived on the streets for almost 2.5 years and needless to say it made her extremely tough. She doesn’t trust easily but is fiercely loyal once she does. Lizzie is cautious and easily spooked. She had an abusive childhood, remnants of which are visible through her behavior. Despite that, she loves cuddling and especially tummy rubs. Bubbles on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She is not wary of anything and will swallow a wasp if it interests her enough. She runs after anything and everything and is curious all the time. Her energy never seems to run out, and that makes sure we get our fair share of exercise too.

 

It angers and frustrates me to no end when I read about abuse and neglect towards indie dogs on a daily basis. People are obsessed with breed because its a status symbol; they want only pedigree dogs like german shepherds, labradors, beagles, golden retrievers, pugs etc. For some twisted reason, they think that their dog’s breed validates their social status. What about dogs that belong to the country you were born and bred in? Why so much love for foreign breeds and so much neglect towards Indian breeds? Because they occupy the streets? Because they’re the ones you shoo away or throw stones at when they run after you?

Indie dogs can be just as well trained, handsome and attractive if they’re taken care of properly. They’re fiercely loyal and won’t ever let you feel like you’re alone. Our breed-obsession is taken full advantage of by breeders who buy pedigree dogs only to breed more dogs that are then sold at a very high price. These breeders keep their dogs in horrible conditions and raise them only for one purpose. I personally know people who have gone to great lengths to purchase a pure breed puppy. Think of what you’re enabling next time you dream about getting a pure breed.

These dogs have filled our lives with love, joy and warmth. We now look forward to coming back home so much more, because we know that the moment we enter the house, we will be greeted with jumps, licks and wagging tails. If you’re someone who loves and wants dogs as much as us, please – adopt don’t shop. Your furry friend will thankyou forever for it.

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Dear Indian Parents, why so entitled?

Now this is something I feel I need to talk about, especially in the context of our society. I haven’t written in a while and my writing skill has become quite rusty, but I have been feeling extremely confused, hurt and misguided lately and I needed to vent. So, coming to the question I am trying to pose – Dear Indian parents, why are you so entitled? Why do you think that you are entitled to your kid’s love, respect, obedience, compliance and support? Why do you think that your kid, in some way, is obligated to make you happy?

Because you went through pain to have them? Because you invested time, money, emotions and energy into raising them? Because you made sacrifices and compromises? Because you fought with others to keep them happy and safe? Because you put their well-being above your own? So now that they’re a little grown up and have a mind of their own, you expect something in return for everything you did? Wait. Was this arrangement supposed to work in this investment-ROI like fashion? Why wasn’t I told?

Before addressing the core issue here (which is extremely unhealthy and screwed up) I would like to pose another question – Why do people decide to have kids? Is it because you are already in a happy place in life, and feel emotionally, mentally and financially secure and strong enough to be able to share love with another human being without expecting anything in return or is it because you’re extremely unhappy with your life and feel that a kid will make it better? or because you’re lonely? or because you’re too bored in life and want a ‘project’ to work on? or because you can’t stand your spouse and want a reason to stay in the marriage? or because you are concerned about your old-age? or because you want someone else to fulfill your incomplete dreams? or because you want to fill a void in your life?

What is it?

I truly feel that people don’t decide to become ‘parents’ for the right reasons, especially in our country. Even if we exclude the people who are pressurized into having a child, the remaining percentage don’t have very healthy reasons either. That is where the dysfunction begins and keeps spiraling out of control. If you decide to have kids for any reason other than unconditionally sharing love and raising a healthy human being who will be (and should be) independent enough to make his/her own choices, then you my friend, have a problem. You are invariably going to download all your problems, issues and sorrows onto your kid and expect him/her to somehow a) either give you a solution or b) be the solution.

There are so many parents who tell themselves – we will not end up being like our parents. Well, bullshit. You are your parents plus more issues. It is so difficult to dissociate ourselves from our parents’ identity and personality in our culture – it takes a lot of awareness and almost an entire lifetime’s work to achieve that. Why? Because most of us are brought up within enmeshed relationships. Boundaries? What are those? Our parents have a right to know and interfere in everything. Free will? What’s that? I can only go out with friends that my parents like and marry the love of my life as long as my parents approve. Questioning parents’ decisions, opinions and beliefs? Prepare for a crash landing, kids. That’s never going to fly.

We’re never taught to be individuals with our own separate set of beliefs, opinions and principles. We’re always an extension of our parents. Any form of disagreement is seen as disrespect. (Because ‘respect’ is gulping down your opinion and putting your parents’ happiness above your own) Respect is a concept that only works one way, because parents will never respect our choices and decisions. And if those choices fall way beyond their radar of “what’s ok” – then you’re officially a rotten kid and have given them so much pain you should die in a pool of guilt. In short, the term ‘Indian parents’ should officially be synonymous with ‘insecure’. They’re so insecure about themselves that they cannot stand their kid being too different, or else – a question is raised on everything they did based on their belief system so far in their life, and they cannot be in that uncomfortable position of accepting that they might have been wrong at some point. (The horror)

You see, part of being a secure and mature human being is the ability to empathize and accept your mistakes when you make them (everyone does). In my understanding, Indian parents are neither. But the blame isn’t just theirs, it’s a dysfunction that has been passed down generations.

Coming to the core issue – if you think your kids owe you anything in return for your love and care, then you have issues that need to be dealt with before assuming that you deserve to be parents. Love, respect and care are mutual emotions that should be given unconditionally without expecting anything in return. If you are going to guilt trip your kids about your sacrifices and financial investments – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to use the victim card to get what you want – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to expect your kid to support you emotionally – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to shove your beliefs and opinions down his/her throat – Don’t be a parent. If you have a problem accepting your kid as a separate individual who will have different opinions – Don’t be a parent. If you cannot accept the fact that your kid will not always agree with you – Don’t be a parent. When you bring a child into this world, he/she needs you and depends on you for physical, mental and emotional well being and continues to need you until he/she becomes an adult. You do not, and should not, need or depend upon your kid for any of those.

You don’t have the emotional bandwidth or maturity to be a parent. Please deal with your issues first. Also, if you do your parenting right – your kid will shower you with unconditional love and support, without you having to ask for it. A child’s first impression of the world is his/her parents. If you have truly loved your child without emotionally fucking him/her up – he/she will always stand with you and before you. Try it.

A kid’s love is a precious gift. It’s not your right. You chose to have a child and bring another human being into this world. If you’re putting your best foot forward to take care of him/her, it’s not a favor or a debt the kid has to repay later. If you have problems, they’re your responsibility, not your kids’. In US, if you put undue pressure on your kids or raise them in unhealthy households, the social security services will come and take your kid away. They have an accountability system in place. Raise your kid in a healthy environment or lose your right to be parents. Unfortunately in India, just having given birth to a child is enough criteria to qualify to be a parent. You can do whatever the fuck you want with that child. Because maa ke charnon mein swarg hota hai.

If a kid is being abused emotionally and physically in a house, there is absolutely nowhere he/she can go to seek safety and protection. We just have to wing it. And the number of kids being raised in abusive and unhealthy homes in our country is shocking. What is even more shocking is that most of them don’t even know they’re being abused.

I may not be a human child’s parent, but I am a pet parent to a wonderful and amazing dog called Brownie, who I adopted out of my own free will. It is my responsibility to make sure that she receives care, love and a safe environment. I didn’t do it because I wanted a watch dog or because I was lonely. I did it because her being there truly made me happy. Sometimes I have to put up with messy situations, she poops and pees anywhere, she tears everything apart, she whines for no reason and doesn’t listen to a single command, she demands too much attention, interrupts work and hardly shows any affection in return – I get annoyed sometimes. But I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. If I wanted a picture perfect dog who would sit when I asked her to sit, stand when I asked her to stand, mingled only with the dogs I liked and showed affection to me all the time – I would just sit and watch Scooby Doo on TV.

Even after 4 or 5 years, if I give her too much stress or take away her sense of safety, she will either show me aggression (biting) or simply run away, and I wouldn’t be able to do a single thing. She felt threatened and left to preserve herself. Is she obligated to stick with me despite the stress and abuse, just because I took care of her for so long?

NO.

I am just glad that I have a dog who will bite me if I cross her boundaries, as compared to a human child who will continue to suffer in silence thinking it’s okay just because I’m a parent. Nothing scares me more.

 

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

When love conquers all

2

This only happens in Bollywood films, when the hero takes the heroine and elopes away into the sunset and they live happily ever after. When the hero fights with the entire world for his lady love and protects her like a shield from all the evil in the world. When they sacrifice everything for love and set a legendary example. We have all grown up watching those films. We even have those typical aashiqs slashing their wrists and writing names of girls on their arms with blood. Yes, it all seems very attractive. It ‘sounds’ cool, doesn’t it?

Reality is different though. There are no knight in shining armors. There are no lovers who would actually follow each other to the edge of the world. There are no men who would fight with all the enemies to be with their women, and no women who would break every other relationship just to maintain one. Love in reality is very calculated, safe and convenient. Couples fall apart at the drop of a hat. Relationships don’t sustain beyond the first sign of resistance. “I love you” is a very absolute statement. It doesn’t really leave any room for doubts or second thoughts. It’s isn’t subject to terms and conditions. It’s a commitment that should be fulfilled with life, if need be. You don’t measure pros and cons after that. You don’t think about society, family or money. You don’t think about consequences. All you know is that you would do anything to be with the person you love. Everything else is just a blur.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just not familiar with the term ‘duniyadaari’ that we Indians so dearly love to use for all our fuckups. Maybe it’s because I see the world in the shades of white and black and nothing in-between. Maybe it’s because concepts like ‘khandaan’, ‘money’ and ‘society’ make me laugh when they’re used as excuses to not fulfill commitments. I’m just not in tune with the very many factors that come into play after the three words are uttered. Thankfully, I’m not.

I used to think that I’m the only one. But then something happened that made me believe that maybe there still are some people who would go the distance. Despite everything they had to face, despite all the hurdles, despite all the pain, suffering and torture – they made it through and saved their love at all costs. Their story is classic bollywood. Girl and boy meet. Become friends. Fall in love and decide to be with each other forever. But the girl’s parents resist and make their lives a living hell.

Starting with a temporary house arrest, the girl’s parents do everything they can (and more) in their power to separate the two – they snatch away her mobile, stalk her social media, don’t let her leave the house alone, follow her around like hawks and manipulate her day and night to leave the boy. They forbid her to meet him for 3 months to prove that their love is true. They cut her off from the rest of the world completely. They take away her ID proofs and her financial means. She only has a 100 rupee note in her bag at any given point of time, because as per her parents’ calculations that’s all she needs to pay for the auto.

The boy faces his fare share of shit – her parents tap his phone, have a police officer investigate his background, get in touch with people at his workplace, his friends and even his ex-partners. They threaten him time and again to stay away from their daughter. But when both refuse to budge, they bring the 3-month condition into play as a hogwash – to make them believe that they are ‘in the process’ of accepting their relationship. Because the couple is desperate to convince her parents, they agree (By all means, the “we need time” tactic is only used to buy time to manipulate and blackmail more)

3 months go by. 4 months go by. 5 months go by. They meet him once or twice, and by all means – only as an excuse to humiliate and insult him. They ask for his bank statements, his salary proofs, his hometown address, his educational certificates and grill him at length about his financial decisions. They consistently make him feel inferior but he takes it, only and only because of the girl. After all the interviewing, investigating, blackmail and manipulation – nothing changes. Her parents still don’t approve of him and she still isn’t allowed to meet him. One fine day, after a period of 6 months, something happens and all hell breaks loose. The girl’s father beats her up badly in front of the rest of the family and even relatives. He calls up the boy and spews a handful of hindi abuses at him. He threatens to screw up his entire life. He completely confines the girl in a room and doesn’t let her leave. Her mother and brother side with the father too.

It is then that the couple decide that enough is enough. They decide to elope and marry. They go to extreme lengths to make that happen. They would have to shift to a different city, so the boy quits his job and starts making arrangements for travel and marriage. The girl prepares herself to leave her family behind and build a new life. Once every single detail is taken care of – the tickets are bought, the lawyer is hired, the mandir and pandit are ready – they take the plunge.

The girl runs away from her house and takes her flight to freedom. They take the plunge knowing that the consequences can be dangerous. Her parents can have him beaten up, they can file a case of kidnapping, they can have his house vandalized, they can insult his parents and family, they can ruin his professional future – these are scary possibilities. But they still go ahead and risk them all. They know that togetherness will be worth all this and more. On the day of 2nd June, they marry in an Arya Samaaj mandir. The happiness on their faces is hard to forget. All their faces said at that point of time was – “Finally”. It took me all my courage to not weep in that moment.

It takes an incredible amount of faith and trust to stick to your partner through thick and thin. An episode like this could have torn them apart; it would have torn anyone apart. Leaving your life behind for a new life is never easy, especially more when there are so many risks involved and when you have less than a month to plan it all. All your future plans and dreams go for a toss. You spend years building a life in a place and then suddenly have to throw it in the fire and you do it happily, when you could easily have broken your commitment and stuck with your comfortable life. It would have been easier for both to simply bid adieu to each other and continue living their respective lives. The girl in question was a good friend of mine and I know how many plans she had in regard to her career in this city. But she didn’t think twice about that.

Why? Because plans can be remade and jobs can be changed, money can be earned again and houses can be rebuilt – but strong relationships cannot be rebuilt or found again. You have one moment to either hold on or let go, and that moment decides it all.

They are now happily married and figuring out their lives. No jobs, limited money and less time. Financial burdens, emotional pain and the trauma of leaving parents behind – everything must seem so small now. Togetherness conquers all. Love conquers all.

Some people are lucky to have found such partners. Others have to be happy with simply witnessing and writing about such miracles.

We all have ideal families, don’t we?

I just checked the date and it seems it’s been a month since I updated my blog. Clearly I need someone with a hockey stick right on top of my head, threatening to bludgeon me to death to make me work…which is a matter of serious concern for my future prospects.

I’m visiting my extended family this week, which is almost always an overwhelming experience. If the fact that I sit behind a computer for almost 8 hours a day wasn’t enough to prove it, let me say this out loud: I’m not good with people. Sometime a year ago, I figured out that I’m quite the detached person. I find it very hard to empathize with someone. I can sympathize, hell yes, because I love being the ‘savior’ in every situation, but I can’t empathize. Clearly, I’m a product of an extremely dysfunctional family.

Any who, a lot of jumbled up thoughts, feelings and emotions led me to write this. We are brought up to idolize our family. We are taught to respect every member and every relationship. Everything is perfect, hunky-dory and beautiful. Our families are so great that even Suraj Barjatya could take inspiration. I grew up believing that too. Unfortunately, I did not have the tools to cope when that illusion shattered and reality showed it’s big ugly face. The truth is, no family is perfect. Every family has it’s share of dark areas that they try to conceal, not just from the kids but from each other as well. We all want to live believing that everything is okay. Denial is one of the most common types of defense mechanisms. Hey, ignorance is bliss.

India as a society is very uncomfortable with displaying negative emotions. We try to brush sorrow, anger, dislike, disappointment and hurt under the carpet. It’s all about putting up a front. We’re never really taught to deal with any of these emotions, which is why most of us are clueless about how we should express them when we feel them ourselves. We don’t know how to channel our anger, how to deal with our sorrow, how to express our disappointment and dislike and least of all, our hurt. We bring in our own permutations and combinations of defense mechanisms to deal with our emotions, but never really confront them.

As long as you are going through and dealing with these emotions on an individual level, it’s fine. At least your family is happy, at least the bills are being paid, the food being cooked, the clothes being washed and the dog being fed. You feel safe despite everything. But what happens when that structure shatters, and a lot of realities that were brimming under the surface, come out? Say the family is struck by a financial crunch. You suddenly find out about the debts your family is under. You suddenly discover that that uncle who used to be over every weekend is nowhere to be seen. Your mom has so many resentments that it’s hard to fathom how your parents ended up married. Your paternal and maternal grandparents only have insults to throw at your mother and father respectively. Your father isn’t as strong as you thought. Your extended family wants nothing to do with you.

What happened to the perfect family picture? Weren’t you all supposed to be the big happy Indian family? How are you supposed to react now? Are you supposed to accept what you see or continue pretending that things are just perfect? Until yesterday you were being taught to do Namaste to every relative that enters your house, and now suddenly your parents are heartily bitching about every Chachi, Maasi, Bua, Phoopha etc they’re associated with. The truth is it takes a pretty bad bump to reveal the realities of the perfect car. We can’t get rid of the bumps, but I do wish that we were brought up to believe that our family isn’t perfect, everyone doesn’t love us, everyone isn’t great, but we’re making through each day with effort and that’s how we plan to do it for as long as we can. I wish that we were taught that respect is earned and not offered to just anyone on a platter because they’re ‘elders’. I wish we were not taught to feel obliged to greet people we didn’t want to. I wish we were given the freedom to explore our relationship with every single member and discover how much we would like to be associated with them ourselves.

It takes a lot of time to realize that not every word that comes out of your parent’s mouth is a gem. Not everything they do has to be idolized. Not every part of their life is an inspiration. They’re human beings too and make mistakes. Those mistakes have carved their experiences and have led them to where they are now. They’re a part of who they are, for better or for worse. We all grow up telling everyone that our parents are the best, that they’re simply amazing and that they always do the right thing. Not true. There should come a point in every kid’s life when both the parents sit down and explain where they went wrong and the circumstances that led to it. No matter what happens then, it will only make the kid respect them more in the long run – for showing trust, confidence and vulnerability. It will make the kid a much more independent person, and will make him or her realize that they need to think and make decisions for themselves, and stick to the consequences.

Let’s start accepting that mistakes happen. Both intentionally and unintentionally. Instead of teaching kids to not make mistakes, we should be teaching them to be strong enough to deal with the consequences, and to learn from each mistake and move on. Let’s start showing our vulnerable side to our kids. They can handle it. They can learn from it. There is no such thing as the ‘Perfect family’, but there can be a happy family if we all stop pretending and be real for a change.