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!

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Coddled much?

Disclaimer: All opinions here are purely mine and I am open to discussing them with you over a cup of coffee. Any offense taken is not intended and is the perspective of the reader alone 😀

How thick skinned are you to criticism? How much of direct taunting, chiding or blunt opinions can you handle? I recently had an experience where a 16 year old took offense because I asked him/her to “read my previous email completely and answer my questions before replying”. This statement merely seemed to be a task to work on and something to improve on next time to me. But then I was told that this was very harsh. I recalled my mental state when I was 16 and chuckled. This statement seems so mild compared to what we are told in Indian schools/ homes to push us to succeed. I was called an idiot on a daily basis. The funniest part is, I didn’t seem to get hurt, but merely accepted my fault or argued back and moved on. My brain cells then went a little bit deeper and thought, why are we so cautious about dealing with school kids? Has the internet scared us all? Is the slightest rap on the shoulder now considered bullying? If so, how do you tell any youngster (in school/ early college) anything?

Indian upbringing was a different story in an admittedly different era. We had no phones, no internet and our time was spent in the company of classmates, friends and family. We got teased, had arguments and learnt to resolve issues between ourselves. Our playtime forced us to form teams, live up to expectations of the team mates or suffer the consequences of skipping turns of being the unfortunate soul to retrieve the ball from a strict neighbor. Almost everyone never complained to elders and any such person who brought their mom/dad to intervene in our affairs was cold shouldered. Today, it is perfectly okay to go off complaining, accusing and utilizing the system to meet our goals. The abuse of the protection provided to us today is leading to certain consequences that weren’t considered in the first place.

Internet bullying is awful and a heinous crime. I am in complete agreement. Today we live in fear of divulging the slightest information for fear of mishandling or wrongful misdoings. Especially in tweens or young adults who are new and headily experiencing the good and bad of the cyber era, our fear is justified. But is telling anyone they should do better also hurt as much? Does that immediately count as being a bully? How much coddling do you need to give youngsters to prevent them from being completely spoilt? I believe in calling spade a spade and enforcing this as early as possible. Accepting the fact that not everything you do is perfect and any criticism is actually opening an avenue for improvement is key for success later in life. I have seen kids these days who are applauded for the most mundane things, things that are basic human behaviour/skills. There is a fine line between encouraging one to do better and just coddling someone so much that they can no longer take a no. It worries me that we are moving to the latter. Graduation parties are another pet peeve. Do you deserve a 50 person, huge bash at a gaming arcade with catered food for completing sixth grade? Why celebrate an achievement of a normal human being to be recognized as of average caliber?  It also adds to the feeling of over achievement when in reality it isn’t.

I believe this toughness is slowly going out of people. The acceptance of failure or the acknowledgement that improvement is possible is suddenly not inculcated in a person when they grow up. They have to be tuned to these opinions. After all, we as people are work in progress. We are slowly learning, tumbling, fumbling through life. Growing up, when internet penetration in our daily lives was not as much, those boundaries seemed sufficient. Now,we need to also define what is acceptable and not just what isn’t. Slowly, the younger generation will turn out to be even more spoilt and unapologetic – just because you never told them a no.

Think about it. Meanwhile, let me go apologize to a 16 year old for telling them to read my instructions completely.

A fine balance

It is often said that this generation lacks manners. Elders complain about being ignored by the Whatsapping, Snapchatting generation and insist that good, polite behavior is rarely found these days. Ever since I joined the workforce i.e. the real world after the bubble of graduate school, however, I have been in a quandary. Direct communication, blunt evaluations and straight talk is encouraged. It helps solve problems, evaluate situations and once such an expectation is communicated, life becomes easier. It is a non-bureaucratic formula that eliminates the red-tape and fosters an almost peer relationship among the working team. In my limited experience in the corporate world, this seems to work really well. It took a little bit of time to adjust, given how accustomed we are to drafting our responses to seniors with utmost care and the tendency to immediately accept the ideas/suggestions given by those senior to us in the workplace.
But it is a tricky transition to personal relationships. Once you step out of your corporate zone, those rules seldom reply. I am not debating the minimum necessity of decency, manners or polite talk. However, the tendency to be blunt and direct lingers on. I have always suffered from the habit of being a bit too frank and direct, much to the chagrin of those around me. It then gets tricky, how direct is too direct? Do you start taking offense of blunt opinions? I think achieving this balance is the most tricky of all on a daily basis. To add to the woes, there is the technological burden – what to do if your friend has “Seen” your messages and not responded? Do you terminate friendships once you see the double blue tick marks but no responses for a day? Can a question like – why haven’t you responded since yesterday, break relationships?
Or maybe it is easier to shut up and nod your head. Alas, sometimes, that too is mistaken for something else. For a straight-talking, less densely brained Sagittarian, striking a fine balance between politeness, directness and incisiveness is the hardest task of all!!

Faux friends

The other day, I was asked if so-and-so was my friend. I casually replied,”Nah, Facebook friend only.” The nature of that friendship was immediately clear. It got me thinking, has Facebook introduced that mezzanine level of friendship where the person is neither forgotten nor in touch? Have we introduced that intermediate where we never let anyone fade from our lives, but are too uncomfortable really talking to them?

It is a strange dilemma for me. I’m routinely aware of very intimate details of people’s lives splashed across my news feed. Weddings, honeymoons, babies, new jobs, relocations – events in life that were previously restricted to family and close friends are now visible to me, an acquaintance from over 10 years ago, someone who they now know very little about. I “like” these posts too, congratulating them and wishing them the best, secretly hoping they don’t have 3057 likes and 465 comments to follow ruining my news feed for days. I am comfortable letting my likes and comments drown in the ocean of well wishers prompting a “Thanks everyone” from the poster than individual replies enquiring about every one. But I am uncomfortable having a personal conversation with most of them. My enquiry about personal details that they had shared for everyone to see, will most certainly earn me the tag of a “Facebook creep” . Time slowly fades memories too, making it harder for me to recognize people in photographs. I am left wondering as to who in that picture is my friend and why it is appearing on my wall. It is not that I pay close attention to my feed either. Many times, I just glaze over information with my very tiny attention span unaware of what I have just read. If that shrinking of attention span is because of Facebook or not, is another blog post.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Facebook. If anything, I enjoy my time on it. It has been tough to keep in touch with friends from college and it is getting progressively harder given the responsibilities and challenges that life keeps throwing our way (or I’m getting lazier). I was able to reconnect with some people who I hadn’t spoken to since my 8th birthday but that thrill of connection lasted perhaps for a week. Our worlds are now so different that it almost feels intrusive to look at their wedding and honeymoon pictures. We are technically “friends”, but are we really? Friendships in the past, evolved with time. The closest of them stayed while the weaker links faded away, leading to newer relationships that morphed with changes in personality and circumstance. Facebook makes sure no one ever goes away. Is that necessarily advantageous? Are we really “connected”?

This stalking experience that Facebook provides me everyday has its benefits too. I have seen pictures from every part of the globe, learnt so many things from people’s travels (unknown to them of course), seen beautiful pictures of weddings, peeked inside parties of big corporations, updated my travel list, gotten inspired to paint, cook (thanks to people’s diligent posting of meal pictures), study further, figure out the best restaurants in town, read some amazing articles, watch hilarious videos and read funny messages and tweets without a single conversation with anyone. It is a colorful, vibrant version of google reader for me, a one-stop shop for all information juicy, controversial, informative and educational. But of my 900 friends on Facebook (and counting), I doubt the number of people who will remember where I am now or what I do (without checking my profile page of course) would cross 20. The rest are people who could walk past me without realizing we were “friends” on Facebook. (On purpose or otherwise, I ‘m not too sure).

But then again if it wasn’t for my Facebook friends, my blog view stats wouldn’t be so nice, would they? 😀

I miss festivals

It has been so long since I celebrated Diwali or any other puja at home, I’ve forgotten what it is like. It has been more than 10 years. I felt a pang of nostalgia and sadness hit me like a train when I saw a Diwali ad before a youtube video. Another Diwali gone by, another season of celebrations I missed. Sometimes I wonder why? Why do I punish myself by being away from people I love the most and missing everything that makes life memorable. 10 years. Actually no…it is 11. Crap.
The feels.

Guilty as charged!

I’ve ignored this space for so long, I’m surprised the folks at wordpress still kept this alive! (Bless them). So, long story short, this year so far has been pretty big. I landed job offers, published papers, wrote my dissertation, defended it, wrapped up my Atlanta settlement, got my family over for commencement, got a truck load of pics and fancy dresses (for the same), moved to Buffalo, bought a car, settled in and wait for it… got Whisky to stay with me (which was the best graduation gift ever!)!
So, I’m ready for the new innings as not-a-student. I’m still a pretty new not-a-student ( I hate being called – grown up, working woman blah blah) and I’m loving it so far.
But this post aint about Buffalo (that one is in the works) or the immeasurable joy of not asking anyone for rides anymore. This one is for Texas, where everything is bigger and badass.
I experienced the joys of being a chemical engineer and visited an actual, functioning, refinery. (I think 10 years of training as one should suffice. )Those things are just insanely huge and complex. First few hours, the intricate network of pipes that are hundreds of kilometers long, wrapped around each other, emerging from some of the biggest crackers and distillation units amazed me. It is like intricate zardosi except done by drafters and probably some of the best engineers the world has ever seen! The second thing that got to me was that these things work, and not just work, they function almost as per design. Now that is something I’m still grappling with. Unless modeled to perfection and designed so accurately, there is no way that reactors and reformers who work with energy levels equaling that of atomic bombs everyday, can function so accurately without dramatic events unfolding on a daily basis! Motivates me to turn into a perfectionist next time I’m designing one of these babies.

No, I’m not turning into a plant engineer. I am here to do research and the opportunity to see these engineering marvels up close has revived the sedated engineer in me. It is a tough life no doubt. But this is a completely different world, far from the swanky glass and wood buildings, cubicles, cafeterias that serve hundreds of cuisines, bustling restaurants, health conscious bicyclists, runners, dog-walkers and discussions on the viral memes or videos. This is full of pick-up trucks, dirt roads, Texan barbecue restaurants serving a host of animals slathered in homemade sauce, tattooed burly men in steel toed shoes and overalls (I wore them too btw and contrary to popular opinion (the few that exist) the overalls actually help in the scorching heat) and folks who can pinpoint the exact malfunctioning valve among a million just be looking at a single number. It ain’t desert like though, it is actually very green and crisscrossed by a number of estuaries and the town sits prettily right next to the port. It looks spectacular at night. Oh, did I mention the breeze at 150 ft late at night? It is gorgeous. Just like the sea breeze on a cool November evening in Chennai. You can see the bridges, the port lights, the tankers waiting to fill up the liquid gold and the horizon dotted with flares from all the refineries lined up on the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course, life ain’t easy for anyone here. The work is interesting but physically taxing, sometimes the antics of the plant are frustrating and the accents are mentally taxing to process. But this was my glimpse into the reality of my models, the stuff I’ve studied and researched on a computer for half a decade – and it is nothing like I ever worked on. It is different and in a league of its own. It is like waking up from the cozy virtual computer controlled lives and looking at the places where things are actually made and being shocked into reality.
I liked it. I don’t know yet if I’m coming back. But it is nice to sit high off the ground, listening to country music on the radio in steel shoes and a hard hat and watch the million flickering lights of one of the largest refineries in the world.

Ps: Happy Birthday India. Have a good one!

Yes, I’m back in business. Follow this space for more 🙂

Why this Kolaveri ??

My facebook posts are largely divided over the “Lungi Dance” song in the movie “Chennai Express”. While some find the movie insulting the south-Indians, some truly enjoy it. I personally find the songs and the lyrics crass more than demeaning. Off-late, SRK seems to be gravitating towards the southern half of the country, embracing names and food habits in his movies. While his intentions might be( let me assume for a second that he hasn’t totally lost it) to widen his demographic of fans, his characters come off as mocking the southern culture. Though I haven’t watched Ra-one ( hey hey, I’m a SRK fan but not a crazy one), I know there was quite a racket about eating noodles with curd. South-Indian or not, I have eaten noodles with curd at home and I loved it. So I wonder sometimes why some people find it offensive or very madarasi.

Bollywood depicts stereotypes from the north all the time. They depict idiotic characters, terrible movies ( Kamaal Khan anyone?), mock fat punjabi aunties, make stereotypical teary maa characters, give surnames that span 60% of the Ganges plains ( Aggrawal, Gupta, Kapoor, Talwar, etc.etc.), make all christians Briganzas, all biharis Rajpal Yadav, all UP gangsta’s rustic and so on. I wonder why a specific south Indian film irks sentiments and anger? The outpouring of emotions shown by itself elevates the film to a level it clearly doesn’t belong to.( And gives the wrong idea of stardom to SRK and encourages him to keep making crap. Sigh*)
(What about that disaster called Aiyaa? Why didnt all the Maharashtrians absolutely demolish the film maker then? Do we all think that people are as insane as Rani Mukherjee in that movie? Then why the spotlight on this one? )
My point here is that watch it like a movie. It is as far removed from reality as Justin Beiber’s songs are from music. And I ask, what is the shame if tamilians are shown as idli-loving? Idlis are so healthy, they are served in all 7-star hotels. Sambhar is devoured with gusto by everyone I have heard of. Skin-color? You got to be kidding me! English is heavily accented? Everyone in India speaks accented English given we never learn the British phonetics in school. We wear sarees and bindis and jhumkis? One just needs to see T-nagar’s silk and gold shops to understand the craze. ( Nalli and GRT have branches in Delhi too) plus everyone looks good in gorgeous silks! If SRK is bowing to Rajnikanth, isn’t that a sign of things to come? (Who has a fan-base in Japan??) So what if they think we eat coconuts with everything. Even Rujuta Diwekar ( if you don’t know her by now , you either 1. Live under a rock 2. Never watch or read anything remotely bollywood 3. Are not diet conscious) endorses coconuts due to their high glycemic index and encourages eating local food. I don’t understand why the anger. If the movie makers are mocking us for their habits, then they don’t have the cultural depth to understand us. If they are respecting us but getting it all wrong, shouldn’t we embrace them and correct their mistakes? In any case, I never flinch when I’m stereotyped for anything. I just laugh it off. We are just so culturally diverse that it takes a full movie to portray us. If they are mocking our differences, well, we should be the bigger person and laugh at their shallowness.
In any case, the movie will atleast educate the masses about the diversity of our country. Getting angered by the Chennai express movie is like getting upset when a foreigner thinks Slumdog-Millionaire is what India is all about.
It is only a movie!

Watch out for this space while I add lungi dance to my gym playlist… 😀