Thursday, April 1, 2021

Puppy diaries 4 - Manifesting

Yesterday I had the most curious experience.  I took Rumi for a walk in the park.  He played but had to smell and pick up every piece of dirt in his mouth.  His personality is such that he is overconfident and constantly pushing boundaries.  I found myself losing my patience and literally dragged him back home with the force of my will, as he stubbornly refused to move.  I noticed how quickly I could be destabilized!  I decided to put him in his crate to sleep but he refused to stay and kept running out.  I put him on my lap and absent-mindedly removed his collar thinking if he was irritated less by it he would fall asleep.  I may have stuck it in the pocket of my denim jacket. 

A few hours later I went for a walk with that jacket on.  I have no recollection of what I did with that collar.  It could have even fallen out - just like my glasses had a couple of times the previous day.  Now, this collar has a coin with a microchip which can help whoever found him, if he was lost, track us, his owners, (sounds like some form of indentured being, but that’s for another blog!).   I don’t know if the reverse is true - ie us tracking him through the chip!  And thankfully, we did not have to find out! When I was away at my walk, my daughter decided to take him out and searched high and low for the collar.  Since she lets him run around without a lead in the park she was nervous without his collar.  When I returned she asked me about it.  I drew a complete blank.  We both searched the house high and low for it.  Every nook and cranny. Even the garbage and laundry basket were not spared.  I prayed that the universe would manifest it somehow. Where was I going to look for it?!  My daughter swore up and down that it must have fallen out of my pocket during my walk.  I kept denying but not too convincingly, because I could not be certain that did not happen.  We were saying that we would have to order another one online and it could take days to arrive!  I knew somehow that it would appear but did not know how!  

Then suddenly Rumi began running up and down the room at great speed - he does that when he gets excited about something.  I looked up and there he was with the collar in his mouth.  No clue where it had been or how he had found it at the precise moment we were speaking about ordering another one, having given up our search.  I love the mystical and transcendent.  Also the idea of collocation of consciousness which implies time and space are mental constructs and that material objects can manifest at will.  And that we can communicate non verbally to all creatures at subtle levels.  My daughter on the other hand firmly believes he had hidden it and brought it out of its hiding place.   Not possible, according to me, given how thorough our search had been. She is a rational being.  However, these days she tells me “I will let you have your little wins!”  I will keep them. Heck no - I will cherish them!  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Puppy diaries 3 - “Don’t be a South Asian mom?!”

Rumi is a picky eater.  Every morning I take him out to do his business in the backyard and then put out his breakfast of kibbles and water by the large French window in the living room upstairs.  He joins me as we watch the world go by from our little perch.  Humans with puppies and babies in prams evoke excited squeals and an occasional bark from him.  He is quite ADHD so often wonders off in search of his toy or to nibble on wires, furniture or any hair ties or clothes within his reach.  He chooses to completely ignore the food as I sit there observing my restless desire to have him clean out his plate, a vestige of that South Asian mother in me.  I did not realize this until my daughter popped up on to a scene where she saw me holding food in my hand and pleading with him to eat and said “don’t be a South Asian mom, once was enough with me”!  And she was not joking!  I have to admit I have a lot of work to do to get over my habit pattern of nurturing with food.  This is hard.  I have to bring a level of detachment that does not seek the “satisfaction” of having a well fed puppy.  I literally have to steel myself from trying to hand feed him as I had done my baby!  I am noticing at a subtle level the rationalizations that keep popping up - if he is hungry he will even more indiscriminately nibble on garbage, he will not sleep well and will have more zoomies scratching and biting everything in sight; he will be more ADHD and his learning will be delayed!  And the guilt - maybe we were not giving him what he likes.  Maybe I should make fresh food for him.  Should we try raw?  Endless questions..

What is interesting is this.   Watching this mental chatter is helping me uncover patterns.  A few days after I began noticing, my mind calmed right down.  I was able to bring about some equanimity to his picky eating and our early morning pantomime continues with Rumi a little less restless.  Maybe I am projecting how I am on to him or he is actually responding to how I am.  In any event, the dance continues and there is joy in being present to everything that arises and passes as I let go of doership...

Friday, February 19, 2021

Puppy diaries 2 - “Being” not “doing”

Our cockerpoo pup has a mind of his own.  And his attention span for any one thing can be measured in nanoseconds.  So when Uttara pointed that out to me, I offered  how our minds are very much like that with the difference that we have the ability to notice and with the noticing we are able quieten the chatter and experience a calm, clear and more productive mind.

So I had a clean canvas and some tools and tricks to bring our boy, Rumi, in line.  They say the initial learnings puppies 🐶 acquire are hard coded and really difficult to change.  So if you indulge them and are not consistent, you will be slave rather than pawrent to them.  We needed routines associated with the following ( us humans are better off with them too):

-regular sleep and nap times
-meals, method and place
-training sessions and play to provide enrichment
-structured socialization with a range of humans and exposure to varied experiences 
-toilet training

Underpinning all this is relationship building and trust.  Puppies come with a lot of separation anxiety so you really have to work hard at earning their trust.  

Truth be told, the connection with the little mister was not instantaneous.  Even though I intellectually knew that Rumi was an expression of consciousness like you and me, I had to overcome some resistance to accepting this creature from another species with an attitude of “ oneness”.  

But the most important spiritual learning was  around the attitude of doership!  When I tried to “change” his behaviour to bring about routines with my will and thoughts, he sensed my energy as being forceful with a need for power and control over him.  And boy did he become all squirmy with his defenses on high alert!  So noticing, I eased up and just relaxed my mind and body to give him the space, besides  lots of treats (!) and positive reinforcement.  For eg when I took him to the backyard to relieve himself, and especially when it was rainy and cold, I stood by calmly noticing my impatience and, in that process, letting go of it!  By not  expressing through body language my impatience, I just “being” and using this as an opportunity to notice my restless mind, my thoughts and reactions to them.  I believe Rumi now believes he is doing this and other things (initially for treats) on his own! For eg, Rumi after day 2, began to trust me enough to lock him in his crate through the night, even as I sleep in my bed beside his crate.  I take him out twice at night for toilet breaks and he goes right back in without any protest!  And this otherwise curious and active puppy sleeps through my yoga sessions too.

We have routines for everything now.  I have given up on some sleep and “me” time.  But the breakthrough for me has been the ability to stay present.  I notice the mind’s chatter, telling me I should be somewhere else doing something else and just surrender to the moment without a sense of doership.  The end result - I am now fully able to enjoy and laugh through every moment with Rumi, antics, exasperating moments and all.  I also notice when I try to hold on to these experiences...

There is growing attachment now.  But that is for another blog..,

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Puppy diaries - Embracing the unknown (1)

 Puppy diaries -1 

Me? A puppy mom?  Had I even dreamt I would become one?  Not in a million years!  Well this old dog is learning new tricks now.  More than anything, raising a puppy has helped strengthen my spiritual practice.  I thought I would write about that.

My first lesson - embracing the unknown. 

Having never raised a dog, the prospect of bringing a little puppy into our world was pretty daunting.  Responsibility for a life I knew nothing about.  This was not a baby which could be kept in diapers and a crib. This one would race around, poo and pee everywhere, bite, scratch, chew and eat everything in sight.  Besides, he was being separated from his mother and the host family which boasted 10 dogs, two bunnies, birds and lots of family members.  This gave him a head start in that he was properly socialized.  Who knew the first eight weeks in a puppy’s life are crucial for the development of his brain and healthy personality traits.  Yes, a common puppy ailment is anxiety which could manifest in behavioural issues.  

Anyway, all signs were that our puppy was a healthy creature.  I started to feel the pressure to keep him that way!  With a healthy dose of optimism and nerves of steel we decided to walk this unknown terrain.  Luckily for us, at a time when puppies are premium and super hard to come by even for a hefty price, we landed one just 15 minutes by walk from us in London, the day after we began our search.  Host mom and dad, Keeley and Paul, were absolutely lovely and reassured us that they were just a phone call away if we needed any help, 24/7.  I also enrolled in an Udemy course on puppy training and  arranged for live training sessions on zoom.  Read a book on puppy training as well.  However, none of this prepared us for the first week from hell.  Refusing to sleep in his crate, he was puppy at large for two nights.  We had to be up to ensure he did not wreck the place.  Then came toilet training in the backyard.  He is still little at 10 weeks and only due for his second vaccine at 12-14 weeks until which time it’s not advisable to take him out to public spaces except in a carry bag.  Day three found us thoroughly exhausted and wondering if we would get over viewing him as a chore rather than a being to be adored.  

Then it popped into my head that my tendency was always to seek comfort and security in the known.  Here was a great opportunity to show up with courage and explore the unknown!  So I decided to observe the resistance within me to go places I have not been in my mind, do things I had not done and confronts all my fears and anxieties around caring for a vulnerable creature, especially given the small room for error.  When negative thoughts popped that second guessed my decision, I saw them for what they were.  I still have a long way to go to become a good puppy pawrent.  However the fodder for spiritual growth has been fished out to me in spades.  As I learn and grow everyday, always taking a few steps back even as I move forward, I hope to be able to share my experiences.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Utta's Journal Entry 2 - Summer 2004

 Utta’s Journal entry 2 – Summer 2004


It's funny how some friendships are not based on time or space.  Such is my friendship with her.  I come every two years, and even though I come so infrequently to the Mandaveli house, when she is around, it always feels so natural to just pick up where we left off.  Now this time we only spoke at length twice, but it felt so spontaneous. I find it difficult to understand why people make so many demands off her - basically to sub for her older sister, who has broken her leg.  Over and above work at other houses, she comes to work at our house for two hours on top of doing her BA.  It all seems so unfair.  What kind of life is that?  She makes Rs. 400 a month.  Recently thathappa decided to keep attendance and I confronted him about that. This seemed mean since she does not get paid enough.  After that day he doesn't do it anymore.  Perhaps he listened to me. Here she comes now sweeping the floor.  Oh my, we collect so much dirt. I like the way she goes about her work, sweeping the floor, using Sabina to wash dishes and neatly washing clothes and rolling out the wet clothes in such a way as to make it easy to dry.  I almost feel tempted to do the work, watching her do it.  Of course, I know it will not be so much fun if it was a job.  When she was younger she would accompany her mom and sister, who did all the work, and we would play hopscotch and this other game where we tried to pick up as many stones as we could as our palm hit the ground.  I remember her teaching me Tamil and I tried teaching her English.  We also played pallankuzhi upstairs in the dark. I remember her calling Rohan "Loganth" and him hating it.  When the cat had kittens we would all carry them.  Such good times - now looking back.  I wouldn't trade them. I hope she doesn't leave us for a better job as selfish as that sounds, I promised to go to her home again this year, as I used to in past years.  I remember people being so fascinated with me.  They offered me chilled water, which I didn't drink, but it was a nice gesture. Now, the truth is I was self- conscious, but I will say yes the next time.

Visitors and guests

Just now, a man came to our door and said he was going to Tirupati and wanted some money.   Jayamma gave him about two to three rupees but he wanted more. She shouted at him telling him he was ungrateful, and then he nodded and left.  Just now another man came and asked if he could pick some flowers.  I initially misunderstood thinking he was here for our upstairs tenants and then called Jayamma.  She sent him on his way.  It is amazing how many people come by asking for something.   Pretty soon this old man will come in to ask for food.  I want to give because I've been given so much in this world, but I don't know how much of this I would be able to take. I complain sometimes that my grandparents are cheap, not the most philanthropic sort, unless it has to do with us, but the truth is they are much more giving than any of us, the way they have taken care of Rajam athai.  Even though they scold her sometimes, they are so patient considering she has been with them for the last 10 years.  She is now 98.  Also they deal with these people that come to our house every day. It is great, really.  Jayamma often talks a lot about her problems.  How she has been serving her family members ever since she was 16 and how she has taken care of sick and some sickly people all her life.  Some don't feel sorry for her because she's constantly voicing it.


Music and miscellany

And for the last time, I don't want to go to your neurotherapy class, Jayamma!  Today I have to sing for Dhanalakshmi mami. She's very nice and it is a tradition that I go and see her on every trip. She has been living alone for years now. I haven't practiced  my music in a year and I'm not optimistic about the outcome.   Jayamma reasons with me saying, I can sing. But how does she know?!  It's going to really suck.

I'm in Mandaveli once again and I am bored.  Why do I stay here, this long?  Guilt? Some guilt and just to spend time with the grandparents, even though there is nothing (literally) to do.   Today I sang for the first time. Jayamma busted out the tape player of course  and give me pointers, as usual, which I mostly ignored. However, given that I haven't practiced for a year, I was good.  Damn good.  Thathappa even said so. They want me to come here for a year to learn music.  Hell no. Haha, I can imagine the boredom already. I can also imagine no friends, parents, TV, internet.  Man, that would be painful!

So, I'm in an irritable mood right now, I just came home from the parlour.  Thankfully alive, all the hair pulled out of my arms and legs, eyebrows and upper lip.  And the most painful was waxing my underarms -  which I rec

My friend - an extraordinary woman (I tell her story with her consent so you can also be inspired)

On Dec 2017, I visited a young six year old at SickKids, one of the world’s foremost children’s hospitals. His mother had just received news that her child had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The doctors gave him 11 months. I could not believe how graceful and poised she was. When we had a moment alone, she asked me in a calm voice, not laden with self pity or “why me” sentiment, if she had been bestowed this as punishment for not being the best she could be in her treatment of others. She then said she was blessed that she had had six good years of amazing memories, no matter what the future held. I held her tightly, to my chest, tears streaming down my eyes and said in response the following. “I believe in karma and since I have known you to be a deeply spiritual and poised human, over the 20 years I have known you, I can only say that you are exhausting any negative karma you have accumulated over lifetimes. I have no doubt you will experience the highest truth and the fullness of your true being right here. Your child was born in a sacred womb to exhaust his. I know of no other way to explain this”. I realize that her poise is testament to her being present and accepting everything in the most open way without resistance or the clutter of emotional reactions. This is giving her the clarity to do everything right by everyone in the here and now. This is evident in her manner which is infused with boundless compassion and respect for all, even at a time when she could get away with being her most self indulgent and self absorbed self. For eg, she asked after my husband and kid!
Fast forward to the present. Her child has defied all odds and has survived to this day. She has made every day count filling it with marvellous experiences through sun and snow. She wakes up every day at 4 am and after 2 hours of self care, meditation, exercise (so she has strength to carry him and tend to him) and makeup, she tackles the day. She usually has an elaborate plan and takes public transport everywhere. She makes a day out of every trip to the hospital. He has just had a stroke and undergone 12 rounds of radiation for the third time. He cannot walk anymore and so she pushes him around in his wagon, while she holds her daughter with her other hand. She is joyful and present filling his life with laughter and fun. I have never met anyone like her. She is my role model and inspiration. When we ask her if she wants any help, she just says “Thank you, but I think I will just wear my big girl panties and get it done and, don’t worry, if I really need help I will ask!”. She never does. I cannot even begin to recount the tragedies in her early life..a terminal father who died when she was a teenager, a sibling with mental health struggles, a mother with health challenges and her own health issues. She just picks herself up, never complains and gets things done. She teaches me how to live. Whatever the outcome, I know she will scale this challenge also in a most exemplary way! Here she is at Toronto’s Harbourfront with her kids after a radiation sit, making a picnic out of it.
Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Utta Journal Entry - Part 1

Utta's Journal Entry – Part 1 

2004 Summer 

Alas, it is the start of the last week I will be in Madras and I have not yet obliged my mother by writing in this journal. So I will now. 

Being less of a burden… 

Quite possibly the longest month of my life and I don't say this in vain. It is simply a fact. When you wake up every day at 6 am, and have absolutely no agenda, the day seems like it will never end. Right now it is 3:10pm. I feel like it is seven pm. Oh well. Lesson number one. When you have nothing to do the best thing is to observe. It gives you a way to have a nice stay with family and friends and to pick up on the simple things which are actually humorous (maybe not!). 

This journal will not be a conventional daily account of my life rather be about that, which I feel like ranting and raving this year. I came to India with a different mindset than previous years, mainly because I'm 18, attending university and I should start acting that way. Believe me it's difficult. Self sufficiency is thrown out the window. According to grandparents I will always be 10. My goal was to be as less a burden as possible to my grandparents, by washing after myself, my plate, not complaining about the food which is given to me and basically not asking for anything, save this notebook. Also their not having to nag me to wake me up in the morning. However, the plan backfires because I haven't taken into account what to say when I DON'T WANT ANYTHING. See in India, when a day is planned around meals, refusing to eat something is not tolerated. Jayamma and paati don't understand that when I don't want something, I also don't want any of the 10 alternatives there are. For example, if I don't want tea and don't ask for something else, then that also means no coffee, Horlicks, Milo or any other drink they may have! If you don't eat you make them feel exhausted, as if they simply can't help you -when you don't need any help?!! 

Tamil Serials and Seniors 

This present moment? Right now, I'm sitting in Mandaveli in the main room. It is 8:40 and I'm in my nightie. I'm in the corner, where athai paati used to sit, but she does less now since my previous visit. A Tamil serial is playing on Raj TV.  Jayamma and Nagalakshmi mami are commenting on how I don't sing. I decline to make a comment. Thathappa peers to see the notebook. I pull it away not indulging his curiosity. Oh now things are so different here. I observe so many differences. The retired community does not (and wishes not to) change with the times. I see Jayamma and NM flinching when they see a scantily clad woman on TV exclaiming, "asingam". (However, I do share Jayamma's hatred for the Tamil actor Vijay. . He's so nasty. Why do girls have such bad taste. First Sivaji, then this man. But anyhow, I don't fancy Indian actors except Arjun Rampal, Rahul Khanna and perhaps Aamir Khan. The first just for pure looks of course, as his repertoire is not much at all). But let me proceed on the topic of Tamil serials. Believe me, I have tried to accept these and watch but I simply can't. They suck, for lack of a better word. Be it Ahalya, Anandham, Sorgam, Metti Oli, Annamalai, Kolangal, they are all the same boring domestic issues. Someone is broke, bad marriages, sympathetic, good, yet naive old people, nonstop crying, love birds, marriage confirmations - so old, so beaten to death. Every five minutes, someone is eating or drinking something. What makes it all worse is that the same people act in five different serials about the same subject matter, but in different roles. This is not the movies people, this is a show!! Whatever their logic watching these, confuses the hell out of me. However, the popularity of these serials here cannot go unnoticed. Senior citizens, especially live on this stuff- as like on a drug. TV serials and meals, that's all they care about. At any house you go to at 7pm, Kolangal will be playing no matter where you are. Mind you, Tamilnadu has more people than the whole of Canada! It is a craze and I just can't understand it. Call me - every other outsider! I continue to write as the mosquitoes bite the hell out of me. Time to pull out the odomos. Tonight we had tomato soup for dinner. It was some of the best soup we ever had. Jayamma makes the most awesome croutons. 

My Tamil! 

Lately this month. I've been struggling with my Tamil. Words don't come out as fluidly and smoothly as I would wish. I understand the language completely and read well, but I will explain why this speech deficiency is a real problem for me. Just as any family member, my grandparents do get on my nerves sometimes. Their possessiveness, overprotectiveness and Jayamma's advice about various matters. I consciously decide not to hold back this time. However, it is so difficult to express oneself here. They don't understand my English and not only do I have to speak slower, I have to modify how I speak. I'am also not good at assertive Tamil, to express and convey what I would like to. Finally, after all that trouble, I'm the one who sounds stupid, so I must stay quiet, because I don't convey what I want to say. 

Today is a different day. I sit here at about, 9:30am in Besant Nagar and am relaxed. I have already had my one hour morning walk with thatha, had my glass of chilled water, then sathukudijuice, lay down for half an hour finishing my book "The Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri, surfed the net, showered and now I sit here. If I had been in Canada I wouldn't have gotten up yet. But things are changing, and I am becoming more disciplined. It will be the same, when I get back as well. Similar routine, less doting than I get here. 

Set Up Box

When I came to India this year, the one thing that frustrated me is that all the English channels are now unavailable! So a set up box had to be purchased for Rs. 7000. And then on top of that, a monthly fee to be made. After much complaint on my part we decided to rent it for a month in Besant Nagar. But the rental scheme no longer exists. So, Suja, with a contact, helped us fix it illegally, four days after I landed. Yes, I could watch the last two games of the French Open with thatha. This year, the consensus was that the French Open sucked. But it was fun to watch it with thatha because we would both shout at the screen when we were frustrated because of an unforced error or a double fault. As always paati picked Myksina to win and thatha Dementeva. But for the first time, I sided with thatha. For the Sampras Agassi finals, I had sided with paati and against thatha. Too bad this wasn't that exciting. The men's was a little more interesting with the unseated Gaudio coming out of a two set loss to win in five sets, but the game lacked flare. Me and thatha couldn't stop shouting at the TV, haha. Finally, Gaudio pulled it off, 8/6 because of a fifth set tie break. Poor Coria.  Paati kept saying Coria's wife looked like she was going to divorce him. Thatha thought she was pretty. 

Something me and paati both enjoyed watching was the National Spelling Bee. We were both so happy that the white boy won. Paati reasoned it as follows. The Indian was moody, and his brother won two years ago. Also because his Indian parents probably forced it on him and coached him. The white boy had three siblings, and had to learn in the midst of all the commotion. Paati was also impressed by the compassion of the mother, as she had adopted a Chinese girl. She kept telling Suja this.