That Awww Moment!

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There is a stray dog that lives in the compound of our society. I have nicknamed him, Old General. He is one ugly dog. Once upon a time he must have been a handsome fellow.  But now he is mangy and his eyes are full of pus. He walks with a limp and his ear is torn and bleeding. He can’t even lift his leg to pee.

Yet, he is the undoubted leader of the stray dogs in the building. They are a pack of four. And woe betide any other dog who dares to enter the compound. The two pet dogs in the complex had better watch out.  There is a clear demarcation, a line we cannot allow our pets to cross without a leash. This is our “illaka” and that is theirs.  Or rather that is Old General’s “illaka”.

He growls at everybody. The kids are terrified of him. Their parents are terrified of him. The watchmen are terrified of him. But for some reason, whenever I see him, I just want to salute him. Every day, he fights all odds to defend his territory. In spite of everything, he is still undisputed King.

Last week, my dog Muffin, unfortunately slipped off her leash and ran into forbidden territory. In a flash, Old General was after her, followed by his faithful followers and before I could reach Muffin, they managed to corner her.  Luckily, her part husky genes saved her by way of her extra thick fur coat.

But, long after Muffin was safe home and I had stopped trembling I could still hear Old General whining in agony. I went down to check on him and found that he was much more ill than I had realised, and that the short sprint had taken a toll on him.

I was too scared to touch him myself, so I called up a contact I knew in PAL (Pet Owners and Animal Lovers, Thane) and Dr. Viveka Vatwani arrived to check him up.

What I saw was a miracle. I had warned her that he was ferocious, but she shrugged my warning aside and went in search of him. She sat down next to him and she didn’t even seem to mind the fact that he was so mangy or maggoty. She just kept talking to him calmly and checking his leg and ears.  And to my utter astonishment he actually let her pet him, whimpering like a pup, wagging his maggot ridden tail as fast as he could, licking her hand. It was as if he could sense the love and responded to it.

She asked the assistant to get him into the ambulance but it seemed he didn’t want to go. And suddenly all of his gang came and stood between him and the catcher, barking their heads off, refusing to let him take away their beloved leader.

All I could do was stand there with tears flowing down my cheeks and my heart going “AWWWW!”

That was love at so many levels!

When was the last time your heart went AWWW? When did something touch you and all you could do was feel the love, the beauty of the moment?

Do share your experience in the comments.

Religion: Binding or Blinding?

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August, September, October, the season of festivals in India! Almost every religion will have celebrated at least one festival in these months, Raksha bandhan, Ganpati, Mother Mary’s birthday, Pateti, Onam, Id…

The child in me rejoices. I love the joy, the colour, the excitement, the food, the general feeling of “all is well!” that comes with every festival. But the cynical adult in me shakes her head at the Ganesh mandals and the posts about preparations for the Mount Mary feast.

Even though I have given up organised religion, (well that is a story for another time) I’ve always been fascinated by our need for religion and the hold it has over us. And watching people at all the festivities these past few weeks has made me realise that more than anything, it is the need to connect that pulls us to religion.

Today, more than ever religion is becoming a bigger and stronger force. More and more people are turning to it because we are getting more and more alienated from each other. “The aloneness in the midst of everyone” can be overwhelming and when you go to church or the temple or the mosque, there is this feeling of belonging while still having your space. It satisfies some need in your soul. You don’t feel so alone any anymore.

And then there are the festivals designed by religion to bring people together. Whether it is Raksha bandhan, getting brother and sister to spend a day in each other’s company, reminiscing about childhood pranks, reconnecting, forgiving, loving, or community get-togethers where everyone participates in the dahi handi in the society premises or takes part in the various cultural programmes organised during Ganpati.

A typical conversation at a Ganpati programme goes something like this:

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smile back

Hi

Hi

I see you in the lift some time. You are the lady who owns the dog no?

Yes. You have a daughter no? I see you taking her to school. Which flat are you in?

I am in 202. And you?

I live in 306. What is your name?

Ankita . And you?

Sunita. Nice to meet you.

And that is how you connect and make friends.

I watch it all, I even participate and yet I sadly shake my head at the flip side of this need. It becomes so big that it overpowers us. And like everything that we come to depend on too much, it can be used against us, because while it binds us, it also blinds us.

The recent flaunting of the Supreme Court order during the occasion of dahi handi by the political big wigs is a case in point. When leaders play with the safety of people using religion to get them to blindly break rules, it is a sad day for any country.

Last week a school in Juhu had taken the initiative of asking people to donate books and stationery instead of fruit when they came for darshan of the Ganesh idol at the school premises. These would then be distributed to deserving students. The idea caught on like wild fire with many other people requesting visitors to their homes to do likewise. So far so good.

Then enters a serpent in the form of a Whatsapp message that I received, saying that this was a ploy by the Church to destroy Hindu traditions. When I confronted the person who had sent me the message and asked her why she was spreading such poison which was so not true, she replied that she was sorry and that she had not read the whole message before forwarding it blindly.

The whole incident just made me wonder how many messages we just forward blindly without taking the time to read or understand what the consequence of such a message is.

A “perceived” threat against “my” religion has to be fought against even if it means that the poor children of my religion are deprived of something they need.

A priest in the church I used to attend was put in charge of the youth. He was a great favourite and I felt he was really forward in his thinking, till one day he said, ” We have to create a programme to make our youth realise that homosexuality just cannot be tolerated.”

I wanted to ask him what happened to what Jesus asked us to do when he said, “Love one another as I love you! This is the only commandment I give unto you!”? How is creating intolerance fostering love? And because this priest is so popular with the youth and so charismatic, he is probably going to sway so many young minds towards the path of hate.

Yes, as I watch everything around happening in the name of religion, I wonder is it binding or is it blinding?

Teaching me to live

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Today is teacher’s day and when I think of teachers, what springs to mind is mom holding me with this big book on her lap reading out poems to me. I used to listen, fascinated as I looked at the page, dark blue sky, silver moon, birds flying home, a pony kicking up his heels and the words flowed like magic making that picture come alive.  A year or two later, but still before I entered school, she gave me my first Enid Blyton book and told me to read it. I was fascinated and lost in the stories and magic about golliwogs and sniggly snoggly snoooks and toys that walk and talk and fairies and elves and gnomes.

Night times meant walks with dad to Talaopali. The lake was much bigger in those days, quieter too as Thane was not so populated. There were no buildings around the lake then, just narrow lanes with shady trees. No autos or cars polluted the place. A stray tonga passed by or someone cycling past waved a hand in greeting. I must have been around three or four at that time. Dad took the time to get some quiet time and steal a smoke. Mom took the opportunity to get me out of her hair while she dealt with winding down the house for the night without my constant questions.

Dad and I sat by the lake, sometimes alone, sometimes joined by some of dad’s friends. My questions were always nonstop. “Why was there light under the water?” “It was the reflection of the lamps around the lake” “But why did the light in the water wobble when the light on land didn’t?” “Because of the ripples” “What causes ripples?” “Do you think fairies live in the water and cause the ripples when they play?”

I really don’t know how they never stopped answering my questions. (They still haven’t. Maybe because I haven’t stopped asking!)

Back home it was Grandpa’s turn. He had this huge wooden chair out in the verandah. He would sit in it, fold one leg and put me on his lap and rock me to sleep singing the most ridiculous songs. Sometimes I would lie on his lap and look at the stars and ask him to tell me stories about them and he would sing me songs about people who had died and become stars. In the midst of all of that I would fall asleep and dream of fairies who caused ripples and then flew upto the moon to sit and swing there for a while and chat with the star people.

These are the lessons that stand me in good stead today,when things go wrong, when there are ripples.My parents and grandparents,they taught me to question, to look for answers and to expect them in the most unexpected places, like fairies under the water. They taught me to look both down and up and never stop wondering. They taught me that life is truly awesome! Full of magic! They are my true teachers!