Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ravi grew up in a very middle-class family in a suburb of Bombay. His home was on the 4th floor of a 6-storied building in a typical middle-class locality. Even though Bombay was bursting at its seams with more and more people migrating into the city every day and straining the already scarce resources, their building surprisingly seemed largely unaffected since it still had running water and electricity 24 hours a day. Their family was never rich enough to own a car, but then who needed a car in Bombay! The fastest way to get around the city was the incredibly efficient public transport system - buses and trains - the lifeline of the city.

Many kilometers south from Ravi's apartment, in one of the most affluent sections of the South Bombay, a huge mansion overlooked the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea. This mansion was inhabited by textile mill tycoon Mr. J.N. Patel, his wife Mrs. Seema Patel and their daughter Ms. Natasha Patel. Natasha had had a very sheltered and comfortable life. She had just graduated from college, where her biggest problem everyday usually had been, which car from her father's fleet of imported cars would she be driven in to her college by the chauffeur. She had never set foot on a bus or a train. Not that she felt that she was too good for them but it was more due to the fact that there was never a need to - especially when there were not one but many chauffeurs who could drive her anywhere in the city in an air-conditioned, imported car.

One rainy morning in July, Ravi had just walked into his cubicle at work, when he was told by his boss that he urgently needed to travel to Doghat to clear up some paperwork for a plot of land that his company was looking to buy. Doghat was a village in the interiors of the state, many miles away from Bombay. It was literally a tiny hamlet and was in such a remote place that there was not even a hotel anywhere near it. So he would have to stay in a cottage owned by one of the locals with whom he was going to do the paperwork. Ravi was to get some money from the bank for expenses and leave early morning the next day. Not one to waste time, he set out for the bank rightaway.

Natasha had walked into the bank just minutes before Ravi. She was standing just before Ravi in the queue. Tall and beautiful, Natasha always drew appreciative glances from men and Ravi was no exception. He was drawn to her rightaway. He noticed that she was wearing stylish, expensive clothes and she had a very expensive cell-phone glued to her ear. "Definitely rich", he thought. He tried to appear nonchalant and uninterested in her, but his ears were trying to catch every word she uttered.

"....and its so rainy today", Natasha seemed to be complaining to a friend on the phone.
She went on, "Yeah, I had gone to Dadar to visit a friend. Dad took the Ferrari to work, Mom took the BMW to Pune and so I had to go in the Mercedes."

Ravi corrected his previous assessment. "Not rich, but stinking rich", he thought.

Natasha went on "But the car broke down just as we set off for home. The driver tells me that it may have been a blessing in disguise since most of the roads leading to home are blocked because of the rains. Insane traffic. So I had to take the train and Oh my God, I tell you I will never travel in a local train again. I don't know how people do it. No air-condition, so many people and then the train stops every few minutes and another horde of people hop on aboard. So now you have another new set of people to stare at and to be stared at. I am so glad those 20 minutes in the train are over. I don't care if my car breaks down again and I have to stay overnight somewhere, but I am never going to take the local train again".

Ravi quickly added 'Spoilt' to his assessment of her. He thought, "If only these rich people did not live exclusively in their perfect parallel universes, they would be less spoilt, have less to complain about and be much more happier. They really need to be more in touch with what common people live like".

Soon Ravi collected his money from the bank and went home to prepare for the trip to Doghat. He caught the morning train to Velaki, the closest train station to Doghat and the only way to reach Doghat. He arrived at Velaki ten hours after he left from Bombay. The travel department at work had arranged for a car at Velaki station to take him to Doghat. He had his dinner near Velaki and then sat on a 2 hour car-ride to Doghat. Just as the sun was about to go down, he reached his destination. He was met by one Mr. Girish Tawak, the owner of the cottage he was supposed to stay in. Girish was a silent man, probably a few years older than Ravi. He ushered Ravi into a old, dilapidated cottage and told him that he would come back the next day at 9 am, when they could start with the paperwork.

The next day, when Girish arrived at 9 am, he found that Ravi looked quite groggy and not ready at all to leave rightaway. Girish noticed that Ravi did not just look uncomfortable, in fact, he looked really unhappy. He asked Ravi, "You look ill. Is something the matter?"
Ravi replied, "It was so hot yesterday night and there is no electricity here, no ceiling or table fan, nothing. I just could not sleep. I have been used to sleeping under the whirring blades of a fan in Bombay. I tossed and turned for the better part of the night and I finally gave up. I thought I might as well take a shower and get ready for tommorrow. Thats when I realised that there is no running water in this cottage. I remembered your words that the village well was half a mile from the cottage. The idea of just walking half a mile to get water in the pre-dawn hours sounded so demoralising that I just gave up that idea and tried going back to sleep. Which obviously I could not. God, I don't understand how you people live like this. I mean it must be so hard to live without electricity and running water. I don't think I can ever live in such conditions. If I am sent here one more time, I will just quit and the company can go to hell".

Girish just sat there not saying a word and listening to everything that Ravi said and he thought, "These city people are such babies. They probably think every place should be like their cities. They are so quick to complain. All they are really is spoilt. Yes, definitely spoilt".

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Eight Signs That You Are A Little Over-Obsessed With Your Dog

It appears that there are two kinds of people in this world: people who think that dogs exude all that is good in life (hope, loyalty, patience, and of course, love) and those that just haven’t met the right dogs yet. In fact, canine appreciation may be so deeply engrained in human nature that it helps us to better define the essence of what humanity truly is. Apparently Gandhi would agree, as a t-shirt I recently saw (probably not the most reliable source of information, but you must admit that many of Gandhi’s more profound thoughts do to tend to end up on t-shirts and bumper stickers) quoted him as stating, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This rings of trueness. Even pop culture tells us that humans tend to predictably go ga-ga over dogs and similarly furry creatures. In one Star Trek episode, for example, the crew of Deep Space Nine travels back in time to capture a dangerous Klingon who has infiltrated the Enterprise disguised as a human. Although the crew expresses concern over how they will discover him, given that they know that he appears to be human in every way, fortunately he is easily found due to his distinct reaction to an animal. Whereas humans can’t help but fawn over a “Tribble” (a rapidly-breeding but adorable equivalent of a rodent), the Klingon is unable to repress his repulsion at the fuzzy-wuzzy animal, and aha, he is outted! Clearly, space-age humans, defined in this case by their appreciation of something cute and cuddly, would be dog-people.

So surely there is no crime in loving your pet, but is it possible that some people have become a little too obsessed with dogs? I am forced to reluctantly acknowledge that this is the case in our household. Below are some tips that may aid you in discovering whether you too are a complete sucker when in comes to pups:

1) You realize that you are spending more time and money on your dog’s medical care than on your own. Example: I have gone to a doctor’s office twice in the past two years. Cooper has gone to the vet five times. Sadly, the ratios aren’t much different when it comes to teeth-cleanings. (But I am happy to say that I have had more eye doctor appointments than the dog).

2) You believe that there can never be “too many” dog toys. The more dog toys the better. The dog likes his toys- no, he LOVES his toys. You love the dog and the dog loves his toys, so naturally you must spend outrageous amounts of money on designer toys that will eventually be slobbered upon, torn, or squeaked into a premature toy-death.

3) In an average day you spend more time talking to the dog than your spouse. True, it is sort of a one way conversation when it comes to the dog, but he happily curls his ears and wags his tail in delight when you talk to him. A spouse doesn’t do either of these things.

4) You can’t help but refer to the dog in a sing-songy baby-talk sort of way. He likes it. He curls his ears when you do this. He has an official name, but you tend to call him your ____________(insert name here)-y boopy bear. You would probably be horrified to hear yourself doing this, but still, you can’t help it. He is, after all, sooo cute.

5)99.9999% of the photos from your digital camera are of the dog.

6) You always seem to be covered in dog hair. You are so used to having dog hair on your clothes, on your socks, on your furniture, that you stop minding it. You notice that your close family and friends also seem to transporting hair from your dog on their clothes too. Not so surprising, as they may have sat on your couch, sat in your car or worked in your office, all places frequented by the dog. In some ways this is nice, like a badge that identifies all of your closest people (the honor of having persistent hair from Coopie sticking to you)...but then you realize that some of your friends’ friends have hair from your dog on their clothes too. At this point your forced to realize that the abundant amount of hair shed from your dog is somewhat disturbing. It is traveling in circles far beyond your own social networking.

7) In a moment when a young child, a son or daughter of your friends or relatives, does something excessively charming and cute, you announce that he/she reminds you of your dog. This is usually not taken well. Non-dog people should understand though, that this is the *highest* compliment a dog-owner can give. It is said with the utmost love.

8) On a day when you have quite a bit of work sitting on your desk, more work than you can possibly imagine getting through, you blissfully procrastinate by hacking into your husband’s blog to write an ode to how much you love the dog. I know, I know, it’s sad really...sort of depressing given how many deadlines are piling up. There’s only one thing to do to console one’s self in a case like this. Goodbye-I’m off to play with the dog.