Life lessons from a dog named Max- Part 2.

My dog max was trained by a police dog trainer, so… don’t be judgemental.

Infact he was so well trained, he had 3 gears when he wanted to poop- “Green”- when he had the thought locked in, but the reflex muscles were still sitting on the couch, teary-eyed and watching the “Lion King” scene where simbas dad is trampled to death. We lived in a community of row houses those days and he would bring his leash in his mouth at 5:30am, wait for you to carry the plastic bag and take him for a walk.

“Amber”, was when sphincter muscles had raised their “kanban” card like a “just-in-time”, manufacturing plant of Toyota. At such times he would give you a ” I dont think you can walk this emergency- just open the door”. He would run 50 meters in the early morning darkness to the community front gate, go to the main road, waking up the street dogs in the process, who’s startled barking would be just enough to relax his sphincter muscles and do his job smoothly.

He would reach a state of nirvana post that, and walk himself back home using the longest, slowest walk possible- stopping at our neighbours front door and drinking the small plate of milk kept their for the cat.

Once in a while though he would be having his afternoon “siesta”, all stretched out on the living room, and he would suddenly jump up with a crazy look on his face- like he’s seen a ghost, look down to make sure he didn’t soil himself, then goes skating through the living room and shoots into the neighbours garden shouting, “RED, RED, RED”, crap there and run back home in slow-motion- like he’s in a Bollywood dream sequence.

We all do that dont we?

Its been a while since I’ve given up on organized religion- but not long enough to forget that of the 10 commandments, two were focussed around maintaining good neighbourly relationships. My take though is if you dont get distracted by the mentions of ox, and man servant, etc, in the script, all it says is “Don’t be a jerk of a neighbour. Make it easy for him to love you”

Many of us though, take a dump in our neighbours garden every morning (okay not literally, that would be gross), but figuratively. In this totally connected world, the definition of “neighbour”, extends beyond the one who shares a physical wall with you. Everytime we make a stupid post on FB, or put up a hurtful comment, we are literally taking a dump in our neighbours garden.

And don’t blame the dog.

Miracles

Okay so here’s my take on the most famous miracle of all time, we’ve all wanted to do since we were teenagers on a tight weekly allowance – changing water into wine.

Let me first set the context here. The good book refers to this “water to wine” miracle happening at a marriage hall in the Middle East some 2000 years ago. Somebody seems to have miscalculated the drinking abilities of the new “in-laws”, and ordered wine that only got through to round 1 in what was turning out to be a long night.

“Hello? I told you not to invite Mustapha. I’ve seen him drink at the local pub … gawd! See what you’ve done?” doesn’t actually qualify as a good problem statement, but let’s go with that for now.

The first step in any transformation journey is to identify and articulate clearly a need for change or a problem you want to solve. In this case, a unique one, “If I don’t have some wine here in the next 30 minutes – I’m dead”

The next step is to evaluate all available options on the table and confirm that the only “Plan B” available, is not a viable option- this is to ensure that you are fully invested in the change process.

In this particular case, “Plan B” would have involved having the father of the bride, slip on his nike sneakers, walk into a dining hall packed with a tipsy bunch of guests getting ready to line dance to the “cha cha slide”. Then having to bang spoon to plate to grab the attention of the crowd and go – “okay everybody, listen up, we have a small problem here- We’ve run out of wine”.

See what I mean? That’s not a viable Plan B. Is it?

There would have been pin-drop silence and confused looks, and then the father of the bride would have had to outrun a group of half-drunk, new relatives through narrow cobbled streets, side-stepping donkey with high ambitions of serving the messiah, and having three generations on your family tree being cursed in ancient Aramaic. Not good!

Moving on.

Here’s some advise for event planners, business owners and individuals ready for a transformation though – always expect the unexpected and plan for worst case scenarios in life – insurance, miracle men, bouncers, super heroes and a “designated driver” who can get you out of a sticky situation and save the day.

If you on the other hand happen to be that problem-solving, transformational leader, that’s been designated to do a little miracle and save the day- DON’T PANIC. Heres how you do it.

First, close your eyes and ask your sponsor, what flavour of wine he would want to turn this water into.

You can use the most trusted pickup line of a magician and go-
“Pick a fruit. Any fruit.”.
“GRAPE.”
“Grape? Hmmm. How boring and predictable”

Next, crush audience requested fruit into bowl containing a frothing yeast mix, add water and go “Abracadabra!”. That’s it!

Okay, if you’ve read the Harry Potter series, you would have got an insight into the mechanics of crafting a good spell- spells you see serve just one purpose- divert attention and buy time, and hence they’re usually long and confusing … just right to divert your attention long enough for the magic to happen. In this case, approximately 12-15 days for the water to magically turn to wine which I hear is how long ancient wedding parties in the Middle East usually lasted.

Every parable ends with a lesson right – Bringing about a magical transformation in your life uses the same building blocks of wine making. You must ENDURE being crushed by the hard times and come to a point where you WANT to change your present state, you must have mustard seed sized SELF BELIEF and you must have a lot of PATIENCE. It’s that simple. Try it!

As for me, I need to go check if that wine I’ve been brewing has matured as yet. It’s about time.

YES, I think it has.

“Wingardium Leviosa”.

Like Powder to the back of your head.

I remember growing up and going to the local “barber shop” for a haircut. When the guy is done with your head, he’ll dab some powder on your neck, like he’s trying to cover up some errors and blood stains, brings out a mirror and stands behind you like a magicians assistant, letting you have a look at his handiwork, and areas of your anatomy you haven’t seen in months, through a reflection on the mirror in front of you.

You give your head a good look like goldilocks would have (“my. What big ears you have grandmother”) and before you could Identify any flaws, the rascal quickly shifts to the other side, and you nod hesitatingly, letting him know it’s “a okay” – like we had any choice at that point.

Sadly “barber shops” like many small business owners, are taking a big hit in this lockdown, and the mirrors seem sadly to have turned, and it sight doesn’t look good.

I hope small business owners hang in there though and make a come back post the lockdown. I for one have pledged to use their services as far as possible once we’re back to normal mode- you should too.

Take precautions, and go back to that “chai walla”… go back to that 2 seater “hair saloons”… drop by at that family run restaurants …encourage the home bakers…. shop at your local “Kirana” store for basic essentials … encourage local artists…

If you’re afraid these small “barber shops” are going to screw up your hair style- trust me, I’ve seen all your selfies- that ship has passed. 😂 just do it!

Stay safe! 🙏

The second cup

Coffee lovers like me swear by it. The first one is to wake you up… but it’s the “second one”, that gets those bowels moving.

You may argue that the need for a laxative in these strange and challenging times is non existent. What with having to deal with a virus picking us off one by one, pink- coloured currency notes, and saffron-coloured, right- wingers trolling you in your dreams. Enough to get those wheels hyper sensitive and threaten to soil your bedsheets in your sleep.

Strangely though, over time your Central nervous system gets used to the train of bad news, and your vagus nerve waits for its daily shot of caffeine to pass the memo from nervous system to digestive tract, like a tenured government employee, rubbing thumb to index finger and going, “Saar. Something? something?”

These are strange times though and we’re all acting like we’re in a pandemic of flatulence- staying 6 feet away, wearing masks and staring with mistrust at folks in the elevator, while mnc pharma companies, try to side step a nimble, bare chested “Baba” with a squint. who’s threatening to shout “Pathanjali” as he crosses the finish line holding high the antidote.

Our role now is to just stay home, and what better way to keep a billion people home and flatten the curve, than inducing a pandemic of irritable bowels. Bring that second cup my friend – make it dark. Make it thick. Make it mysterious.

Go ahead. Close your eyes. Drink Deep. Aaah!

Now run …..

Hollywood Squares

This pandemic has exposed our soft under bellies like no other. A bunch of sissies cowering in the confines of our homes, while sending each other selfies of our last meal.

Last evening one of my enthusiastic cousins, messages the “cousins” whatsapp group a picture of a very gentle- looking old lady and mentions, she’s no more. I put on my reading glasses, zoom in on the photo trying to recognize a feature- unfortunately I’m not able to make any connections in my memory. I try zooming in on the 2 others on the photos… Nope.

Anyways too polite to ask who it was, I put in a sad face and craft a condolence message and send it back. A flurry of “sincere condolences” messages start shuttling across the ether – each trying to outdo the other in speed and emotion for a gentle “paatimaa” we fail to recognize.

I go to bed in a melancholic mood, even consider having a round of “black label” to mourn the passing away of our late “paatimaa”. Anyways late in the night, cousin number 2, wakes up on the other side of the globe and contradicts the relationship of our sweet old, “paatimaa”, and puts her squarely on the opposite side of the family tree. “Paatimaa” seems to be a little more familiar with this side, and nods a friendly hello to other occupants like a participant on “Hollywood squares”.

Hello? 🤷‍♂️

That’s when I lose it – who are these people to play with my emotions when I’m at my most vulnerable? Who is this “paatimaa” that I’ve been drinking to? The debate goes on – but then these are challenging times, and there’s a lockdown and I have only a limited supply of “black label” and the least you can do is plot my family tree properly, and clarify the source of my sadness.

Till then- RIP “Paatimaa” and may the softness of your smile forever inspire us to reach deep within our souls and find happy places in these challenging times. 🙏

Magic bullets and such …

I realized that the best way to irritate your doctor is to start a conversation with – “Doc, I was reading on the internet that …” or “Doc what do you think of … “ and just randomly start telling him about how you self diagnose and discuss “over-the-counter” solutions with your local pharmacist. 🤨🤷‍♂️🤦‍♂️😂

Growing up we had a “medicine shelf” at home since my mom was a nurse for over 30 years and the shelf was always stocked- junction violet?, spirit, burnol, betadine, zinc cream, cotton rolls, etc and a tablet box. So “self medication “ when we got scrapes or bruises playing soccer, etc was a daily affair.

My dad on the other hand would walk up to “salamath pharmacy”, and the owner who was a thin chap, who looked like a “apu” on the Simpson’s serial would walk up to him…. my dad would start by giving him a few symptoms, and before he went 2 sentences, “apu” would already be walking up to a shelf, scratch his head, reach out for a cardboard box with all kinds of alphabet markings on it. He would walk back, hand my dad a small brown paper packet, with the dosage and cost written on it with a ball point pen that he always had stuck behind his ear. My dad would be giving him the looks we reserve for the pastor at church, make the payment and walk out.

As for me, there was a time when I loved to shop for electronics when travelling abroad- now, I just love to walk into a large pharmacy outlet like “shoppers drug mart” or “guardian” and get all excited looking at the lineup of flavoured antacids, cough medications, ear drops, small hand lotions, etc and usually come out with the biggest spend for the trip.

I still remember the time I was travelling to Seattle from singapore and transiting through Tokyo airport. This was probably 2001 or so. Anyways as usual I got excited seeing a small battery operated head massager on display, which I thought was god answering my prayers for a solution to my migraine problems. The packaging was all in japanese- but I considered myself a “techie” who was comfortable with mechanical devises, so that didn’t make a difference. I took my seat next to a white lady on the long haul flight, gave the customary introduction and no sooner had the flight taken off that I inserted fresh batteries into the head massager with a smile and started moving it across my temples and forehead. The feeling was so good… gawd these japanese guys were sheer geniuses I thought. The lady next to me was first curious because the devise was making a small buzzing noise in the darkness of the aircraft, but then she started avoiding making any eye contact with me and I thought “gawd, these racist folks” are really very standoffish.

I was narrating the story to my other colleagues down that weekend in Seattle and only when someone wanted to see the devise I was referring to did I realize that it was actually a women’s Sex toy called a “magic bullet”. 🤦‍♂️

So there you have it- learn japanese! 👍🏽

Hair today. Gone tomorrow…..

So I have this theory that the devil was present when god was making man. I can imagine them both sitting down under the apple tree and having a general TGIF moment on a Friday evening and as usual god is rattling away at how good his little “universe project” is coming around. The devil is chugging on a glass of wine with his legs resting on a garden chair.

And god goes, “hey luci (yes that’s what I would call a guy named lucifer too.) , want a sneak peak at the new product I’m releasing tomorrow?” And the devil strokes the head of the serpent on his lap lovingly and yawns – “whatever!! Make it fast though- got some work to do on my “universe project” too… “.

So god mumbles something, puts on his specs, hobbles into his workshop adjoining the garden and comes back in a few minutes, “Ta. da. Behold my best ever creation yet” and out walks man. And the devil nearly chokes the little snake on his lap in astonishment, drops his wine glass and goes “OMG. He looks a lot like your evil twin”. god blushes a light shade of pink, “ha!ha! I know, that’s because I made him In my own image.” The devil blows a raspberry, “phurp”. “Damn. Don’t you think that would come across as extreme ego pandering?”.

God looks a bit irritated by now, realizing that his masterpiece is not actually drawing a positive reaction “ You know what – the rest of creation can take a hike, ’cause I care a damn what they think. infact I’m calling him just that – “A damn”…. and you know what ….. (pause for effect) … I’m going to create another one just like this one just to keep him occupied”.

By now lucifer is very amused and the wine seems to be also kicking in nicely, he gets up, the serpent now curls up nicely around Lucy’s neck, flicks a forked tongue and knows there’s something important about to happen. Lucy walks up to Adam, looks him In the eye and goes “boo!!”. Adam jumps up in utter fear and darts out into the garden naked. God tries to control his laughter and admonishes the devil “Luci. Don’t scare the poor boy!”.

Lucifer waits a few moments, for effect and to make sure Adam has well and truly left and walks up to god, and whispers “ you know what? This bald guy is great, but I have a quick fix to keep this dumb chap occupied when the woman you’re planning, isn’t around…”. god dismisses him with a wave of the hand and goes- “don’t worry I’ve taken care of that your pervert? Anyways go ahead it’s Friday evening and I can do with some party talk.”

The devil scratches his bald head and smiles -“ you got to just put some thin grass like stuff on his head that would grow, blow in the wind, get easily disturbed, change colour and fall off. Believe me that’s enough to keep this nitwik occupied”. God shakes his head, slaps the devil on his back and goes “ like hair? finally, that’s sheer genius. Why didn’t I think of that myself. something I could definitely do”. He snaps his fingers and sure enough Adam who’s by now grinning at his own reflection in the stream that runs through the garden of eden, jumps up with joy on suddenly seeing hair pop up on his head and starts running his fingers through it.

God looks at lucifer, shakes his head, smiles and goes – “you little devil! See you tomorrow. Careful it’s getting dark outside….”

And THAT my friend is where it all started…

Fast forward 2000 years …

Growing up we all develop a love-hate relationship with our hair. I didn’t have such privileges though. i grew up with both parents from the forces and was also part of a cult-like religious group- without the pointy hats though. So while the 70s and 80s were marked by long hair and bell bottoms- for us 3 brothers we used to sport what is called a “summer cut”, so lets just agree that much of my relationship with my hair has been – hate.

For the uninitiated, a “summer cut” is essentially where a “barber” would mimic a farmer ploughing his field using a “machine”. Yes when we were growing up – everything was simple and we just called things as it is without fear of being called out as “inappropriate”.

We stayed in a middle class neighbourhood of town, and the “neighbourhood” essentially meant we had an oil shop (to buy kerosene) for cooking …. next was a “Nayyar baker”,… “barber shop”…… “paper shop”… “Brahmin hotel”…. “Potti Kadai….. “Bhai hotel” …. “watch shop”…. next Muslim doc…. then “next street” which essentially was that – the next street, where many of our friends and pandian, our PT master and Alwar our science master from School lives. It was a time before GPS, internet, handphone and 6 lane roads, and so our world essentially extended around a 10 kilometres radius. Go east to marina beach….. west to Nungambakkam …. north to mount road or parry’s corner at best and south to Mylapore ….. or adyar.

So then , sorry I digressed there, the barber used to do “house calls” when we were real small and then, when we could cross the road, we did the “walk of shame” to and back from the hair dresser like a “before”- “after” tictok video. The next week post the dreaded haircut was all about being teased in school, wearing a cap and generally having a good look in the mirror every morning hoping for some growth. We finally landed at church on Sunday morning and everyone gave me an appreciative nod and smile and I literally saw a white dove take off from the back of my head while a voice from heaven went “nitwik”.

Anyways my relationship with my hair has taken a lot of avatars since – “summer-cut” … “step-cut” … “just trimming” … “number 2 blade full-ah podu pah” … “long”, to where I’m now “headed” (sorry for the pun) – “bald!”

… and you’re afraid a virus named after a beer is going to take me down?

Hair stories

I’m all for encouraging small business owners and I believe anyone charging me more than 100 bucks for my hair-“style” is ripping me off. So I go to the local “barber”, so my son, Nischinth can spend 1000 bucks at Freaking “Toni & Guy”. 😦 I give only one instruction- “Number 2 podu Paa”…I mean the number on the electric trimmer. Not what you think. 🙂 . Check out the “Gellette” Foam and the “Jordan” Color-ah. The funny thing is I went in at 8:55.a.m and the guy tries out his electric trimmer on one “girdha” (sideburns) and then goes “Saar 9:00.a.m current cut-uh”. Hello? and then rushes through like an MTC bus on my head. Its a small hole-in the wall shop and I don;t need to walk to the sink (check it out behind the fan) ; if I ever get the courage to have a “shampoo wash”. Anyways the last time my wife Kavitha visited the Tirupathi temple in southern india, I accompanied here as usual ( I’ve been in a couple of times – but can’t manage the claustrophobic queues… ) and as usual I sauntered around the back lanes trying to pass time… had 2 cups of tea… walk,walk.. still an hour to go- so I enter where-else- a “barber shop”. “Number 2 podu pah”. still 45 minutes to go… “Oru Head massage”… still 15 minutes… “Oru facial podu paa”… I’m not kidding he started with a foundation of talcum powder ( pervert!) , then some white wax type of thing… then some pink lotion with golden sparkles. Gawd. Kavitha could’nt stop laughing when she came back and saw me all bleach-faced and sparkling. LOL! “GO. Encourage your local business owner.”

Easy rider.

So I ticked a line on my “bucket list” and got myself a bike- not just any bike , a royal enfield interceptor 650…. with dreams of the wind running wild though my hair as I do one last solo ride through the crispy atmosphere of Ladakh….. ride one last time through the green winding roads of wayanad… do an “east coast ride” from Trivandrum to Goa and back. Its however been hardly a day since my bike landed and somehow I’m getting a strange feeling I need to water down my “Peter Fonda” sized expectations and lay off investing in that leather jacket as yet. I just realized that when you’re a family guy and there’s a new bike around- everybody magically seems to get altogether forgetful – “dippy can you just ride down to the super market and get me some “pudina”( coriander) and some curd for the Biriyani? I totally forgot that”… “dippy the ironing guy hasn’t picked up the clothes…. I think there’s a shop down the road who should be able to get it done- can you just drop it off please?”… “ can you just turn right- there’s a medical shop- I need to get some paracetamol”, and all my macho dreams seem to be bursting faster than you can say “easy rider”. C’mon all you ladies – as newbie “bikers”, we have some hopes and dreams you know. Sure we got to lose some gut before we qualify as “bikers”, but give us some challenges, some heavy duty stuff. We don’t spend all that money to carry your laundry or buy your grocery- want to frighten the landlord? Lean on our big bikes at the street corner, with a tooth pick precariously positioned on our lips like john travolta in “wild hogs” and glare menacingly at the tweeny boys laying google eyes on your teenage daughter? Bring it on. Till such time though, I think I’ll add a large saddlebag to do these short runs to Kunnil super market for some “idli” batter🤨 hmm, I wonder if they have a sturdy shopping trolley side car accessory at the enfield showroom? 🤔 #wildhog #HARDLYdavidson #interceptor650