Friday, 30 January 2015

Where have all the Kabuliwallahs gone?

I had read ‘Kabuliwallah’, Rabindranath Tagore’s poignant story of a wandering Pathan trader, as part of my school curricula. Funnily, I had not read it in the original Bengali which is my mother tongue, but in Hindi, the story being a chapter in my Hindi Literature course book. But that had not mattered at all, because simply written and easy to absorb, ‘Kabuliwallah’ was one chapter that we were all happy to take exam questions on. And exams questions were what mattered in those days, especially with respect to Hindi and specifically Hindi grammar ( a subject which with it dangerous habit of assigning gender to non living things like tables and chairs, remains a mystery to me till this day)

I have always been fond of reading and in those days I would make it a point to read up both my English and Hindi literature books even before the school reopened for the new session. I would read them, not as chapters to keep ahead of my classmates but as story books, simply for the pure joy of reading. And so I had read ‘Kabuliwallah’ too, long before our Hindi teacher took it up as course material. I had been moved by the bond of affection that blossomed between the ‘Kabuliwallah’, an Afghan dry fruits seller presumably from Kabul and the little girl called Minnie. Aided by Tagore’s vivid narrative, I would picture in my child’s mind the large Afghan dressed in his typical Pathani suit, his broken Hindi coloured with his native Pashto, chatting with the cocky little kid over handfuls of kishmish and kaju. And when, at the end of the story, the now grown up Minnie is unable to recognise and acknowledge her old friend, I would actually feel miffed with the girl and indignantly question as to how one could forget so easily.

And to this day, I have always pictured an Afghan in my mind as this giant with the gentle heart, the ‘Kabuliwallah’ who carries in his jhola an imprint of his child’s palm and for their smiles, bribes little kids with fistfuls of kaju, kishmish, akhrot and khubani .......

“On 16 December 2014, 9 gunmen conducted a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. The militants entered the school and opened fire on school staff and children, killing 145 people, including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. Two of the gunmen were Afghani.”
             Can you tell me where the Kabuliwallahs have all gone ?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hitchhiking in Hooghly

           Murphy’s Law says: ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’. My friend, Wiki P adds that this phenomenon is caused by the ‘perversity of the universe’. After 42 years on this planet, of which a large chunk was spent suffering under the yoke of this ‘perversity’, I feel sufficiently qualified to add a corollary to this theorem. I call it “Aibee’s Corollary to the Murphy’s Law” and it goes thus: ‘If you had the temerity to think that nothing can go wrong, something will!’

Recently, we (i.e. the Other Half and me) had an early morning flight to catch from Kolkata to Delhi. Since we were not based in Kolkata proper but at one of the numerous Bong-towns that cluster protectively around Kolkata, we decided, that instead of taking the risk of blundering around at unearthly hours of the morning, we would prudently move to the airport the night before and camp at the airport itself for the night. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, we had booked the bus tickets well in advance, packed a ‘dobole’ bed sheet for the ‘camping in the airport’ part, squeezed in a tiffin box with luchie and aloor torkari (a Bong food staple for journeys), pushed in a polythene bag with some last minute fish fries and bundled ourselves onto the five pm South Bengal State Transport Special, direct for Airport Gate No 1.

Right at the beginning of the journey, something unusual happened, a portent of the things to come that I confess, I had totally missed. As I settled down into my seat (it was No 23, the window-side half of a two-seater), a young man who had been hovering in the background announced to my Other Half, “24 is mine!” Other Half, in a manner that was suspiciously and uncharacteristically mild, suggested that a relook of both their tickets could clear the matter. As for myself, after a quick & covert once-over of the young man in question and deciding that he was too “shondesh”y for my tastes, I joined in the ticket-‘re-look’. Strangely, both his and Other Half’s tickets clearly said ‘No 24’ and ‘five pm’, leaving all three of us flummoxed. So Other Half handed over the ticket to the final adjudicating authority, the conductor. The conductor after cursory look dismissed the whole matter with a deprecating nod at the young man, “This ticket was for yesterday!’  In silent triumph, Other Half promptly re-claimed No 24 as the young man retreated into the belly of the bus, duly subdued .

Soon the bus took off and as I snuggled back into the seat, I could not help but wonder “What if it had been our ticket that was of the wrong date?” With the successful resolve of this initial snag, things seemed to look real good for the rest of our journey. The inside of the bus was warm even in this chilly winter evening, the seats did not lack comfort, our luggage (all 80 kgs of it) was snugly secured and the bus which was now hurtling through the darkness with the comforting speed of Harry Potters’s ‘Knight Bus’, promised to drop us at Airport Gate No 1 well within the next three hours. So as I closed my eyes in complete satisfaction at the state of things, I made the fatal mistake of thinking, ‘Things are moving so smoothly, nothing can go wrong now!’ and therefore set the stage for invoking of the Aibee’s Corollary..... Unbeknownst to me, the Universe was already smiling its perverse smile......

Soon we had crossed the halfway mark, and were now zooming through the busy highway, the driver manoeuvring the bus like it were a sleek 2 wheeled Yamaha RX 100 rather than the 200 kilo ( ...I think) giant on 4 wheels. I must have dozed off when the bus came to an abrupt stop, dangerously close to the stately behind of another State Transport giant. ‘Jam, biraat (huge) jam,” announced one Mr Know-it-All, who had just returned after emptying his bladder by the roadside and consequently had had a look at the extent of the jam.  “Will never clear before three hours,” added another gentleman. “Could be even till morning!” came an ominous rejoinder from a monkey-capped, mufflered Nostradamus, declared through clouds of portentous cigarette smoke. So we waited, patiently at first but as the clock ticked and as the prophesies grew more sinister, both of us became increasingly worried. Visions of missing our flight and having to fish out additional 20 grands each to book seats on the next day’s flight, danced in both our heads.

And before I knew it, I was jolted out from my comfy seat by a peremptory, “Get off!” from Other Half. Dazed, I found myself scrambling down the bus with the few pieces of luggage that I could carry and straggling after ‘Other Half’ as he hauled the heavier pieces on the highway towards some unknown destination. He settled me down in the middle of the jam of vehicles, between a huge car-carrier and a largish truck and returned to lug back the remaining luggage. So there I stood, like a zombie, right in the middle of the highway at nine o’clock on a really dark and chilly winter night, too dazed to even wonder of what the subsequent plan of action was. But Other Half was in his element. Returning victoriously with the remaining luggage, he gestured to the driver of a Matador van that was standing on the edge of the road. Immediately the cleaner of the vehicle began picking up our luggage like they were match boxes and hurling them onto the vehicle back. Before I could protest, Other Half had boarded the driver’s cabin, and dragging me in behind him, he happily announced to the driver, “Chalo Bhai.” And we were off.  No, that was an understatement. We were not just ‘off’ we were ‘offfffffff’, flying that is! The matador driver seemed to be some kind of a speed freak and he wove the van through the traffic like a maniac, sometimes wavering so close to the sides of the trucks and buses that I could spot the mud stains on their paintwork, sometimes wildly careening off the road onto the katcha side walk, sometimes shooting across to the other side of the road , right into the face of incoming traffic........, punctuating all this deathly acrobatics with his van’s horn whose guttural shriek punctured my eardrums and turned me temporarily deaf. Oh and did I mention how the moment we had boarded the van the till then impenetrable jam had cleared like a miracle and our South Bengal State Transport giant had simply shot across the road, giving us absolutely no opportunity to re-board it?  Other Half was however ready with his explanations for me, which he delivered at the top of his voice over the shriek of the horn and the rattling of all 80 kilos of luggage at the back of the truck. Fearing we could miss our flight because the jam did not show any signs of clearing, Other Half had requested the van driver if he could try and manoeuvre his van through the jam, his vehicle being small and lithe, and kindly drop us at the nearest town so that we could take a cab from there to the airport. The man had agreed without hesitation and so that was why we were where we were now, racing through the traffic. Of course, Other Half had not envisaged that the jam would clear in a jiffy the moment we had boarded the van! But I could explain that part quite confidently: Aibee Corollary!!!!

So now that the jam had cleared, Other Half requested the van driver, ‘Could you catch the bus?’ Before the words had even left his mouth, the driver had already pressed down on the pedals with vengeance and we shot out of the mass of trucks and carriers to begin a car chase so thrilling and death-defying that it could put to shame the best of Hollywood action flicks. But the effort was of no avail for our SBSTC giant was far-far beyond this little matador’s ilk. Once or twice when we did manage to catch up with the bus, our friend the van driver poked his head out of the vehicle and tried to stop the bus, yelling, “Dada, your passengers here....stop stop...” but in vain. Not one to easily give up, he changed tactics. He asked me to wave at the bus remarking, ‘Seeing ‘ladies’ the driver might stop’. So I dutifully peered out of the window and began gesticulating madly at the bus, but ‘ladies’ or no ‘ladies’, the bus was in no mood to forgive prodigal passengers. By this time, both of us had decided that, no matter, we could easily get down at the next town barely 30 km away and hire a cab which could drop us at the airport in half an hour. But the van driver took the bus’ refusal to stop personally. He began devising newer strategies to force the bus to stop, each one more deadly than the next. So, driven by our instincts of self preservation, we requested the man to drop us at the next toll plaza. He generously kept his offer of dropping us off at the next town open but we were too rattled to take it. So he dropped us off at the toll plaza, generously helping us with our luggage and reiterating his previous offer. But we thanked him and plonked ourselves at the toll plaza, hoping to see our bus. That unfortunately was not to be. The bus had probably long crossed the toll plaza, given its crazy speed and we were stranded with no cab/bus in sight and no Plan B. It was then that the toll plaza guard took pity on us and flagged down another matador, this one slightly smaller than the previous one. When we requested the driver to give us a ride into the next town, his response like that of the previous man was very forthcoming and very positive. So we plonked our luggage onto the van and but this time as the space in the driver’s cabin was limited, we sat in the van’s open back, using our suitcases as seats. And so our bright green matador went on its way, rattling and clanging happily over the highway like Dickens’ ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’. We did get numerous curious looks, from the drivers of trucks travelling on the same road, from the straggly lot of late night passers-by hurrying to their homes in the cold and also from the occasional chai-wallah warming his hands on his tiny kerosene stove. I know we looked pretty incongruous, two city slickers sitting atop branded luggage on the back of a rusty matador van in the middle of the night.......And so that is how we entered Hooghly, over the Bali bridge, the lights of the Dakkhineshwar Kali Mandir twinkling at us in amusement.

And oh, we did reach the airport well in time, albeit after midnight. And so after a filling dinner of aloor torkari, luchie and fish fry, we dutifully rolled out the ‘dobol’ bedsheet over the sparkling (but cold) granite floor of the renovated terminal of NSCB international airport and went to sleep, dreaming of chasing errant SBSTC buses in flying matador vans over the quiet Hooghly..........

And I must not forget to write a special thanks to the driver of the matador van (the stunts-man, that is) for his sheer niceness and artless eagerness to help. I do not know his name but I remember his vehicle number, WB 11C 4840 (though I must confess that when I had memorised the number I had done so as a safeguard in case of any negative incident) and I would like to simply say, ‘Thank you’. I know he is unlikely to read my post. But I hope, that for those of you who do read it, it would help to reinforce/reaffirm your faith in the innate goodness of human beings.

You would agree with me that though I have tried to look at the whole experience humorously, it was not exactly that. Being alone and stranded on a highway in the middle of the night with tons of luggage is not something that can be considered safe anywhere in the world and especially not in India. But strangely and heart-warmingly, at no point of our hitchhiking travail did we experience any negativity, not from the drivers of the vehicles who gladly gave us a ride, not from the toll plaza guards who flagged down the ride for us and especially not from the truck drivers and their staff plying on the highway. There were not even cat calls except the one time when sitting atop the matador, we heard someone calling out ‘Airport, oye airport, airport...!!!’ It was our stunts-man,  the matador driver! He had probably stopped on the way after dropping us off at the toll plaza and now back on the road, had spotted us hitching a ride atop another van. He was waving and smiling in amusement, and as we mouthed ‘thank you’, he gave one final expansive wave and zoomed off into the night. Thank you, WB 11C 4840, may your tribe increase.............

Friday, 23 January 2015

A haiku for Shillong.....

Cloud cast skies
            Pink orchids
                     And a wet green morn
                              Welcome to Shillong....


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Of the Mashi s and Pishi s

Bengalis, herein-after referred to as ‘Bongs’ (no offence meant; it’s just a term of endearment and of course it does make typing easier) are blessed with a language that is not only evolved and evocative but also sweet to the ears. And Bongs have taken this sweetness a step further with their veritable thesaurus of terms for blood relations. Let me elaborate.

While boring old English refers to the all types of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces as simply aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, Bongs have different forms of address for the different kinds of aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and all other sundry relations that can exist in a family. I am personally blessed with loads of uncles and aunts, both on my mother's and father's sides and I have different names of address for each one of them. Pan India (barring a few variations) one’s mother’s sister is a ‘Mousi/Mashi/Masi and brother a ‘Mama’, one’s father’s brother a Chacha/Kaku and sister a ‘Bua/Pishi’. Now this is ok provided you have one, or at the most two of each. What happens, if like me, you have about half a dozen of each on either side? Now addressing elders by their names is an anathema in India; hence to avoid the ensuing confusion and ‘Comedy of Error’ that is likely to arise if one had to address all aunts simply as ‘Aunt’ or all uncles as plain ‘Uncle’, Bongs have evolved this unique system of nomenclature, which though not quite standardised, has proved to be a useful working system.

Let me explain. Take my Masis (or as in Bong ‘Mashi’): as I have four of them, I address them as Boro (eldest) Mashi, Mejo (the second) Mashi, Shejo (the third) Mashi and Choto (the youngest) Mashi. But the issue doesn’t end there. All Shejos i.e. the third sibling, especially women, for some obscure reason don’t like being a ‘Shejo’. So I have been instructed to address her as ‘Phul’ Mashi, the ‘phul’ meaning ‘flower’ (and not ‘full’ and definitely not ‘fool’, in case you were thinking so). I have still not met my Phul Mashi as she lives in another country and as a child, because of the Phul before her name, I would actually visualise her as this forest nymph decked in flowery tiaras with long strings of blossoms trailing down her waist length hair! And for the record, I also have a ‘Phul’ Mama; but I must confess that even as a child, I could never quite bring myself to visualise him with flowers in his hair. He is pretty active on the World Wide Web now and I think when he reads this, he would be grateful to me for this little courtesy.

My Shejo Pishi also did not like to called a ‘Shejo’; so I had to address her as Choto (youngest) Pishi. Now that created a problem because it meant that the real youngest Pishi now had her bona-fide name usurped. So I was instructed to refer to her as “Mishti’ (Sweet) Pishi; this subtle flattery helping to keep her in good humour and cleverly averting a potential sibling war.

For the fourth in line, Bongs have another colourful term, “Ranga” i.e. ‘vibrant’ or ‘Colourful’. Now unfortunately because my mother has only four sisters, I do not have a ‘Colourful’ Mashi; but because my father has five sisters, I do have a ‘Colourful’ Pishi. And true to her name, she is a rainbow hued personality, the perfect ‘Ranga’. In stark contrast, my Ranga Mama is a rather quiet person, the picture of sobriety and very very unlike his name.

As for the ‘Chachas’ or ‘Kakus’ i.e. ones father’s brothers: the rule is simple. In case the brother is older to your Dad, he is to be addressed as Jethu i.e. ‘Boro Jethu’, ‘Mejo Jethu’ and so on and so forth. In case, he is younger to your Dad, you call him ‘Boro Kaku’, ‘Mejo Kaku’ etc. The only corruption of this rule is with respect to the ‘Choto Kakus’. This poor chap has often to bear the ignominy of being called ‘Chotka’, an abbreviated form of ‘Choto-Kaku’, this license being taken because of him being the youngest and therefore unlikely to throw his weight around his nephews and nieces over a name.  

With the two-child norm now firmly in place in generally all Bong households, the need for this nomenclature system is fast disappearing. Most present day Bong families have usually one or two kids, rarely three (sometimes even none) and the ‘ranga’s, ‘phul’s and ‘choto’s are fading from the collective Bong consciousness. I know that the sacrifice of a few  ‘ranga’ , ‘phul’ and ‘choto’ on the altar of population control is the necessity of our times, but one does feel a little nostalgic for them.  And then when our nephew addresses Other Half ( who by the way is his ‘Boro Jethu’) as ‘Boss’, I can only echo Dylan ‘...the times they are a-changin....’!

Monday, 19 January 2015

'K'hronicles of Kaloo:II

I attended this Catholic school run by missionary nuns and our morning assembly consisted of a whole litany of prayers, beginning with the well known ‘Our Father who art in heaven..’ and ending with the section sister- in-charge solemnly enunciating, ‘God, please bless my daddy, my mommy, my brother and my sister ......and so on and so forth.’ With the guileless irreverence of preteens, we would snigger and giggle over this particular invocation, partly because very few of us actually called our parents Mommy and Daddy, the trend in those days being to address them in our respective mother tongues and partly because the lady had this funny accent that never failed to tickle our laughter bone. 

But there was one prayer that remains in my memory and that is the one to the Guardian Angel. It ran thus: ‘Holy Guardian Angel, protect us and keep us from all harm.”As a young teen, I never really felt the import of this tiny two-lined prayer, but over the years, when faced with difficult circumstances that life is wont to throw up at you, I found myself automatically uttering it. I also began wondering about this entity called the ‘Guardian Angel’, said to be an angel sent by God to guide and protect each human in times of need and distress. Though there is no similar belief system in Hinduism, I feel the concept has a very secular, very universal appeal. Is it not comforting to believe that there is a higher being especially earmarked for each of us, something like a tailor-made GPS tracker with the added role of protecting and guiding you through this difficult journey called ‘life’? I have got this streak of the pragmatist in me and with regards to this Guardian Angel concept I generally oscillate between belief and disbelief; meaning, that while I will vociferously tell you that I don’t believe in this ‘childish prattle’, you can find me surreptitiously murmuring the prayer when moving from the bedroom to the bathroom at three am during a powercut......!

I took to taking evening walks while at Shillong, long vigorous ones lasting more than an hour. It is very pleasant to walk in Shillong, on quiet roads lined with tall Khasia pines, the occasional stately cedar and maybe even a cypress, its branches drooping in some unknown but saintly sorrow.  The roads where I walked were generally devoid of traffic and pedestrians and I took to plugging on my Ipod to my ears. I would begin my walk at around five thirty in the evening and finish by sixty thirty/seven, by when it would have generally turned pitch dark, the night coming earlier in this Eastern hill town. In the beginning I would often find Kaloo gallivanting in the neighbourhood with her gang and on spotting me she would greet me, her violently wagging tail displaying her eagerness. If I called out to her she would obligingly detach herself from her friends and come trotting after me. Soon, she took to waiting outside my door at five thirty sharp, ready for the walk. Then something really interesting happened. One day, being little fatigued after hosting lunch for some friends, I decided I would not go for the evening’s walk. I was sitting and watching television, when I heard Kaloo mewling loudly outside my bedroom door and furiously scratching on the door pane. Wondering what the problem was, I peeked outside. She gave a short jump on seeing me and then ran outside and then back again, trying to convey something. In a flash I realised what she wanted; she wanted me to go for the walk! Feeling slightly abashed at being thus reprimanded for my laziness by a dog, I promptly changed into my tracks and sneakers and soon we were on the familiar trail, Kaloo trotting behind me.  

And thus the routine was set, Kaloo accompanying me on my evenings walks following which she retired to her armchair for the night. She would only leave it to have a bit o' dinner outside my kitchen door and would be back; and I often heard her give short sharp yaps as she dreamt her doggy dreams. Like clockwork, she would wake me up at dawn and when I let her out, she would promptly disappear into the early morning mist. During this time, another black female dog joined us on our evening walks, a dog I named Julie. I think my entourage presented quite an unusual picture and am sure that the people of my neighbourhood can still recall this funny woman who took her evening walks accompanied by two scraggy looking stray dogs coloured as dark as the night in which they walked.   

One evening, I was slightly delayed by an important phone call and we began our walk rather late. It was beyond dusk and pretty dark. To top a power-cut was in place ensuring that none of the streetlights were lit. But Shillong is a safe town and I was not worried by the darkness. We traced our usual route, Kaloo and me (Julie was missing that day). At one point, I wanted to change the song on my Ipod and stopped awhile to do so. It was very dark and as I worked the Ipod controls, its sharp white glared dazzled my eyes totally and when I finally looked away from the screen, I was rendered instantly and completely blind. But I was not unduly worried and continued my walk. After a few steps, I suddenly felt my foot waving in the air. Completely lost and wondering where the ground had disappeared to, I lunged forward, seeking solid ground to place my foot on. But there was only unsupportive space and after wavering around in space, I finally lost my balance. I fell, rather gently though, almost like a ballerina settling down after a tricky twirl on one toe and  found myself seated on my haunches, on something soft and crackly. I was still blinder than the blindest bat and had no idea where I was or where the road was. I also became aware of gruff sounding male voices in the vicinity and it was then that I began panicking. I tried to scramble up, blindly grabbing for some support, my mind filled with cold dread, my thoughts frozen in icy panic. I was lost, blind and also cold now, the wet of the ground seeping in through the seat of my trousers. Fear or more appropriately, panic is a feeling that robs one of every iota of reason and I was in its clawing grip now. Through this fog of terror, I became aware of a familiar mewling...Kalooo!!! 

I reached out, still dead blind and felt the rough coat of her back. She was cooing and mewing and the familiar sound of her voice, her doggie smell and the warmth of her coat doused my panic in an instant. As reason returned, I realised, that blinded by the glare of my iPod, I had lost my sense of direction. Instead of walking on straight ahead on the road, I had veered into the storm drain that ran alongside and had fallen into it, the dried leaves and pine needles cushioning my fall. Seeing me fall thus, Kaloo had also jumped into the drain and was now circling me, egging me to get up. The drain was not deep at all and as I had fallen rather gently, I had no injury, except for an injured ego and I rose up and was soon standing on the road, adjusting my headphones, vision restored.

As I trudged back home that night, I pondered about what had just happened, the sheer unreasonable‘ness’ of my panic reaction, the violence with which that panic had gripped me, the abrupt and complete evaporation of that panic and return of reason brought on by the awareness of Kaloo’s presence..........I wondered too of Guardian Angels and whether they wore disguises, disguises of little, scrawny, black dogs with loads of attitude......         

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

'K'hronicles of Kaloo-I: B & B!

I don't exactly remember when and why Kaloo walked into my life but I distinctly remember how she walked (very confidently) into my household and claimed the second armchair on my veranda. I had been vaguely aware that there was this black, rather scrawny, still-not-adult female dog hovering around my home in Shillong, but I had really not paid it much attention. But when she took to running beside the car and prancing around us when we alighted, I was compelled to give her a name. The name that came to my head was 'Kaloo', firstly, because she was quite black and secondly and rather selfishly, I  thought that by naming her with such a 'street' kind of a name, there would be nothing personal between her and me, no compulsions of any kind of commitment, either on me or on her.  So Kaloo she remained and soon the name was picked up by the children in the neighbourhood, and one often heard a child's eager voice calling out 'Kaaalooo' as she passed by my house. And our relationship remained stagnant, limited to some tail wagging by Kaloo when I occasionally called out to her to say 'hi'.

     Then the bone- chilling, soul-numbing Shillong winter descended upon on us. There is this culture of lighting fireplaces in Shillong and though initially I was hesitant of adopting the practice, being scared of both my dogs getting poisoned by carbon monoxide and of my bedroom going up in flames, I soon realised that a bustling fireplace was the best way to beat Shillong's cruel winter. There is something very soothing, very comforting about the warm orange flames dancing in your hearth and though the fireplace is an ancient method of creating warmth, it is very very effective. If it weren't for the perils of  green house gas emissions and the depletion of forest cover, the fireplace would have been the best way to beat the winter even in places like Delhi , Shimla and the Punjab. Anyways, back to Kaloo. Each evening, as I emerged from the cocoon of a bedroom warmed by the gay fireplace , I was greeted by the sight of Kaloo lying curled up outside my kitchen door, contracted by the cold. So, one evening I let her in and offered her the second armchair of my veranda, the other being the sole property of my Labrador, Kuttush. Kaloo sniffed at the armchair's cushion and then after a friendly sniff of Kuttush, sailed on to the armchair with leap that would have shamed Nadia Comaneci with its perfection. Our relationship thus moved up a notch.

Kuttush who is like the Buddha, someone who bears malice to none and firmly believes in living and letting others live in peace, showed no objection. Next morning, at the unearthly hour of four am, I was awakened by persuasive mewlings from the veranda. Kaloo wanted to be let out to answer nature's call. So I opened the door and she pranced happily out into the crisp Shillong dawn. She returned in the evening and duly claimed her place on the second armchair. And so the routine for the next two years was set. Kaloo had come to stay.

Thus, every evening Kaloo would retire to my armchair to spend the night. And, early morning, she would be up at four without fail and could be seen roaming the streets of the neighbourhood with her coterie of neighbourhood street dogs (she was undoubtedly top dog there). She was extremely dominating, in fact a bully, and I had often seen her chasing male dogs three times her size who ran from her with tails tucked beneath their legs. Seeing her bully other dogs, I was a little apprehensive of her behaviour towards Kuttush, but I needn't have worried. She was her on her best behaviour with him so much so that Other Half would comment, "Kaloo's in love with Kuttush".

She was surprisingly gentle with human beings especially children and often I saw her trotting like a good little girl beside school children attending the school opposite my home. Sometimes she would wait at the corner for our car and as we drew abreast, she would run alongside, tail wagging. She would be back in the evening after all her gallivanting and dutifully take up her seat on the second armchair. Often, when I had guests for dinner, on spotting her dark shape lying curled up in the armchair, I would be asked, 'Oh you have got a new dog ?" and  I had to explain to them: "No, no, she just spends the night at my place, she leaves in the morning, she is not really mine". Once, on hearing my explanation, a friend humorously remarked, "Bed and Breakfast, eh?" The description was so apt that it stuck and I would now answer queries from curious friends about Kaloo's presence in my armchair with, "Its her B & B !"

Monday, 12 January 2015

Teething in Blogging Land

So here I am, finally in Blogging Land and the first thought that comes crowding into my head is the sheer un'poeticness' of the word 'Blog'. At one end you have budding geniuses of the 'typed' word creating masterful pieces of 'e' literature, and at the other you go and name it a 'BLOG', a word singularly lacking literary appeal. And to top that,in case you erroneously drop the vital 'L'during a frenzied course of typing, you land up in the 'bogs' ( a word which during my college days referred to that sanctum where one retreated to answer nature's call). So, ye seasoned bloggers, do give the matter some serious thought and come up with something both punchy and poetic to replace the bog ; now that was a typo, swear to you , I meant replace the 'Blog'.

Alu and the Crown God

I had rolled barely a hundred metres down the road when I spotted her gambolling in the adjoining park. "Heyy Alu," I called ou...