The non-secret keepers

As a kid, secrets were fun ( and mostly harmless). They involved discussions of secret crushes, observations ( I saw her eating chalk near the blackboard ew) or a book club that knew the ending of that favorite movie months before it came out. Chinese whisper was the only socially acceptable way of speaking in hushed tones into your neighbor’s ear which if done at any other time drew stinky looks and angry eyeballs from everyone else.

In the Harry Potter universe, secret keepers have a pivotal role to play. The premise of the murder of Harry’s parents by Voldemort revolves around this concept. The person entrusted with the secret of their whereabouts turned himself to the Dark Lord. As a kid reading Harry Potter books, the concept of such high level secret keeping (the sort that can lead to murder) was thrilling and novel. Peter Pettigrew, the secret keeper who was the disloyal friend that caused the murder was loathed and hated. When I revisited the books recently, the concept didn’t seem unfamiliar anymore and atleast a dozen Peter Pettigrews of the real world came to my mind. Ah, the agonies of adulthood!

To me, society functions in concentric circles of people. There is an innermost circle of the closest people in your life and grows outward. The degree of affection decreases and the level of secret keeping increases as you venture into the outer concentric circles. People move between inner and outer circles but often, in a lifetime, the inner circle remains the same. As you go through life, more people are added to each circle as one sees fit. All this is completely normal, except when one finds themselves in the outer circles all the time. I like to call these people, the non-secret keepers.

This is the group that gets the late invitations, the hesitating dinner calls, more cancellations/no-shows to a party and is often the last to hear of important news. As a result, the lives of this particular group of people who constantly flit from one outer circle to the next, is a string of surprises/bombshells. You hear news from people who moved to a new place months after they actually did or found a new job after they finish a year at them. They are the kind who hear about secret dinner parties/ movie viewing nights over lunch the next day. They are not completely ignored (whatsapp messages do count and replies do come, albeit weeks later) but not included either. This is the group that never gets to be the secret keepers, although, by now, it must be a relief to many (including me).

Jokes aside, with the penetration of social media, the fear of oversharing has led to forming these secret-keeping societies with different levels of information provided to each circle of people.  Sharing important events like buying a new house, car or landing a new job, is no longer considered the norm.  It is strange that in this era of connectivity and instantaneous global audience, people choose to form tighter offline groups in secret while providing superfluous content like memes and jokes ( and annoying Buzzfeed lists) for the outer circles to consume. More difficult, is figuring out which circle of importance you have landed on, with no prior clues whatsoever. Navigating social groups was tricky as is, with now the added complexity of secret keeping.

If you are still reading this column and are scratching your head about what my point is, here it is: I don’t think today’s society is any closer due to social media/internet than what it was 30 years ago. If anything, it is become a society of secrets. Atleast in the pre-social media days, physical distance was an actual reason to lose your spot in the inner circles. Today the mentality is different. One might be a friend on all social media platforms, but that just means you get to see favorite baby elephant videos and discover, as your “friend” did last week, if you still remain in Gryffindor. (by taking the quiz they shared, of course). As for actual relevant personal developments, good luck, my outer circle “friend”.

Secrets lead to secrets and I have had to force myself to do this as well. Maybe this is called growing up? I wish it didn’t.

 

A life outside the ordinary

My childhood was spent outside civilian life. Often located tens of kilometers away from a large city or town, factories that build and equip our armed forces and the private housing they provide their employees form mini-cities and develop a culture in themselves. This extraordinary setting was my home until I completed my college and moved West for higher education.

I remember large mansions, thanks to the British origins of our homes. I have memories of running from room to room, identical and adjacent to one another with boarded up fireplaces and sloping tiled roofs. Space was never a constraint and I had never heard of eliminating anything just due to lack of space. We had two kitchens, an outhouse, a long corridor that spanned the entire length of the house with grilled windows (grills were later added to keep the monkeys from entering the house with ease). Our garden was full of trees and a large collection of potted plants curated lovingly by my mom. I remember even a flagpole with a tiny circular dias around it in the center of our garden and endless carefree evenings spent twirling around it. I remember the marigolds that came alive in the early spring and the bougainvilleas that adorned our fence turn to lush pink during the late summer. I saw shepherds gather their goats and sheep walk past our home with our dog Blackie snarling at them. I recall their efforts to pluck fresh tamarind that grew in plenty from the giant Imli trees or stone the mangoes to get some fresh fruit. Roads around our home were private, with complete freedom to walk, run, bike with abandon and summon friends for evening play. I recall buying milk on my own since I was six from the nearby milk booth on my tiny red bicycle. I remember gaping at the depth of the just-drained swimming pool at our local club and accompanying my mother and our help to the weekly vegetable market twice a week, my teddy bear in tow.

Jabalpur is special to me in more ways than one. Though my recollections are tiny compared to my family members who have lived there considerably longer when they were much older than I was, I always remember the place with rose-tinted glasses. Trips to the local ice cream parlor and watching the buffaloes in the diary, counting the pigs and buffaloes wallowing in the naali on the way to the school, the rare city trips that would involve a trip to the bookshop and a bakery to eat hot puffs or watching the fountains in the community garden come alive after being broken (and fabricating stories about how it might be haunted), are all my fondest memories from a place that is often overshadowed by its more important and historically influential neighbors such as Bhopal, Indore and Gwalior. But Jabalpur firmly retains a special love, not just by me but by all who were blessed to spend many years of their life there.

Chennai was no different. We call our private estate as being in Chennai, since the closest city was Chennai. But we lived far from the hustle-bustle of the main city. Whisky and I have spent countless humid evenings rustling the touch-me-nots, biking through the local rowdy group of dogs to irritate them, avoiding thorny bushes and running like headless chicken on the local roads. We have seen cobras do their mating dance, run away from scorpions, escorted so many leeches and snails to safety, waded through ankle deep water during heavy (and rare) monsoons, heard month-long frog and cricket concerts, watched baby-toads swimming in the drains and watched meteor showers from the luxury of our house (thanks to the very dark sky). We had the best of both worlds where we lived in peace and in-sync with nature but had the luxury to venture into one of the largest metropolitan cities of India to eat at a restaurant or very rarely, watch a movie. I loved my home in Chennai that boasted of two floors with large balconies sheltered by tall trees. All I needed for entertainment was my dog Whisky and a big staircase at home on a holiday. Chasing street dogs, watching the birds eat his food and his fear of cats entertained me no end. Birthday parties were simple treasure hunts, memory games and homemade cakes and goodies. Traffic and pollution were never an issue and the facilities to play any sport were just a five minute walk away.

I spent lesser and lesser time at home and more at hostels after Chennai but our place in Dehradun was memorable for its long driveway, portico, abundance of litchi trees and giant voluminous rooms (heating and cooling bills would have been gigantic!). Plants love the chilly Uttarakhand winters, the pleasant spring and fall, producing plenty of vegetables in our tiny patch resulting in delicious pakoras from freshly picked greens and infinite steamed dumplings. Watching the lights of Mussoorie from our home or watching the tiny but fierce Dulhani flow was enchanting, just as having a huge mountain right in front of our home.

As I integrate into the civil society as an adult, with no such luxuries to boast of in my career choice, I reminisce with wonder. I realize today that the things I took for granted were indeed the rarest to find in today’s cities or  in a bustling metropolis. I plan vacations that take me to pristine mountains or lakes, that show me a million stars with fresh air and long to have gardens with tons of flowers and vegetables, but also with the choice of venturing into the heart of the city in under an hour. As spring awakens the slumbering vegetation around me, I cannot help but recollect my childhood homes with utmost fondness.

One might argue that moving frequently has led to no permanent sense of belonging or an established group of friends. The inconvenience of relocating and moving a home can easily overshadow the obvious upside of gathering experiences and creating memories that would otherwise take multiple lifetimes to assimilate. As The Wonder Years rightly pointed out, “Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day, you’re in diapers; next day, you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul”.

Rain rain, go away

After 5 months of gray skies apart from the 10 minutes of sunlight in January, I am jaded by rains. Sometimes, I find myself oblivious to it, with me not noticing the rain drops, the soggy jacket or the puddles on the street anymore. My last three winters have been textbook cases of the phrase – “Too much of anything is a disaster”. Also, “Be careful what you wish for”.

My latest stint in the Pacific northwest has been full of new and delightful geographical experiences. Watching a snow-clad mountain from my office desk took a good 6 months to become routine and the beauty of gigantic fir and spruce trees in my backyard lasted a whole year before it became mundane. The cascade mountains, that flank the city, were an unknown mountain range to me (blame it on the geography textbooks that stopped with the Sierra Nevadas -technically, they are an extension, but the climates and greenery surrounding them are so distinct!) Surrounded by such natural beauty and the untouched Pacific coastline, it was a joy to live and explore the region all summer, spring and fall.

Then came the winter.

Now, with a stint in Buffalo, NY that automatically elevates your tolerance to colder-than-Mars temperatures and gigantic piles of dirty snow, the winter here is extremely mild. I didn’t even take out my actual winter jackets. However, it does rain. A lot.

Rains are romanticized to death in Indian literature, movies, books and I had an extreme love for it too. Watching dark, cloudy skies after relentless sunny summer days and oven-like temperatures elevated my mood and made me so happy. But having 5 months of it, almost without a break, shows you how so much rain can actually bore you too. I was told when I moved here that I will dislike rains once I live here. I couldn’t believe them. I don’t hate it, but sure, my fandom has sure decreased a few notches. For one, you can’t wear nice shoes. Dogs are wet all the time leading to non-stop colds, coughs and hours of blowdrying and toweling. No outdoor sports, no biking, no casual strolls without umbrellas or rain-gear. Skies remain gray and cloudy, albeit warm and mild. Plants don’t do too well either, my herbs died because I delayed transferring the pots indoors and the dryer runs on overtime every week. Mud rooms are muddy and soggy and heavy vacuuming is essential to maintain general hygiene. A rainy weather routine is fun if the rain lasts for a week, or two. But once the season extends to a couple of months, you long for the sunshine already.

I stopped checking the local weather. How different is it going to be afterall? Only a 85% chance of rain, down from 100%? Oh well, guess what, it is raining. For the next 3 weeks.

The north-south divide

Part one of a multiple part post – there are so many aspects to it that I want to  do justice to it.

Disclaimer (as usual): Everything here is my opinion alone. I am open to discussion and debate and remember, we can always agree to disagree.

As I watch viral videos on social media networks of a famous RJ from Chennai, sarcastically object to a high-court order and make completely invalid arguments, I get agitated, and then sad. Off-late, I have begun to notice the north-Indian hating brigade in the southern parts of the country go from strength to strength. I have watched a distastefully done stand-up comedy that is getting wildly popular in Chennai and the Tamil settlements around the world, base all its laughs on criticizing people living north of the Vindhyas, their film industry and rallying their audience to continue hating them even more.  Having had the privilege of living in both very different parts of the country, I get defensive of the north, even though personally, I have no preference. India is one and wonderfully different, I have thought to myself all these years. But off-late the simmering hate is slowly rising to the surface due to the freedom of polarizing hate speech being afforded to us by the anonymity of social media.

In my opinion, language is central to this difference. The establishment of Hindi as a national language angers the native Tamil speakers and I see lots of commentary extolling the virtues of this ancient language and emphasizing its importance over Hindi. To me, this in itself is a sign of insecurity. No one can take away the beauty and history of an ancient language and both the southern region and language thrive in the area in the form of books, periodicals, dramas, movies, dialects, scholars and all the instruments indicative of a very active language. Why then, openly hate and criticize a newer language spoken much more widely just because it is different? Tamil sounds very different from a farsi-Persian originated Hindi because its roots are so distinct. I am no language expert but commenting on why one language is more important than the other and basing all your hate on it is a sign of weakness. One must introspect at what exactly Hindi language is threatening ? Doesn’t learning another language open portals to a whole new world? The hate of “Hindi” is something I find extremely absurd and irritating. I am a fluent Hindi speaker and I am a self-taught Tamil speaker and I relish the joys of being able to explore two wholly distinct cultures and their literature. Although I must add, the formal register (news) of the Tamil language is alien to me, but sounds so rich! I hope that someday, I can understand what they say without resorting to pictures and/or English translations!

Cuisine is central to this vast difference in opinion. Here, the situation is a bit more complex. ‘Chapatis’ or ‘Rotis’ are now very popular as healthy alternatives to low-starch diets in Chennai. Cooks in Chennai with limited culinary skills, who are more a necessity in homes with older family members or busy couples, are also now adept at making them. My mom recalls periods of time where people ate them as delicacies in Chennai. But that is no longer the case. While people are embracing the idea to add a wheat-based item in their culinary palette, they are so sensitive to being told about the inclusion of coconut in everything. The comedy troupe I mentioned earlier in the post, they were wild about the ‘Lungi-dance’ song that pointed out how south Indians add coconut to their lassi. And pray, why get riled by that? Coconut grows in abundance in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and is delicious and nutritious and by default is added to most dishes. Why suddenly point out how North Indians eat “Chapati” all the time? That is because wheat typically grows there. I have begun to notice south-Indians avoid food/snacks labeled as ‘Punjabi’ or ‘Marathi’ despite their deliciousness since they are from the “North”. This, despite them being highly educated, with multicultural education and travelling the world on a daily basis. The subtle signs of dislike and hate, slowly creep into the generations to follow despite the connectivity, communication and accessibility to one another. It really is a shame, that we are trying so desperately to shut ourselves off from each other, when science and the social media are actually meant to connect all of us together and bridge our differences.

PS: I am not being specific to the people that immediately surround me when I mention my observations. Superficially, you might dismiss these arguments and observations as stemming from an unfortunate mix of society I live in, but underneath that shiny exterior, these old feelings of dislike and the tendency to isolate and cocoon ourselves from anyone different, continue to thrive. If you comment that my comments are from the point of view of south-Indians alone, I tend to write other viewpoints in the future installments.

 

 

The power of power

Chennai has off-late been battered by a host of natural calamities. If these recent annual occurrences are a result of climate-change (I suspect this to be the most probable cause) or just a coincidence and a barrage of bad luck (municipal bodies seem to believe in this explanation) are a topic for another day. What I want to describe here is how the power structure of society has seeped into every aspect of life in India, with examples of how Chennai battles its calamities. I was in Chennai during the floods of 2015. Having visited the city during summer vacations from long ago, the arid, hot and humid city with acute water shortage now being associated with flood is a rarity in itself. A combination of events and ill-luck in the visa department forced me to joyfully extend my annual pilgrimage to the city and enjoy my parents’ company for a bit longer. It all turned out to be for the best, as I realized in the days to come since November 30, 2015.

Roads became rivers, smaller by-lanes became ponds and localities unfortunately located near local streams and rivers – Coovum and Adayar, were inundated with garbage and sewage mixed with this flood water. For once, the floods spared no one, not the rich or the wealthy or the posh localities. It hit every single one of them. People suffered, stray animals died, elderly residents were left stranded, cars and bikes submerged and went defunct and drinking water and milk were in short supply. All of this went unnoticed by the national media until the airports closed. This set of events made me realize the degree of fallacy in news reports and exposed the lack of empathy shown to the southern states in national news channels reporting from the far-north.

The interesting observation though (which warranted this post) is how the clean-up happened. The news reports that generalize and announce proudly and succinctly of how the city bounced back is far from the actuality. It was then, who lives where became important. Localities closest to the residences of the leaders of the political parties and the opposition (AIADMK and DMK) were restored overnight. Electricity, internet and commuting was no hassle at all! Ironically, the very people who caused the floods due to gross mismanagement and human complacency, had to suffer the least. Over time, localities that housed powerful politicians, film actors (in Tamil Nadu, they often are the same folks), IAS officers and hooligans closest to the political top brass were cleaned up and restored. Rest of the city, had to rely on the youth,  their swimming abilities and grit of the locals to survive until help arrived.  Everyone was mentally compiling a probable list of bigwigs living close by who had enough influence to attract the repair crews to their neighborhood. People were trying to call up their friends in political or administrative positions trying to remind them of their friendship in hopes of extracting favors in the form of manpower and supplies to help clean up, remove flood waters and hopefully, restore electricity. Our locality, a huge, popular suburb with the best city schools and the swankiest of malls, unfortunately housed none of the “powerful” people. Despite the popularity and affluence of the neighborhood, we had to wait close to 8 days to get our lives back to normal and local apartment communities kept life afloat by running generators, fumigators and trying their best to “attract” the restoration crew. I was disgusted by the role of power during such trying times. Thankfully, by the foresight and intelligence displayed by our apartment architect and builders in constructing on higher ground with no underground carparking facilities, we weren’t affected directly. Somehow, recovery and restoration doesn’t correspond to the size or population being affected. Your proximity to political bigwigs is all that matters.

The city was struck by cyclone Vardah, on December 12th 2016 (my birthday!) and suffered damage of a slightly different variety this time around. With tremendous wind gusts over 120 kmph, thousands of trees and electricity poles were downed. The pattern and timeline of restoration that followed in the city localities was exactly the same as last year.

So people looking to buy homes in Chennai, here is my two cents for you. Don’t live under the impression that your neighborhood, schools, local amenities, transportation and real-estate value is all that matters. Go around and count the number of politicians and/or IAS officers living in your area and their position in the government. If none of them can speed dial either a minister or his/her goons, you might be better off living in potholes located right under the political honchos’ nose.

My (worthless) two cents

11/9 was momentous in many ways. It was momentous to me as an Indian, that finally a big step was taken to do away with corruption. Corruption has seeped through the Indian way of life so deeply that it is rusting and corroding morals, principals and ideas. The step taken is inconvenient in the extreme short term, but, it will finally do away or bring to light the corrupt folks and their “black” money. But I am not here to talk about that as much as about the elections held in the country I’ve been living in for the last 7.5 years.

Yes, it was devastating. I have never been so personally invested or interested in election outcomes and as I sat agape staring at the numbers before me, I could not understand. I went through all the stages of grief -anger, denial, sadness and so on. I couldn’t even muster myself to sleep. I was devastated that a woman had failed to break the glass ceiling. But I was more upset that the opponent was who he is. Over the last six months or so, the Republican candidate was called thoroughly incompetent and other nasty adjectives. His debate performances just made interesting television and drew laughter from the educated,literate crowd. I never in my wildest dreams expected him to win. It would be closely contested I thought, but winning, not a chance.

Now that slowly everyone is accepting the reality of what has happened and articles upon articles emerge trying to assuage the public and heal their wounds, it has brought out the hordes of trump supporters in all their glory and they deserve to be heard. I have had the opportunity to travel and work in the “rust-belt” that seems so different from the world that my family, friends, co-workers and I inhabit and I think I deserve to describe the little I saw.

The whole area seems to be stuck in time, a once-glorious past, full of dilapidated buildings, rusting plumbing, potholed roads, faded neon signs and old-dented scratched cars. You felt you went back in time to an America that hasn’t caught up with its coastal developed belts. The houses look shabby and run-down save for some posh neighborhoods and bars are always full, even at noon on a workday. Chimneys poke through the skyline, all in different stages of ruin, full of graffiti, no longer functional. There are hundreds of restaurants that don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism. I have seen Walmarts with no vegetable or produce sections.This exists, today, in parallel to the swanky neighborhoods of the silicon valley and the skylines of Manhattan. People have old-fashioned ideas of the roles of man and woman, do not believe in travelling far and wide and college education seems a rarity. I have interacted with these folks who disregard the ideas or even the presence of a woman in their midst, because she is a woman. Call them misogynist if you will, but in reality, they have much bigger problems to deal with. Can you imagine the quality of education they receive? What is their stimulus to change? I can see in my mind’s eye, how his campaign would have appealed to them. Clinton was realistic in not promising all the lost jobs or reversing globalization. He wasn’t but his message was simpler, more directed to this demographic and it paid off. They live in a world where unemployment and worry about having enough to feed their family and pay off their mortgage lies foremost on their mind. Misogyny, racism comes afterward.On my coast-to-coast road trip, this was more than evident. The inner-cities have indeed fallen behind. Globalization might have brought in more material goods and made movement of items easier, but their life has seen a downfall and it is easy to see their contempt and anger against the system. They look for anyone, just anyone who might fight for their cause, his personal digressions and character flaws mean nothing to those who struggle to earn, live and eat everyday. This America is not very visible to the rest of the world, but it exists. It shocked me the first time I visited too. I realized the slim bubbles or fragile walls that separate my world from theirs. It felt like a different place. It is.

My anger is directed towards the newspapers and media outlets. It is normal for media houses to take sides but just showing one side of the coin is akin to brainwash. An avid consumer of everything printed – from the New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post and other publications who are described as liberals, I feel cheated. It is alright to publish opinions and ideas of left-liberals and denigrate a republican candidate who shows no regard for public decency or political correctness, but the other side should also be shown. Name-calling, adjective writing is one thing, but media outlets have a responsibility to present the reality to society and not just print what like-minded individuals want to read or see. It is uncomfortable for sure, but it gives the right picture. If I believed everything I had read, I would have assumed there was absolutely no one who was on Trump’s side and that such a vile, idiotic,corrupt individual should not even be allowed to venture close to policy-making, let alone represent a major political party. Had I not been to the inner cities myself, I would have never had that iota of suspicion that he does have takers and his words are finding support in some parts of this country.

I think it is time to move past this and move forward. It would be interesting to see what powers a President can yield and the system of checks and balances that exist in this country that would prevent any disastrous outcomes.  This election has brought to light the stark differences in mindset, economy and ideals that exist in this country. It is time to accept , bring to light and work on the gigantic flaws of racism, poverty, misogyny hiding in plain sight in this global powerhouse.

 

From Whisky, living it up !

 

Hello all! It has been a while since I decided to write this blog on behalf of my lazy human but the last few years have been so full of adventures that I let myself settle down before I started documenting them. Of course, my travels cannot be completely penned down all at once in such a short space but I would like to use this post to highlight some of my main observations in this new country. Based on what I have seen here, I would like to give the canine community of India some pointers on how it is here across the Atlantic. So here goes:

  1. There is no garbage on the streets – This is a tough dilemma. On one hand, my walks are now very boring. I have to stare at the trees and some birds for entertainment when there are no other dogs on the street, but Chotu (my human) claims I get fewer tummy upsets so she is generally happy. If she is happy I am happy, but I remain internally conflicted. My dirt-loving Chennai bros- this country has no garbage on the streets so enjoy while you can!
  2. The food is goooood – I have had the opportunity of eating all kinds of food I never knew existed! My human actually gives me fish and chicken and I have also had duck and some pork. I suspect that last one was pure accident but I loved it! How come for so many years we were never told about all this?! All I could manage back in India was the few chicken bones strewn by the watchman after his lunch! Imagine, now I get it served in a bowl, freshly cooked and all!
  3. No stray dogs – Everyone is on a leash here. They are all so disciplined. Other humans actually ask Chotu if they can pet me! I mean I am so used to pointed fingers and whistles that this seems to be such a decent place for me. But then, you get only structured playdates. I miss my stray friends waiting for me during my walks in Chennai. There is no group barking at nights, no territorial fights and no random barking by anyone. They are all so quiet! Just like the traffic here.
  4. No stray anyone – Where are my cow friends? Chotu keeps reminding me about my calf friends who used to head-butt me and I used to dodge them. There are no cows. When I ask her about it, she shakes her head and tells me their story is very sad. Apparently, they get eaten, like vegetables. I miss meeting them and sniffing their poop. NO COW DUNG! 😦
  5. Pet Shops – Okay, now this one might make my India friends so jealous, but they have huge pet stores here where I can shop for my goodies! Chotu takes me to pick my toys but I always keep picking out these gigantic bones which she never buys. I show her these other delicious things such as bully sticks, dried up animal parts, rawhide but she smells them and puts them away in disgust! How can she not appreciate them? Then, last birthday, she finally caved in and bought me some bully sticks! Ah the joy! They also have other stuff like clothes, crates, beds and some other animals too. In India, I used to search and sniff out rats and tell my humans that they are at home. Here, they keep them as pets! So strange! Thankfully Chotu doesn’t have one. She told me she owned a hamster once and I stuck up my nose in protest. No rats/hamsters/mice at home please!
  6. Too many doctor visits – I have been enrolled in some medical plan where I have to meet the doctor TWICE a year! Can you believe it? They make me lie down and press all over. I hate it. I will pretend those visits never happen and play dead. Sometimes I doze off so nicely that I wake up only at home and Chotu is always upset with me afterwards. She tells me “Don’t play dead in front of the doctor, they will give you more medicines”. But I can’t stand it. I think she can’t deal with it too. I have seen her face whiten and she shakes sometimes when it is time for a vet-visit. We thankfully have another human boy to calm us both down. Those trips are a disaster. India friends, you guys are lucky.
  7.  Have to stay indoors except for parks – There is no concept of being tied outside. I miss that sometimes. Back home, I used to sit outside on the verandah and enjoy the birds and allow cats and birds to eat up my food (such help you guys!). Now we stay indoors all the time until we go every weekend to a park. We have a small dog and big dog park. I go to the small one. They are nice! So full of things to smell and lick. I try to be as discreet I can while licking but Chotu finds out and then I’m on the leash again. But there are so many types of dogs! Who knew? I have seen such tiny ones that look like furry rats on leashes! There are some really big ones too! Like I had never met a Leonberger (fellow German dude) before or the Bernese Mountain Dog. I’ve met guys from all over the world now. But I miss my stray friends from Chennai the most.
  8. Road trips are easy – The roads and nice and flat and I can snooze comfortably during long drives. I have had long road trips (3000 miles+) which I’ll write about soon but travel here is a breeze! Unlike India where so much braking and potholes caused me to fall or jump off the car seat every now and then, it is very smooth sailing here!
  9. I am hot stuff here – No kidding. I have been to Central Park  in NYC and literally had a crowd come and pet me. They call me “hot stuff”. I never knew that about myself until I came here. Chotu tells me I am rare here. In India, I was the most common. Hell, Spitz pups are the least expensive pup you can adopt there! They should come and see people’s reactions here. Chotu tells everyone with pride that I am “exotic”. I like that! 😀
  10. The weather is amazing – I have lived in a few parts of the US and all over India and I can say paws down that this place has the best weather for me! My fur coat grew out and I also licked snow (okay yellow snow, but still snow!). No more sitting nose-to-nose with AC ducts or dashing inside AC rooms. At home, there is AC everywhere! Outside, it is heavenly. I enjoyed the biting cold of -40 too! Chotu seemed to be in a hurry then to go indoors but I wonder why she wasn’t enjoying it like I did! Ice, snow and nice cold winds. I had good fun kicking off these annoying snow shoes and then waiting for Chotu to put them on again. She was balled up too and walking so slowly through the icy sidewalks. Fun experiences! Can’t wait for minus temperatures again! Chotu recoils in horror when I tell her I want the sub-zero walks again. No idea why. Humans, strange creatures they are.
  11. New brother – I have a younger sibling now. Yes, I am no longer the only baby. But he is okay I think. I don’t like when he sticks to Chotu a lot. He is a funny-faced guy, no nose and very short but cute as hell! He is a nice guy though, we have had our arguments, all about Chotu only, but nothing too big. He doesn’t like balls or biting anything so my stuff is secure. I’ve noticed our bowls, bedsheets and towels being used interchangebly  and am getting used to it. I tried objecting to it initially and he also did but both got a long, terribly boring lecture about sharing and caring from Chotu ( I tried yawning so much to make her stop, but of no avail!). To prevent listening to another such lecture, both of us quietly stopped complaining. Actually secretly I like the guy and don’t mind him at all, he waits during walks for me and he calls Chotu from the other room if I need any help. He even got me a bonus trip to the Tillamook creamery because he insisted I come along! Decent chap. But shh, I don’t want to sound too appreciative in case Chotu brings another one!

That’s it for now, I have to start my evening routine. I will tell you all the story about my coast-to-coast road trip next. Got to go wait for Chotu, it is nearly time for her to come home!