Do you revere your shackles?

This article sums it up brilliantly!

“Women are the biggest enforcers of patriarchy” – I read this quote somewhere and this pops up in my head rather frequently when I read such articles. How true! This post has been in my mind for a long time and catalyzed by the article linked above, I finally decided to pen it down.

Marriage brought me into contact with a completely new set of people, people who were completely out of my world-view. I was brought up very liberally, encouraged to do, speak, dress and behave as I want. I was the lucky one in the sense that I never walked the tightrope between tradition and modernity – my mother and grandmother did that for me. The worldviews that women are equal to men intellectually, as-capable and in fact mentally stronger was not just an opinion but my reality. My idols reached the top of their games and my friends and close-colleagues seem very bright, smart and women of the 21st century. My mother excelled in her chosen profession and despite having different responsibilities at home, I never felt that she didn’t have an equal say or equal decision making powers. To me, power was balanced at home. So when I got married, what I observed outside this familiar progressive circle of extremely independent, smart women, came as a literal shock to me.

I saw women who worshipped patriarchy for no other reason than the comfort of familiarity. What the author observes in the column is the ground reality for many women who have been raised ( religious and traditionalist propaganda, in my opinion) to be subservient to men for their “benefit”. I saw women who were happy to act as mere helps and maids, while the man made all the critical decisions. This balance of power was for no other reason other than gender – she was female after all. It was astonishing to see how the women basked in this second-grade role and even justified their reasons to be delegated to the wifely duties alone. The so-called protection was seen as a mark of their pedigree – the inability to venture out as wished, wear clothes as desired, step out at odd hours was seen as being from a “good” household where women were to be protected, treated like breakable china until shipped off to a husband’s home where a new “protector” was established. I saw parents worry incessantly about a grown-up daughter who ventured out to buy some milk in a shop that was less than a minute away. You might argue that there are safety issues prevalent which justify many of these actions. There might be some element of truth to that, but stunting the ability of an individual to protect herself, make her own decisions in the name of “safety” or “culture” is mere a tool to weaken the female gender and render them shackled to the “safety” of patriarchy.

What astonished me even further was this –  women are so mired in the system, they don’t realize how rotten it has become. Small freedoms – the ability to maybe spend an afternoon shopping or make a decision to watch a movie with their girlfriends satisfies them. They argue back that they are in fact independent when to me it looks like they win these small battles, but lose the war big time. They compare themselves to their mothers or grandmothers who lacked that basic right, and feel blessed that their condition is better just because they could venture out or decide not to make dinner. (It is all with the husband’s blessings, mind you.) Women are very much the caretaker of the children – ensuring the household is running smoothly with a spotless house and a hot meal waiting for the husband returning from his job.

I saw women with jobs  – jobs, not careers feel the rush of freedom and turn a blind eye to the obvious walls around them. It is true that much of the female workforce was unemployed a generation ago, but mere jobs don’t qualify as true progress. The funniest part was how the husbands where the ones credited with “allowing” the wives to work and the women never flinched when such statements were made to their faces. They are indeed “allowed” to work, but pursuing careers, moving cities, chasing promotions that disrupt schedules are options for which sadly “permissions” are still required. Worse, if they dare try to break these glass cases, it is the other women (aunts, mothers, relatives, friends) who will shoot down the idea instantly. It is then natural to accept patriarchy, the mundane responsibilities as enough because fighting so many battles and breaking so many shackles is discouraged, portrayed as unwanted, scary and often character-slandering. These extremely capable women then satisfy themselves with a job that adds a significant amount to the family’s earnings, but still consider themselves second-grade.

The real scary part is that there is a part of society that is not recognizing that it is actually being segregated against – atleast earlier the women were marginalized and they knew it. It just seems like they have broken the prison walls only to find themselves in the yard of an even bigger prison – and they don’t know it yet! I have heard conversations where they find flaws or shortcomings in the lives of successful women who have climbed to the top of their fields and compare it to their own healthy home-lives. “Oh, her daughter stays with the maid all the time” or “Look at her, she never makes food for her family” are so commonly used to judge other women and paint their achievements in a negative light while turning  a blind-eye to their obvious positives. This kind of back-biting attitude is human, but also a reinforcer of the old-school patriarchy where women were judged on the quality of their cooking, the cleanliness of her home and the satisfaction of her husband.

I felt many times that I had indeed gone back in time. It was eye-opening for me to see the reality of  so many women and their blatant disregard for the bigger picture of their rights and life. With so many conversations happening now about women’s rights and empowerment, I hope these women don’t dismiss this as just news but use the moment to take a look at their own lives and their rights. An equal society would be a wonderful place and changes do happen slowly, but I hope the change is concrete and tangible and from within – not just a larger prison yard with glass ceilings.

 

Advertisements

The pursuit of happy-ness

The 2006 film of the same name shows the story of a single father who faces insurmountable odds at first and eventually ties the ends of the protagonist’s frayed life beautifully. The movie ends with the father being successful at what he does, a typical tale of hard work, perseverance and luck ultimately bringing success and much needed financial stability to the protagonist’s life. But is the protagonist ultimately happy with his newfound wealth and stability? We will never know.

Such stories abound in the Indian diaspora that is thriving outside the country today. You hear of folks from modest backgrounds, with parents living very middle-class lives, only dreaming of the lifestyles their wards lead today. But the part I have since realized is missing, both in the movie and reality is the happiness. I work in a society full of accomplished individuals, smart and tech-savy, making many times more than the American average salary, living in posh-neighborhoods, driving swanky cars and warmly clothed in their expensive Columbia jackets. It looks great on the outside. These people have proverbially “made it”, aced tough competitive exams, majored in various engineering fields, worked hard through graduate school here living in near-poverty conditions, bagged prestigious jobs and now lead cushy lives. Everyone’s life is like a movie tale. But only a small fraction of them seem to be generally happy.

I am not saying one must be happy and upbeat when faced with a crisis or an emergency. Those are unfortunate but necessary experiences faced during a lifetime. But what about that occasional gathering? That birthday party? The impromptu dinner or lunch? Or a drive to the beach with friends? I have begun to notice that the upbeat conversation fades quickly and is replaced by a constant worry – of job security, deportation, company financials and more recently – immigration status. Those are valid reasons to worry, no doubt. Private companies don’t provide the cushion of job security or retirement benefits and the tech-sector is especially vulnerable to setbacks and layoffs. But is the other alternative constant worry? Do we strive to improve our lives only to mentally burden ourselves with the fear of losing it all? Where do we draw the line between being ambitious and anxious?

Everyone is different and handles a crisis, imaginary or real, differently. The pressure to perform well in tests, get a good college degree, job and working hard are directives issued in pursuit of the eventual “good” comfortable life. We worked towards a better standard of living, a job where you could have a positive impact on the world and enjoy life. I see everyone living swanky lives , enjoying fantastic vacations, buying large mansions and cars but being generally unhappy because they constantly worry about something. Yuval Noel Harrari, in his book “Sapiens” points out that human beings in their pursuit of a better life have actually increased their burdens and revved up the pace and anxiety. He rightly calls it “The Luxury trap”. Are we being ensconced in this trap as well? Does the promise of earning money, living the desirable life, holidaying in famous places around the world come at the cost of mental peace and sanity?

I will not be the first to point out the exponential rise in stress being faced by our generation. The stress to maintain the lifestyle, being threatened by unfavorable immigration policies, the peer pressure and competition today in the work-force are all man-made evils. It is no wonder that our parents’ generation were more social, interactive and generally happier. To me, personally, if you aren’t able to be happy and constantly seek that utopian existence without risks and only rewards, you have to evaluate what your ultimate goal is. The phrase “Happiness comes from within” is often overlooked and brushed off. But the ability to be at peace and pursue the feeling of being joyous without depending on circumstances all the time is key to avoiding feeling blue for something or another.

I still pursue happiness. I am aided in no small measure by wet noses and wagging tails who welcome me home everyday. Their love, excitement, happiness and ability to live in the moment is not actually an evolutionary drawback, maybe it is the real goal.

The minimalist life

Recently, I watched a documentary “The Minimalist” on Netflix. I might be late to the game, but I realized how the American marketing companies had me in their tight grip. Not an obsessive or compulsive shopper by any yardstick, but the concept of the true “worth” of an item had undergone a gradual shift in my worldview. I have been swept away by trends in both fashion and electronics, stashed away books half-read because their second and third parts no longer piqued my interest, and despite regular donations, found myself suddenly surrounded by a lot of things. I liked the concept of the “American template” that the documentary could clearly debunk, which is what I describe in this blog.

One of the first things anyone will notice when they first land here is the supersizing. It caught me unawares. It was a sort of decompression, as though everything that was compressed and shrunk back home, was allowed to expand into its normal or abnormal size here. Not only were the cars bigger, the roads wider but the appliances were gigantic, fridges could fit a kid easily, the couches were gargantuan and everything, from the galleon milk jugs to cereal boxes and bowls, everything is very very large. Over time, one gets used to it and finds stuff smaller back home. The American dream, I figure is “big”. Everything, from the literal size to the ambitions and opportunities tend to be large here. Accumulating a large amount of stuff is a part of that. Advertisements and societies slowly built on the idea of “more is better”. Larger homes and things are ascribed to powerful people and the yardstick of success slowly became what you can buy vs. what you are/did. This vicious cycle is what leads to the excessive production of “stuff” that we no longer need, but desire.The part about homes being so much larger nowadays as opposed to 30-40 years ago with 3 car garages but people requiring additional storage space shown in the documentary is eye-opening. I am nowhere in that ballpark in terms of what I own, but I shudder at the thought of drowning in so much stuff. With no ambitions of living in 4000 q.ft  houses and managing 3 garages worth of items, the idea of living using a different alternate template appeals to me.  The real template, is not to own less but to value more.

For example, I love my books. I have carefully curated a collection, mostly in print (and some in electronic format). The minimalist trend is not to immediately dispose them due to their bulk and occupied space, but to keep only what you value. I helped me finally overcome the barrier to donating and giving away books I won’t revisit or did not complete (something we never did growing up). Marie Kondo uses the term “joy” to describe this addition of value and personal connection to any item you own. To me, value is a clearer concept than joy and this in its bare form, is minimalism.

Finally, it might also be a right of passage. The thrill of earning your first salary, of having your own economic standing and finally fulfilling childhood dreams of buying stuff you liked with your own money is unmatched. But as time marches on and you realize that all that stuff is also adding  responsibility (if not joy or value), it quickly becomes burdensome to pack and move and drag those possessions along just because you bought it. The Minimalist opened my eyes and influenced my thinking about material goods in profound ways.

Let’s hope being a minimalist and downsizing is one resolution I can stick to. Oh and by the way, Happy New Year to whoever is still reading this blog!

The supporting cast

Any success story will tell you that the supporting cast is as important as the leads. Be it film production (the most literal analogy) where hundreds of supporting cast and crew function in the background to make cine-magic happen or corporations where the leadership is held aloft by an ably trained and managed work force. In the case of individuals, several popular sayings exist, such as “Behind any successful man/woman, there is a successful man/woman.” In today’s times, when a large part of the young Indian workforce emigrates to the western world in search of career opportunities and wealth, the supporting cast comes clearly into view. I am referring to obviously – parents and spouse. Each having their own roles to play, let me shine light upon the parental crew first.

This was the generation of Indian parents who sacrificed their comforts and faced restrictions of a semi-socialist, closed economy to uplift their economic standards to form the largest middle/upper-middle class in history. Indian middle-class, comprised largely of such hard working folks forms the foundations of a society that is deeply entrenched in a conflict of tradition, culture and modernity and placed the burden of its progress solely on education. Education proved to be its salvation and millions of youngsters flew out to seek greener pastures, higher education, improved standard of living and wealth. Owing to our rigorous education system (debatable and is a lot more nuanced than this simple description) and various other societal pressures, a large number of Indians found their education and skills desirable and functional in the western world.  With fear in their heart, hopes and dreams in their eyes, hundreds of parents hid their tears as they waved goodbyes to their wards from airports all over the country.

Fast-forward a few years and now their children have settled into their new lives, owning homes, driving fast cars, working for big companies and earning comfortably enough to be well within the upper echelons of the western world as well. They now invite parents to spend time with them in their new surroundings and experience the life they have built. Parents fly in willingly, to experience the joys and fruits of their hard word and persistence. Vistas or places heard about in books, news reports and mentioned once by the very rich, are now within reach. The parents also get to partake in a version of the ‘American Dream’.

Once the initial joys of visiting and experiencing the USA dies down (maybe in 2-3 trips spread across many years), the finer nuances of living in the US come to the fore. American culture is a far-cry from the very-involved, familial and interwoven communities existing in all societies that have evolved from ancient civilizations – Oriental, Arab, Persian, Greek and of course Indian. Loneliness raises its ugly head as parents, left alone after their children,children-in-law are off to work and grand kids are away at school, face an excruciating 6-8 hours of being alone, in an alien land, far away from their stomping grounds. Faced with responsibilities of mundane tasks such as cooking, cleaning or babysitting, without the freedom of their own place, the mind begins to rot. Now before you go all nuclear on me by quoting exceptions of how parents are now very well adapted to this life – driving, shopping, heading to temples and trying to form their own mini-circles, I speak for a large part of the population that still hesitates to call this place their own. Children rely on their parents restarting their life in a way to help them out with babysitting, childcare, cooking and raising grand children while they are away slaving away in cubicles night and day. Now, Indian culture is very accustomed to having grandparents be very involved in these activities, but bringing them across the seven seas to do it seems a tad exploitative to me .

Even though most Indians who make it here are proficient in English, their parents might not be. They often struggle to deal with the heavy accent (having watched none of the sitcoms or heard the music that their kids did),  battle nerves as they go behind the wheel and deal with fast-moving traffic as they never have back home or when they live in suburbia in the states, feel trapped by the lack of accessible shops or things to do. They have to ask the children to drive them everywhere and depend on the weekend for a chance to break out of the routine and do something fun. It feels like  entrapment for someone used to his/her own freedom in the comforts of their own people and land – bouts of anger, frustration and irritation begin to appear among both the parents and their wards. They feel disconnected with friends and family back home due to the time-difference and general lack of internet awareness. Did I mention that this is the generation where millions struggle with the tech revolution and fumble with buttons trying to see faces of their children/family/loved-ones once a week? Yupp/Sling TV and the occasional ride to the mall to watch that Indian movie becomes their sole connection to a life on hold. Purchasing power, where your hard earned money is downgraded in terms of value and your children buy things for you might also feel wrong for someone who has led a life of self-sufficiency and has saved enough to live the life of their dreams back home. Forming a social circle of parents has a huge initiation barrier and feels forced upon for want of other alternatives. Imagine, if you work your whole life expecting to retire comfortably, meet long-lost relatives and friends who have been left behind in the hustle-bustle of life and enjoy the joys of being with your grand children and being able to pamper them with goodies and treats on your own terms but suddenly being denied all of it. Most parents I know, contemplate never returning for the aforementioned reasons.

My point here is that, we, the first generation immigrants here are an entitled bunch. We rode on the sacrifices of our parents in India. They willingly led carefully planned lives, skimping on extravagant vacations and material comforts for themselves but built their lives around educational (best schools, coaching, sports lessons), cultural opportunities for us (dance classes, music lessons) and opened doors for our careers and encouraged us to live our dreams. With heavy hearts, they accepted our decision to live thousands of miles away and were content with annual or bi-annual short vacations to meet us in person.  Sadly, that wasn’t enough for us. They continue to sacrifice their retired dreams and lock the lives they have painstakingly built for months on end, for us to continue living ours. They transform themselves into cooks, baby sitters, drivers so our lives can go uninterrupted and we enjoy the best of both worlds. Next time, spare a thought for their sacrifices, for this supporting cast will never dare complain.

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.

 

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.

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!