We are Mishka people

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This blog is alive, barely breathing. But during a pandemic, when doing anything is doubly hard, some things can fall on the way side. Allowed hai. Every ball cannot be balanced at every point of time in life.

What would this blog be if there wasn’t a post dedicated to Mishka. Sometimes when you meet a person, you know in your bones they are going to change you and your life. At other times, you turn back years later and realize their impact on you. I have known Tanuj for decades, few years after his marriage Mann and I met properly. Hanging out with spouses of friends isn’t my thing. We don’t do the couples hanging out together thing. Liking one person is hard enough, how are you supposed to equally like two people? KC has his set of friends and I have mine. If we like each other’s friends, great. If we don’t, great. Anyway, sparks flew at that meeting and we had enough in common to get invited for a home cooked World Famous Chicken Biryani by Tanuj. It did come up that they have 2 dogs – Gin and Mishka.

KC and I aren’t really animal people. We lived in an apartment complex with dogs of all breeds- dachshunds, pugs, boxers etc but never felt the need to even acknowledge them. I had never even been to a house with a dog except on 2 occasions.

We turned up at Tanuj’s door in my Gurgaon finery (=absolutely overdressed) and rang the doorbell. There was barking from the other side which didn’t subside till the door opened. 2 dogs came towards us demanding that we acknowledge and pet them. Chicken biryani was at stake here so we had little choice. Gin moved away after a few minutes and I could concentrate with both hands on Mishka. I was overwhelmed that someone was so happy to see me. That, almost, never happens. We decided that were bigger pros than chicken biryani in continuing to be friends with Tanuj and Mann.

Over 4-5 years, Mishka became my therapist. During my lowest lows (most recently in 2018 end and 2019 beginning), I couldn’t get out of bed till I saw her picture on her IG handle. Mann may have received a few calls demanding she post pics as early as possible since some people depend on her to start their day. When I had terrible days at work, I would rush to Mann’s house and get me some Mishka snuggles. It wasn’t a coincidence that I wore a fleece jacket on those occasions. I carried her hair home like an honor badge. On weekends, there was conversation and breakfast with T and M before they picked up Mishka from the groomer’s. She would come rushing out looking spiffy and gorgeous and demand belly rubs at the vet’s office.

These are the memories am going to hold on to while I deal with a world without her. Distance makes a difference. Living in a different city means I can be a coward and pretend like she is still around. If I never meet T and M again, I won’t even know she is no more. Because the thought of ringing their doorbell and not hearing her bark on the other side is unimaginable.

KC and I wanted our Mishka who would bring so much joy to our lives 24/7 and that’s how we decided to bring home a dog. We weren’t searching for a dog, we were just searching for Mishka. Our Mishka. Trust me, there would be no Barfi (in our life) if we hadn’t met Mishka. Because Mishka is perfect. In every way.

 

 


4 months update

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Barfi turned 4 months old yesterday and she is now 13 kg. She was 7 kg 1.5 months back. Her weight is expected to go up to 18 kg in the next 1-2 weeks and soon we will not be able to carry her in our arms away from restricted places. So, am working on using her collar to hold her (gently) back.

At the start of lockdown, she was quite excited about having us around all day. She stopped sleeping at her usual hours (9 am to 1 pm and 2:30 to 5 pm).¬† But now she isn’t as excited to have us around. I barricade myself in the bedroom away from her during morning work hours and work in the living room while she sleeps after lunch. It is harder to get KC to leave her alone and atleast once every few hours you can hear me screaming asking him to give her space.

When Barfi came home, we would leave her alone at home for 15 mins to prevent separation anxiety and get her used to being on her own. It is easier when you train them as puppies but once the househelp joined, she didn’t have the house keys and we became lackadaisical about it. The trainer reminded us that it was very important now to leave her alone so we sit outside the house near the lift while neighbours think we are a bunch of crazy people to be sitting on the floor like that.

Everytime we would leave her alone, around 6 pm, she would poop (in the loo) and sometimes try to eat it. I took that as a sign of separation anxiety and was quite concerned. On one of the days, we were home at 6 pm and she pooped anyway. Well, friends, that was her normal poop time. I was massively relieved. We went for a grocery run the other day for 30 mins and she was perfectly fine. I didn’t have time to stare at her every few mins in the camera and realised that maybe I have separation anxiety and not her.

Every week, she finds new ways to push our boundaries. Running away with our chappals is her most favourite activity. Sneaking into the kitchen like she owns it is another one. Running away with the item on the bed which will give her immediate attention is a new one. Refusing to eat from the slow feeder bowl is a whole different level of tantrum. My reaction is to let her be and not mollycoddle her. So, she runs to KC while he is asleep, jumps on the bed, wakes him up to make him feed her. Pulling at the clothes on the drying rack has been added to the list and we had to move it to the guestroom. Refusing to pee and poop when we take her to the loo is a badass move. She will go when she wants to go. Even when she wants to pee, she will sit on the floor and refuse to do it. I close the door of the loo, sit on the pot and wait. Usually does it.

She has now tasted a variety of foods – mango, peanut butter, watermelon, apple, carrot but her most favourite is corn on the cob (without the corn kernels).

There are times when she goes absolutely crazy, especially once she has pooped. Whenever she bites on our hand hard, she is put on leash for 15 mins and we proceed to ignore her. She has stopped barking and creating a ruckus in the mornings when it is time for her meal and I deliberately take my time while brushing my teeth. She has stopped jumping when am eating on the couch. She has stopped resisting her grooming sessions because they mean lots of treats for her.

We have 24/7 entertainment and have to be on our toes for the sneakiest puppy in the house. 5 mins in the loo and she had torn the paper where I had written the points for my upcoming PPT.

Thank god, we have her during the lockdown and can spend so much time with her. There is no time to get bored or have an existential crisis.


Ekkees Din

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Should I start by calling Modi a fucktard for announcing a lockdown overnight instead of giving people a few days to plan and prepare? A lockdown without any concrete steps to combat the virus. He may have finally realized what dumbasses his vote bank is filled with and Corona Garba is how 50% of them are in danger of getting infected.

Anyway, we have 21 days locked in our houses with limited supply of food and lots of time. Sure, there are organizations who make their employees waste their time on building best case and worst case scenarios in a situation where we could all die. Bury me in a grave of non essential FMCG products. To a life dedicated to stuff nobody would miss if it was wiped off this planet.

The announcement was a kick on my backside. 21 days is a lot of time and what I do with it defines who I am.

Am I going to be someone who will survive on Maggi and gain 5 kgs at the end of it or am I someone who will use this time to find ways to workout at home and cook healthy meals?

Am I someone who will waste time posting shitty IG challenges or am I someone who will post her pup’s cute pics?

Am I someone who will work long hours at zero productivity for show or am I someone who understands people have housework chores to manage in addition to work and a bored family to entertain?

Am I someone who will maintain routine around the pup so there is no separation anxiety when I go back to work or am I someone who will spend more time with the pup because this time will never be back again?

(Ok, this is a tough one and am hoping Shirin Merchant’s webinar this Sunday will clarify).

Am I someone who makes terrible rotis or am I someone who will practice hard for small, thin and light rotis?

You get the gist.

Honestly, if people can’t survive a few weeks without househelp or a cook, they are leading a highly privileged life and this could be a wakeup call. It reminds of the series Schitt’s Creek. Sure, we are all privileged and will get paid by our employers and manage fine. But am glad Mom made sure we knew how to cook and clean. If only she had put in that effort for my brother as well.

A newbie in the kitchen or cooking for just one? Here are some tips:

  • Chop veggies for a week and store for a week

  • Every recipe needs onions and tomatoes. Chop those in bulk and store. A chopper does the task in a jiffy.

  • Cook extra at every meal and store leftovers for next meal. There is no shame in eating leftovers for 2-3 days. Better than cooking Maggi.

  • Eggs are your best friend. Fry them. Scramble them. French toast them. Omelette with veggies. Shakshouka is simpler than it sounds. Frittata is awesome. Bhurji is everyone’s favourite. Egg biryani for rice lovers.

  • Boil rice and store. Ditto for daal.

  • Be active for 30 mins everyday. It is important for physical and mental health.

Avoid Whatsapp news. Revel in the loneliness. Spend time with yourself instead of connecting with random people and posting on social media.

Read a book. Kindle app is accessible and ebooks can be purchased online.

Netflix and chill alone.

If you are quarantined with someone, this period could potentially break the relationship.

Are they taking on equal burden of the housework or do you end up doing everything?

Are they criticizing your cooking or appreciating salty bhindi sabji and will eat it without a fuss when you throw a tantrum at your terrible cooking?

See you at the other end after 21 days.

Am I going to be proud of how I use my time or am I going to be ashamed of the kind of human I turned out to be?


1 month Gotcha day

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It will be a month since Barfi came into our life and well, she isn’t the pup who came into our home on the first day. Our docile pup who was scared to venture anywhere without us now sleeps on her own, pees and poops on her own and demands tummy scratches at random times at night.

She owns the humans and she knows it. Everyday she pushes the boundaries to check the limits and everyday we push back without giving in. Now the house is her oyster and we can’t predict which new object will catch her fancy and have to be stored away.

  • There are no mats outside the bathrooms. Only 3 weeks back, every door had a pretty and colourful mat.

  • The centre table is empty and none of the tables have table cloths. Thankfully, I didn’t use my expensive and pretty lace table cloth from Istanbul.

  • My pretty sheer curtains have tooth holes.

  • All the plants have been placed at a height so they aren’t eaten up.

  • The kitchen door is always, always closed.

  • All the rooms’ doors are kept closed.

  • All my night clothes have holes in them.

  • She jumps and barks at me when I eat on the couch so I make it a point to eat there while ignoring her. She is calmer now.

  • She loves jumping up on people. Right now it is cute but when she grows huge, it could hurt someone.

  • When she is bored or frustrated, she shreds the newspapers in the loo and tries to eat them. During the day she is supervised but nights become a challenge.

  • When she is very hungry, she is inclined to eat her own poop. A common phenomenon among pups because poop is full of nutrients.

And this is just the beginning.

On the other hand,

  • My house does not smell of pee anymore because the house training was mostly hassle free. The first week was difficult and I spent hours in the loo begging her to poop. The 2nd week, we took her to the loo every 2 hours. Even at night. And there were zero accidents. During week 3 we got a little careless and she had a few accidents. Week 4 onwards, she runs to the loo herself when she has to pee or poop. Even at night, she doesn’t wake me to pee or poop. She will go by herself. I wonder if she is a prodigy or are all golden retrievers this smart. So much better than a human baby who are perfectly useless for the first few years.

  • She loves being praised and we didn’t have to use any treats for house training. We praise her like she is our queen after every bathroom break.

  • While she doesn’t sleep through the night, she has stopped waking me every 2 hours. We also wanted her to sleep away from our room to reduce her dependence on us and to maintain our space and privacy.

–¬† She likes to guard her one true love at night – her food and sleeps outside the kitchen door. Though, we are working on getting her to move away from there because it is inconvenient.

  • She is scared of outdoors and I make it a point to take her to the park in the complex once or twice everyday. She is getting socialized to kids, noise, people of all sizes and ages and to vehicles.

  • She sleeps from 9 am to 12 noon and from 3 to 6 pm. After every meal, she is most active and wants to play atleast for an hour. That is the time she is in a destructive mood and since the timing is predictable, we are prepared for it. My day starts at 6 am with feeding her, taking her to the park, grooming her and then KC or househelp take over while I get dressed for work. Once am back from work, either KC and I play with her, feed her and she falls asleep by 9.30/10 pm.

  • She loves playing with a small mineral water bottle. Am surprised at how strong they are. Not one hole in the bottle in 3 weeks. Her other favourite toy is a rope toy and she loves playing tug.

  • She barks or whines only when she is uncomfortable. All the websites online will tell you to ignore the whining/barking to avoid making it a habit. I had a long conversation with Mann about this because I want her Barfi to vocalise her discomfort. It is ok to bark when she has pooped in the balcony and wants to let us know. It is ok to whine when the ribbon on her balloon has come off and she wants us to tie it. I don’t want to shut off her communication with us. She isn’t a beagle who will howl/bark all the time.

My major worry was if we would be able to manage with our hectic schedule but so far, it has been fine. There is a long, long way to go because the whole world is a new place for her but I guess we are up for the challenge.

This is me when am exhausted on some days:

“I will go home and crash at 7/8 pm. Got no energy for anything”

But also me at 7/8 pm:

“Barfi, who wants to play? Let’s play. Let’s play”.

Can’t wait for her teenage years which will make the puppy phase feel like a cakewalk.


Adoption vs Breeding

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Last year when I took a break from work, it seemed like the right time to add a dog to the family. It was something we had been contemplating for a while but our lifestyle didn’t allow it. Puppies are a lot of work and since there were 2-3 months between jobs, adopting an adult dog who could be trained to stay home on his/her own seemed like the best option. With so many dogs up for adoption, what could go wrong?

I spoke to boarding house owners, animal rights activists, dog trainers, vets, friends with dogs and families giving up their dogs. At the end of it all, I came away with a certain amount of disgust at how this unregulated industry operates.

  • None of the stakeholders get along with the others and everyone has a strong point of view. But they are opposing views and no scope for a middle path. So, dog trainers insist on a temperament test and trial period before bringing a dog home permanently. Animal activists think these are ways for a trainer to earn money because all dogs are awesome.

  • A boarding house owner where a labrador was abandoned insisted that I get a trainer she recommends. While there was no issue doing that, the lady who hadn’t bothered to meet me was making such demands and it sounded fishy. The adoption fell through and even 2 months later, the dog hadn’t been adopted. What kind of an animal lover would do that?

  • Every abandoned dog had a tragic story and the animal activist would try to guilt me into bringing the labrador home. On one occasion, I travelled all the way to Kharghar. The door of the flat was opened by a fat, shirtless man who was probably the househelp. The parent of the dog wasn’t home and hadn’t even informed me about his absence. The huge labrador had a hole on his chest. Another labrador had been abandoned outside the Cox and Kings office at Fort. The employees are animal lovers and they took him in. He was kept on leash near the reception, fed at regular intervals and taken out for walks. The security guard took care of him on the weekends.

  • Fosters and activists wanted to get the dogs adopted as soon as possible since they live in tiny apartments with one dog already. They don’t get paid to take care of these dogs. So, they wouldn’t give you the complete picture about any behavior issues, opposed temperament test and trial period. You could meet the dog once and just take him home. Even a house check of the prospective adoptee may not be done.

  • There are 3 important things to consider about a dog:

1) The breed: Every breed has a certain characteristic and they have to match your requirements. Like, beagles are hyperactive, pugs overheat very soon and can’t be taken out for long walks, golden retrievers love spending time with their families, indies are low maintenance.

2) Temperament : This is the nature of the dog, irrespective of the breed. So, male and female dogs have a difference in temperament. The dogs are born with a certain temperament but it can be acquired as well. Example, aggression as a trait can be genetic or acquired. A dog trainer can help identify the temperament and help you work towards avoiding future behavior problems. Like, we are working with the trainer to avoid food aggression at a later stage.

3) Health : Indies are very resilient and evolved to live in Indian conditions but most breeds are prone to health issues.

Pros and cons of adopting a dog :

Pros :

  • An abandoned dog gets a loving home

  • They are usually house trained and you can find a dog who matches your lifestyle. You can either bring a dog who loves outdoor activities or one who loves being a sloth.

  • Adult dogs can be trained to stay on their own when you go to work. They can hold their bladder for many hours and need to be outdoors only 2-3 times a day.

  • If you are lucky, you will find a fully trained dog and the transition will be smooth.

Cons :

  • Most of these dogs have had fucked up owners. They were bought from puppy shops with backyard breeders. And the owners didn’t socialize or train them. When the behavior problems were magnified, they were abandoned. Or the family shifted cities/countries and didn’t take them along. Most of them have behavior problems and it takes a dog 3 weeks in a new home to open up. The activists and fosters will never tell you about the behavior problems and these lead to failed adoptions when they are returned again.

  • Such dogs need an experienced family. Those who understand a dog and can work with a trainer on those issues. First time dog parents will be unprepared for the responsibility.

  • Their medical history and health issues will not be available. Neither will the activists let you get them checked from a vet so you are sure you are bringing home a healthy dog. Unless you are taking the dog from the actual parents, this is a matter of luck.

We brought home a 1 year old beagle from his parents for a trial period. They had bought him from a breeder without any research because they are small dogs. He had not been socialized or trained and the family was unwilling to put in effort. The 4 days that he was with us were extremely tough. The beagle couldn’t walk on a leash without pulling. His trainer tried to push the most expensive trainer onto me but I put my foot down. On her recommendation, I hired a trainer within my budget but he didn’t turn up and stopped answering my phone after 2 days. We made him run for 2 hours everyday and he was still hyperactive. He couldn’t sleep on his own, hated being leashed, wasn’t housetrained, barked at kids and made our life miserable. Finally, I begged the trainer I had spoken to a few times and he made an impromptu visit. He suggested sending the dog back because a beagle doesn’t fit our requirements and an untrained beagle is always going to be hard work.

The break was over and a new job beckoned. But this time we decided to get a golden retriever puppy from an ethical breeder. We decided we would learn along with the puppy. I searched online and found one of the most well known breeders based in Guwahati. The difference between a backyard breeder and an ethical breeder is that the former don’t care about the dogs. It is a business for them and they don’t care about the quality of their dogs. A female is mated many, many times with a male dog irrespective of their health and temperament. The dogs are kept in terrible conditions and their responsibility ends once they sell the dogs. When the dogs cannot mate anymore or a puppy has some issue, they are put down.

On the other hand, an ethical breeder ensures dogs with the best health and temperament are mated. They retire the dogs after a few mating seasons, maintain hygiene and good living conditions, give the puppies to the best families and keep in touch with the families. Incase, someone wants to give up the dog, they find a good family for them. I spoke to this lady few times on the phone in 6 months, followed her on social media and met her 2-3 times. I met the parents of the litter she had and brought Barfi home once she was 10 weeks old. In the meantime, I contacted Shirin Merchant (most well known trainer in the country) for the recommendation of a good trainer in Kolkata. Even before finding a house in Kolkata, I had spoken to the trainer.

Even though it has been a week, we are very, very happy with Barfi and how awesome she is. She started her training one week after she came home. Because dog training is exactly like disciplining your kids. And nobody should be subjected to undisciplined kids or untrained dogs.

Everyone should adopt but only if you can take the responsibility. Else, buy a puppy from an ethical breeder. But please never buy puppies from a backyard breeder or a pets shop.


Irony loves me

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8 months back I quit a new job 4 months after joining. It was a terrible workplace and like most start ups, there were ethical compromises. The details of that decision and experience are for another blog post on another day.

In the last 6 months, every organization I had applied for jobs during the unemployment period has reached out to me. No, not the head hunters but the HR itself. And am not sure if I should laugh or cry at the irony. Sure, things worked out fine. Am working in a great place at an excellent salary in the profile I was looking for. Am surrounded by well wishers at work and my manager is a very close friend. The city is comfortable with great food, lots of travel destinations around the city and KC is with me. So, yeah. Things worked out great even though it required some compromises.

Everytime the HR contact me, I want to tell them “Where the hell were you 8 months back? What is the point now? Am not going to quit from here for a very long time” but all I say is “Am not looking for opportunities right now but let’s stay in touch. In the meantime, maybe I can refer someone for the job”.

I spent months feeling like a failure, cut off from most of my friends, lost interest in most things – gym, reading, blogging, sex and had to see a therapist to help me build back my confidence. I am still the same person. So, what is the difference between then and now? Nothing, really. Just luck. Or destiny. I don’t know. During those months I would think that there is a plan for me and I just have to wait for it to unfold. Well, I still don’t know what the plan is. I have no idea where am going to be and what am going to be doing a year down the line.

All I know is today. And maybe tomorrow. And maybe this month. That’s it.

A friend called today because she was upset. She wondered why she has only 2 or 3 people she can reach out to when she is depressed. And I thought back to my low days. I didn’t reach out to anyone. Sure, KC was there. My family didn’t nag me about being unemployed because I had broken down in front of them. But I didn’t reach out to any of my close friends. Nor did I keep up pretences due to which the friendship suffered.

All I wanted to do was stay home and somehow make it to the gym. That’s all.

A normal person would feel validated  by the sudden surge of interest but not me. Am going to find a way to crib about this as well.

  1. Good night.

Corporate assholes

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This post is about annoyances I have to deal with from non colleagues. There are many, many posts on annoying colleagues on this blog already.

1) People who promote their organization’s brand on their personal social media accounts.

You aren’t getting paid for it so why torture people who are connected to you on Facebook/IG/Twitter. That is what LinkedIn is for. Matlab, am not sure which is worse – anniversary/baby pics or ads of brands. If it was your brand, I understand why you would want to promote it so hard. But, such loyalty for an organization which treats employees like they are dispensable?

2) People who call you for competition/confidential information

This group is classified into two – those who want to gain an understanding of the category/competition/financials to help them do their job better. This is perfectly ok and am always, always available for such conversations even for acquaintances and strangers.

The 2nd class of people want this information to earn brownie points in some presentation to their organization. Which is a surprise because nobody has ever asked me to source competition information to enhance my PPT or have I been penalized for not having such information. Basically, these are people willing to put your job at stake for their careers. I am perfectly ok with giving up such friendships for my roti, kapda and makaan. Now my standard answer is “I don’t know” which isn’t completely a lie because in sales, we don’t really know much. Ignorance is bliss and I never want to give it up.

3) People who call you after 8 pm to talk about their work life.

List of things am probably doing – reading, sexting, shagging, Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hotstar, adding pretty stuff to Myntra/Ajio wishlist (and never buying it), counting my Bath and Body works candles stash, working out, stalking Rahul Khanna on IG, laundry, counting the Lindt stash in my fridge.

Your boring corporate career has lesser priority than staring at my ceiling. Nobody cares about how hard you work or the long hours you spend in corporate chutiyaap.

I am never going to be that bored in life that I will call and talk to someone about my worklife. Hell, I barely ever call and bother to keep track of gossip at workplace. Ignorance is bliss.

4) People who don’t move on once they quit an organization.

I follow a simple rule – cut off from previous organization till you are completely over it. It is like how you would deal with a breakup. Get under someone else, move on, break off contact till you are sure you have moved on. So, no phone calls gossiping about ex colleagues, avoid meeting up with anyone except those who are friends and just MOVE ON.

Rant over

Goes back to staring at the ceiling in the silence


Forgiveness

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Who came up with the term “forgive and forget”? Forgiveness, I understand as a hypothetical concept. But how do you forget? That is how history repeats itself. Over and over again. But hey, someone warned against that as well. Maybe it was the same person. But if he did forget, how did he know history is repeating itself?

Ok. Ok. That isn’t what the post is about.

When someone hurts us deeply, the fantasy is that they will realize what assholes they have been and apologize. Though, I have never apologized to anyone. Made up with them years later and tried to be a better human being with them? Sure. Apologized? No. That happens only in movies, I assumed. Until someone whose apology I had fantasized about actually said “Sorry”. Not in the way men usually do. Most men know that “Sorry” works beautifully with women. Most married men have learned this secret and they say “Sorry” at the drop of a hat. Not that kind of fake and pretend “Sorry”. But a genuine one. Out of the blue. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t being mean and nasty about how things had ended. I was at a stage where I barely remembered and nothing in my life or personality was affected by incidents that happened when I was 17+ years of age.

Instead of being gracious, my reaction was “this is too little, a little too late”. It isn’t a reaction am proud of. Very few humans are self aware and know or care when they’ve hurt someone. Let’s face it. At the core of it, we are all terrible people. We are opportunists who will hurt whoever we can to get what we want. Period. So, when someone wants to make amends for their shitty behavior, the least one can do is be polite about it. I wasn’t. Because there was nothing to forgive anymore. It didn’t matter. It would have meant more, so much more if the apology had come when I was hurting. Any scraps of kindness thrown my way would have been appreciated and made me feel better.

What is the point when that part of life feels like a distant dream? But usually fantasies come true when we stop caring about them.

That’s life.


Lost my tooth, not the wisdom

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It was 1st Jan and like an irresponsible child I mentioned to my parents the need to see a dentist. One day before my flight. One whole day after I arrived. There was a debate on whose dentist is better, Dad or Mom’s. Mom pushed hard for her guy while Dad stayed quiet. I had enough of bad dentists in Mumbai and wanted to see a good one. The appointment was taken for 5 pm. At 4:45 pm, Dad called from downstairs.

Yes, people. In small towns, one lives in big houses which have an upstairs and downstairs and those are connected by actual phones. The ground floor is Dad’s hospital. Not a clinic. An actual, fully equipped hospital. The 1st floor has more hospital rooms and an empty section has been rented (sold?) out to another doctor for his HOSPITAL (not clinic). The 2nd floor is where the house begins. The 3rd floor is the terrace converted into 3 rooms when marriage was on the cards for my sister and the 4th floor is the terrace. I am not boasting. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of her independent life in a 1bhk and the current 1900 sq feet flat seems really, really huge in comparison; am in awe that people can still live this lavishly

I use my phone’s hotspot to connect to Netflix on the TV. My parents are the last, loyal customers of BSNL. Even BSNL is now begging them to switch but dad refuses to give up. Hopefully, my constant praises of Airtel broadband means this is the last month for BSNL in that house.

Airtel, I demand an influencer fee

I turn on Soorma for Mom to watch, change out of my old Zara shrug and put on a newer (=worn less but bought around the same time) Zara cardigan because Mom criticised it. This is a habit that has been inherited. I critic KC’s clothes and make sure he is well dressed at all times. And when he is not, point it out to him. So, no shorts to a mall in Gurgaon unless they are classy and stylish. Though in Mumbai, he could wear whatever he wants because the standards are so low. Every time I have to remind him “Pretend like we will be going back to Gurgaon and keep your dressing standards high. Even in Mumbai”. Kolkata is a stylish city so we are trying to up our dressing game after a year of dressing shabbily.

Dad drives me to the dentist, like he drove me to the stadium for a morning run AND waited for me to finish my run. I am escorted everywhere like a spoiled child. My whole life I have craved for independence but in my mid 30s, this treatment makes me feel special. If any other man insisted on doing this for me, it would be very, very irritating and annoying.

The hospital is a Father-son duo practice with 2 other dentists joining them. I had seen the dentist at Raheja hospital in Mahim a few months after my issue started. She didn’t charge me, did some cleaning and gave kindergarten level advice. A month later, I was back and begged her to take money and give me some REAL advice and treatment. But she just smiled and sent me on my way.

This dentist didn’t pull any punches and said “You should get that wisdom tooth extracted”

Me : Ok. I have a flight at 4 pm but can I come early morning tomorrow?

Him : Sure

Dad : Why tomorrow? Get it done now.

Me : Wait. Hold on. I don’t even have my phone with me. (Priorities!!!)

Dad : You will board a flight few hours after a surgery tomorrow. Better to get it done now and have a whole night to recuperate. Or are your afraid?

(Nobody can manipulate you like your parents. Sometimes, knowingly. In this case, unknowingly).

Me : Of course, am not afraid. Bring on the needles. Right into my mouth. We are doing this. Right now. Who needs a few hours to mentally prepare? Not me, for sure.

The father called his son and within 15 mins, I was surrounded by 4 people peering into my mouth. I wondered what it would have been like to become a dentist. Dad’s hospital could have been converted into my practice. There would be no taxes to pay. A small town with a metro town 75 km away and a lavish lifestyle. I mean, 1.5 hours travel one way in a city like Mumbai is a daily hustle without 1/10th of the perks. This was one of the paths I could have gone down. Because admission into dental with my 12th marks was a real possibility. In fact, admission into medical was a real possibility if I didn’t have principles like not taking admission on donation. Every educated member of my family (less than 5 people) tried to convince me pursue a career in dental. But I had my heart set on journalism. I wanted to study literature and write and be a pauper sharing a flat with 10 other people in a rundown, unsafe building. Was the current life and career better than either of these paths? Is a career more fulfilling looking at unhygienic mouths vs licking dirty asses? There are no clear winners (or losers) in this comparative study.

45 mins later they were done and my wisdom tooth emerged victorious. I saw it lying on the dentist’s tray, all bloody and twisted. Dad was sitting patiently behind. He offered to pay the Father dentist but the money was turned down.

Dad : Please let me pay

Him : No. No. We won’t charge you for the skill. Do you charge for skill when we visit your hospital?

My father is a paediatrician and while he is very good, the amount of effort required for diagnosing and treating a kid doesn’t match up to how much effort the dentist put into the surgery. But he didn’t let my dad pay. And I didn’t want to offer to pay dad back because there is no way he would have let me. He would have laughed instead. “Look at this child of mine, trying to me pay me back peanuts”.

But that is how small towns work. Connections and socialising translates into a barter system which does not involve money. Dad’s free treatment to people of some social standing, relatives, acquaintances translates into my never having to stand in a queue in any government office. We get escorted to the front of the queue during voting, we sit in the AC office of the RTO guy while my driving license gets renewed etc etc. Money isn’t everything here. Our caste, religion, education, connections, social standing along with wealth is our identity. Sure, my Dad was the one who started from scratch (mostly) but his caste and religion are inherited. All of his and my mom’s efforts make our lives easier in that state. We could have done what many others do, stayed in this orbit and propelled ourselves forward. But all of us chose to leave and start new, independent lives mostly based on merit, out of reach of our parents’ influence.

On some days, it seems like the stupidest thing we have done.

On other days, not so much.


Bucket list for 2020

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I can’t enter the New Year without a to do list, so here it is:

  1. Read good books. Quality over quantity. Read 50 books I can rate 4+ out of 5 on Goodreads.
  2. Read authors of various nationalities. Get introduced to books by more authors.
  3. Try and write everyday – either in a journal or on this blog.
  4. Go on a trek this year
  5. Take a solo trip
  6. Explore all the great places in the Eastern part of the country. Make a monthly trip plan.
  7. Get back to the earlier fitness levels.
  8. Get to full form full range push ups
  9. Run 700 km this year without half marathons
  10. Run in 10 different and new cities/towns this year
  11. Bake a new recipe every month
  12. Avoid conflict with family as much as possible.
  13. Donate to a charity
  14. Stop shopping for clothes and shoes. Get to zero impulse shopping this year.
  15. Maintain a strict work life balance. Remind myself everyday that as much as I’d like it, the organization will not fall apart if I leave work on time.
  16. Take lesser bullshit from men this year. There is always scope for improvement on this front because men continue to be shitty.
  17. Avoid liqour, late nights, boring conversations and anything that takes me away from my hobbies and goals.
  18. Continue to de-clutter people from my life without guilt
  19. Network more. Network better. But with the right people.
  20. Get a dog. Top priority.

That’s it. Good night.