Month: April 2012


Tia was the undisputed lord of the turf. Tall, muscular and regal, with tawny eyes of a lion, he generated fear in the heart of passer byes as he mock attacked them and saw them scurry all over with loud shrieks and giggles. Long before I got to know him, I had assumed he was a female of great beauty and hence christened him a very feminine, ‘Tia’…a name, to which he responded with great zeal and completely ignored any attempt at renaming him, Zorba or Sheroo, subsequently… upon confirmation of his real gender.

The first time I spotted Tia, he had his head buried in a mound of leftover biryani by the roadside and was gorging on it voraciously. He stopped only when the entire lot was over. As I crossed him on my way for an evening stroll, Tia was lying on his side, contentedly bloated, eyelashes and snout coated with grains of saffron coloured rice. He stayed in that position for what seemed like days. And then finally woke from his slumber, anaconda like and took charge of his neglected turf once more.

Tia found a way to the shoe-rack we had outside our home. Quite often Madhav, my son, would have to hobble down with one shoe, yelling Tia’s name angrily and would be rewarded with a dog bounding toward him with the missing shoe in his mouth, eager for some energetic chase and play early in the morning. Madhav’s shoulder would slump in defeat even before the game began…The days when Tia was not stealing newspapers from the neighbourhood homes or harassing cyclists would be the days we would get his undivided attention… He would rest his paws on Madhav’s white school shirt and peer into his eyes lovingly, getting a few pats on his head in return, thus, unfolded an unlikely yet beautiful, friendship.

Tia would wait till Madhav boarded his school bus and would then disappear for the day, only to reappear at the time the bus would be bringing him back. I would be standing under an umbrella in the scorching summer heat and Tia would be sharing the small circle of shade with me. Wagging his tail even before the bus turned the corner and came into view.

Passage of time removed the awkwardness of unfamiliarity and replaced it with comfort. Though fiercely independent because of his life on the streets, Tia would lie on the mat outside our main door and rest after a fight with other street dogs and let us tend to his wounds. He constantly reminded me of a cocky hero of a hindi film, his bravado and irrepressible spirit always surfacing, no matter what the situation…

After a long vacation when we got back, there was no sign of Tia or indeed, any other stray dog. They had all been rounded up and taken, even the ones with collars… We never found him again…

Sometimes, when I am sitting alone, a picture of Tia comes to my mind…a picture of freedom and joy, a picture of some being truly celebrating life…

Innocence on the Streets

A little girl is begging at a crossing. She can’t be too old, around seven or eight and innocently beautiful. Her hair is the unique golden brown that a lot of kids living on the streets have. I think about just how parents elsewhere would want to beautify her and show her off in their friends circle. But she is on the street and trying to earn a living. She has an endearing smile and when she beckons me to lower the car window I do so out of curiosity. She holds up a one dollar bill.

“What is this?” She asks me. I tell her that it’s the currency of a foreign country.

“Hmmm,” She says, bewildered. “Is it far, this country?”

 “Very,” I say.

 “I cannot go there, so where can I use this?” she asks worriedly.

Jokingly, I tell her, “Not here, for sure”  

“Will you go to this country, which is very far away?” She asks, saucer-eyed.

“I don’t know,” I reply, honestly. I tell her to keep it safely because it is worth a lot of Indian money.

She asks, “How much?” A mix of curiosity and excitement in her voice.

“Fifty rupees at least,” I reply, trying to rack my brains as to what the exchange rate might be that morning. I cannot believe the conversation I am having with this little one. But the direction it is taking is pretty clear to me.

She is stunned into silence for a while but the question she wants to ask is hanging heavily in mid-air. Will I buy it off her, this one dollar note and give her fifty rupees? This is how her mind is working, I presume. I wait…

I am caught completely off-guard when she says, ”You keep this, if I take so much money back, the parents of the other children will beat them for not bringing the same amount…..”

Smiley Please

I wake up in the morning and am greeted by the red light blinking in my phone cheerfully. It signifies the presence of a message of some sort.  Someone remembered me as I slept. Excitedly, I open my inbox and find a round smiley with eyes shut and two small arms encircling it, it`s a hug to me from my daughter.  I send two hugs right back, letting her know that I am missing her twice as much.

On days when my daughter is not happy, I get sad smileys and they break my heart. `What happened?` I ask her, praying that it is something I can solve long distance. She sends me one back with eyes rolling. An assignment got delayed and now it cannot be submitted, yet more unhappy smileys follow. Cheer up, I tell her it`s not all that bad.  You are managing your new life admirably.  I put in a `thumbs up` sign for good measure. She sends me back a calm, meditative smiley with a halo around its head. Signifying elevated state of consciousness.  Despite myself, I grin.

These little, circular, emoticons have become a part of my life and my communication. Saying more with their little faces than words can sometimes express.

Whether one is sad, happy, cool, naughty, loving, shy, sleepy or delighted, there is an emoticon for every feeling. The one I dread receiving the most has a bawling mouth and is shedding copious tears. I dislike thinking about what might have transpired before it landed on my screen in a full throated cry. Unfortunately tears cannot be wiped out long distance…..

When did conversation become so animated? Last I remember we used to be writing long letters expressing our feelings and describing our day and its events. By the time it reached the addressee, the event and the associated emotions were long forgotten.  Now I am depending on a grid of funny faces to complete my sentences and courier instant love and hugs to someone I cherish, who resides in a different country. It is a novel situation indeed.

A new emoticon has arrived, it is an empty speech bubble.  I look at it ironically because it expresses the vacant state of my mind. Just when I think I have understood life and technology a little, it gleefully pokes me to make me aware of just how little I know…  🙂

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