Friday, 23 August 2019


This blog is not my story. It is kind of a second-hand story, for it has been taken from Other Half’s repertoire of life experiences.
Two days back he returned from his evening round of golf and announced to me, “By Jove, Golfie has really grown!!!” The delight in his voice spilled over onto his smile and eyes shining, he remarked, “He is a now a big strapping fella, full of health and life…”
So then, this story is actually about Golfie. And his saviour, Sandy Boy. First let me start with Golfie and in due course, the story will on its own, run into Sandy Boy.

Golfie is this stray Indie dog, muddy brown in colour; and when I had happened to meet him a few months back, he was a just a toddler- a scrawny little thing with ribs sticking out from his emaciated frame and a thin, almost hairless tail. But in spite of his poor health, he was a friendly little fellow with a furiously wagging tail and adoration of the entire human race dancing in his great liquid eyes. He was still recovering from his illness and hence the scrawny look but everything about him shouted that he would soon recover.

Golfie had been discovered about a month previously, a malnourished decrepit little mongrel pup dying under a shrub on the Golf course by Other Half and his three golf buddies. It had looked like the dreaded Parvo viral diarrhoea to Other Half and he had declared that the pup would surely succumb soon if not treated. It was then, as if on a whim, Sandy Boy had announced: I will take the pup with me. Everyone was enormously surprised and to explain why, I must tell you a little about Sandy Boy.

Sandy Boy is the archetypal soldier: tall, sturdy, gruff, dispassionate. And he disliked dogs wholeheartedly. He was not scared of them but he did not like them. At all. But for some inexplicable reason, that crucial day he offered to adopt that dying pup and nurse it back to health. As they say, God does move in mysterious ways.

Once adopted the little dog had to be given a name and what was more apt for he who was found on the Golf Course than “Golfie”. So Golfie was christened ‘Golfie’ and he recovered from that dreaded parvo to bloom into a beautiful Indie under Sandy Boy’s care.

Golfie’s little story with its happy ending makes me think: compassion is the most precious and the most beautiful of all human emotions. I rate it even higher than love, for love has its own agenda that is not always selfless. Compassion on the contrary, is the purest form of altruism and hence, automatically superior. It is the emotion that defines the humanity of Homo sapiens and ensures that, in spite of all the bad around us, the world still goes on.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019


I travelled from the capital back to my home a few days back. The forbidding cost and the vagaries of weather makes air travel fraught with uncertainties in this sector and therefore the safest bet is the Volvo, two by two AC sleeper coach. It’s pretty comfortable too and therefore I always travel by it whenever I need to visit the Capital.
The HIMSUTA is an overnight bus and stops somewhere beyond Panipat for the dinner break. This place is kind of a motel cum Food Court, though I never eat anything there for the prices are beyond unreasonable. But I do use the washroom, for these are reasonably neat. This time too I headed for the ladies’ room to freshen up. The restroom is tucked in one corner but is pretty spacious with large mirrors, clean washbasins with running water and almost spotless toilets. As I walked in, I noticed a woman sitting on the floor within the washroom premise along with a young girl who looked to be her daughter. I assumed she was the washroom attendant and I was correct.

I used the cubicle just opposite to where she was sitting and when I emerged, she called out: “Didi Didi…..paani chalaya….?”
I was headed for the washbasins and though I heard her, I didn’t think she was addressing me. As I freshened my face, she called out again, “ O Didi…!

This time I looked at her and gesticulated, “Kya?”
She asked “Paani chalaya?”
At first, I couldn’t believe my ears: Was she really asking me whether I had flushed?????????????
I repeated, “Kya?” This time my voice was a tone higher.
She asked, “Paani chalaaya Didi?”
I felt the indignation, the offended gall rise up my throat and pound in my ears: What the hell!
I answered her icily, “Haan chala diya!”
She muttered “Accha.” But she was not satisfied. She asked her daughter, pointing to the cubicle I had just left: “Ja dekh kar aa.”
I washed my face, patted it dry, powdered and painted it into shape as if nothing had happened, but I was not done with her.
‘How the hell did this two-bit safaiwali ask me whether I had flushed or not?’ Went the voice in my head. ‘Me, Doctor Saab, Colonel Saab and what not, me the impeccable pillar of society?’
I walked past her, the affront thudding in my temples. As I crossed her, I spat out through clenched teeth, “Tassaali ho gayee?” The little girl looked frightened by the unprecedented viciousness in my voice while the mother only gave me a resigned look as I stamped out, fuming with indignation.
My sister had packed a lovely dinner for me but its pleasure was kind of lost to me. As the bus began moving through the dark of the night, I pondered over what had just happened. That safaiwali attendant was not to blame, not in the least. And my hoity toity high horse indignation was totally uncalled for and completely wrong. Think about it: How many countries there are on this planet that needed to employ someone at restrooms solely to remind women using it to flush?
We, Indian women, educated, well read, sophisticated; we with our designer clothes and designer handbags filled with expensive perfumed wipes and handwashes and sanitary sprays, we who scrunched up our noses with disdain at the mention of public restrooms, calling them dirty and stinking, we did not flush after using public toilets.
Why? Because it was not our home and vaise kya phark padta hai? Yeh to vaise hi gande rehte hain and ise saaf rakhna hamara kaam thodi hai…
And that woman sitting on the floor of the washroom, who watched thousands like us walk in and walk out, every day, strutting on our stilettoes, she knew our dirty stinking little secret………We Indian women did not flush…….

PS: Of course I had flushed!!!!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Of This and That

It’s raining here incessantly as if the Monsoons have been mandated to empty their entire cargo of clouds solely over Dharamshala. Although it is undeniably beautiful outside: all smoky and mysterious and Gothic; it does tend to get boring for one is confined to one’s coop of a home by the constant rain. And to top it all, when this coop is dark and musty and full of fungi having a field day in the humidity laden atmosphere, it does make one feel a tad bit depressed and a whole bit lethargic.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining and therefore, thanks to the depression and the lethargy, I discovered TEDx talks on YouTube. Impressed by these thought-provoking discourses on varied thought-provoking topics, I snooped around the Internet and learnt that the TED is a non-profit (??) organisation that deals with ideas and their dissemination. I binge watched a few TEDx talks viz. one by Sue Klebold, mother of the Columbine High School shooter, another by Monica Lewinsky (yes, she of the Bill Clinton fame), a talk on laughter by a cute Neuroscientist about how it comes in two forms - social and spontaneous and one called “A Queer Vison of Love and Marriage” by a queer married African American couple. I say queer, not because the husband was a transgender man (a ‘trans’, who had transitioned from a woman to a man) and the wife a heterosexual woman, but because such a union is unusual, strange. I would never use the term to refer to their sexual orientation for it is derogatory and I personally harbour no prejudices against the LGBT community. Absolutely none, even though I work in an institution which has absolutely no acceptance of such orientations and where the only connotations I have encountered are either loud crude jokes or scandalised silences. But I am definitely curious and insanely so, for being a cis woman (that’s the trending term for those heterosexual), I cannot quite figure out how someone could be attracted to another of the same gender. So it was only avid curiosity that led me to continue listening to them, but after the first one and half minutes, I was hooked. Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan were warm, eloquent, humorous, poetic and very much in love; and there was something mesmerising about the way they spoke of love and humanity and the path towards inclusivity. They talked about many issues, all pertinent; but what caught itself in the brambles of my soul was one beautiful line spoken by Kim Milan, the wife. She said: “we are creating a world we have literally never seen before, organising families based on love and NOT on blood….” Immediately, something I had heard or maybe read many years earlier came to mind: the ex Miss Universe and the beautiful Sushmita Sen telling her adopted daughter Renee about how she was born, not from her mother's womb but from her heart.

Of all the beautiful things that Kim Milan spoke about, it was this one line that echoed through my mind because in it I found an echo of my present state: you could say my family was kinda queer too, with two dogs instead of children and therefore based on love and not on blood.

I think the problem with the world is that it doesn’t quite understand love. It understands only logic and therefore gives legitimacy to the ties of blood and or as in the case of the LGBTQ community, the conventional heterosexual relationship. And because it cannot explain or figure out the workings and algorithms of love, it is either suspicious or it simply derides and declares these ties as illegitimate.

Case in point was our application to buy land here in Himachal Pradesh. (Now don’t say: kahan se kahan kheench rahin hai. Do listen me out).
I have already written about the draconian Section 118 under which no outsider may buy land in Himachal. In case you read my blogs, you would know of how my application for permission to buy land in Himachal was rudely rejected by the govt of the State. Well, determined to fight it till the end, we drove all the way to Shimla to pursue our case with the state machinery there. At Shimla, we were told that the only reason why our application was rejected was because the bureaucrats could not understand why we wanted to settle down in Himachal at all.
“Aap to Bangal ke hain…..why Himachal? Itni dur ghar se?’ Asked the Babu in the office, his face wearing a genuinely puzzled expression.
“We love your State.” I naively tried to explain to him. “It’s such a divinely beautiful place, God’s own country….” I told him earnestly, enthusiastically. He stared back at me, face blank. He could not understand why I would want to settle down in a place just because it was beautiful.

“Ghar aapka kalkatte mein hai….”, he said, as if trying to drill some sense into me. He understood the ties of blood, but could not fathom the ties of love. I could explain further, but good sense prevailed and I desisted. Other Half and his friend took over from me quickly, before I could wreak more damage. They then put forward reasons to the Babu using semantics he could understand: things like post-retirement medical practice opportunities and other such prosaic things.

Our application is still languishing in Shimla, awaiting reconsideration and the prospects do not seem too bright.

And that is why Kim Milan’s words touched my heart. And that is why people like the Milans, however abhorrent to the mainstream consciousness, are essential in these times, for they are going about creating a different world, a world we have literally never seen before, a world organised not on the basis of blood but of love….....

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...