Of old dreams & new ones: A trip to Agatha Christie’s Greenway.

This trip we just came back from is special for many reasons. At 16 days, it has been (and most probably will remain) our longest holiday yet. It was our first trip to Europe. And more importantly, it was a bucket list item for me.

My obsession with Agatha Christie is something I have not written about on this blog, but which quite a few good friends (at least, the readers) know. I have read and re-read every one of her books; I carry her autobiography with me when I travel and almost know it by heart; I am constantly on the lookout for books about her life and work written by other people. Safe to say I am a real enthusiast, a Christie nut.

About 10 years ago, I owned maybe three or four of her books. Everything else was borrowed from, read, and returned to Eloor library. During my early days of dating SR, I remember telling him that an ideal 50th birthday present for me would be the entire collection of Christie’s works. In a bizarre but welcome turn of events, SR’s mom, who was a librarian, was given cartons full of Christie’s works by a well-wisher just a few weeks later. And she was kind enough to give them all to me. So, what had looked like a major life goal suddenly had a large, green tick mark next to it.

It took me only a couple of years to discover that Greenway House, Christie’s summer home in Devonshire, which she described as a ‘dream home’ and ‘the most beautiful place in the world’ was now a National Trust property and actually open to the public. I spent many happy hours reading about the house (she has some interesting stories about it in her autobiography and it’s also the scene of three of her murder mysteries: Dead Man’s Folly, Five Little Pigs (one of my all-time favourites) and Towards Zero) and poring over the website.

“How amazing it would be,” I would sigh to SR, “if I could actually go there one day! Imagine walking through the gardens, down to the boat house, gazing at the boats sailing down the River Dart from the battery…” SR would smile in his usual patient, indulgent way and say that we would go there one day. Even in 2013, the prospect seemed like a distant dream.

So I kept reading and sighing and dreaming for months, years, without ever doing anything concrete – like saving up. In the meantime, life went on its way and we went on other holidays. Then in May this year, an old, old mutual fund I had invested in matured and I got a lump sum of money. We had two options – be prudent and reinvest it or splurge. “If you are okay, I am okay,” said SR, knowing fully well that I am the worrier, the one more averse to taking risks. But this time, I tossed my fears aside and we booked tickets to the UK.

In the past two weeks, we have toured the South of England extensively, from London to Oxford, up and down the Cotswolds, all the way south to Devon and Torquay; then onto Exeter via Dartmoor, from there to Norwich in the east, and finally, back to London. I’ve seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen. But the biggest, most important item on the list? Visit Christie’s Greenway House.

I spent a whole day there, walking through her house, listening to tales and tidbits that the volunteer guides shared, matching the things I was seeing with what I had already read and knew about her life – the fresco in the library that an unknown American navy man had painted; the ivory and mother-of-pearl chest she had bought in Damascus, having fallen in love with it at first sight (the chest itself had been cheap but she had paid its price five times over in getting it shipped back home to England and then getting the wood relaid because of a woodworm infectation); the scratches on her bedroom door made by her little dog Bingo as he asked to be let in…

I walked around the garden, explored the boathouse where Joyce, the victim in Dead Man’s Folly had arranged herself neatly as a corpse in Mrs.Oliver’s murder mystery game, minutes before actually being murdered. I stood at the battery, imagining Elsa Greer in her yellow dress, leaning against the battlements, an enigmatic smile on her face, as Amyas Crale painted and died in front of her. Standing there, I recalled the photograph of Christie and her husband Max Mallowan sitting at the exact spot on the battlements, gazing out at the river, Max lighting up a pipe, Christie dressed in a sensible coat and skirt.

Back in front of the small, beautiful white house, I lay back in one of the deck chairs, squinting in the sun, and looking down at the river, and asked myself what I was feeling. I had seen the same question flash on SR’s face through that day. He was understandably a little bored, but knowing how important this visit was for me, managed to amuse himself taking photographs and walking around the garden. But he wanted to know if I was enjoying myself, if it was worth the wait, if the place lived up to my expectations.

I don’t think I ever gave him – or, at the time, myself – an answer. Now, a few days later, I have put enough distance between myself and the memory to know how I felt that day. There is a paragraph in her autobiography in which Christie talks about how she feels about walking up hills to admire views.

You climb up a path to a hill top – and there! A panorama is spread before you. But it is all there. There is nothing further. You have seen it. ‘Superb,’ you say. And that is that. You have, as it were, conquered it.

I always used to take these lines literally but today, I understand what she meant.

I had a dream, a dream that became more and more magical with each passing day, shimmering and sparkling where I held it in my mind’s eye. When it came true, it was real enough to seem dreamlike.

And now that I have been there and done it, I am at a bit of a loss. I have, as it were, conquered it. So what happens next?

For a while, I think I will sit back in my armchair and dream about my dream. I will pinch myself again and again, excitedly reminding myself that it all actually happened. Today, Gowri is sitting on her brown single sofa typing on her laptop; but a week ago, she was in England, in Devon, arriving at Greenway House by steam train just as Poirot had. She had walked around the property, her feet stepping where Christie’s had stepped years ago. She had lived a dream and woken up, clutching photographs to prove that it had all been very real.

And then perhaps a few months later, I will be browsing or reading or watching TV, and something will catch my eye. A walkway through woods turned blazing orange in the fall. A drive along the winding cliffs, the salty tang of the sea in the air. A cruise ship gliding majestically over azure waters.

And I will be captivated once again, the excitement of a new dream stirring inside me.

Until then, here are some snapshots from the Greenway visit.

Greenway House
Greenway House, Galmpton, Devonshire
Greenway Chairs
The view of the river Dart through the trees.
Fresco
A World War II fresco painted along the library ceiling by an unknown American navy man. Christie never got this removed and referred to it as her ‘very own war memorial’.
First Editions
First editions of all of her works.
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City-dweller’s requiem

City-dweller’s requiem

Long corridors with pale yellow walls, down which dry leaves come hurtling by.

Desks with chalk marks, blackboards now greyish white.

The faint sounds of laughter and conversation.

Snatches of Shakespeare. Discussions on Dickinson.

Just behind walls, faces that could have mattered to me.

In another life, another time.

If I had chosen to push open these gates.

 

Instead, I have chased yellow butterflies across three states.

I have eaten creamy pasta and touched a napkin to my lips.

Past glass-fronted cafes, I have walked,

surreptitiously checking my reflection and adjusting my stole.

I have spent hours in cold storage, surrounded by others in similar boxes.

All of us being conveyed at a funereal pace to larger, colder storage boxes.

We don’t age. We don’t wrinkle. We don’t feel the wind in our hair.

We don’t speak our native tongues. The words live and die inside our throats.

 

Sometimes, on evenings such as these, I look through the glassed-up windows

(Oh, why is there so much glass? Glass, glass everywhere.

Showing you what you are missing. But offering no reprieve.)

I see, unseeing, the thousands of twinkling lights.

The dark, shadowy outlines of building tops.

(No canopies here, swaying in the breeze).

I smell the smell of rain on the earth.

I close my eyes and bite into a banana chip.

If I keep them shut, I tell myself, I can go anywhere.

 

Pretend worlds of green and brown spring forth around me.

Now I am walking down corridors paved by slanting rays of sun.

My hands drag across the wall, the peeling paint rough under my palm.

I slip into a room, where they are talking.

Five men and women on two shaky benches.

I slip in, unseen, unheard.

An engineer’s ghost in a literature class.

Soaking up greedily the words and their sounds.

Here, no bells will ring. No peon will come in, shuffling papers.

I can stay for as long as I like.

Perhaps even, forever.

On living a more thoughtful life

On living a more thoughtful life

I have been interested in a sustainable, cruelty-free lifestyle long enough for me to be convinced that it is more than a passing fad. What started as idle curiosity turned rapidly into horror when I came across articles/initiatives that exposed the atrocities that go on silently around us. One was a Yourstory expose on the nightmarish practices of the dairy farming in India. The other was the Freagle project that focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating beagles extensively used in laboratory testing and then euthanized.

Both of these were happening right here, in India. Not somewhere halfway around the world like the sweatshops of China or Bangladesh or the refugees in the middle-east. I think that, to me, was what whipped the rose-coloured glasses right off my face.

Experiments with veganism

My first reaction was to have an impassioned outburst on Facebook and decide to turn vegan by the end of this year. I even joined a couple of vegan groups, talked to vegans, and started researching vegan alternatives to dairy. Since I was an eggetarian to begin with, I thought this would be easy.

It wasn’t.

We stopped consuming all “non-essential” dairy products right away; non-essential to us meant all the products we could live without. This list included butter, ghee, cheese, paneer, khoya, and – we thought – milk. We stopped getting our usual packet of Nandini milk at once and tried to switch to green tea. However, even after a month, our caffeine cravings did not go away. We started cheating by having “just one coffee” at cafes or in the office cafeteria. Vegan alternatives to milk that were available locally or online were made of soy, peanuts, or almonds, but they were far too expensive for us to try on a regular basis. In our hearts, we knew this was not a change we could hold onto.

But waking up to a milk-free, and therefore, coffee-less morning every day ensured that I was constantly reading more on the subject. The more I read, the more I realized that my problem was not fundamentally with consuming animal products or eating meat. Feeling sorry for eating an animal is the adult version of feeling sorry for the deer that’s pounced upon by the cheetah. But what about the cheetah? Nature designed it as a carnivore and this is its only way of sustenance. It’s how the food chain works.

So what really was disturbing me? I asked myself – if I had a cow in my backyard who I looked after lovingly every day, would it bother me to take her milk, whatever is left over after her calf feeds? The answer was no. Would it bother me if the cow belonged to someone else, who treated her right, took care of her, and did not use her as a milk machine? The answer, again, was no.

That is when I realized that the mass-production of dairy, meat, and other animal products and the evil machinery that such industries run on was what was really disturbing me. This was a turning point in my journey.

In pursuit of a cruelty-free life

My focus turned then to what constitutes cruelty and the definition that made most sense was this: preventing an animal from leading a life that is not as close as possible to what nature intended is cruelty. The deer, up until the moment the cheetah springs on her, has led a normal life in her natural habitat. A cow grazing freely on grass and nursing her young is leading a normal domesticated life, even if she is being milked.

I do not think that the entire world turning vegetarian is a sustainable – or even a necessary – option. (Here is why). Free range farming and quick, painless slaughtering seem to me perfectly acceptable solutions. The problem today is the shocking increase in the careless and cruel mass-production of meat because of increasing consumption.

When I was in school, my non-vegetarian friends used to bring fish or meat for lunch once or twice a week – it was a special treat, a little luxury, and of course, an extra dose of protein. In fact, I remember just one classmate, the son of a very famous and successful cardiologist, bringing chicken fry and parottas for lunch every day, rousing amazement and envy in the others. Fast-forward to today, when meat consumption has become extremely high in India (the trends are less easy to spot in the West). I have deliberately referred to a 2013 article here so as to avoid any bias emanating from the recent ‘beef ban’ crisis.

Cruelty-free farming practices is a novel concept for most of the world, with only Australia, New Zealand, and UK having made any kind of progress on this front. I found Compassion In World Farming to be a very enlightening and balanced source of information and action on the subject. This is an organization that was founded in 1967 by Peter and Anna Roberts, British farmers who became disturbed by the increasing disconnect between modern farming practices and the well-being of farm animals. According to their website, this is their goal:

By working in partnership with inspirational supporters, progressive policy makers and visionary companies, we are mobilising a movement for far reaching change in our farming that can feed the world and will improve the quality of life for billions of farm animals worldwide.

It is one that I agree with and one which has spurred me to choose free range, cruelty-free products in my everyday life.

From cosmetics to household cleaning products, cruelty is built into practically every lifestyle product we use today. While I have not managed to replace all of these,  I am constantly researching alternatives. Here is a list I have compiled and which I will keep adding to as I experiment with and review products.

Milk – we have switched to buying Europaea free range, grass fed farm milk, available online on Amazon and Bigbasket, and offline at Foodhall, VR Mall. We also like the fact that it is associated with the sustainability farming program Origin Green and takes measures towards sustainable farming practices. As this is a product imported from Ireland, it costs Rs.115/litre as opposed to about Rs.40/litre for Nandini.

Some more alternatives that seem to be available in Bangalore and which I am planning to explore include:

  • Vrindavan milk – I like their principle of ahimsa milk. According to their FAQs section,

Our cows are treated with love and care. We don’t stress them to produce more milk. We also maintain our cows even after their milking years are over to avoid cow slaughtering.

  • Indus milk – They again mention that their desi zebu cows are free-grazing and the calves are allowed to feed first before milking happens.
  • The Right Moo – Free-range cows, although foreign breeds, and fed on organic grass.

Cosmetics – Apart from a few expensive niche brands, most cosmetics brands available in India have parent companies that test on animals somewhere in the world. Don’t be fooled by their corporate websites that say they are “against animal testing” or “we do not test our products on animals”. This could mean – as it does in heart-breakingly large number of cases – that they buy animal test reports from other agencies (essentially outsourcing this bit) or test the individual ingredients (not the ‘products’) on animals.

Look for the leaping bunny logo on the products or an explicit disclaimer that they do not test on animals on the product label before you buy. Brands I rely on are:

  • Lotus herbals
  • Biotique
  • Cholayil pharmaceuticals (Medimix and Cuticura are their most famous brands)
  • Himalaya
  • Vicco (I swear by their toothpaste – I’ve been using it for years!)
  • Plum Goodness (I’ve been using their day/night creams for over a year and they are fantastic. Not only cruelty-free, but also free of SLEs, parabens, and the like).
  • Arvind Laboratories (good old Eyetex and Dazzler, which have been around for years. I wrote to their corporate office and they have written back confirming that neither their products nor the ingredients are tested on animals.)
  • A2Naturals.in has a whole host of home and personal care products that are not mass-produced, cruelty-free, but not vegan.

Floor cleaner: We switched to Gou Ganga about a year ago and have never looked at any other cleaner since. The product has a mild fragrance and cleans our balcony (where our dogs pee, let me add) like a breeze.

Washing powder  – I have switched to natural soap nuts for my washing machine instead of using detergents that not only maybe tested on animals but which are also harmful to the environment. I was initially skeptical about whether these would get rid of the used smell on the clothes and boy, they have worked wonders! Highly recommended as they are also very, very cheap.

For those who prefer powders, here are some alternatives I found (not tried):

Both these websites also have a wide range of personal, pet, and garden care products that are chemicals-free, sustainable, and cruelty-free. Please research each before buying as I have not tried out all of them. For a list of brands that DO test on animals, see here.

A vision for 2017

The more obvious choices were made easily – SR exchanged his leather wallet for this cool, washable, durable canvas one from Wildcraft. But there are so many more changes to be made, from dish wash soap to cleaning liquids and I hope that by the end of this year, we will be able to reduce our cruelty footprint to nothing.

Have you thought about these issues? I’d love to know – do comment below. 🙂

 

 

അവശേഷം

അവശേഷം

രാത്രി മുഴുവൻ മഴ പെയ്തു. അത് കേട്ട് ഞാൻ ഉറങ്ങാതെ കിടന്നു. ജനവാതിലിലൂടെ ചന്ദ്രനെ കാണാം. ഒരു നിഴൽചിത്രം പോലെ മുറ്റത്തു നിന്ന മരത്തിന്റെ രൂപവും. അതിന്റെ ഇലകൾ കാറ്റിലാടി. അവയ്ക്കിടയിലൂടെ മഴത്തുള്ളികൾ മുത്തുമാല പോലെ പെയ്തിറങ്ങി.

“കാർത്തിക്…” ഞാൻ പതുക്കെ വിളിച്ചു.
“ങ്ങും”
“ദാ, മഴ പെയ്‌യുന്നു…”
അവൻ തിരിഞ്ഞു കിടന്നു. നിലാവെളിച്ചത്തിൽ അവന്റെ നെഞ്ചിൽ എഴുന്നുനിന്ന രോമങ്ങൾ തിളങ്ങി. ഞാൻ മുഖമുരസ്സവേ, അവ മോഹം കൊണ്ട് വിറച്ചു. മുറിയിൽ കുളിരു നിറഞ്ഞു. അവന്റെ നിശ്വ്വാസം കാറ്റിന്റെ അലർച്ചയായി എന്റെ കാതുകളെ തുളച്ചിറങ്ങി.
*

ഞാൻ ഉറക്കം ഉണരുമ്ബോൾ പുലർച്ചയായിട്ടില്ല. ആകാശത്തിലപ്പോഴും നീലവെളിച്ചം. കൈകാലുകൾ നീട്ടുമ്പോൾ സുഖമുള്ള വേദന. അവന്റെ താടിരോമം കോറിയ നീറ്റലിന്റെ വരകളിലൂടെ ആഹ്ലാദം സിരകളിൽ ഊറിയിറങ്ങി.

കട്ടിലിലിരുന്നു കാർത്തിക് ഷർട്ടിന്റെ ബട്ടണുകൾ ഇടുകയാണ്. ഞാൻ എഴുന്നേറ്റിരുന്നു.
“Hi ” അവൻ പറഞ്ഞു. “I was trying to not wake you.”
“നീ പോകുകയാണോ?” രാത്രിയിൽ കംബിളി പോലെ തോന്നിയ തണുപ്പ് ഒരു ഇരുമ്ബുറയുടെ ഭാരത്തോടെ എന്റെ തോളുകളിലിരുന്നു.
“Yeah, എയർപോർട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് വിദ്യയേയും ഋഷിയെയും pick ചെയ്യണം.”
“എത്ര മണിക്കാണ് ഫ്ലൈറ്റ്?”
“എട്ടു മണിക്ക്.” അവൻ സോക്‌സും ഷൂസുമിട്ട്, ലാപ്ടോപ്പ് ബാഗും കൈയിലെടുത്തു. ഞാൻ നൈറ്റ്ഡ്രസ്സ് ഇട്ട് ഇറങ്ങാൻ തുടങ്ങിയപ്പോൾ അവൻ പറഞ്ഞു, “വേണ്ട, go back to sleep. ഒരു രണ്ടു ദിവസത്തേക്ക് പറ്റുമെന്ന് തോന്നുന്നില്ല – പക്ഷെ ഞാൻ വിളിക്കാം. I love you.”

പുറത്തു മഴ തോർന്നിരിക്കുന്നു. മണ്ണിൽ അവിടവിടെയായി കെട്ടി കിടക്കുന്ന വെള്ളത്തിൽ എങ്ങു നിന്നോ പറന്നു വന്ന പ്ലാസ്റ്റിക് കവറുകളും കടലാസു കഷണങ്ങളും പൊന്തിക്കിടന്നു.
“Love you too.” അടഞ്ഞ വാതിൽ നോക്കി ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞു.

In which we get away to a spot not too far away

In which we get away to a spot not too far away

It is usually halfway into Saturday that the urge to escape, get away to someplace quiet, grips SR and me. We spend hours looking for places, changing our plans every few minutes from night drive to trek to lazy holiday resort to an Airbnb with a view. In most cases, we end up not going anywhere at all.

Recently, we discovered that we have a getaway that’s right here. A place that few others seem to visit. A place with water and a lovely view.

Our swimming pool on the roof.

It’s been open for over six months but shamefully, we’ve started using it only now. With the rains starting a little earlier than expected, Bangalore weather has become balmy again during the day, even if for only a few hours. That is the time we get the key and go upstairs to the pool.

We’ve never yet encountered anyone else at these times, and since it’s on the roof, there is a beautiful view of the cityscape all around. And complete privacy. I can’t swim but I love playing in the water – floating, staying underwater longer and longer, and working out inside the water (it burns more calories and reduces the risk of muscle injury too.)

We’ve resolved to spend at least an hour every weekend in the pool and make the most of it while we’re here.

Stories By The Road

Stories By The Road

There was a time when I used to dread my daily commute to work. I felt it was a drain on my time, precious hours spent doing nothing. But somewhere along the way, I made my peace with it. After all, the choice to live in a metro does come with its own share of compromises.

But this morning, after over 6 years of negotiating Bangalore’s crazy traffic morning and evening, I discovered that I actually enjoy my commute.

It is time I get to spend away from distractions, alone with myself. Some days, I put down a to-do list. On others, I think up ideas for work. But most of the time, I look around me – at the people, the places I pass through. I take the same route every single day and some sights are so familiar, my eyes glaze over them. But any little change, any sight unseen as yet, makes me sit up and think – why the brown and grey dog who sleeps in front of the mall isn’t there today, a new billboard that’s come up near the flyover, a dum biryani shop that’s not open at its usual time…

Looking out of the cab window, I remember RL Stevenson’s poem From A Railway Carriage. Though the element of speed is missing (again, namma trafficku!) the similarities are not lost on me.

Here is a cart run away in the road

Lumping along with man and load;

And here is a mill and there is a river:

Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Looking out of the cab window feels like looking through a bioscope. I see fascinating snatches of the lives of strangers and trees, but never the full picture. And as the cab moves on, I am left to imagine the story so far and what could lie ahead.

A little boy with a large, oddly-shaped piece of thermocol board, possibly from the packaging of a washing machine or TV, waiting to cross the road. He tries once, twice, falls back, hops on one foot in impatience. A man on a scooter slows down for him and he runs lithely across, and in one swift motion, hits his friend on the head with the thermocol piece. The friend spins around and I see that he has his own weapon in hand, a 2-litre soft drink PET bottle. And there by the roadside wages a war so ferocious, the earth shakes under the heroes’ feet.

On the steps in front of an appliance repair shop lie the Four Musketeers. Four brown dogs so identical, they must be from the same litter. Every day, they lie in a row, each one’s head resting against the next one’s bum. Four little curled-up balls, sticking together against the world.

A married couple in their thirties quarreling loudly. She says something to him and tuns away. I cannot make out the words, but I gather that it is a variation on “Go to hell!” As she walks away, he runs after her, swings her around and kisses her on the cheek. She is confused, embarrassed, delighted, all at the same time. As he grins at her cheekily and walks away, she shouts after him. Once again, I can make out that the words say “Go to hell!”. But this time, they mean something else.

A tenement of makeshift houses with roofs made of tin and tarpaulin. Men, women, children, goats, and dogs live together happily, tripping over each other, shouting across the walkways raucously. The women squat by the roadside, washing their clothes and chatting. An old man sleeps on a wooden plank supported on granite planks. A dog is stretched out near him. A toddler wearing no underwear stands near the dog, knocking him on the head with a plastic bottle. For a second, I wonder if it’s safe. What if the dog is hurt and he hurts the child? Before I can decide, the toddler stops. And the dog sits up and extends his paw towards him, as if to say, “Hey, why did you stop! Let’s play!” and I realize they are brothers.

A banyan tree near a temple, its branches spreading luxuriously, benevolently across the road. A makeshift bench beneath it, on which sit two old men in white shirts and mundus. One of them has a towel around his forehead. The other wears a turban. One of them has no teeth, his cheeks are sunken. The other is weatherbeaten, his cheeks reddish brown from too much sun. One’s moustaches are long and drooping, framing his lips on either side. The other chews paan constantly. They sit there next to each other in companionable silence, two of a kind from afar. I wonder when I grow old, how many banyan trees there will be left in Bangalore.

A man near a petty shop urging a black and white dog to eat the dozen biscuits he has put down in front of her. The dog is clearly not hungry – she wags her tail happily and sits there, staring up at him. In an injured tone, he complains to his companions about her lack of gratitude.

Life, so beautiful, so magical, teeming all around me. And I marvel at what I would have missed if not for my daily commute.

When life’s gone to the dogs…

When life’s gone to the dogs…

Living with dogs has many perks but it is not without its hairy moments. In this post, I’ve put together a bunch of observations about life with mutts that are only too familiar to pet parents. Non-pet parents, don’t be scared away – for all of these, dogs are the only creatures that will love you more than everybody else in your life put together; the only creatures who will be overjoyed to see you get back home after 10 minutes outside.

So, here goes.

#1 It’s called FURniture for a reason.

As new pet parents, all the literature we’d read online said dogs shed ‘seasonally’ and we naively interpreted that to mean once, perhaps twice, a year. But when you have multiple dogs whose shedding cycles are not in sync, it’s a different story. Every visible surface at home is permanently covered in a light dusting of fur. There’s always fur in the food -you just pick it out without batting an eyelid and continue to chomp down. You buy a gorgeous sofa, but keep it covered under an old bed sheet. Vacuuming becomes a hobby. You get the drift.

#2 Hair today. Still here tomorrow.

Anything you wear will be covered in dog hair. You can buy sticky rolls or rubber gloves or brushes or wet towels to try and get them off, but few things can be as stubborn as a strand of hair that means to stay.

A resourceful friend once suggested that we wear only clothes that match the colour of our dog’s fur so that the hair doesn’t show. Great suggestion – only, we have two dogs: one is black & white; the other is golden brown. Between the two of them, they cover the entire spectrum of fur colours and the fur always shows. Personally, I have given up the battle for a long time now. I wear fur as an accessory now.

#3 Squeamishness will be a thing of the past.

For starters, you will have to scoop poop twice a day. Though this is still a chore that SR and I keep bouncing off to each other, we’ve come a long way from the people who used to make disgusted faces. Now, we check the poop for consistency, colour, and to find out just what S has chomped down the previous day.  Normal dogs sniff things to explore them – S chews them. And if you try to take anything out of his mouth, he will swallow it at double speed. So far, we’ve found bits of a Nataraj pencil, pieces of a rubber toy, string, and cardboard in his poop, and S looks none the worse for the wear.

S also has motion sickness but we don’t want that to stop us from taking him out because once he’s back on level ground, he’s ridiculously happy to run around and explore. So the backseat of our car is covered with a plastic sheet on which we lay an old blanket to mop up the sick. We did try giving him vet-recommended sedatives to calm him down – during that drive, he vomited six times, four more than usual.

And this is not to mention when the poop gets stuck to their bottom and refuses to fall off and you have to run to find a tissue and get it out. Also times when they fall sick after eating too much of anything, excitement drooling, when they splash through pee and bring it in the house…let’s just say hand sanitizer, vinegar spritz, and disinfectant will become your best friends.

#4 Doggy grub will be better than yours.

There have been many, many days when SR and I were too zoned out to move but we still dragged ourselves to the kitchen to fix a meal for the mutts. On truly lazy days, it’s just kibble, but on the best days, it is a biryani of rice cooked with eggs, chicken, carrots and peas and flavoured with pepper, turmeric, and coconut oil. My mom often asks us why we don’t just eat a portion of this because it sure as hell sounds more nutritious than the junk or takeout we eat. But as we are vegetarian, this involves cooking the chicken separately and that’s just too much work. 😛

#5 Losing the battle of responsible parenting.

Every month or so, we are overcome by fits of conscientiousness and remark on what poor pet parents we make. We are not regular with walks (also because the boys are pretty lazy too and prefer to run around inside the house), nor are we regular with their training (most of what the boys have learned were taught to them when they were puppies.) Wracked by guilt, we make resolutions to shake things up and stick to a proper routine, starting tomorrow, no today, no, right away.

And then S will trot over and snuggle up between us and B will drape himself over our feet and the whole setup will feel so cosy and aww-some that we’ll just switch to Comedy Central and vegetate for hours.

#6 The vicious cycle of shopping for dog toys.

No new beginning in life, be it a starting a journal or joining a gym or having a baby, is complete without going out to shop for some ‘essentials’ and coming back with bags full of quirky stationery or light and breathable (read, far too expensive) gym clothes or a pram that resembles a high-powered self-sustaining life mobile.

In the case of pet parents, I think we just never outgrow this phase. We keep buying dog toys and chews and treats in the hope that they will bring lasting and meaningful joy to our dogs. The fact remains that treats are crunched up in a matter of seconds and toys are abandoned in days. But that is not to say that B and S don’t have lasting and meaningful joy – they do. They get it from old socks, twigs, plastic bottles, and the ring of doorbells when we get back home.

I could go on and on about living with dogs but I will save the rest of it for another post. Right now, I have to switch back to office mail and pretend to be hard at work, even if it’s Friday afternoon.

Sigh.