" Flippered "

 I have neither hated dogs nor loved them. When it comes to dogs I just felt one emotion- fear.  I  don’t exactly know why was I so scared of them.( I did once fall down of my Activa because a group of five dogs  chased me) Though  i think it was mostly because I was  absolutely not used to having them around. We have never had pets at home. Most of my relatives or even friends have never pet a dog. So I think more than anything it was the fear of the unknown.  Though today the emotion of fear has been over taken by an intense amount of love and respect for the dog specie.

My friend Sam is a Puneri who lives in Mumbai for the last ten years. He lives in a two room flat in Mumbai with his mother and his dog Flipper. When I first went for a stay over at his place I had no idea I would be welcomed by a great big dog jumping all over me. When I first entered their small house I remember feeling absolutely at home, I kept my bag down and suddenly out of nowhere Flipper came charging at me. He came in with so much force that I went straight to the ground. Sam and his then friend now fiancé Carol laughed their ass off. I on the other hand was sure that Flipper would kill me. He didn’t, we looked at each other and I guess he sensed my fear so he started licking me. I wasn’t exactly used to being licked by a dog I immediately went in for a shower.

Flipper!
 
 
 
 
Flippered!
 It was extremely difficult for me to sleep the first night. I had no doubt in my mind that Flipper hated me and would attack when everyones asleep. When till about three I didn’t see him coming I went out and checked on him. He was lying there peacefully next to Sam. I went back and slept. The next morning I got up thinking that I had wrapped my hands around a soft pillow, I held it tighter. Of course till I felt something hitting me. It was Flipper’s tail that was wagging.  Flipper was the pillow. I screamed loudly enough to wake the whole building up. Sam’s mother yelled at Sam, he had made Flipper sleep next to me to get this reaction. Well, performance delivered! Poor Flipper started barking too my yelling must have made me look crazy enough.

The morning after I sat down with Sam’s mother for tea. She sensed though I was sitting next her I was worried about Flipper coming and jumping over me. She told me to relax and told me a story, her story. ” You know, Sam’s brother John was a special child. He was mentally challenged, a little different. He was five years elder to Sam.  I had to do everything for him. He couldn’t talk, just like Flipper. He had a lung problem and I am sure that he suffered pain but he still never stopped smiling. I would cry sometimes thinking that may be I was just not doing enough things to help him.  John would realise that and come and keep his hand on my head,  as if consoling me and telling me it’s ok.  I loved John more than anything I loved but then he left us when he was fourteen. A year passed and I was completely devastated that’s when we got Flipper. Flipper could be a dog to everyone but for our family he is a son and a brother. He takes care of us more than we care for him.  There are days when I have be alone in the house but when Flipper is around I just feel so safe. He exactly knows when one of us is feeling low. He makes sure to sit around that person, just as if to say you are not alone. I am going to be right here. ”  Just then Flipper came in and sat next to aunty. I looked at him and then her and smiled. ” I see a lot of John in him. I know you might think I’m crazy but I do. Just give him a chance to love you, I assure you he will never disappoint you. He is quite literally a man’s best friend.”

  The next time I went to Sam’s I decided I will not get scared and give Flipper a chance. I rang the bell and entered the house but this time Flipper didn’t charge at me, he just came close sniffed a little, then licked and got on with his work. I was relieved, he recognised me. I started paying more attention to Flipper. I realised certain things about him. Flipper never barks when anyone in the house is asleep. He is an absolute hit with handling babies. He likes Parle – G. He has to be taken out for his morning ritual at exactly 7am. If you dont he starts howling and wagging his tail at a maddening speed. He doesn’t sleep till everyone in the house is back. He will wait and keep looking from the balcony. He cannot go for very long walks or jump up for a very long time. He had injured his legs in a freak accident some years back. When he comes back from a walk he comes home and first goes into the bathroom to wash his feet. He doesn’t like his house dirty. You have be around Flipper when he is eating, he doesn’t like to eat alone. Also he likes his biscuits fed to him by a hand and not just thrown at him. He wont eat it.

When flipper came and sat next to me, I with my heart pounding kept a hand on his body and caressed him. I felt his fur and his heartbeat. He didn’t flinch he stood there and I guess also liked it. I fed him his Parle- G biscuits and he relished them. While feeding him I had all his saliva on my fingers but I didn’t mind. I realised it was fun. Once I hit my toe really hard on the edge of a sofa. It hurt so bad that my eyes instantly started watering. Flipper saw that and he came running to me and started licking my toe. The sight was so adorable that I instantly forgot the pain. If I had any inhibitions left I lost all of them. I immediately hugged Flipper so tight that I must have choked him. But he let me hug him, I guess we both knew it was our forever wala moment. That day we sealed an unbreakable bond.

 
Since then whenever I go to Mumbai I make sure I spend one whole day with Flipper. I love him. My friends have been in complete awe of our love. I read him  a good story or listen to music with him sitting right next to me.  My love for Flipper has given the group a new inside phrase for ‘to be in love” its now “Flippered”

I am completely ‘Flippered’ , thanks to Flipper!

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Shaadi Dot Com

  I went to meet my tennis friend Sneha on a Sunday. She looked a little pre-occupied, lost in her own thoughts. . I asked her,” Whats the matter with you?” She began, ”  I am 25 years old, unmarried and I have a very worried mother. I don’t blame her, She has two daughters to wed and the eldest won is too stubborn for her liking. We had a ground breaking fight a month back and  I  cracked a deal. The middle path. I get to pursue my game  only if I agree to register myself on a matrimony site of my mothers liking.  I don’t like to see Aai  worried and unhappy. She is my weakest link. I agreed to it. I understand my mothers part of the argument, it’s her birth right to worry about my marriage and I let her do it.”

   I realized  that matrimonial sites happen to be a great hit. According to the  matrimonial site, Sneha is registered to, there are 4000 Marathi  men currently who want to get married. I find that pretty surprising. When it comes to the virtual world there are 4000 men who want to get married and in the real world there are actually relatively few. Why do these sites get such a  great response? I guess its because we live in busy times, we prefer a friends birthday party rather than a relative’s house warming party. We are too busy with our own lives and problems. Given the amount of divorces happening around every year, our well wishers and relatives  tend to be weary of suggesting bride and grooms to each other. I mean who will take the risk and the blame? Also it is the Internet revolution, you can get anything from a pair of chaddis to a would be life partner, quite literally.

 Sneha continued, ” I know  these sites are doing a great service to the nation and mankind in all. Although they really lack originality. They are a total copy of Facebook. I mean if Mark Zuckerberg decides to sue them I will be on his side. Just like there is ‘send a friend quest’ button on Facebook, there is ‘ I am interested in marrying you button’ on the site. You can chat, send each other messages and the bonus is your parents will approve of the amount of time you spend on it, unlike Facebook.”

 I laughed at her frustration and said,” I personally really don’t have a problem with  people who go for an arranged marriage. I know of a lot of couples who are perfectly happy and in love, and you might find a really nice guy, you never know. A very wise woman told me once, ” Aditi, it really doesn’t  matter if it’s a love or an arranged marriage, once you get married and start living with a man in the same house, there are a lot of adjustments to be made, and just because you know him before marriage you might think you have an advantage but let me tell you, you really don’t. All of us are on the same boat, be it a love or a arranged marriage.”

Sneha sipped her coffee, “You know me Aditi. I love to fall in love and any which way I am quite a flop on the website.  My mother  has send across at least 10 requests to men on an average and I have got just about, 5, ” I am interested in marrying you requests” all rejected by my mother, fortunately even before they reached me. Out of the 10 men, 5 have not responded, the other ten have rejected me by saying,

” She is not tall enough.”
” She is not fair enough.”
” She is just a B.A  graduate!”
” We are sorry, the kundali doesn’t match!”

” How can someone reject you even before meeting you? That’s plain unfair. I mean if I was a man I would marry you after our first coffee.” I replied.
Sneha laughed, ”   I actually jump with joy at the rejections. I mean what  am I supposed to say when I meet a completely alien guy.How exactly am I supposed to start the conversation,” XYZ, my mother thinks I should marry you?”, give me a break.”  I laughed so hard I spilt my coffee and then made some serious analysis,  “Sneha, our profile is a little too different. Everything said and done you are a sportsperson. We are not a sporting nation. We don’t understand what it takes to play a sport for your country. People still don’t understand that being a sportsperson is not a hobby, its just like pursuing a engineer’s degree, may be even tougher. People have too many misconceptions and they are hypocrites. They will applaud your achievement but they will prefer their friends son marries you rather than their own. You don’t deserve them. I will find you a good guy. Don’t you worry.”  She replied,” I am not worried, not even close. I don’t owe anybody an explanation as to why I chose to be a tennis player, and not a doctor. I mean is a doctor asked why didn’t she become a sportsperson.” We raised our cups for a toast on that.

I personally find these sites absolutely unfair.  I mean how can you judge a person on the colour of his skin, his height, how many flats he own, his education or salary. I mean a man with a Harvard degree and a penthouse could make a very bad husband and a painter who earns  ten thousand bucks every month could be a classic husband.  I find it very strange when men and women reject each other just on material grounds or physical appearance.What about the heart, what lies inside? I find it amusing and rude to reject a guy because he doesn’t have hair on his head or a flat in Pune. Needless to say I am not a fan of these sites.

Sneha continued,” I  just sometimes want to tell all the lakhs of men and women on these sites , don’t let a website decide your worth. Be proud if your dark,be proud if you are fair,  be happy if you are 5.3 feet tall, be happy if you are 6 feet tall. Be proud if you are a doctor and even prouder if you are a sportsperson.”

“The truth as I and even my mother knows  very well is this, I will marry a man I love and I will marry only when I’m absolutely convinced about it. It really doesn’t matter if I am 26 or 31.  I mean to get married because the society around us has set a certain parameter on marriage, I think is pretty stupid.”

“Sneha I have no doubts in my mind that you will fall in love with a great guy. After a while the great guy will go down on his knees, with complete confusion and fear in his mind and say, “You complete me. Will you marry me?” and you will say, ” Shut up just shut up, you had me at hello!”  and you, him and your worried mother will live happily ever after!”

“Amen to that” , said Sneha!
 Its so true, lots can happen over a cup of coffee.

Finding Swara…!!

Swara Kulkarni was born a star. Right from her time in school till her college. She danced,sang, acted,was the kho-kho team captain and also had won the college student election without any opposition. She also always managed to be top three in her class when it came to studies. She was the teacher’s darling. Everyone in her school and college knew her. Her teachers always told her that they were very sure that she would make the people of her small town very proud some day.  Swara had no doubts about that.

Swara was 22 yrs and ten days away from her final B.A. exams when her family told her it was time for her to get married. She revolted with all her might, she wanted to study more she told them. Swara’s family was not too well to do financially, aslo Swara was the eldest amongst the 4 sisters, there was too much pressure and Swara had to finally give in! She didn’t  enjoy her marriage at all she was crying all through the 3 days as she had to give her exams and get married at the same time. Swara still managed a good score.

Swara was married to Atul an engineer who saw her in one of her plays and instantly loved her. He was a good and a decent man. After marriage Atul got transferred to Bombay. Though Swara was a little uncomfortable with the thought she  was also excited about living in the big city. Bombay was a blessing in disguise for her. She loved the city the instant she put her foot on its soil. As they settled down Swara started looking for teaching jobs. Ideally she would have liked to study more but Atul did not have too many resources to fund her. After 5 months of search she finally got a job in a posh school in Bandra.

Swara flourished in that school, her lack of English skills were never a hindrance to her. She would teach Marathi and Music to 1st to 5thstandard children. Slowly and steadily she won hearts of everyone in her school, right from the kids, teachers and parents. At 26 Swara gave birth to twins Astha and Aniket. As responsibilities increased so did the expenses on the house. She managed both school and children amazingly well. She got up at 5 in the morning made everyones dabba, got out of the house at 7 took a bus, then a local and then again a bus to  reach Bandra. She would then pick her children from the day care at 3 in the afternoon and then get home do the chores of cleaning, washing, making dinner and ensuring at the same time that she spend enough time with her children and help them with their homework.

Years passed by, Atul was doing great at his job and was now drawing a handsome salary. Aastha and Aniket got into their 9 th standard. Meanwhile Aastha showed a special liking in singing. Swara put her under the best Gurus she could afford. Atul wasn’t too keen and was skeptical about singing to be taken up as a profession. But Swara knew the pain of not achieving one’s dreams so she ensured that Aastha and Aniket wouldn’t ever would have to make that sacrifice.  Aastha by the time entered her 9th had started winning singing competitions all over the city. It became increasingly difficult for Swara to handle her job, Aastha’s career and their studies. All of the family was struggling. Their would be quarrels  and tensions all the time. Swara made a decision that it was time to give up her job and give her family all her time.

Swara’s decision helped to restore the family’s sanity. It gave them a lot of support knowing that Swara would always be there for them. In a span of a few years, Atul got promoted to an executive post in his company, Aastha got a big break in a music talent show and Aniket went off to US to complete his masters. All the three of them got settled and extremely busy in their work. Swara though felt lonelier and lonelier.

It had been ten years since Swara had given up her job and become a home maker. She would see her friends and realise when she spoke to them that professionally they had achieved so many things. She always wanted to be financially independent and now she had completely lost that. She found it difficult to sleep at night. She would not raise an opinion on the family table.  She became quieter and started to remain ill. Swara would close her eyes and would hear her teachers voices in her head, telling the young Swara that she would make her town proud. When she saw herself in the mirror she realised she couldn’t do anything that  people  would remember her for. The young Swara was lost and she just couldn’t find her anymore. Swara had completely lost her identity. She was Atul’s  wife, Aniket’s and Aastha’s mother, that’s all. Where was Swara, who was she really?


Atul and Aniket were mostly too busy to notice. If anybody saw the change in Swara it was Aastha. Aastha very well knew that her mother had sacrificed her every dream for her family. Especially for Aastha’s dream of becoming a professional singer. Swara would roam with her everywhere for competitions, make sure she did her ‘rias’ , give her hot water everyday to gurgle, take her to the best possible teacher.  As Aastha missed her classes ,Swara  would go to her school and college and get all her notes ready so that  Aastha didn’t have to waist her time in collecting notes and could directly start studying. She would fight with Atul when he questioned Aastha’s intentions of singing as a career. If Aastha was a established singer today it was only because of her mother.

Aastha realised her mother needed her. Swara was struggling and it was too painful to see her mother this way. She sat her down one day and had a long chat with her. She realised that because Swara had too much idle time she would think of unnecessarily negative things. Swara needed to keep herself busy. Aastha enrolled her in a English class, a violin class and a computer class. Swara did get busy with all the classes, but she was still not happy. Aastha would see that once she came back for her class she would neither touch her English books nor play the violin at home. Keeping busy was not the solution. Swara had stopped loving herself, and Aastha had to somehow help her fall in love with herself once again. Aastha knew the problem but she didn’t see a solution to it.

Aastha would take Swara for a walk everyday, one such day Swara saw a child trying to make a paper boat in the park. He was trying very hard but he just couldn’t do it. Swara got up from the bench and went to the kid, sat down beside him and taught him to make the boat.  Swara smiled with him was patient with him and seemed to be having a good time . That’s when Astha found her solution. Swara had to get back to teaching that was the only place she would find herself back.

Smita tai was Aastha’s fan and her former teacher, she was also a founder of a school she ran. Aastha went to her and told her about her mother. Smita tai heard her story and asked her to get her for an interview. Swara went for the interview and did not speak much. She just told Smita tai about her liking of Music and languages. She also showed her the dairy where Swara had made her own songs and given them tunes. Smita tai was really taken aback ,there were about thousand songs written in that dairy. Swara told her she had opened it after a span of ten years.
Swara started going to school. The first few months were the most difficult. On her first day she went into the class and went blank. She couldn’t say a word,  she ran out of the classroom. Smita tai was standing there. Swara couldn’t control her tears. She told Smita tai may be she did not have it her anymore. Smita tai lestened patiently and told her to forget about it and try again the next day. Swara realised this was her only chance to redeem herself, if she let go of this opportunity she will never come out of her cocoon. Day by day Swara got better. She started enjoying herself, the children loved her songs. They would almost wait for her period to come. Swara came home one day and hugged Aastha and thanked her. ‘’ I’m happy again, and its only because of you.” Aastha hugged her back tighter and said, “ Welcome back, Swara!”
It took Swara a whole eleven years to find herself back. She found herself in the songs she wrote, in the laughter of her students, when her student won a singing competition and ran to her to show her the trophy. She found herself when she won the Best teacher award for three years in a row and Atul was introduced as Swara’s husband on the stage. She finally found herself when she started loving herself once again.
Swara is 50 years old today and she is the Principal of the same school. Well, her teachers weren’t wrong after all!!!
I’m only a housewife, I’m afraid.” How often do we hear this shocking admission. I’m afraid when I hear it I feel very angry indeed. Only a housewife: only a practitioner of one of the two most noble professions (the other one is that of a farmer); only the mistress of a huge battery of high and varied skills and custodian of civilization itself. Only a typist, perhaps! Only a company director, or a nuclear physicist; only a barrister; only the President! When a woman says she is a housewife she should say it with the utmost pride, for there is nothing higher on this planet to which she could aspire.”
John Seymour.