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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chp 462. Hello & Goodbye Castro

When I returned to Mumbai after spending more than a month chasing my Passport and Visa all over India, there was a new family member waiting for me at home.


The cutest Labrador I’ve ever seen, he was already chewing through all my shoes and furniture.

And unlike Saddam, our beagle (who is still the love of my life), Castro was smart and toilet-trained within the first one month. Of course Saddam would get jealous when we focused our attention too much on Castro, so we had to show him lots of love too.

Castro became my flatmate Pranav’s personal pup, as he took up the responsibility of all the ordeal new parents have to go through.

My flatmates bought him from “Oh My Dog!!!”, the same breeder from where we got Saddam. I was a bit skeptical about the place because the breeder kept bragging about how healthy and pure Saddam was and that he had been given the best medical care and vaccinations, but there had been more than five occasions till now when Saddam fell seriously ill and the vet told us it had something to do with his genes and vaccinations he might have missed before we bought him.

But hey, it could be just our bad luck too.

And then a month ago, Castro started wheezing and coughing badly, continuously. We initially thought it was just kennel cough, which is quite common among young domesticated animals, and it is treatable.

But a few trips to the vet and we got the shock of our lives. Castro was diagnosed with Canine distemper!

Canine distemper is a fatal RNA viral disease that infects dogs. And there is no treatment for it!

“Your breeder should have vaccinated him against it”, the vet told us solemnly.

Fucking breeder.

The vet suggested we put him to sleep because the chances of dogs recovering from Canine distemper is very small, and even the ones that do survive, will keep having life-threatening symptoms throughout their lives, making their owners’ lives miserable.

There was no way Pranav or any of us could do that to the sweet and adorable young thing.

And so the nightmare began. Pranav would make Castro breathe through a nebulizer at least 3-4 times a day and took him to the vet almost every day. And the medical bills kept piling up. Pranav even once spent 6000 bucks on cab fare to go from Mumbai to Thane and back just to buy a medicine worth just 80 bucks because that was not available anywhere in Mumbai.

Here are some happy photos of Castro before I get to the sad part.

[With Pranav]

Day before yesterday night, we got a frantic phone call from our maid. She was panicking, saying that Castro had collapsed while walking!

Pranav and I rushed home immediately.

There was so much tension in the short auto ride home… it felt like forever. The silence was deafening. The air was difficult to breathe.

We jumped out from the auto and ran all the way up to our apartment immediately without waiting for the lift.

Castro was lying on the sofa, breathing heavily. His face lit up when he saw us. But he barely had the strength to lift his head up. He couldn’t even walk anymore.

We held him in our arms. He loved it. His penetrating stares that night will forever etch in my memory. His breathing became heavier and heavier…

And then when Pranav held him close in his arms… Castro looked up at him, licked him, smiled for one last time and breathed his last…

We tried CPR, we tried our damn best to revive him, but this time, he remained at peace… the vet stayed with us on the phone the entire time…

Our other flatmate Sid and a couple of close friends too reached home soon after… everybody was in a very melancholic mood… Yes, we all cried…

But on one hand, the sweet little pup was finally at peace, no more wheezing, no more coughing, no more struggling… he must be running around and jumping everywhere in sweet Doggy Heaven now.

RIP Castro. You will always be remembered.

Here’s a short video I found in my phone… This was the night both Saddam and Castro kept disturbing me because they were playing with the toilet brush outside (the bathroom is out of bounds for them). And I kept throwing the brush back inside the loo but they somehow always managed to bring it back, so I decided to spy on them and catch Saddam in the act.

Saddam is usually the naughty boy, and as this video rightfully proves, he was guilty. But what surprised me was the involvement of Castro in this little crime too! At 0:47, you can hear me exclaim, “Uffff, you too?” on seeing Castro inside the bathroom.

Dayymmm sweet Castro, you are so going to be missed!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chp 461. Russian escapade in Goa

Since yesterday, I think at least 50 of my Facebook friends have shared this article on their walls, many agreeing with it. When I read it last night too, even though I’m a guy, I could relate to it immediately because many of my female friends had gone through similar ordeals here in India.

The article I’m talking about is this - “India: The Story you Never Wanted to Hear” at CNN blog, written by an American student called RoseChasm, where she described about the horrible experiences she had during her short 3 months stay in India.

What is really sad is, such things do happen here. I’ve read the comment section where chauvinistic Indian men angrily and defensively comment, “Don’t exaggerate. Nobody masturbates at women in public, you should be ashamed of yourself for lying and giving India a bad name.”

Oh really???

You’re a guy so you’ve probably never seen a guy masturbate at you. Neither have I. But I’ve been hearing about such incidents from my female friends and cousins since… forever. Yes, there are indeed many sick men who do that in public.

Still don’t believe?

Just a few freaking days ago, there was a case of a man publicly masturbating in front of women traveling in the first class compartment of our Mumbai local. Here’s the link:

Mumbai rail employee caught pleasuring himself in front of female commuters on train

A 30-year-old employee of the Western Railway was caught pleasuring himself in public on the Churchgate-bound Virar fast local train at 8 am yesterday. He started masturbating after waving to grab the attention of women travelling in the ladies’ coach. He was arrested by Dadar GRP and will be produced in court today.

Yes they do happen. It’s not a myth or propaganda to taint India’s name.

Now the experiences Rose had to endure were extremely unfortunate, horrible and sad. Makes us all ashamed to be Indians. At the same time, there are also many instances where foreigners had a really great experience. That’s the thing with India. It’s a land of contradictions. You will meet both the Good and the Bad (and if you meet my friend Vaiva, then the Ugly too) here in India.

There are many articles online where foreigners have written about their wonderful and memorable experiences across India. But then, as is the case with most things, negative news usually overshadow the positive ones.

While going through the comments of the above mentioned CNN blog piece, I came across this comment by a user called technovite:

Well done, technovite.

His comment immediately brought back memories of those Goa vacation days. Yes, I too have helped a stranded foreigner, a damsel in distress, in the middle of the freaking night, and I didn’t take advantage of that situation. And I’m sure there are many other Indian guys out there who have done a similar thing too. The thing is, such activities never make it to the papers or blogs. Maybe the foreigners we helped didn’t bother to write about it or they weren’t as articulate as Miss RoseChasm… and even if they were, I don’t think many people would be interested in reading about it.

I still remember that night so well. April 12, 2010. Around 3 in the morning.

We had just returned from Goa Fest Abby’s Award ceremony, held at Cavelossim beach, where we, Webchutney, bagged three awards! We partied hard after that (GoaFest tradition), and by the time we reached our shacks, located at Palolem beach, most of us were sloshed or had passed out. I helped support two of my bosses Tarana and Meghna back to their shacks, and then saying goodbye to the others staying there, I made my way back to my shack, Big Fish, which was located around 200m away from where my bosses were staying.

Like I said, it was around 3 in the morning. The entire place was deserted and the bright moonlight was the only source of light. The only sounds that could be heard were the wailing of the winds across the palm trees and the waves thrashing the shores of the sandy beach.

Up ahead in the winding road, I saw a taxi stop. Somebody got down and then the taxi took a u-turn and left. As I passed that place, the person who just got down didn’t move. I couldn’t make out who it was as all I saw was a silhouette of somebody with a strolley.

As I passed that person, trying to mind my own business, a meek voice called out to me, “Excuse me please. Please help”.

I was like, huh??? And so I turned around and walked back to that person. She was this really cute foreigner, in the middle of nowhere, looking quite terrified.

She was holding a piece of paper. She looked at me in all earnest and said, “Russian. No English”.

I was like, “oookaaay…?”

She pushed the paper towards me with her trembling fingers and said “Help” once again. I looked at it, and there was a Russian name written on it, and the name of a Shack.

I pointed at the name on the sheet and then pointed at her and asked “You?”

And then she gave me this really sweet smile and said, “No no, friend.”

I was like, “Ahhh, you’re here to meet a friend called (name on the sheet) who’s staying at this particular Shack?” I smiled at her.

She gave me this extremely blank stare.

And then it suddenly occurred to me, I had a freaking smartphone (Samsung Omnio Pro, this was before my Android days). Excitedly (but at the same time slowly, in order to not freak her out) I pulled out my phone, opened Google Translate and typed the same sentence above. Translated it to Russian and showed it to her.

She hesitantly glanced into my phone, read it, and then suddenly she grinned from ear to ear. She excitedly said something in Russian, grabbed my phone and typed in Russian, translated it back to English and showed it to me.

And just like that, I was in her comfort zone.

As we searched for her Shack together in the middle of the night (I even offered to drag her strolley along, lolz), we kept passing my phone back and forth to each other and laughing at what the other had written. She apparently landed very late in Goa because her flight got delayed and she still decided to go to Palolem beach at that hour because she had promised to meet a friend. I told her about how dangerous it was for women, especially a foreigner to be wandering alone at that time of the night and she said she didn’t know it was unsafe and that she actually thought there would be a lot of people partying on the beach :)

Finally we found her shack. I woke up the… shack-boy or whoever that person was supposed to be, and he went to summon the manager. When the manager came a few minutes later, I showed him the name of the person written on that paper. He shook his head and said there was no such person there!

When I translated this to her, she took my phone, did the Google translate thing and we asked the manager if there were any firang lady staying all by herself in one of his shacks, as her friend was definitely that person. He said there were three firang women staying alone, and of course we didn’t want to take the chance of waking up the wrong person at that time of the night/morning, so I booked her into one of his shacks so that she could find her friend easily in the morning.

As I walked with her inside her shack, using Google Translate again, I told her not to open the door for anybody once I leave, even if it’s the manager. She said she understood, and then suddenly kissed me on the cheeks. I blushed like hell and said good night to her.

When I reached my own shack, my shack-mate Jonathan Sreekumaran was pissed-off as hell because I had the keys to our shack (since we were traveling as an Agency, we were all on a shack sharing basis). He even did all his toilet stuff at the adjoining shack where other colleagues were staying. Of course he didn’t believe in any Russian damsel in distress “bullshit” so I told him I was actually helping our bosses back to their shacks because they were quite drunk, which was not a lie anyway.

I slept with a wide smile that night.

The next morning, we had to leave for Mumbai, so, the moment I woke up, I ran back to the other shack.

The manager greeted me with a smile and told me my “friend” had found her friend in morning. The problem was that her friend was staying in a shack under the name of HER friend who had left the previous day… ah complications. He told me their Shack number.

I knocked on their door meekly, heart pumping a bit, and when she opened the door and saw me, her face lit up. She hurriedly called her friend while speaking rapidly in Russian. Her friend, thankfully, could speak in broken English. I told her how foolish it was of her to arrive at that place alone at that time of the night, and her friend told me she had actually mailed her, asking her to stay for the night in the airport since her flight was delayed and that it was not a good idea to travel that late, but unfortunately she didn’t check her mail.

We talked for a few more minutes, and then I had to go because my bus was leaving.

And then she took out a camera and asked her friend to take a picture of us together. I too took out my phone and asked her friend to take a picture of us together, lolz.

Just before we said our final goodbye, I told her I blog and wrote down my blog address on her small notebook. Well, I really hope she visits my blog one day and sees this. I don’t even remember her name anymore. Here is the blog post I wrote of the goa trip mentioned above, except of course without any mention of my Russian escapade – GoafEST 2010 – Webchutney wins three

I have never mentioned about this on my blog before because I thought my girlfriend back then would get jealous! :D And also, of course, one should never “brag” about a good deed one had done, except in this case, I just thought it should be mentioned now, to prove technovite’s point and to tell people that everything is not all sex, rape and molestation over here in India.

Just as the Russian girl had a good experience, I’m sure there are many other cases like this across India too. Yes, what happened to RoseChasm was extremely unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean all of us are bad. There are many good men too, men who respect and treat women as sisters (Happy Raksha Bandhan by the way!). I really hope Rose’s article will not deter foreigners from visiting our country.

Cheers and have a great day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chp 460. Happy Independence Day India

A few months ago, there was this small incident here in Mumbai where a uniformed Policeman racially abused me and some of my Mizo friends with words such as “Kanchha” and “Kathmandu”. I wrote a blog post about it, which was picked up by First Post and I got immense support from people everywhere. All I did was merely invite the policeman for a cup of tea where I could educate him about people from India’s North Eastern states and clear his misconceptions about us. Instead, the DCP of Zone II Mr. Nisar Tamboli invited me over for a cup of tea!

We sorted everything amicably.

But that was not the end of it! A few days later, Mr. Sadanand Date, one of Mumbai’s 26/11 heroes and the Jt Commissioner of Police, Law & Order, invited our Mizo community members for tea at his office!

We discussed about how we could create more awareness about the North East among our Mumbai police force. One of the suggestions Mr. Sadanand made was whether various representatives of the North Eastern states could participate at flag hoisting ceremonies held at Police Stations on 15th August. We agreed that was a good idea.

And then months passed by.

I was busy in my own world, working on my Start-Up FITH Media and also chasing my passport and Visa all over India. Frankly speaking, I assumed all that was forgotten.

And then a week ago, Maruata, one of our Mizo community leaders, received a mail from Mr. Sadanand Date inviting him and other North Eastern community leaders to take part in the flag hoisting ceremony held at three main Police Stations here in Mumbai – Malabar Hills, BKC and Chembur!

He immediately started getting in touch with other North Eastern communities, and in the end, managed to make an arrangement (in spite of the fact that he’s been running a fever till today!). The Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh Association would take part in Chembur Police Station, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Manipur Association would take part in BKC Police Station, and Mizoram, Assam and Manipur representatives would take part in Malabar Hills Police Station. He wasn’t able to find any proper representatives from Sikkim though.

Just to be clear, just because we’re all from the North East doesn’t mean we all know each other. Other North Eastern community members are as much of a stranger to us as other people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Haryana etc are. That’s how diversified we are. Hence Maruata did a very impressive job of managing to reach out to such people.

And so today, 15th August 2013, our Independence Day, my alarm woke me up at 6:30 AM, something that I haven’t done in a really really long time.

Left home by 7:30, took the Bandra Worli Sea Link, and man, it was deserted!

We reached Malabar Police Station around 8:20 AM, just in time for the flag hoisting ceremony.

DCP Nisar Tamboli unfurled the flag and then we sang our National Anthem.

After the ceremony, we were all ushered to the DCP’s office, where other high ranking police officers joined us and we all had a long conversation about the different North Eastern States over coffee and snacks. I was really impressed with the two Assamese representatives Mr. Pradip Sarma and Mr. Susanta Dhar who knew so much about our North Eastern history, they did a very good job of informing the officers about our culture and heritage.

After around an hour of a very fruitful interaction, we all parted ways. All the police officers saw us off till the gate of the Police Station. We took a few photos there as well.

I hope it went well in the other two Police Stations (BKC and Chembur) as well, and I am looking forward to reading about the report from there.

I took a cab home back to Bandra after that, and then immediately went back to sleep, the shameless me, lolz. Last but not the least, I was wearing this waistcoat which was a fusion of our Mizo culture… just to press the point that such Mizo designs too deserve to be a part of India’s greatest function since we too are a part of India. Hope you like it.

Cheers (on a dry day) :P

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Chp 459. Being an introvert in a Mizo society

One of the biggest misconceptions in our Mizo society is how we often confuse being shy or introvert with being "inchhuang".

The Mizo word “inchhuang” means somebody proud, conceited, snooty, vain, arrogant... Somebody who feels they’re so uber important or above your class/status that they consider it improper to talk to you in public...

...which is quite ironic because we Mizos probably have the most class-less non-hierarchical society here in India, where maids and servants dine together with their employers eating the same food, where a Minister plays table tennis with his driver and is thrashed by the latter, where everybody meets each other at an equal platform, where social gatherings consist of the richest rich working hand in hand with the poorest poor cutting vegetables and meat together for a grand feast... and yet “inchhuang” is one of the most overused words in our Mizo vocabulary.

I'm an introvert, especially when it comes to our Mizo society. I may be quite open in the online world but I’m shy as hell in the real world. I have serious people issue, I can't look at women (I'm not acquainted with yet) directly in the eye, I can't socialize in real life and I prefer not to be in a room full of strangers. I’m also a geek and I love doing most things alone.

Maybe that is why I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years now. To me, blogging is an outlet to express my feelings since I’m not able to do that in the real world. And most bloggers would agree with me on that.

I once tried socializing with complete strangers here in Mumbai, and that was when I decided to take part in Indiblogger’s Anniversary Meet, where I even got to meet Gul Panag and took a pic with her. But I felt awkward the entire time. Other than that, the only other times I socialize with strangers here are the occasional Coral Networking dinners conducted by i2cook where we meet new people and try to network with each other over exotic cuisine, and the only reason why I participate at such events is only because i2cook is run by Pawan and Meg, two of my dearest friends since Hyderabad days.

In our Mizo society, we have a lot of social gatherings, and sometimes I wish I was just a lizard at such functions, quietly being on my own at my own little corner. We have this thing called “mitthi tlaivar” where the youth of a particular locality gather at the house of somebody who died that day in their locality, and they sing songs the entire night till dawn to keep the grieving family accompanied. I participate (whenever I’m home for a vacation) if and only if my cousin is also participating. If he’s not going, then I don’t go. If he’s going, then I sit next to him the entire time till dawn breaks. The same with “ruaitheh” and other functions. I go only if my cousins or a handful of childhood friends I grew up with are going. Otherwise I stay at home.

The same with wedding ceremonies. One of my dear friends N got married recently, and I went for her wedding. After the wedding, we had the traditional photo session, where different groups were called out turn by turn to take a picture with the happily married couple. When it was the turn of the “bride’s friends” (mo thian), I didn’t know any of her other friends, so I didn’t step up. She even actually called me out from the Church’s steps to come for the photograph, but I just froze. That’s how bad I am among strangers.

Hence if you see me feeling uncomfortable and not speaking to anybody at such events, don't say mean stuff like, "A va inchhuang em em, tumah pawh a be duhlo, en pawh min en lo etc" (Look at how arrogant he is, not speaking to anybody).

It's not about "duhlo" (don’t wanna). It's more about "thiamlo" (don’t know how to). Remember there are quite a number of people like me who are very shy and introvert’ish... not everybody's like you... I know how open our Mizo society and culture is, but you should also be aware that not everybody goes through that same ultra bonhomie phase.

Maybe instead of passing scathing judgmental remarks, you can take an attempt to make things comfortable for such people by approaching them and starting a friendly conversation... Just my two pence :)

We really should do away with this negative outlook and judgmental opinion about people who don’t interact with others at our Mizo social functions. It is definitely not because of “inchhuang” or “induh”. Try walking in our shoes and you will be amazed at the introverted solitary and lonely life we lead.

Think about it.