Thursday, June 30, 2005

Happy Hunting Grounds

January 19th, 1987 - June 30th, 2005

Mowgli died today. Or was it yesterday? Or earlier?

After a week of suffering, he
finally joined his friends in the big kennel in the sky this morning.
I for one, am relieved - with every day that he suffered, my parents seemed to suffer more. I sense that my father has aged 7 years in 7 days, and my ever stoic mother too, though not obvious.

It's ironic that having known Mowgs for 9 years, I decided to write about him and Tequila very recently. Perhaps a premonition.

What do I really say about him? That everyone who knew him loved him? That
strangers assured my mother and me that "he doesn't bite"! That his unique adaptable nature made his transition from large Bungalows with lawns to an apartment easy? That his ability to love people beyond class and creed made him friends everywhere? That his good natured, self fulfilled persona made him an enviable soul? That the truth is , he is irreplaceable.

He was the quintessential baby. Probably the son my father never had. And my
mother's little kid who never left the house. My father spent more money on biscuits for Mowgli than he did on fish! (If you know him, this is big deal).

Mowgli had his day, and life all
figured out. He spent the morning eating his and Tequila's breakfast. He waited for my mother to get him his first biscuit and then waited eagerly for her to leave for school. Then, his "alone time" with my father started - and he spent the rest of the morning, under my father's large wooden table, eating innumerable biscuits. He partook some of my father's break fast. He loved buttered toast. This dog ate everything. Karela, Bhindi,Pumpkin, everything. Chocolate occupied a special place in his heart though.

He then slothed till lunch. In the days when my grand mother lived with us, he used to wrestle for her soft velvet quilt, and spent his morning siesta on the quilt. She didn't necessarily like her quilt being snatched, but his temperament was such, instead it led her to indulgently rechristen him "Magendranath Chattopadhaya", "maga" for short.

Around late afternoon he knew it was time for my mother to come home from school. He would lazily raise himself, and stretch (a bit like a feline ancestor he may have had), and drag himself to the dining table. While my mother ate lunch, he drooled. And he drooled. At times he sat at the table, (a habit I had got him into) and attempted to lick plates of goodies.

He then snuggled under her feet while she completed the
daily crossword. Eagerly waiting for an evening biscuit.

When I lived at home he used to wait for me to come back from work. For a while I thought it was something to do with him being a loving hound. Then discovered it was to do with the cookies I may eat once I came home. Once the cookie ritual was done, he and I rubbed faces and our noses together; prompting my mother to warn me that I could get a skin infection. Well, it didn't quite work that way, and instead, who knows? Perhaps the secret of my shiny face was drool!

Then came dinner. Much drool later, it was time to go to bed. And try as
you might, there was no dragging Mowgs away from my father's bed. Even before my father yelled "Mogaaaaah", he was usually on the bed already, marking his little hot spot. And if you tried dragging him away, you'd discover no bribes worked, not even chocolate chip cookies. All you'd find is that he had turned into a Mogasaurus that could growl, and who knows, even bite!

On cold winter nights my mother dragged him close to her to warm herself,
and later complained she hadn't slept well because he dragged her covers. Harrumph. The truth was - I think she loved him more than she's ever loved anyone. I mean who doesn’t love a live hot water bottle with little baby grunts?

If you think all was adorable about this little doggie, it probably was not. Ask my sister. For my sister - it was complete sibling rivalry, replete with episodes of drool covered scrunchie chewing on his part, and her retaliating with annoying puffs of breath near his ears "Mowgli, phoo phoo" which he hated! One exceptionally long summer that he spent cooped up in a guesthouse with my parents, sister and Tequi, he drove her nuts. He chewed her shoes till they had to be discarded. Drooled all over her glasses till tears of rage blinded her. Chewed her lustrous locks while she slept. It was she who named him Mowgli, shortened to Mowgs.

Or ask Tequila. It was love -hate. This black and tan star of the Chatterji Household has over shadowed her since he
arrived. He ate her meals, and got many more biscuits out of the patriarch. He made annoying mouse like sounds, and bothered her every now and then. Much as she resented him, try attacking Mowgs, or even sniffing him, Teqs would be at your neck in no time. No one messed with him, not while she was around.

My other grandmother, Meme, was a kind and gentle soul who loved all living beings and was loved by all. However, when she visited, Mowgli’s drools, his hound like smell drove Meme to sleep on the other side of the bed, far away from him. But Mowgs was persistent. His attitude was "Love me, love me, say that you love me”. And loved he was. If ever he was sick, Meme would pray for his well being, all odours not withstanding.

U & A, the evil sons in law, were more than happy to have my mother prevent Mowgs from sleeping on their beds when they visited. They cracked silly jokes about giving him a "swift kick" below his tail, and A imitated the sounds Mowgs would make if he went flying in the air " yeeeeoooouuuuwwww", with U cracking up. But once when Mowgs broke his leg, U called everyday to check on his progress! And for the last week or so, has sat patiently listening to ramblings about Mowgs, and assured me the big kennel in the sky is a fun place to be.

D. thinks they might have chocolate chip cookies there. And my friend P says that it’s full of lots of bones, biscuits and balls. In fact she said our Grand Ma's are chucking balls, and our doggies are having a blast.

But back in Calcutta there's something new. The sudden shortage of chairs has ended. There's one empty chair in the study. A bridge I will have to cross when I come to it.

Bye Mowgs.Moga.Magga.Mogadishu.BabyGonu.Mowgli. We will miss you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Breaking Bon Bons in Den Bosch

Bon Bons. Pink Lemon. Le creuset. Crumpets. Creme Friache. Stuffed Artichokes. Fleur De Sel.

Just some of the words added to my new House Vrouw dictionary! After the years spent worshipping mammon in the business world, here I was, attempting to become a domestic goddess myself. Move over Martha Stewart. Julia Child who?

I had spent the last few weeks vacantly staring into the television, and burst into tears when one of the animals at St. Tigglywinks (from Animal Planet) died. Also my obsession with Jabu,Tembe and Morula (african elephants) was reaching unusual heights much to the dismay of my family, extended family. I figured the time had come for some interaction with homo sapiens, preferably not related to B's work place, and I took the plunge.

I went to a dinner of the so called Women's club. Turns out they did bake cookies, but they went to work as well. It was such a relief to just find a band of women - trying to make sense of their lives in a different culture. What was supposed to be an early dinner extended into a 11 pm - being almost shunted out of the restaurant-event. There was the usual semi-hysterical typical Netherlands bashing. Then it moved from one desultory topic to another, till all that was left of the evening was a girlie, giggly haze of alcohol!

As I watched my dinner company speed off on their bikes in different directions like glow worms, and i turned towards the beautifully illuminated St Jan's to walk home, I was glad I gotten off my 'corporate' high horse to meet the Bon Bon makers. Perhaps I was finally beginning to appreciate this whole business of being gezellig.

You got it!

Posted by Hello
Bun, T aur Bubbly!

Kopy Kat

create your own visited country map

Ok , so this is copied from frodo's blog. But this is so much fun! It really does tell you how little one has travelled!

I am hoping at the end of my year "off" - there's going to be many more red spots!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

He's related to a Tapir!

Hot Dogs, Anyone? Posted by Hello
For years now my sister and I have been convincing our parents - nothing like a slice of microwaved Mowgli for breakfast! Unfortunately our requests have been in vain.

I seem to notice that most of my doggie dreams are in vain. Which led me to Pumpkin. (After whom this blog is named in case you haven't noticed). But that is another story.

This one's a looooong story. About 2 dachshunds. They may both be dachshunds but they are both as unlike each other as my sister and me. (Thank god for small mercies).

Tequila Posted by Hello So they entered my parent's lives just when they had begun exiting us. They sent me off to college & enter Tequila! A dear little brown-eyed girl amongst the daisy patches! But if you thought this lovely lady is a cherub, you couldn't be farther from the truth. She was the dogess of the Drm Bungalow! This spirited lady (named Tequila by my friend R. who had Cuban connections) commanded fear & respect from more quarters than you and me combined. The monkeys stopped stealing lichees and the crows couldn't drink from the fountains any more once Tequila arrived. Her friends ranged from the snake poison man to a dhobi's son to a skunk some nights. The nights she played with the skunks she wasn't allowed on the bed. Did that stop her? Think again!
She chewed the carpet when my parents socialised without her. One time she sidled up to "important" visitors my parents had from out of town, and was almost adopted by them till I was the ostensible excuse they couldn't give Tequila away! The next morning when I woke up and discovered my copy of the "Calcutta Chromosome" chewed to bits, I was the excuse they needed to give her away.
Sigh...if only life were that simple. But it isnÂ’t is it? Tequila's life was to change forever. Enter Mowgli.

Mowgli is a black dachshund whose mental age is one. Though he turned 8 in January, 2005. I suspect it has something to do with the Bengali mother - namby pambied son phenomena. He arrived soon after my sister left for college. My father found him in a kennel outside of Calcutta in protest to about 25 years of suffering the lack of balance at home -between his wife, two daughters, and a girlie dog, tequila.

Mowgli resembled a little black mouse. He smelt like a dead one unfortunately. My mother protested they didn't need another dog, the rest of us laughed at his odd appearance. Poor Mowgs had a solitary friend in Ramu - the head chef (aka the House Manager). We suspected his fascination with Mowgs was to do with his resemblance to kielbasa. Or bratwurst. He would simmer spices in a large pot, with mowgli balanced precariously on a shoulder, almost about to drop him in. Till my mother suspected the same and banned Mowgs from the kitchen.

I really am not sure at what point Mowgs turned into the toast of the households. Over the years Tequi got used to Mowgs. Mowgs didn't need to get used to Teq or anyone. He's been endowed with high tolerance and incredible greed. He even survived the attack of the sons in law.

Teq remains the top dog. She is snobbish. She doesn't eat toast without butter. She is fussy about the bits of meat handed to her. She cannot withstand sharp temperature differences. Her lovely liquid Cuervo gold eyes give you disapproving looks when you haven't come back to see her in a bit. She doesn't drool.

Mowgs, on the other hand is a slightly different story. He is greedy. Will eat anything. Anything. Friend or foe - if you bear food, you must be a friend! His drools have potential to drown the titanic. His breath has potential to substitute chemical weapons. His wonderful body odour has forced my mother to segregate the bed linen as "mowgli friendly" & not. The skin in his underbelly is still recovering from the time his low hanging stomach attracted a recently re- tarred road.

Such is life with teqs and mowgs. Makes a dog's life not seem like such a bad thing. I mean, how many dogs have travelled in special railway carriages and been served gourmet meals at the touch of a button?

Better still - it never ceases to amaze me how the teq-mowg world never seems to lack for wonders for my folks. Sort of like this morning, when i called my mother from a different continent, after nearly 10 days, and she responded to my 'what's up' with a " I think he's related to a Tapir! " Need I say more?

Amsterdam Re#ed

Yesterday was a fun day to be in Amsterdam. If you are the star spotting type you'd be disappointed. Unless you spent 10 hours outside the Grand Krasnapolsky. Or Sanjay Suri is your type. (Do you even know who he is ? I didn't!)

The city had been invaded by desis (indians, surinamese, pakistanis,bangladeshis & the rest of the subcontinent). The iifa awards were apparently not quite as well attended. At a 16o e for a last minute ticket it comes as no surprise! But outside the movie theatres, the Hotel Grand Krasnapolsky where the stars were ensconced, the story was very different!

F & I decided to watch Page 3 in a quaint theatre which was also screening My Brother Nikhil, Veer Zara and Dil Chahta Hain amongst others. Which should have read dil chhata (umbrella) hain since it began pouring for no good reason.

Page 3 is a wonderful and dismal film at the same time. It is a laudable effort, offers a very candid & cutting commentary on the razzle dazzle one sees on the tabloid-like Page 3 of leading newspapers ( which in my opinion is more suitable for making paper boats to float in the dirty water logged streets of Mumbai). That the razzle dazzle isn't what it really is makes it so depressing. Sometimes it's fun to imagine how it must feel to be a super model or a successful director. Looks as though it isn't all peachy.

The worst part of the Page 3 phenomena is probably - non of the truly successful people are really visible! Think about it : would you see Narayana Murthy on Page 3? Or for that matter Manmohan Singh? I doubt if Amitabh Bachchan has to pay to have his picture taken with nubile starlets! As a friend of mine put it "Most of the people on Page 3 of the Delhi Times don't deserve to have their pictures put on toilet paper, let alone a news paper". Some strong sentiment there!

The day ended more coffee, much laughter and many wanderings of the mind later. But somehow the dark side remained etched in my mind for a bit.

There probably is nothing more depressing than shallow beings who choose to call themselves "human". Ones who look perfect, sound perfect, but are far from perfect -which takes me to the nouveau rude article D. sent me.

Will let you know my thoughts on the same later! In the meantime here's a silly picture - see if you can figure it out!

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Smug Moms

Smug Moms Posted by Hello

Ok. So am borrowing part of the idea from Bridget Jones. Or should i say Helen Fielding?
In her troubled chronicles about men, weight and other depressing things she coins the term "smug marrieds." Not something you'd figure if you got married at early 20 something. Because you probably are one! There probably is no better term to describe the same phenomena , only applicable to "smug moms" this time around.

The idea first took birth (literally) when D.'s friend who resembled a beached whale in the all the time i knew her produced a little heir. I think she said "royal". The heir was adorable. The mom turned even more adorable. Suddenly this whale was beached no more. She was in full throttle, in deep waters , and closely resembled a super model!

I bumped into her one disheveled morning - she projected her now-lean torso out of the car, and said "you must. you really must." I thought she meant go on a diet , so i sucked in my stomach (hard to do) and agreed whole heartedly. She reached out with a perfectly manicured hand, threw her head back and laughed " Silly, i mean, have a baby!"

Hmmn...i ran out of there, my phone was ringing incessantly (thank god) and gratefully disappeared inside my otherwise odious office.

The phenomena continue(d)(s). Of course all the mums don't resemble Sarah JP. Thank god for small mercies.actually giant mercies. But they all seem to gather the attitude alright!

If you meet an america returned mom - help me god - it just gets worse! You will be up to your ears in epidural & estrogen talk till you gag.

I am sure having a baby is special.I love babies. Other people's.But what is interesting is that the mums are not smug about their babies (that is party understandable, parental pride n joy blah ). The are smug about their situation! Their new bodies, new toy, new status! What I really haven't been able to figure is - why all of these smug moms insist they have a better thing going !

Smug Moms Posted by Hello

I'll let you in on a secret - the smug mom thing - it isn't all kosher! In fact, there are plenty of reasons as to - why don smug mum armour at all!

One smug mom i know complained incessantly about being treated like a mother dairy! Another who resembles Olive Oyl closely has so many stretch marks she resembles the moon's crater filled surface! Another has been susbisting on a diet of hara - chana (greem gram) for the last 3 years (her son's 3) - perhaps her equine appearance has something to do with it. There was a psycho smug mom who locked her baby at home to be able to drink at the whiskey bar ! Another was forced to abandon her super mom persona & quit her glamorous job since the ayah was always on chutti! There's one who's husband is always scouring the sleazy video parlours because his wife's always busy with - the baby of course! And they are not alone!

Better still - i overheard two of these "smug " mums , for about 3 hours, raving and ranting , discussing a third non-mum friend's (?) marriage, career, her appraisal ratings, her travel plans,her shoes, her underwear,her manicure blah blah. The friend in question had absolutely no clue these women existed! Nor worried so much about her! Their smug "i am so fulfilled" maternal instincts apparently extends to friends & bitching!

Perfect though their world is. Am sure it is. Every once in a while you see that little chink in their smug mum armour! Looks as though changing diapers isn't as darling as its made out to be!

Does this story have a touch of Aesop's oldest fable? Perhaps!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Where do i begin

Buggie Dreams Come True Posted by Hello

Did you watch The Love Bug as a child? Remember Herbie? Well, there i was , amongst the millions of VW Beetle fans the world over. And though i did love Herbie a lot, the new Volkswagen Beetle was the stuff my dreams were made of! There was a tweety bird (vw calls it sunflower) yellow beetle parked below my window that substituted the sun on bleak Boston mornings. Then there was the cyber green one that reminded me of a cool mint drink on a hot day. A friend owned a red one that we threatened to paint black dots over.

I dreamt. I sniffed. I sighed. How wonderful would it be to own one. Santa must have heard me.
Or perhaps he didn't.

One sunny and freezing morning , just short of christmas i woke up early and tried charading the husband into a bunch of chores. To be put off by a "i need to go to work". Who goes to work the weekend before christmas? We had friends coming to stay for the weekend. Some more coming to dinner.Why was he going to work again?

He reappeared an hour later, looking sort of disheveled and excited at the same time. A stocking with a key appeared out of nowhere. And the tweety bird yellow bug below my window had been replaced by a bright, shiny, happy- faced blue bug wearing a bright red bow!

Buggie (not a very imaginative name) was loved. adored. worshipped. and driven of course.
Once he lost his vision in his right eye. I was sad. Santa. Sorry , the husband gave it some buggie lovin' and he was right as rain again! My favourite memory of buggie is probably of him bounding into my office lot , with U. at the wheel, both his eyes restored!

There's that memory and several others. Of blue buggie against the blue atlantic. Of a snowy buggie on cold winter mornings. of a summer buggie in Harvard square. Of a shopping buggie not complaining about the large bags piled into it. Of a primping buggie showing off the fresh new sunflowers in the bud vase. Of a cringing buggie when "its raining men" blasted out of it. And of course, of a weeping buggie when i kissed him goodbye.

It's been almost 3 years. 13 days short of 3 years since the goodbye. I know one must move on. I celebrated his birthday for a while and then gave up when people were wondering why i was rabbiting on about an insect, a pet, an ex boyfriend or some alien called buggie.

On a road trip to Germany recently, i met many of buggie's cousins. A sissy white cabriolet. A pretentious black one too. U says the time has come to get over my buggie angst.

Oh well, perhaps now i will! The new Cayman S anyone?

nee, niet, neen, geen,

Or Ja, Jawel.
Does it matter? Not really.

Woensdag 1 juni.
I woke up this morning very excited. This was going to a historic day. Ok, so am exaggerating. But the Dutch were going to have their 1st national referendum in 200 years! (Or so I read somewhere). Besides - it was an awesome sunny day, just right for getting out of the house, and exercising your right to, ok an opinion.

I nearly tripped over myself in the newfound rush to get to the city hall to check the proceedings - only to bump into my cleaning lady on the way out. I stared at her, and asked her in my unique blend of a hint of Dutch, a few rolled R s (remnant from the Boston days), and sign language - "have you voted?"

She nodded, responded with a broad smile & led me to the bathroom instead, and as if to explain how she voted, she picked up a bottle of lily- of- the- valley body splash and asked, "Van de winkel in de marktplaats? Read as: did you buy this in a shop in the market place??

I responded with a niet and stepped out in anticipation of meeting a few civic-minded souls at least. The Den Bosch marketplace was crowded - it was a Wednesday, which is market day for fresh produce, flowers etc. I looked around expecting to see long lines winding around the City Hall. No signs of any lines there! I did spot a line outside Hunkemoller though (the lingerie store in a corner of the marketplace). When I investigated - I discovered some Dutch folks in line to buy bathrobes being sold for 10e a piece!

Then made my way over to the Bossche Broeke - pretty certain that it would be deserted. Shouldn't people be at work or voting? The answer looked like it was neither - they had decided to take the day off to sun bathe instead!

I came back exhausted, and a little disappointed. Just as i was getting into the elevator I met one of our geriatric neighbours who greets me every morning with a "hood morning, I am so sorry, ghoood morning! " I was pleased - was pretty certain he must have voted. He responded to my query "of course, I voted. The song you see. The song."

Figuring the old man had finally gone barmy; I pushed the elevator button till my thumb was blue. Once upstairs, I retired to my laptop, a little sad. A one time ardent follower of Pericles, Rousseau and their ilk, I was depressed by this apparent apathy to the referendum.

I needn't have been though. As I discovered a day or two later. A whopping 63% of the Dutch came out to vote. And 62% of them voted "nee".

So what if the if the vote hinged on an Eurovision Song contest? The Dutch message to those watching was size, or in this case, a song does matter!

Happy Shiny Face Posted by Hello