Hair Hair

I had forgotten the sheer pleasure of getting hair washed in the parlour.

Being pukka middle-class Indian, I only pay for things which I can’t do at home. It means I am willing to pay a small fortune for wood baked Pizzas but not Pasta- because we like the one I make at home more than anything outside.

In palourlance, this means I pay for my twice a yearly haircut, once in 3 years straightening, an occasional foot massage and monthly body massage. Thats it. I have trained ( read bullied) husband into giving the most fantastic head massage this side of town. I have always thought manicure and pedicure absolute waste of money and time – since I bite nails and my feet never manage to stay clean for more than a day. I don’t do eyebrows and facials. My teenage experience of waxing was so horrific ( I have a gore-torture scene in mind for the Hostel franchise in which they wax a man’s body using hot hot wax and peel the skin off with strips) that I have resorted to shaving. Other fancy treatments that the parlour people bully us into looking at? forget it.

This time I decided to get a hot oil massage from my neighbourhood parlour since a wrist injury prevented husband from rendering the services. It was mind-glowingly good and there is really no comparison no matter how much I love my husband. A phone call summoning me to a Skype meeting in couple of hours disturbed the massage. It meant that I couldn’t keep the oil overnight. In a fit on panic, I decided to get my hair washed in the parlour post massage.

Aaaahh… and what a heavenly experience it is. Like the most simple meals that pleasure us in the most soulful manner. Like the pungent smell of Pears soap in chilly winters. Like the slightly salty smell of husband. Like the soft weight of dog on my lap.

I think it was in Letters to Juliet that Vanessa Redgrave says that there is nothing more satisfying than getting your hair brushed by someone. Well, getting your hair washed by someone trumps it. The feeling of strong fingers stroking the scalp as hot water cascades down in the sink and smell of professional shampoo intoxicates you and the gentle hands that remove the foam and squeeze water from hair and the dryer putting one further to sleep- I was curled in the chair by the end of it in sheer sensuous bliss.

It is a gift of the dog that I have learnt to enjoy even smallest of things. It happened when your day is spent with someone who thinks going out for a walk even for the tenth time is the superestest thing ever. Well, except scratching, and playing and cuddling and sleeping in sun and digging and barking at enemies and sniffing, well you get the idea.

I am pukka going to get this blissful thing at least once a month.


Singing Songing

My most favourite professor during my MS, when teaching a class on Musical Genre said, that the most romantic cinematic expression EVER is when two people sing to each other.

He would often grill me on the language of Bollywood cinema in connection with the songs. He loved the fact that we, were not ashamed to sing to each other in Indian movies. ( Though many Indians are and they thinking singing it vaaary vaarry backward and something to be ashamed of, especially when talking about Christopher Nolan movies.) He said there is nothing more emotionally pure cinematic ecstasy than a person singing to another or to him/herself. (He also once described a 1950s movie as so beautifully shot, that he wanted to lick the cinema screen. No wonder he was my favourite.)

So back to the songs. I have always imagined my life with a background score of a few dozen violins and songs for every occasion, emotion, feeling. What is life without songs? And songs in which you usually play a role of anguished/lustful/ loveful/ melancholic heroine? It is like a perfectly coordinated playlist. You listen and sing to it and your face is behaving like Madhuri Dixit and you are imagining Hugh Jackman and Stephen Chow and Shahrukh making sensuous songstery love to you at the same time – and the lift opens and you are faced with a group of people staring at you as if you are Uday Chopra.

I have been too embarrassed to sing songs to husband. A. Because he is not the song-dance-muaahh muaah kind of guy. B. It is embarrassing!!

I am 100% sure there are couples who do it, but I will get super self-conscious.

But in the shower I always address my loud singing to him ( along with Jackman- Chow- Khan trio)

Anyway. So I found the ultimate release of my inner Lata when the dog arrived.

In the last 2 years, I have composed several songs to him. They range from hip-hop, to dhinchak Bollywood, to Rehmanesque peppy numbers to Beatlesque LSD classics. There are also specific dance steps accompanying them, mostly inspired by street dance during Ganapati festival.

And he loves to run around happily and bark at me when I start the song-dance routine for him.

The lyrics are usually in the same family, although the placement varies and so does the tempo, repetition and other tricks in the trade. They all’Praise the dog’.

Oh ( insert one of the dozens of pet names he has) you are so cute.
(Sound effects.)
You are the most beautiful puppy.
You are my dog and I am your human.
We will play CATCH, GETIT, SQUASH, STAY and hundreds of other games
(Sound effects and rapid acceleration of dance moves.)
You are the best swimmer in the world oh smart one
You are the most brave of all the creatures in the world
You are the purest and you are the most ( insert nonsensical words meaning superdupertripperbestest)
Cutest, bravest, sweetest, beautifullest, softest, powerfulest doggie, you are my love.
( Drums, trampolines, violins, Nashik Dhol all creating a wild cacophony)

The dog usually gets a toy and shakes his head profusely as he runs round and round proudly agreeing that he is indeed all that and maybe a little more. He jumps on me and walks on hind legs and tries to tear my pants in pure joy.

The routine usually ends with tugging game with the said toy.

Sometimes, after the song I ask him to come for a bath or clean his ears- two of the most loathsome activities for him. He looks very disappointed like a hero breaking up with his lady-love seconds after a chartbuster song. What? You praise me so much and now you want to clean my ears with that stinky solution?

When I am bathing him, the lyrics change. On the lines of:

yes, yes, brave dog, sweetest dog, we are almost done.. ah let’s wash the stinky asshole once more… there, now the chest… ooh.. look at the dirt in your paws… yes the ears…cutest dog will not smell like rotten vegetables any more…. aahh…shampoo in the eyes.. but bravest dog is so brave in bravery… wow… what a great dog… what a greatest of all dogs… almost done now…aaahh.. what a great dog… he is the bestestest…

He looks at me with his soulful eyes, hiding from the water spray and looking like an orphan in war zone who hasn’t eaten for months and has worked 18 hours a day in a coal mine.

Husband baby talks with him all the time and dog looks content. After all, it was the husband who trained him and so is a natural hero in his eyes!! ( Unlike me, who is destined to be his manager- cum- number 1 fan in the world.) Once when husband started singing to him though, the dog looked so alarmed and puzzled and gulpingly bewildered, that I started laughing hysterically. Because husband is the world’s worst singer. Husband humphed and grumped and told the dog that he will never sing to him if this was the response he would get.

I am sure husband sings to him when I am not around.

I for one, am very happy of having found a perfectly appreciative object of my Bollywood songstery.

A dog arrives

There was one night when the husband came and said, I know what we are going to do. We are going to get a dog. And we are going to manage it.

We had always been talking about how we will get a dog, or several, once we retire in an idyllic place . It was a major part of our dream of future. Every day, yes EVERY DAY I would watch those dog videos on YouTube and those ten mins or so were the purest pleasure in my corporate bullshittized life. Husband always wanted a dog but it was not the crazy, bone aching desire like mine. Like everything else with him, it was a calm and more mature wish.

But getting a dog to live in a tiny apartment in suburban Mumbai- we had always hesitated. It was not fair on him/ her. Who will look after the dog when we are in office with love and reliable care? Apartments are not the right environments for dogs. and even though there was plenty of space to walk and run in the gated community we stay in, we had our large childhood homes with plenty of open space to run around as the ideal for dogs.

But as we started talking, within half hour, we had figured out who will look after him during office hours, his daily requirements, how will the exercise work out. Yes, it is not ideal for him/her, husband said. But our love will make up for it. He/she will be world’s most loved dog. And since getting a dog was in top three of my big wish list for life, it is worth it, he said. NOW.

It made sense.

I dreamt of a small puppy snoring between us all that night.

We wrote emails to friends the next day when we woke up happier than we had been in ages. To see if they knew of any puppies that required homes. We had no requirements- gender or breed. As long as it was a puppy.

Within one week, a friend emailed me saying her bitch had had a litter and would we like to see them?

Yes yes.

We went to see them when they were ten days old.

We found out they were born exactly on the day we decided to get the dog.

And I am not making this up, but when we set eyes on the litter, I knew the dog.

I panicked with thought that he might have been already taken. I trembled when she said he was not. She held out two puppies to us, including the dog, who were not taken. Any of these are fine, husband said, looking sentimental. The other puppy licked my fingers but.. but…. I kept on looking at the dog and said ,’ We will take him. Is that ok?’

Of course, she said. Husband smiled at ball of fur in his hands. The dog looked at him seriously with one eye open. His rather large head lolled a bit. My friend tied a green ribbon around his neck as id. Husband put him back gently with his sleeping brothers and sisters. The dog promptly went back to sleep.

I kept on looking at him all the time. I know he is our dog. I said as soon as we got back in the car. Yes, I could see you just locked your eyes with him. Husband said.

It would be exactly one month and twenty days before we got the dog home. We visited him twice interim, and my eyes always went to him whenever I entered the riotous courtyard. He looked more serious than others. He would often start playing on his own and randomly stop to look at the flying pigeons or something in the corner. His head was slightly larger than others. His colour was fuzzier. His eyes had that opaque puppy sheen that dominated my dreams. I had picked a Russian name- name of my all time favourite character. And he looked like a canine avatar of the character with his slightly spiritual face.

The day arrived. We had already puppy proofed the house thoroughly, bought dozens of books, had managed the holiday of our extremely lovely driver who would also be the puppy sitter and now only the arrival of the dog was remaining to complete our family.

We drove there. The dog had got his first bath and was sitting seriously on a table. I felt a bit of twang for the mother, but from experience of 4 litters in my childhood home, I knew she would be soon glad to be rid of the suck monsters. Husband picked the dog up in arms gingerly and we carried him out. Stick to drive dogs away in my hand, just in case. I sat with him in my lap. He would look up every time the car passed under the bridge with his eyes that are still capable of melting a murderer’s heart.

He came home and went to a carpet and hid his face under. We tiptoed around him. He didn’t look scared but we knew he would be nervous for a couple of days in new surroundings and people. We put some milk, some dog food, water next to him. He opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings. Then he sat up and looked at one corner with concentration. ( He still does that and it spooks me sometimes). We called him to come inside. He peered as much as he could from his position but seemed afraid to leave that spot. I picked him up and showed him the house. Then we sat him down again and showed him his toys.

It was maybe 20 mins since the dog entered the house. He saw the toys and all the serious Russianish look disappeared and was replaced with the silly joy only puppies are capable of. An hour later when my brother and my nephew arrived to visit him, he was flying in the air with his large ears and his springy legs. He ran everywhere, slipping now and then. Trying to jump on the couch. Trying and getting scared of jumping in the balcony. Scratching my legs with his razor-sharp nails. Trying to kill all his toys. Trying to outrun all of us. Peeing profusely all over to mark this as his home.

It took 20 minutes for him to know that this is his house. That this is his pack.

It has been 2 years and 3 months since that day.

And the dog has not only marked his territory but us, his pack for life.

A dog is NOT a substitute baby!!

Every now and then trend spotting stories like this article appears in American media trying to stir controversy and generate heated comments.

According to this article published last week, more and more young, educated women in New York are choosing dogs over kids.

Aarrrrrgggghhhh. Or rather, BHOOOWWWW WOWWWW…

As a young ( ahem!) couple who chose not to have kids and love our dog to bits, we routinely clarify that our dog is not a replacement for a child.

The article quotes supporting data ( of course!!).

‘Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a big drop in the number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 corresponds with a huge increase in the number of tiny pooches owned by young US women, reports the business-news site Quartz. ‘

A comment on the article succinctly sums up our ( and I suspect many others’) sentiments :

“There’s definitely some replacement happening there.” UGH! Replacement? How about DIFFERENT choice. Everything a woman does – run a business, take care of her parents, travel, get a cute pooch, ANYTHING – it is considered replacement. Cuz you know, a woman ONLY wants to have kids so she’ll replace that need/want/yearning/desire/biological pull with something else.”

We have come across, from well meaning to smug to totally clueless comments on how we might ‘think’ that our dog is a replacement for a child, but he is not, and we are deluded and we will realise it when it is too late and what is wrong with people who think a dog can replace a child, blehh blehh blehh..

My polite answer is always as follows.

“It is VERY simple. We love dogs, since we both were kids. We wanted dog forever and got him when we could. We will have more when we move out of the city. Our dream for future features multiple dogs and cats – it is super high priority. We never wanted kids and thus never had one. These two have nothing, repeat, NOTHING to do with each other. We are knowledgeable enough to understand the difference between two totally different species with totally different life-cycles. Sorry to bust your ignorant presumptions.”

I wonder where this logic of ‘replacement’ comes from. After all,people with kids routinely have dogs. My parents had two kids and dozens of cats and couple of dogs since I remember. So did most of our family friends. Majority of pet videos feature kids. And virtually every ad about a canine product features the lush golden retriever playing with a kid as the loving parents look on. What replacement are they looking for? Some hypothetical kid who died in the condom???

I think the confusion comes from what people see- the affection, the attachment, the innocence, the dependence that pets and their humans have for each other. It ‘sounds’ like a baby-parent relationship.

Why don’t we safely assume that adults know the difference between a homo-sepien and a Canis lupus: two totally different species altogether. Hell, that is an easy difference to spot. It is not like toad and frog, who require you to get in-depth of their characteristics to identify them correctly. A dog has a tail, and walks on four legs after all- HUUUUGE difference from a tiny human with two legs and no tail, no??

Just because people are called pet-parents( definitely a better term than owners, but I prefer just ‘ XYZ’s humans’ ) and cuddle with their pets to death, and love to take care of them, and some even go to ridiculous heights of pampering , doesn’t mean that they are some second-rate substitute for a baby one never wanted in the first place!!

We and many others like us- with or without kids, have made and are ready to make adjustments to our lives to accommodate pets because we love these animals and we enjoy spending time with them and feel fulfilment with them.

It is not rocket science to realise that people for thousands of years have loved their pets and vice versa, because, NEWSFLASH- every goddamn thing on this earth is not only about human beings . We are capable of loving non-humans without comparing them to ourselves. It is a beautiful and liberating expereience to love pet animals and care for them like a member of the family and be loved and cared for by them. One doesn’t have to be an animal activist living with Gorillas for a decade or a sobbing non-parent burying her face in the dog’s fur while dreaming about a cute baby to do that!!

Ask my dog who will promptly tell you that he loves his humans NOT as a replacement-canines, but for what we are. It is quite telling that the smug human beings don’t have that clarity and wisdom!!

Dog Day Mornings..

I am fast asleep when something bumps on my face. The dog is awake. He leans on me. He puts his entire weight in his spine flung across my shoulders, and tumbles down as he scratches himself with great abandon. I push him but he settles down, half on me and half on my quilt, and continues scratching himself.

It is 5 am and I pull my quilt over my head without opening my eyes. Because if he sees them open, he will paw my face gently to tell me that it is late in the morning and I should wake up. And open the curtains. And let the light in. And go out for walk. For there has been an entire night of smells that he has missed out on.

I fling my arms across the husband to form a barrier of some sort, so that the dog can’t walk into his face to lick it and try to wake him up as well. One person woken up at this ungodly hour is enough. I peer at the dog who is lovingly pawing husband’s quilt and trying to play with it.

He continues scratching himself and turns up on his belly. I know he is playfully cycling in air and slowly turning his paws on me now. I have to be firm if I don’t want a full blast of playtime. I pull him closer, feel his strong little body snuggle next to mine and then I pat and scratch his ears into delirium till he settles down to a forced sleep. He even starts snoring, his rhythm slowly matching that of husband’s more loud snores. Great. Now there is no way I can go to sleep. I squeeze my eyes hard and try to count numbers so that I can snatch at that delicious early morning sleep, a luxury denied to me ever since the dog stepped in.

I doze off for a few minutes and wake up again to bright eastern light streaming in the room. The dog has managed to open the curtains. He does that by walking on the ledge with his forehead meticulously pushing the curtains to the sides. He then jumps up and sits next to my face.

I peer from half-shut lids at his face above mine. His velvety mouth flaps quiver in anticipation and he gently whimpers. He knows from my breathing that I am 100% awake. No point in pretending. It is 6 am.

He unleashes his scratchy tongue and cleans the entirety of my ears in one long strong lick. He nuzzles his silken face in my neck and burrows himself till I am forced to let go of the quilt and any comfortable position. Let us go now, I have waited enough. He says, quite forcefully. I try to pull him in the quilt but he puts all the resistance a 15 kg animal can. He pretty much is sitting on my neck now, his tail thumping loudly on the bed.

My eyes feel like lead. The dog has no empathy. He continues to lick and paw and snuggle till my eyes open fully. It is as if they have made a huge noise while opening. Because the dog has now jumped on my face and is now wagging his tail till the entire bed shakes and licking my neck and performing a complex dance move of throwing his entire body in every available space.

I sit up. He climbs in my lap and turns up on his belly and paws my arms and bumps his rather large bony skull on my chin as he slurps at my face all at the same time.

I stumble out of the bed, trying to ignore the dog next to the pot as I pee. The tail has increased its wagging to impossible speed. His eyes are glittering like large black stones. The entire body is shaking in anticipation as if he is going to Mount Everest.

Simple acts like pulling up pants (as he tugs on their legs playfully), putting on a bra, picking up the keys and the poop bag, putting them in pockets elicit profound responses till it is one big whirl of brown hair, long ears, swish of tail and something that looks like legs.

Putting on leash unleashes happy growls and attempts to catch hold of it and jumping and going round the circles at the same time. It is the first walk of his six daily walks, but it feels like the dog hasn’t been let out for over a year going by the exuberance.

Opening the door, walking up to the lift and finally getting out of the building is no effort, being dragged by one enthusiastic morning dog. My eyes have opened by now and I am slowly waking up. The dog is crawling below the cars and walking at the same time, lest any smell escapes him. His long ears sweep the floor and his leg rises again and again as he pees two drops each on every car tyre and lamppost and tree and sidewalk corner. He walks with his nose on the ground and ass high in the air, tail wagging at the delicious smells. He sometimes bumps his head on the car because his eyes are constantly on the ground or looking for his friends. He spots one after another, they greet him and there is the good morning ritual of sniffing each others crotch and asshole with elaborate mannerisms. An occasional threatening bark is uttered if he spots outsider dogs who carefully show their subservience to this obvious galli ka kutta bhi sher.

Potty done, picked up and deposited in the bin. The dog kicks up a storm of dust and debris on the poop-spot with his hind legs. This is definitely a very macho thing to do, going by the expression on his face. The walk back now is revisiting the fragrances, more patiently this time. He takes his time separating several subtle tones in the bouquet of streaks of canine urine. When he licks it, I try not to think of him licking my face just a few minutes ago. He struts on the roads with confidence of a Great Dane. He refuses to believe that he is an English Cocker Spaniel, he will settle for nothing but at least a St. Bernard. School kids walking to their torture pet him, which he tolerates patiently. He greets some of his acquaintances with profuse jumping and licking. When they praise him, he looks extremely modest and sits like an ideal dog who wouldn’t dream of barking at large dogs and licking sidewalks.

The long walk completed, he now wants to go back in RIGHT NOW. He is impatient in the lift and rushes inside the flat and as soon as the leash is removed, he drinks enough water to give the famished kidneys some sustenance. He greets husband by profuse licking and belly turning and furious scratching. In five minutes, he crawls below the diwan and is fast asleep.