Saturday, July 11, 2020


Camou-Fail starring Whitey
Whitey decided to sneak out of the house on his own once again. This is him from yesterday morning, under the illusion of being well camouflaged when I came searching for him. Though clearly surprised at his masterstroke not working, he was quite happy to accompany me back to the house and then promptly do his regular walk round the block just to give this early rising human some company and much needed leash holding exercise.

I find it hard to begrudge Whitey these little escapades. The call of the road burns strong in him so much so that I am often confused as to whether adoption saved him or came in the way of a rich fulfilling life. After all, for a couple of weeks before Holi 2020 (when he adopted us), he freelanced the streets with his other independent canine buddies. Being abandoned by his previous set of humans, I do understand why he needs to seek out more reliable company. On every one of those escapes, his happiness at living the free life is evident - a toothy smile lighting up his goofy face as he rockets around a field or sand pile or under construction house with his buds from the 'hood. Unlike them, he is not fully committed to life on the road and before long, he is back at me, smudging my clothes with mud and enthusiasm.

Though much recommended by serial dog owners, the "human must be leader of the pack" philosophy of raising one never caught my fancy. IMHO being an alpha male is just too much work. Every dog-human relationship has its share of mutual frustration - of one half thinking that the other is not human enough, and the other regretfully realizing that his buddy is not actually another dog. I am happy enough with the rest of it, filled as it is with ridiculous fun and life restoring camaraderie.

I get it, Whitey. It's fun being your own boss. It's great to be doing your own thing. Yes, there's the risk and there's the uncertainty.  But it's balanced by (theoretically) limitless possibilities. As a responsible dog keeper/fren and well aware of the damage that free-ranging dogs cause to local wildlife, I cannot let you live up all your dreams. That mongoose across the nala, the brinjal stealing monkey - all best kept at barking distance and will remain so.

But I do like to quietly sneak up to the roof on a full moon night and catch you howl to that orb in the sky like your wilder cousins from forests past. It reminds me that there will always be a tinge of the untamed in you. Come to think of it, Whitey, this may be why dogs are kept in the first place. Leashed as we are by modernity into concrete caves of comfort, a bark, a wag and a sprint are instant channels into what we had once known well, back in our days of sleeping in the wild.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Let the Breeze In

PC: Unsplash/Billow-926
It's impossible to find a reason to smile in remembered happiness during an article on the looming dangers of a second coronavirus outbreak. But I managed to.

"Its lead researcher, Makoto Tsubokura, said that opening windows on commuter trains can increase the ventilation by two to three times, lowering the concentration of ambient microbes." Thus spake a scientist and got me thinking.

It has been my contention that despite the heat and the dust and the stench (cruising urban slums at a slow roll) to be tackled when travelling in a Indian railway sleeper compartment, there is nothing quite like it. 

For one, the awareness that you are travelling in a thundering metallic mechanical snake and that speed is fun can only reach completeness in an express train's sleeper coach. In a scrunched general compartment, you are too uncomfortably close to someone's else's armpit and in the outer space like isolation of an AC coach, you become more understanding of why some rich people commit suicide just to break of their boredom. The sleeper class is where it is at.

There's also the demonstrably extra-social vibe that the fresh air brings in making a sleeper coach a much chattier and occasionally argumentative space. Either way, it is much better than mentally wrestling the "Are we there yet?" monsters. If the weather outside gives you a chance demonstration of a thunderstorm after a hot day in the plains, you don't even need someone to talk to. A window seat and unidentified sources of ecstatic happiness are more than enough company.

There is a lot that could be said against the sleeper coach experience - the gnawing and only partially irrational fear that you might reach your destination but your under-seat luggage might not; the office route pass-carriers whose rights to 99% of your paid-for berth you cannot dare deny; the unmentionable status of toilets within 10 minutes of the start of the journey. But that would be nit-picking.

Lonely trees, temples on distant hills, galloping bridges over nameless streams - the landscape passes you by but at a pace that you can process from a height that does not require entrusting a deep belief in God (otherwise known as a pilot). Sprinkle on some imagination and you could be riding along the train on a very fast infallible motorcycle. Turn it up a notch more and you could live entire lifetimes in those little habitations that you rumble through, never to be visited in real life but sampled, oh so beautifully, in a few seconds of track based dreaming.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Stone Cold Poetry

Unsplash / Kelly Sikkema
"It was so beautiful that words could not describe it"

Whenever you hear that tired travel description, do note that the limitation is of the speaker-author, not that of the words. Words that could describe the aforementioned beauty do exist. It is only that the author is yet to find them or incapable of doing so.

Come to think of it, writing is said to have been first invented for that driest of dry jobs - accounting. Knowing how terribly rigorous most humans are in that regard, it would be untruthful for the craftsman to blame this tool for being inadequate. 

This also gives the much derided accountant a minor reprieve from the judgement of self-declared 'creatives'. Cold as numbers may seem to be, remember that without them there would be no poetry.