Saturday, January 18, 2014

A teenager turns thirty-two

It’s January 18, 2014 today and my only sibling, Krithika Ramesh will turn 32 tomorrow. (Krithi, now don’t kick me for revealing your age. Anyway, everybody assumes that you are just out of college). Between editing birthday wishes that Deccan Chronicle’s readers have sent to be published in the paper and struggling to cope with the effects of sleep depravation, it occurred to me that I have not written a note on how much I love (and hate) this sister of mine, who is six years older than me. But she is a teenager at heart when she whole-heartedly enjoys watching actor Vijay’s films and she effortlessly slips into the role of a responsible daughter when it comes to looking after our parents. After a lot of tiffs and catfights that changed our opinions about each other, I realised that many a time in my life, I would have been stuck in my abyss if she weren’t there to give me a hand. As some wise men said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Distance does a lot of good to people”, her relocation to the States has made me realise the pivotal role that she has been playing in my life. Although she tries her level best to still do all that she usually does for us, despite the distance, I dearly miss this lady, who drives me nuts and who also helps me be sane. For the first time, she is not going to be in India to celebrate her birthday with us. But our thoughts, hearts and warm wishes are certainly with her.

When I was a kid, some of my early impressions of my parents were formed based on my sister’s opinions about them. She kept telling me about how much they meant to her and how hard they worked to keep us happy. Maybe, my bond with my family was cemented because of her unconditional love for our parents. Since our childhood, we have always been as different as chalk and cheese. If I would wear jeans, kurta and a pair of loafers to attend a wedding reception, you may find her decked up more grandly than the bride herself. If I would choose to lounge at home like a sloth, she would want to be out there experiencing the world. And our differences began to sabotage the harmony and we even ended up telling each other, “I would never want to see your face again!” But when a tidal wave hits me, when life looks hopeless, when snobbish folks bully me, when my parents’ well-being becomes a concern, when I choose to purge out owing to stress and when I decide to reveal some of my dark secrets, without giving a second thought, I dial my sister’s number because after all, she is my sister and she is the best non-judgmental listener. Despite wanting to slap and kill each other at times, we are sure of our love for each other and I blindly fall back with the trust that my sister will hold my back. And that precisely is one of the greatest blessings that I count.

Krithi, I know! It is difficult to be away from us. I know! It is difficult to live without paying monthly visits to your favourite shops here. I know! It is difficult to live without watching a couple of Vijay movies at Sathyam. I know! It is difficult to live without fighting with your favourite tailor. It is certainly difficult to endure a boring birthday in the US. But please understand that this separation is transient and you will be back soon to take us to some fancy hotels and shower us with gifts for YOUR birthday. I love you for what you are and I thank you profusely for being a great support system. And don’t forget to stay confident! Because you deserve all the beautiful things that life can offer. Happy birthday and stay blessed, my love!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mother's Love - From animals' perspective

Mother's Love: Inspiring True Stories From the Animal KingdomMother's Love: Inspiring True Stories From the Animal Kingdom by Melina Gerosa Bellows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last year, I challenged myself to complete reading 25 books. But I lagged behind terribly and managed to read about only five to seven books. For this year, I have again planned to read 25 books and thankfully, I have completed reading two. The first one was ‘The Madras Mangler’ and the second one was ‘Mother’s Love’. To motivate myself or let’s say, to warm up enough, I have decided to read novellas, page-turners and coffee-table books in the beginning and gradually scale-up to non-fiction. That’s my plan for the nonce. But it totally depends on the mood.

So, yesterday I finished reading ‘The Madras Mangler’, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You may find my review in my blog. Today, I had great fun reading ‘Mother’s Love’, which was published by National Geographic Society. The book features inspiring stories about many mothers and their cute babies from Animal Kingdom and stunning pictures of many beautiful animals. ‘Mother’s love’ is a must-read or must-see for every animal lover. I basked in animals’ cuteness and shed tears sporadically as and when I read stories of animals going to great lengths to save their babies from dangers.

How could anyone not gasp with amazement when Scarlett, a cat that entered a building that caught fire five times to rescue her kittens! How could anyone not be amused at the fact that a mommy duck at Vancouver convinced a stranger to rescue her eight ducklings that had fallen into water! How could anyone not wear a smile when the tigress Sita emotionally handled the hostile father of her cubs and slowly introduced her babies to their father, who was a changed-man! There were so many inspiring stories that have been featured in the book and every picture makes it impossible to flip the page. Author Melina Gerosa Bellows writes in Mother’s love that animals are incredibly intelligent and unbelievably affectionate and possessive. Her words reinforced my unconditional love for them.

The book ‘Mother’s Love’ strengthens my belief that every life / animal counts. Perhaps, all those who stage this futile debate on an-animal’s life-is-not-more-important-a-human’s life should read this book and understand the importance of saving an animal’s life. This beautiful planet belongs to Animal Kingdom too and humans have no rights to decide whose value is more important.

When we were once discussing the rampage that a tiger had created when it slipped into a city in Karnataka, an uninformed acquaintance of mine nonchalantly said once, “It is all true that we have encroached upon their habitat. But they should not be creating so much damage to our lives and properties. I’m so glad that a shoot-at-sight order has been given. At any given day, a human life is more important than an animal’s.” He told that in a matter-of-fact tone. I was disgusted and felt so helpless to make such snobbish nincompoops understand that every life on this planet counts and that humans should use their intelligence to co-exist, be considerate and practise love and compassion.

I strongly recommend ‘Mother’s Love’ to learn how beautiful and intelligent animals are. Parents should certainly make children read this book for they are their future guardians. Regardless of one’s values and principles, one should read this book with an open-mind to see things from animals’ perspectives. For once!

View all my reviews

Five reasons to read 'The Madras Mangler'

The Madras ManglerThe Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In November 2013, while I was whimpering about my inability to achieve my reading target for the year, I wanted to help myself cope with the challenge by meeting a few like-minded folks at the Chennai Book Club meet, whom I thought would be a great source of inspiration. As we discussed this and that in the book club meet, an unassuming lady, whom I assumed to be an enthusiastic reader, politely revealed that she had authored a book called ‘The Madras Mangler’, a compelling thriller and she played a catchy trailer of her book. Usha Narayanan, the author of 'The Madras Mangler' and I exchanged our business cards and continued to catch up virtually, thanks to Facebook. When we met, I honestly didn’t have an idea that the high-spirited acquaintance of mine could unleash her creativity to write a page-turner, create a drool-worthy protagonist and feed the reader with twists and turns in almost every page. My husband, who is not a voracious reader, usually struggles to stay with a book till the last page. But much to my surprise, he finished reading ‘The Madras Mangler’ in three days and in between he called in sick. (I still suspect that he took a day off to finish reading the thriller). His unexpected determination to complete reading the book injured my ego. Despite that, it took almost two months for me to have a tryst with ‘The Madras Mangler’ (I surely kicked myself for procrastinating awfully).

The plot is simple yet interesting. There is an intelligent protagonist, who comes down from the States and happens to help a group of girls who are bogged down with life-threatening problems - the most important being a serial killer, who kidnaps girls, tortures and kills them and dumps their bodies in our very own Cooum. How does the able-bodied and bright protagonist saves the girl and nabs the killer form the crux of the novel! So how different is ‘The Madras Mangler’ from the plethora of other thrillers that the market is filled with? From Thomas Harris to Sidney Sheldon, many storytellers have explored this kind of a storyline. So, how does ‘The Madras Mangler’ stand out? Here are five reasons to read this interesting thriller that makes one’s reader’s block evaporate too.

1.A personal and a favourite reason is that the milieu of the book is ‘namma’ Chennai. When the girls’ corpses were being dumped in Cooum, with an excitement of a child, I was telling myself, “Oh! All these things are happening in my city!” Thanks to the author for sparing us from the pain of reading novel that’s set in a foreign place. With the ‘The Madras Mangler’, the connect with the characters and places is established naturally.

2.Fortunately, none of the characters indulge in monologues. Irrespective of their traits, everybody expresses their opinions crisply.

3.Narration deserves a special mention. The college girls don’t sing Fa La La La in the beginning and cry to death at the end. The author’s decision to avoid linear-narration is something that I really found interesting. The criss-cross narration takes the cake and it certainly makes the book more irresistible.

4.The explanations on how the killer unleashes the animal in her/him didn’t make me squirm. Although there were many ruffians like Jambu and Shaitaan, their needs to nourish their carnal pleasures were not so explicitly written. This talented author’s fine choice of words to articulate with clarity is not something that is found in many Indian authors.

5.‘The Madras Mangler’ might not be a great feast to your brain. But every once in a while, one would want to read something as racy as this book to take a break from heavy-reads. Maybe, it doesn’t make one ponder over deep meaning of life. But it surely helps one forget their half-witted bosses and escape from mundane reality.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 10, 2014

When an animal lover becomes a parent

Last October, Inji, one of the beautiful fur babies on my street, littered seven adorable puppies in an unoccupied house next to my apartment. The next day three disappeared. I tried finding adopters for the remaining ones and my efforts ended in vain. (Maybe, I didn’t make justifiable amount of effort. Maybe, I’m guilty!) Out of four puppies that were living in that house, two disappeared. Last week, my mother confirmed that the last two puppies were not found too. So, we presumed that the duo managed to find their way out of the house. But a couple of days ago, my mother told that an unbearable stench emerged from the unoccupied house. On the same day, we also found one puppy that was loitering in the house. My husband and I entered that house to check the status of the puppies. There was a carcass in the portico and the last puppy that managed to survive was sleeping in the first floor. I tried to grab her, but she dodged us, crossed the balcony and sat on an asbestos roof. We couldn’t walk on the roof as it was flimsy. We had to return and we waited for another opportunity to catch her.

Yesterday, fortunately I returned early from work. My husband, who was at home the whole day, couldn’t spot her. However, much to my surprise, I found her sleeping in the terrace of the unoccupied house. My mother and I rushed to the house. The puppy fled when she heard my footsteps and hid herself in the house again. My mother managed to catch her and we brought her to my apartment. On our way back, we found that the carcass that I found in the portico that morning was dragged to the terrace and the puppy’s mouth that we just caught smelled of dead body. How disturbing it was to learn that she had been feeding on the carcass of her sibling to cope with hunger!

After we left her in my apartment, she ensconced herself in a corner and she certainly didn’t like the experience of being taken away from her home ground, which wore the look of a graveyard. We took her to the vet immediately and thankfully, the vet confirmed that there were no symptoms of Parvovirus. He was amused at the fact that she ate her sibling’s carcass. He smiled! (I’m not kidding!) She was dewormed and given some antibiotics to treat her gastric infections. We couldn’t vaccinate her since she was not keeping too well. The vet advised us to monitor her stools for a couple of days, prescribed more medicines and put her on some critical care tin food diet.

Anu at the vet

While I was waiting in the clinic to meet the vet, I decided that we would foster her till the adoption drive that is going to happen on January 19. My father, who feared that I might add another pet to the family, detested my decision and advised me to just vaccinate her. He reckoned that it would be too much for us to foster her. But I couldn’t envisage leaving her back on the road at the same time I couldn’t take her home. Hence I chose to keep her in a small space in my apartment. We fed her, set up her cozy corner and kissed her goodnight. She howled for a while in the night and had a good sleep after a while. By the way, we named her ‘Anu’.

Anu at home for the first time

It’s been ages since I woke up before 9’o clock. But today I woke up at 7 am and waited for my father to leave to work. It’s because he wouldn’t like his daughter defying his opinions. I rushed out to see Anu, who was sitting in her corner. She didn’t give us eye contact. She still doesn’t. She shivered when I tried to lift her. I looked for her stools and it was all solid. I was never that happy in my life to see a dog’s poop and sigh with relief. After I gave all the prescribed tin food, after she downed a sachet of pedigree, I tried giving her some milk. She politely refused to drink. She seemed very choosy. I fixed her corner again and left to work halfheartedly.

Luckily, my husband hasn’t been working this whole week. So, he kindly agreed to take care of Anu when I am not around. After I reached office, like a kid who has adopted a pet would go gaga over the animal, I desperately waited for someone to listen to my story. This world doesn’t have too many people, who would willfully listen when an animal lover gushes. While I was in a long meeting, my husband tried phoning me many times. When I found time to talk to him, he sweetly told that he wanted to tell me that he thoroughly followed my instructions to look after her and sent me a cute picture of Anu relishing her lunch. My heart skipped a beat. For the first time in my life, I realised that I had become a parent and that I was talking to my husband about a little kid, whom we had begun to love. I couldn’t wait to return home and see the adorable child.

Anu relishes her lunch

I came back home around 9 pm and I immediately started inquiring my husband to learn the happenings of the day. He patiently explained that she enjoyed her lunch, but she was still scared of us. I realised that we were whole-heartedly involved in the process of fostering Anu. I loved that moment!

We just checked on her again. She now lives in my terrace. We have given her a nice quilt, a carton, some old clothes and water. She was crying for a while. But she settled down after we petted her once. She still doesn’t recognise us. I’m not too sure if a three month old pup would anyway recognise his/her parents. But I assume that Anu will take some more time to forget the trauma that she has experienced. She will begin to trust us soon. I believe!

Whenever I find time, I usually see some lovely doggie pictures and read a few fairy-tale stories in the Chennai Adoption Drive Facebook page. Its founder Jennifer has been a great inspiration to me. Perhaps, only because I found them helping animals remarkably that I pushed myself to do my wee bit to them. But when I spent many hours basking in the cuteness of those animals in the pictures, I never thought that I would become a foster parent soon. I never really thought that I would bring another animal to my place. Maybe, it was all destined. My mother casually said, “Anu pozhakkainumnu irukkupola. Athu appo kandippa nadakkum!” Perhaps, she was right!

I will have to foster her for 10 more days to help her recuperate and to take her to the Chennai Adoption Drive on January 19 to find a family for her. These days, my only prayer is to find a kind forever home for Anu. Today, after we checked on her for the last time, my husband questioned, “What will we do if we don’t find an adopter for her on Jan 19?” I felt a stab of anxiety. I sighed before I said, “Let’s see! She will find a home. If she doesn’t then we will put her in a boarding till we find one!” He asked, “Do you think we will be able to afford it?” I honestly didn’t have an answer. He understood and stopped quizzing.

If you are a believer, please pray for this little girl to recover and find a considerate family soon! That is all that we need now.

Anu will always be close to my heart for she has made us parents for the first time. I’m more of an akka to Calvin. So that doesn’t really count!