She Plays Dress Up

She wears the long face of an adult. Worry lines crease her forehead like the easy curves waves continuously retrace on sand. She sits on the couch, slumped. She is a beached whale, giant in her helplessness. She wears her hair in a careless updo her mother would disapprove of. Along the sides of her cheeks, bouncing over her springboard ears fall a silent stream of tears that chokes her. The room is dank, smelling of dust and pointlessness.

Tears on adults is worse than death. Why is she crying? Why doesn’t she know how to deal with the world? Look at how well everyone else is doing. They had seen it all, many times over. Grown women in dishevelled living rooms, struck by tears. She was a statistic to them, at best. They collected her tears in beakers and measured it out. She had overflown her quota. They had a name for her ‘condition’.

She was crying because she couldn’t feel the wetness of her tears on her skin. She couldn’t see the disarray of her hair in the mirror or smell the despair in the room. She was crying because she was drowning in all the tears she had shed but no one seemed to notice. She was crying because she didn’t want to cry.

Nobody told her they would help her. Nobody offered to wait it out with her. Nobody held her hand. Nobody saw her.

But when they came back to tattoo her forehead with her condition, she had changed. She was all smiles. Her eyes were clear and framed with kajal. Warm twirls of rouge danced on her cheeks and her house smelled of hope and babies. Her hair was long, her dress was crisp and she twittered like a dainty bird.

Nowadays her tears run from her head to her heart in an elusive underground river. Her heavy heart is drowning in the merciless liquid as the sun shines, lighting up her face. Being an adult is like playing dress-up, the best look always wins.

Feeling Pure Joy

Spotlight #koat16

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There, far away in the distance, high above the mesmerised heads, on a large dark platform, a light shone bright. It felt like that light shone only for her. It spoke to her, directly, as if in a private interaction. Its tone crumbled her heart into countless crystals but also made them all come alive. She felt its energy ride on the wave of its voice, warming the crowd; now the middle and finally the shy ones at the back.

When it hit her, she was shocked by its power. The light reeled her in but also repelled her. She felt small and naked, shaking in her boots. The light had enveloped her, like a blanket on a cold winter morning, regulating the temperature at cozy, maintaining the delectable space between sleep and wakefulness. She was fully aware of the warmth on her skin and the curve of her spine.

When the light stopped speaking and moved away, its warmth lingered like the thermal aftertaste of ginger tea. She ran towards where the light had been, craving to rekindle that connection. She could still see it. The light was visible but so far away from her that it was feeble. Brilliant yet feeble like a star. She ran with abandon, through the crowd, over them, despite them.

Suddenly the light was upon her. She was stunned by its brilliance. Its energy was dualtone–it filled her with colour and blanked her mind at once. There were no words left in her quiver of languages. Instead, she stared, open-mouthed, her thoughts stardust.

The light is kind. It adjusts its luminance to suit her eyes. Its holding her in its embrace. In its infinite grace, there is only joy. She and all her leaden worries evaporate without a trace. This is what pure joy feels like. Present but weightless and without form.

Book Review: All Those In Pain, There Is Hope

Book: Battles In The Mind
Author: Anna Chandy
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 219

Buy this book here.

She is a superwoman with a thriving career and an enviable family. She throws the best parties in town and her squeaky clean, tastefully designed home is the neighbour’s envy. She is the toast of the party. She hosts house guests for months. Not the image you would associate with a mental health issue, is it? Yet, Anna Chandy, “successful” by all definitions found herself staring at the face of failure in her mirror.

She is not alone. Earlier this year Livemint reported that “over 5 crore people suffer from depression in India” according to WHO in 2015. The same report says that over 3 crore people live with anxiety disorders. We live in a country where a case of jaundice or heart attack in the family is announced with the same aplomb as the birth of a child. But we discuss mental health issues as something that happens to someone else. Maybe in recent social memory AliaShahrukh starrer Dear Zindagi (2016) took a step in the right direction. But Anna Chandy’s Battles in the Mind is a much bolder, tangible step, opening up readers to the stark world of mental illness without the crutches fiction offers.

Anna Chandy, a mentor and counsellor, is also the first certified transactional analyst in Asia. She is also the chairperson of actor Deepika Padukone’s The Live Love Laugh Foundation setup to create mental health awareness in India. At the beginning of the book, we find Anna hunched over her refrigerator, gobbling down cold leftovers in a nightly routine that is her secret shame. While her husband and children sleep, she rises from her bed night after night, “I ate, not out of hunger, but to fill some deep void”, she says.

She delves right into the undercurrents behind her immaculate social facade. Growing up, she lived with her parents in their bad marriage. With heartbreaking honesty, Chandy describes how she as a child learned to manipulate situations as a result of being manipulated by her parents. “Keeping my parent’s marriage together was clearly my responsibility”, believed the little girl who grew up to have a strong sense of responsibility and loyalty.

Once her elder sister married outside their community, her parents always talked about Anna’s future only in terms of how good a wife and mother she would make. In a self-fulfulling prophecy, she becomes a doormat homemaker bending over backwards to make every wish come true before they were even wished for. She also turns into an emotional bully terrorising her subordinates and children. She takes in her husband’s schizophrenic brother and then her ailing father. She takes on more and more responsibility until she finds herself with her refrigerator for company.

As Anna reveals to us more of her life and its obstacles, she begins to unveil how she applies solutions from transactional analysis in her own life. Transactional analysis is a theory of personality that believes that all human beings have the capacity to think and can decide their own destiny. She introduces its concepts and uses her own life experiences to elucidate. Once she figures out a path out of the wilderness of her mind, she still has to make her way across. She tells the readers that it is a difficult journey but it’s not impossible. In her case, she puts herself first and caters to her own needs; she sheds extra weight, culls her social circle and stops being the impeccable homemaker. As she peels off layer after layer of her insecurities, a new Anna emerges.

Growing into her own, leaving behind her fears and inhibitions, she turns her misplaced sense of loyalty and responsibility around to work for her. From the little girl who was “always waiting for emergency to strike”, Anna becomes a strong woman. She is unshaken by the extreme distress of watching her daughter suffer a painful condition and nurses her back to health.

In this book she also shares the stories of some of her clients to give the reader a sense of the other contours of mental health. She includes testimonials from her family, colleagues and friends to substantiate her transformation. She often illustrates complex concepts using diagrams and worksheets giving the feel of ‘reading’ a good lecture on transactional analysis 101.

The expressed purpose of this book is to show that “you can change your script; that all baggage can be left behind”. By all means, this book is a gateway to the world of mental health, giving indications on when to ask for help. Objectively though I know not to underestimate the reader, as a student of psychology, I worry that this book will push readers to self-diagnose, which is not recommended.

Battles in the Mind is dedicated “to all those individuals who experience pain and struggle, there is hope.” I found resonance in many of Chandy’s anecdotes as it filled me with a sense of immense hope and companionship. They stayed with me for days coaxing me to review my emotionality and the reasons for the quirks in my personality.

For those swayed by such things, the foreword to this book is written by Deepika Padukone. She says, “[In] our own journeys of self-discovery, [this book] communicates, energy, resilience and hope for people struggling with various kinds of mental-health issues”. If you suspect that your recent temperament might be beyond just the blues, this book could show you the way. If nothing else, it’s an inspiring read on how a superwoman finds and heals her true self!

Buy this book here.

7 Reasons Why Anantya Tantrist Should Be Televised

Published by Harper Collins India, The Matsya Curse is second in the three-part Anantya Tantrist series by the versatile Shweta Taneja. Based in Bangalore, she is also a journalist, graphic novelist, blogger and a dear friend of mine.

Throughout the reading of this mystery novel I couldn’t shake the overwhelming impression that this was destined to be the teleseries we’ve all been waiting for. For all the binge-watchers waiting for the next jaw-dropping Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad/House of Cards/Orange is the New Black, I present my case for Anantya Tantrist, the teleseries.

1. The first chapter is to die for: Well, not literally, because it’s about an immortality ritual. Bhairava is chanting mantras. The night is ready, the yantra is set. Fear in the air is palpable like salty sea winds. The fire is dancing, immortality within reach. The holy trinity of black magic–virgins, blood and screams–are in attendance. In this dark and menacing chapter full of intrigue and action, the stage is being set by the author. Some unearthly mysteries are going to be solved by Anantya Tantrist over the next 250 pages. Is it hard to imagine this series, with exquisite outdoor scenes being made into 6 seasons with 20 episodes of 50 minutes each?

2. Anantya Tantrist, the star: Kangana Ranaut with small-town grit and a head full of curly hair plays Anantya in the movie in my head. We definitely need more of those. Anantya is the bad-mouthed, kick-ass and cocky tantrik detective, solver of supernatural crime. Like all female tantriks, she grew up in a secret ashram in Benaras, believing that her purpose was to be a muse for male tantriks to draw shakthi from. Until, she grew out of her childhood notions and took charge of her life. We could definitely use more women like that too. She also has a love interest, Neel, who is not fully ‘present’. I imagine Arjun Kapoor has the perfect look and expressionless face we need for that.

 

3. Chandrakanta 2017: Which nineties kid doesn’t love Chandrakanta? Talking about immortality, I think Anantya could be just that; Chandrakanta in new skin. As discussed, there are opportunities for outdoor shoots with sacrifices in the forest and some amazing CGI (computer-generated imagery) waiting to happen with shape-shifting, spell-binding and melting bodies. Not to mention the possibilities of imaginative makeup and costumes with the undead walking the streets and the immortals dressed in human skin. This is the series that will catapult the twenty tens into the annals of television history.

4. The Epic Connection: Without revealing too much, let me just say that we know all the immortals whatever body they are in now! And what better way to top those TRPs than to have some godly special appearances?

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5. Violence and Language: Fellow thronies, our search for a desi Game of Thrones ends today! In place of heads squishing like pumpkins we have human-blood painting. Instead of the ginormous dragons breathing fire we have a pissed-off serpent spitting venom. There are potions to replicate on instagram, mantras to merchandise on t-shirts and innovative cusswords to rival the Dothraki language. This is India’s K-pop, its ticket to the world.

6. Genre-bender: Supernatural detective thriller mystery with a female protagonist and a social message against the abuse of the underdog. This is a series we could all get behind because there’s something here for everyone.

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7. A zombie by any other name: There are undeads who fight, as always, for the wrong side. There are some special task force undeads on a mission. Who can say no to the undeads? Especially when they have a catch phrase like ‘May Maut Grant You Death’? Folks, this is the new ‘Winter is Coming’. In a supernatural twist, we also have some suicidal immortals and our detective Anantya Tantrist with a penchant for episodic trouble. Need I say more? Shoot the pilot already!

When my pleas for televising Anantya are heard by the primetime gods, may they cast Kangana Ranaut in the lead role!

Buy this book here.

Haven’t read the first book of the series? Find the Cult of Chaos here.

Book Review: Savithri’s Special Room And Other Stories Is An Agreeable ‘Family-Entertainer’

This article was first published in The News Minute on 06 June 2017.

Book: Savithri’s Special Room and Other Stories
Author: Manu Bhattathiri
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 206

Buy this book here.

Gruhathurathvam or nostalgia is a major theme in Malayalam cinema. Our migration to the ‘Gulf’ and our aspiration for civil and military services could both be probable causes but coming home or longing for home have always been popular on the silver screens of Kerala.

But in reality, the small towns we grew up in that we so pine for, have also grown up. Many of them have shed their time warp with prohibition, home delivery and the internet of things.

For those of us still yearning for those long-gone ‘simple days’ of homemade snacks and telltale maids, of toddy shops and the local drunk, the godman and black magic, Manu Bhattathiri’s short story collection, Savithri’s Special Room and Other Stories (2016) is just what the doctor ordered.

Adman author’s first fiction outing, this collection is set in a fictitious little town of Karuthupuzha in Kerala. All its nine short stories revolve around this town’s characters and the incidents in their intertwined lives.

Bhattathiri’s writing style is delightful. He makes your head swim with joy by involving all beings in his narration.

Ponappan’s Lambretta scooter that jumps over humps in the road to wake him up from his reverie. The line of crows sitting on the high voltage wire who are the first to laugh when Chacko the lineman thrashes Rappai for loitering around his house. The jackfruit tree by the theatre that suppresses a giggle when Kunjumon walks past because it knows that his wife left him for the theatre’s owner. The bedbugs that question Kunjumon’s rationale for buying low quality blankets saying, “Would you buy such cheap blankets for your mother?”

When jeering at the human condition, the author includes the whole universe in his conspiracy. Incisive in his commentary on human follies and generous with wry humour, he takes on all the preoccupations of a Malayali community including love, faith, scandal, morality, philosophy, charity and longing.
His ease with irony is evident in Paachu and the Arrogant Tuft, the comedy about Paachu the policeman who believes that policemen should evoke fear in everyone. He practices grimaces before his bedroom mirror and tasks his subordinate Chandy with spreading strategic rumours to build his aura of ferocity. The townspeople dance to the puppetry of his satirical pen and reveal to us the depths of their faith, the shallows of their misgivings; how quick they are to accuse and how slow their acceptance.

Like a picture postcard for Kerala tourism, Manu Bhattathiri’s setting is exquisite too. Karuthupuzha with its single bus service is a wonderland complete with all the tropes of a Kerala town. As one of the fundamentals of fiction, setting, be it in time or space, decides the context and the mood of the narrative. The author has clearly gone to great lengths to build an entire make-believe town full of quirky people who cleverly jetset across the book and reappear in multiple beautifully described situations.

In this scenario, is it too much for the reader to expect the author to tread off the beaten path? What is the point of building an extraordinary lifescape if only to base the same old ordinary stories there? Where is the alternate social structure or the unconventional resolutions that justify the elaborate ruse of a fictional setting?

Another missing element in Bhattathiri’s riverside Arcadia, is women with agency. Everyday women who make decisions on what to cook, who to marry or what to put up with. Except maybe Amminikutty who is cornered into defiance, all the women in the book are subservient and sacrificial, some even projecting their suppressed rage unhealthily on harmless jars of sugared raisins. They are seemingly no more than inanimate objects to whom life and men happen.

Savithri’s Special Room, the eponymous story, dwells on the frenzy of doting grandparents, grandmother in particular, preparing for the arrival of their beloved grandson on annual leave. The author captures the unchanging routine of their old lives expertly. He also describes their frugal life perfectly, the generosity they reserve for their grandson alone. However the story silences the grandmother who prepares a storeroom full of snacks for the child. Savithri remains a silent spectator as her own story sidelines her into existential acceptance.

With the imaginary town, the magical elements and unspecified time, this collection has some strong magic realist inclinations but for the narrator’s interventions. Magic realism frowns upon a visible narrator but here the author steps in often to tell us the story and denies us the opportunity to discover it for ourselves.

Interestingly, throughout the reading of this book, the protagonist in my head had Malayalam cinestar Dileep’s face. Especially in A True Liar, the story of Velu the ethical liar “who lived to lie but never lied to live”.

In early 2000s, Dileep played Meesha Madhavan, the mustache-twirling, lovable Robinhood thief who steals for need and not greed. Like Velu, he is the populist hero whose wrongs are always right, who wins over everything with poetic justice and suffers under his yoke of being the hero.

All of Manu Bhattathiri’s stories lend themselves to ‘family-entertainer’ screenplays in films where the formula is set with an agreeable plot and the applause is reserved for the punchlines and the song sequences. It’s a pity that such great writing style delivered such prosaic stories. But considering his incredible eye for detail and penchant for irony, his next book will definitely be on my to-be-read list.

Buy this book now.

Love the work of South Indian writers? Find my last book review here: KR Meera’s Writing Is Magic That Makes Everyday Stories Into Extraordinary Ones

Finding The Way To A Man’s Heart With Coffee

Book: 50 Cups of Coffee: The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr Right

Author: Khushnuma Daruwala

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 196

Buy the book here.

Meeting a stranger over coffee to discuss whether to spend their lives together is such a commonplace premise in our society, that we sometimes forget how crazy it is. Too often the mating dance is dismissed as too frivolous, but considering how much of an impact it may have on lives, it is worth looking at a little more closely. Khushnuma Daruwala’s 50 Cups of Coffee – The Woes and Throes of Finding Mr. Right is a lighthearted look at this aspect of Indian pre-matrimony. It works very well as a hilarious collection of anecdotes of a single woman in her mid-thirties meeting prospective life partners from matrimonial sites on first dates.

Witty and fast-paced, 50 Cups of Coffee is a practical book that takes love out of the equation to great results. Dia and her childhood friend Poppy are determined to discover Mr. Perfect while sipping coffee.

“if he says ‘herpes’, run. If he says ‘mummy’, run a wee bit faster”.

Daruwala’s whirlwind narrative is a caffeine shot fit for everyone who loves a breezy read. With a relatable worldview and chatty tone, this is a perfect book to curl up to on a do-nothing holiday or to pick-up at the airport. It can be very funny as well, so be prepared to receive some hard stares from co-passengers as you laugh out loud at some of her words of wisdom, like “if he says ‘herpes’, run. If he says ‘mummy’, run a wee bit faster”.

Read the full review here: Finding the Way to a Man’s Heart with Coffee

Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Current Show’ Is A Novel About The Uncertainties the Young Feel

This article was first published in The News Minute on 21 May 2017.

Book: Current Show
Author: Perumal Murugan
Publisher: Penguin Books
Translator: V. Geetha
Pages: 186

Buy this book here.

There is a scene in the television series Breaking Bad where brother-in-law cop Schrader is brewing beer in his garage. I knew right away that he would hurt himself while capping the bottles. Because Perumal Murugan wrote about the dangers of bottling soda in his book Pyre. The spell Murugan casts gives me the ability to consider the realities of his characters as my own, though it is far removed from my reality.

Who knew that there was joy in the glint of a soda bottle well-washed or the artful perfection of bottling soda until Murugan told us so? In Current Show, he made bile rise to my mouth with similar ease as he describes the theatre grounds squishy with stale urine. When he talks about the crowds for an MGR movie, I could feel the stickiness of sweat against my clothes and the push and shove of being in that crowd.

Sathivel is a poor, young soda seller at an old theatre past its prime. He sells colour soda during the interval and spends his free time with the other theatre boys, doing odd jobs or smoking ganja. Including their next meal, there are few certainties in life for the boys to rely on. Sathi’s friendship with Natesan is one of his certainties. They look out for each other, sharing food and cigarette butts. These boys are willing to get into fights, steal slippers off cine-goers, sell tickets in black and to do the bidding of anyone who will give them money, food or drugs. This is where we begin to see how poverty changes their worldview.

Their lives are without prospects. Lives lived in such abject poverty that dreams are as distant as three full meals. They live in the moment without an eye on the future. Understandably, Sathi and his friends spend all their income on instant, short-lived highs — tea, bidis or drugs. He is defined by his antipathy, an aversion to everything around him. Except Natesan. Their friendship is the silver lining that keeps Sathi going. The turn of events shakes up Sathi’s life and its certainties.

Published in Tamil as Nizhal Muttram in 1993, it was translated into English as Current Show by feminist historian V. Geetha. Though the setting of this novel is in a Tamil cinema theatre, V. Geetha does not transliterate Tamil songs. By staying clear of Tamil words in the text, she elevates the story out of its immediate surroundings, giving it universality. Together, Geetha and Murugan make us experience the heat of the Matinee show — ‘sky is white with heat’ — and the cool darkness of the theatre — “A sharp black knife of darkness greets the soda-man when he comes into the room” — with skilled ease.

V. Geetha’s translation shares Murugan’s alchemy, stringing sentences into experiences. Describing the child playing with the cigarette pack that falls out of Sathi’s pocket and its ability to be consumed by inane things, Geetha says, “Its world shrinks into the pack. The child does not look at Sathi anymore.”

Simply by descending from words like warmth, smooth and happy to die and demon, Geetha takes us to the coldest depths of Sathi’s heart in the chapter His Nose Has Been Eaten Away to a Hollow. Sathi, sleeping under the stairway hears a voice calling out his name. “He feels himself melt in the warmth of that voice. It is smooth and this makes him absurdly happy. He needs nothing, the voice is enough. It can break him down, make him do things.” It’s his father, a leper. Sathi does not want to be seen with him for fear of what the others will say. “Why can’t the old dog die? Why does this demon-father pursue him like this?” he rues. Though he almost shoos his father away, Sathi is quick to thaw when Natesan treats his grandmother poorly when she brings him food. Sathi offers her money and looks at Natesan with contempt baring his double standards and his tender heart.

As the plot progresses, modernisation is on its way to this small town with a new theatre in the works. It threatens to uproot their livelihood in a way they don’t quite understand. It’s the calm before the storm when most of the theatre-folk still believe that the new theatre will co-exist with theirs and not run them to the ground. This naivete also makes for a perfect breeding ground for exploitation. In lieu of providing a roof over their heads and a job, the owners of shops around the theatre take advantage of the boys’ ignorance. The film-reel man even manipulates Sathi with emotions to meet his sexual desires.

Murugan handles the confusion of adolescence with a clarity that is achieved only with hindsight. Whenever Sathi smokes up he thinks that he should give up on the theatre and take up the soda-man’s offer to help on his farm. But he likes the excitement of the theatre.

This is a novel about the uncertainties the young feel. We have all been there. The feeling of being trapped in your own condition. The need for change in a place that has never seen change. The frustration of living an unchanging life everyday. Not having the wisdom to see that this is not forever. This is just the current show.

Current Show will force you to pause and ponder on the impermanence of our experiences. It will make you involuntarily sending up a prayer in gratefulness. Pick up this book on a day when you feel that you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

Buy this book now.

Are you a Perumal Murugan fan? Read my review of Murugan’s Pyre here: May the Pyre Singe Some Sense Into You

 

For You, A Thousand Times Over

I was in love. The minute I laid eyes on him, I knew Max and I were meant to be together. It didn’t matter that he was old or that he hated other dogs. I love old people and strongly dislike other human interaction. He was digging his nose into my palm like he knew it was my favourite body part. I will never forget that feeling of his wet nose burrowing deep with occasional licks. I would realise later that he doesn’t let just about anyone touch his face.

It was six months ago that we brought him home for Christmas 2016. Now, I know he loves me back when he lets me cuddle him. Max is definitely not a cuddler. He hates hugs, just like me. When I hug Max he stays completely still, barely breathing. He lets me do my thing for about 30 seconds. Maybe 45 seconds if I am persistent or if he is in a good mood. Just the way I let Amma brush my hair.

Since March, I’ve had to go out of station a couple of times leaving him behind. When I am away, he lies by the kitchen door where he usually loves to watch me cook. He mopes around the rooms with one of my clothes in his mouth. When I come back, he is miffed. For the first couple of days he refuses to acknowledge me. He uses my signature silent treatment against me. I need to win back his love. It drives me nuts when he favours T over me and acts like I am invisible. And he knows that. For the next couple of days, I offer him extra treats and talk him out of the mood he is in.

Usually Maxu is a dog who loves his space. Feed him, walk him and pet him when he wants and for the rest of the day he will do his own thing. But when we have guests over, it’s another story. If there are children in the midst, I shouldn’t pick them up or hold their hands. I should stay closer to him than to the rest of them. He tolerates people for the first half an hour. And then he gets restless. For the next hour or so, T and I take turns taking him into our room to talking him into calming down. And we always fail. We’ve never hosted anyone without having to take Maxiboo out in between.

When Amma calls, she now asks after Maxkuttan too. And she has never met him and doesn’t like dogs. I tell her about how I give him buttermilk when he has a tummy upset or about how he begs for food each time we eat though he has just eaten. She knows how he hates calling bells and scares delivery boys with his ferocious bark. And then when I open the door, he takes dainty steps towards the said person’s privates for a good, long sniff. Not awkward at all. I share with her how he now lets me clean out his ear properly and will do just about anything for food. When my brother visits India, he brings toys for Maxi. And on most days, T and I catch ourselves talking about Maxooti’s poop during our meals.

Since we don’t have his records, there is very little we know about him. We don’t know how much he weighs because he won’t let us weigh him. When both of us crowd around him voluntarily, he knows it means danger. Either it’s for a bath or for putting on the muzzle for a vet visit. When we got him, we hadn’t considered the logistics of giving him a bath. We had a spare room and a bathroom and we assumed he would use both. When he refused to enter his room and the bathroom, we were quite stumped. But now we bathe him in one of our balconies. Thanks to a skin condition he’s developed, and the occasional ticks and fleas we’ve ended up bathing him every week. Not that it’s difficult. Between the both of us and a mostly cooperative Maxita, it takes under 45 minutes. But he does not like his privates or extremities touched. If it were up to him, he would only wash his tummy. I used to bathe like that as a child.

His vet is a gentle person with a genuine interest in animals. But Maxibabu turns into a crazy nutcase when we enter the clinic. An otherwise well-behaved gentle dog, Maximus starts growling and refuses to let the doctor anywhere near him. So the diagnosis is mostly based on our descriptions. And since he is old, the doctor is against strong medication or anything invasive. As a result, we don’t think he can see too well. He thinks toddlers holding their parents’ hands are dogs. His hatred of dogs makes walking him around the park an anxious ordeal. But when he thinks children are dogs and lunges at them, what we see is Maximax being blind. But what those parents see is a monster dog.

He loves picking up bone scraps off the road. I’ve tried to feed him before his walks, get him bones at home, nothing works. So now I reason with him. Yes, I am the crazy lady who talks to her dog on the road. And then he bares his teeth at me, which I’ve come to believe is the dog equivalent of an antsy teenager slamming the door. Sometimes if I try to take something out of his mouth (usually a disgusting piece of ant-eaten bone) he does a biting motion without the intention of biting. This is my cue to really back off because he is saying I am a dog that can bite if I want to but since you are diligent with your food delivery I shall give you a warning. Passersby or well-wishers tell me that this is all because he is not neutered. Well, you are not neutered either, no?

Recently, when he was put under general anaesthesia for a minor polyp removal surgery is when I realised why Amma cannot watch me get an injection. And the following fateful day, I happened to watch Marley and Me. I bawled my eyes out wondering what life would be without him. Max is not the perfect dog. He is aggressive, moody, stubborn and set in his ways. But so am I.

I wrote about Max days after we brought him home. Find it here: Max

She has a lifestyle disorder

An animation of 40K paintings children made about global warming #koat16

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Today, the sun is not yet overhead but she’s already fed up. Fed up of not doing. Fed up of the news in the media. Fed up of the grains she eats. Fed up of the thick smog behind her eyes. Tomorrow is a new day, if she gets through today. It could be that rare burst of volcanic activity–cleaning, eating, planning. Or just the usual; another day of procrastination.

When she thinks of freedom she thinks of white doves flying off from the confines of a hanging metal cage against a black background leaving the tricolour in its wake–yes, like all the independence day imagery out there. Along with her drawing sheets, she has also traced that image onto her brain. However, she didn’t realise then that white doves are not alone in their freedom. There are other birds in the sky. A whole lot of them. True that white doves fly in pure, white, sweeping flocks with no room for discolouration. But there are also birds that don’t fly in flocks. And birds that don’t fly at all. You have to be a white dove to fly with the white doves. Not a parrot. Not an eagle. Not a sparrow. And definitely not a fowl.

She was a fowl. A scraggly one with indiscriminately multi-coloured feathers and no distinguishable feature. She found her own dreams of flying laughable. She lived on a farm, roosting in the bushes behind the tree, capable only of flying onto the fence and perching there undecided. Should she go off into the big bad world not knowing where her next meal will come from? Or should she remain cooing in the calm of her familiar routine?

When had they taught everyone else to deal with the world? She felt like she was looking in on a world with rules that didn’t make any sense. She felt excluded and alien. Logic was a squiggly worm just beyond her reach. How do these other fowls know what to do? How do they go about they mundane business as if it were the most exciting undertaking? Why should she follow rules that didn’t apply to males? Why should she pay taxes for trees to be cut and lakes to foam? Why should she bring eggs into such a world? There were no answers. And the questions were reducing her visibility.

She lives in hope that one fine morning, the smog behind her eyes will lift and she will fly up, up and away to perch on a weightless cloud of clarity. This hope sends her to bed at night but also wakes her up every morning to be just another fowl. On some days, the same hope makes her kick indecision off the fence and make a flight of faith. But on other days hope tells her that the trick is in setting yourself up for success. Hope also says that success is in knowing when to let go. Right under the nose all these suggestions, indecision was slowly eating her up inside, giving her deadly ulcers, a lifestyle disorder.

Like this post? Check out the previous one from the She Series here.

She Cleanses

Summer is mint-lime-cooler time! #happyweekend #summerdrinks #summeriscoming

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She was a hoarder. A hoarder of feelings. Every emotion she felt joined a pile in her heart.

When the heart pile grew too heavy making her heart sink, she compressed them and sent them away to be composted into memories in the minute wrinkles and folds of her brain. She would call on them later with smells, food and music.

She imagined her brain to be an endless landfill capable of infinite tricks. The ultimate resting place where all emotion–vile, virtuous and vain–rolled over each other in deep, companionable sleep. But there are days when these alleyways get clogged by the truckloads of feelings waiting to be dumped. Thankfully, her feelings like her sleep, smell like bedsheets. The fragrance is officially called Linen and Sky.

When the sinews of her brain city get backed up with compressed feeling cubes that smell like designer perfection, some cubes were bound to fall out of the trucks and litter the streets. The delectably fragrant spillage always hypnotised her brain into a dark, brooding mood. And its on days like these that the trucks were rerouted to purgatory to be put away till they could be properly put away.

Down there in the fat cells of her midlands, nothing much happens. Ever. It’s a lot of abandoned cubes sticking out like cacti in the desert sands of time. This purgatory is their hell for now. Behind the backs of calorie-counting cow-worshippers, the hinterland grows lawless and distends accommodating more degenerates. In time, this protruding landmass begins to wobble dangerously.

Each time the belly wobbles, some renegades jump the fence and go hitchhiking across the expanse of her body. It’s not like anyone is watching them. Sometimes in the steep mountains of her arms or thighs, the plateaus of her lower back or along the shore of her ankles, they pitch tent. Wherever they stop and linger, they cause trouble.
Be that as it may, she occasionally comes alive in the torrential rigorousness that rains in sheet after cleansing sheet of wellness from god knows where. Without warning, she begins to wake up early, prioritising exercise and eating healthy. She’s excited about cleanliness, order, art, books, pickling and even talking.
There is a upturn in the air, much like a beach on a bright, summer day in an otherwise cold country. A flurry of activity clears up the brain, reduces the wobbly bulge, balms the aches and calms the mind. When the rain ends, as it must, the cleanse is complete and she is ready for the next onslaught to begin.