Daddy’s little girl.

Sean had to travel all over South Asia when Sahana was a baby. But the precious little time he had with her, there was no one else in his universe but his baby girl. I was relegated to the periphery, where I gladly retired for a while, looking in, smiling as I saw the two of them play, laugh, giggle, sing, tickle.

Every Saturday, Sean took Sahana with him to the American club to play basketball, swim in the pool, play in the playground, eat pizza and then return home in the late afternoon. Saturdays were my days off from child rearing. I was free to focus on myself, go out for lunch with girlfriends, read and realize, ‘oh goodness, I am not just a mother, I am a woman as well!’ But most afternoons found me hanging out in the balcony, craning my neck to see the cream Ambassador car that brought my baby and my husband home. I loved my ‘me time’ but in small doses.

Daddy was a source of joy. Mommy was needed for comfort and sleep. Our roles, in Sahana’s life, were very well defined. And we reveled in our roles. I was the story teller, the book reader, the lullaby singer. Daddy was the fellow climber in the jungle gym, the reassuring presence in swimming pool, the instigator in challenging hikes and creek crossings and lastly, the strong pair of arms when little legs got tired.

After we moved to United States and Sahana got a little older, Sean took her out on daddy and Sahana dates. Five year old Sahana got dressed up, walked up to the car, Sean held the car door for her. Strapped her in and off they went. There were nights of hot chocolates and incessant chatter, which I was made aware of later, by the laughing father.

The five year old is a teenager now. The chatter about ‘what ifs’ is replaced by debates – on everything under the sun, ranging from theology to the grungy sweatshirt that she insists on wearing to school. The date nights have been replaced by softball games and swim team practices, Shakespeare seminars and memory book committee meetings. There is hardly any time. Often, there are eye rolls and exasperated sighs and ‘you just don’t get it’ directed at dad. Often they come to logger heads because both are similar. But on rare occasions, when a few rational moments dawn on Sahana, she tells me:

‘Dad has really set the standards high for me! How will I ever find a man like him who will treat me like he treats you? Do they even make men like him any more?’

We don’t always consider what a tremendous influence we are on our young ones. Fathers play such an important role to shape the idea of what a man should be, as their little girls look up to them with awe filled, adoring eyes. Fathers set the tone for the behavior a girl should come to expect from her life partner. Fathers teach the important lesson of self worth to their daughters. They teach their daughters that they are not defined by their body shape, their hair style, their clothes or their looks. Mothers teach the same, but dads, being of the opposite gender have more impact on the little girl psyche. They are, instead, defined by their qualities and the values that they carry to adulthood. Fathers reinstate the faith in their daughters that they are important, they are worthy, they are intelligent and they have as much right to the air and sunshine in this world as their male counterparts. Fathers teach their daughters to throw like a girl and be proud of it. Fathers tell their girls to be confident of their worth, stand up against abuse and violence directed against them, to take risks, challenge themselves, go one step further. Fathers show, by example, that their little girls should expect to be treated with respect, kindness, love and she should give the same back in return.

At the end of the day, despite the eye rolls, despite the frustrated sighs, despite the heated debates, daddy’s little girl will always know in her heart that those strong hands that picked her up when her little legs got tired, are still her safety nets. Not just in swimming pools, or play grounds any more, but in the vast journey through a rugged terrain, that is called life.


What I wrote in this blog, unfortunately, is not the reality. It is more what my idea of a father’s role should be. Sahana, and some fortunate ones like her, have a strong, positive male influence in their lives to boost their confidence and emerge in this world as confident young women, who are aware of what they deserve. They are also aware of the age old adage ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’! If all men treated their daughters like the way they should be treated, it would be a perfect world. But they don’t, and it is not. Hence Tracy Chapman writes:

“Why is a woman still not safe
When she is in her home?’

Indeed! Why not? When? Isn’t that the million dollar question?


Parallel universe

Sage came to us in the usual way.

4 year old Sahana said ‘Mom, may I please have a dog?’

Mom said, ‘Not right now!’

4 year old Sahana said, ‘When can I have a dog?’

Mom said, ‘When you are older and can take care of it?’

4 year old Sahana said, ‘When I am 10?’

Mom (to end the conversation) ‘Sure!’ Thinking the little girl won’t be 10 for a long, long time.

Well, she turned 10 in the blink of an eye.

What can I say about Sage? Take a look for yourself, but do hold on to your heart. The cuteness overload in these pictures have wreaked havoc in mine.

Sage at 8 weeks.
Sage at 8 weeks.

One pup sleeping, two others faking.

What did I do?

Peek a boo

Just a boy and his dog.

Dental care.


Sage is the most wonderful, most Sagely, kindest, gentlest, smartest dog that ever graced the face of the earth. What, you think I am biased? Well….! He is the gentle salve for Sahana’s teenage angst ridden, troubled soul, he was the non judgemental listener to Ryan’s halted reading when he started to read, he is my silent companion and the soft presence just under my feet when I settle on the couch with a book, and he is Sean’s shadow and a supervisor to all his chores. Nothing comes into our house without a quiet inspection of a reddish brown nose and a long snout.

He has faults too. He considers himself an honorary lap dog and wants to get his 94 pound body on to guests’ lap to show them his affection. He also feels it is a privilege for humans to scratch a particular spot on his back, right where his tail begins and in letting them do so he is doing them a favor. When they stop, he uses his wet nose and long snout to give a gentle nudge to remind them of their sacred duty.

But this blog is not about my dog, Sage (did I say, he is wonderful?)! This blog is about the parallel universe that we discovered because of Sage. The universe of dog lovers.

We learned the protocol of never exchanging greetings with a dog’s human before greeting the dog. That is a big no-no. We scratch the dog, pet him/her, shower him with attention, focus all our energy on our dogs playing, try desperately to untangle the leash which, inevitably gets entangled while the doggies wag, and jump, and play bow and play. We smile at them, comment how cute they are together, we exchange information about our dogs – their name, age, chewing habits, vet care. All this conversation happens, primarily without eye contact and without formal introduction. We don’t need those. Introductions in these cases are redundant. We just pick up and go with it. When our dogs lose interest, we do too. We mumble a ‘Have a good day’ and move on…till we see the next pup on our walk.

Dog lovers universe is very black and white, there are no 50 shades of grey in between. You are in if you completely, utterly and unconditionally love dogs. You are out if you don’t completely give yourself up to canine love. You don’t have to own a dog to belong, you just have to feel the love for dogs (and animals in general). We are pretty inclusive that way. We applaud the works of those tireless humans who dedicate their time and energy to save, foster, care for and adopt dogs and try to give them their forever home. We encourage our children to volunteer at animal shelters in the summer. We inform our fellow citizens of this parallel universe that their dog has gone to the bathroom and whether they need plastic bags to pick up the poop. We discuss the nitty gritties of doggie behavior for hours and think nothing unusual about it. We feel most comfortable in dog parks and automatically bend our knees without thinking when big dogs come bounding at us. We, as I said, earlier, bond quickly, deplore puppy mills and we stand united in our condemnation against those who do unspeakable things to man’s best friend.

We understand the joys of watching a puppy tumble, a young dog run leash free, a senior snooze in the sun. We feel the warmth of the wet nose just by hearing a description, we love each others’ pups and firmly believe puppy kisses are good for the soul. We read SPCA newsletters cover to cover and get overjoyed at every successful adoption story. We wish the dog and his/her human well. We watch back to back episodes of Dog 101 and look forward to more. We baby talk to the pictures of our friends’ dogs that they post on Facebook and engage in lengthy conversation with perfect strangers on social media about dogs.

And only we understand the full depth of sorrow of fellow members of our universe when they lose a canine child. No words of consolation suffice, so we just sit by their side and hold their hands and feel their grief.


The act of getting my family out of the door is blog worthy in itself. Sean zooms around the house with an air of ‘oh I am so responsible for the security of this house’, closing a flap here, a door there. Ryan clutches on to his minuscule star war figure (please don’t ask me which one, because I am that kind of a human who confuses Star wars with Star Trek, causing fans to shudder) and lazes around with no sense of urgency, whatsoever. Sahana, dons her tattered boots and shoves her little journal and pen IN her boots, and settles down on the couch with a deep, thought provoking book like Inferno or Dr. Faustus. That kid is weird, and I like her. I purposefully walk into a room and promptly forget why I came in in the first place because mentally I am checking the mile long list of little things that can preempt any kind of disaster like sore throat or upset stomach or a 102 fever. Once we are ready to go, Sean runs in to do one more thing that needs to be done. When he comes out, I run in because I forgot my waterbottle. And when I come out, the kids run in, either to go the bathroom, or because the answer to ‘do you have your coat?’ was a subdued ‘nooooo!’ Yes, we are predictable! And if Jerome K. Jerome was alive, he would have written a wonderful short story about us.

That is exactly how it panned out before our car trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Finally, the seatbelts were clicked, the ignition turned on, my shoes were off, feet on the dashboard and we were on our way. Right away, there was a major disagreement over the choice of music – Dixie Chicks or Veggie Tales, which I squelched with ‘You guys settle down….or else…’ threat. Peace prevailed for a couple of hours till:

‘I need to go to the bathroom, NOW!’ – Ryan’s plaintive voice.

At that moment, we were sitting in traffic on I 495 south with long serpentine line of cars ahead, moving at snail’s pace.

‘Daddyyyyyy, I need to go the BATHROOM!’

‘Ok, buddy! I will try to find one, as soon as I can!’

After some whimpering and crying and moaning and requesting his helpless parents, Ryan got angry and resentful. This is how he is going to take revenge on us for not helping him out in his present state of discomfort:

‘When I am older and you guys are too old to drive, I am going to drive you guys around and not stop at a bathroom when you guys need to go!’

Sean and I, looking desperately for a hole in traffic to get to an exit, exchanged glances, trying hard not to laugh out loud….fearing our fate in old age!

Long story short, we got off at the nearest exit after many more tears and oohs and ouches. We found a bathroom. Ryan emerged after doing his business with a huge toothless smile, the relief on his face was palpable. We got hopelessly lost and completed the 3 hour trip in 5 and a half hours.

There were some moments when I shook my head and wondered why we bothered. There were some fights, sibling rivalry, some shoves and pushes and temper tantrums. But those were few compared to the skipping, jumping, tinkling laughter, camaraderie and sibling love.

At Busch Gardens, I was dragged kicking and screaming to ride the Lochness monster so that we could tell posterity that we rode that horrendously scary ride as a family. I planned to be an observer of the jollity at the amusement park and use the excuse of my camera to get out of riding scary rides. The plan failed. A locker was found, our stuff was stuffed and I was, very unwillingly, dragged to the rides. I screamed myself hoarse – a happy scream. And felt very daring and brave afterwards as I stood there watching people go up high and get dashed to the ground…just about. I wondered who was having more fun going on the rides – Sean or Ryan. Sean tried to use the fearless Ryan as his pretext to get on each and every ride ‘A grown up must accompany Ry, so I have got to go, you see!’ When Ryan was barred from going on the scariest ride, the Griffon, due to his height, Sean’s ruse failed. He admitted, he would go on it by himself and would I care to join him….for love. I gave him a kiss and told him I loved him, but not enough to get on a ride that is described as such in Wikipedia:

Ride Elements

205-foot 90° drop
146-foot (45 m) Immelmann
130-foot 87° drop
100-foot (30 m) Immelmann
Splashdown finale
360° Climbing carousel turn

It takes one up 205 feet, goes over the edge for a few seconds so one can look straight down 90 degree drop, before it plummets down, 70 miles an hour. And that is the beginning of several twists and turns.

He went alone. And came back exhilarated.

Sahana made it a point to mention to me every time I wanted to take a picture that “You guys are such tourists. I hate tourists!” My response to that was “Be quiet and go stand next to your brother!” She went with a slight grin on her face and reiterated that she hated such touristy behavior. We did the tour of James Town, lunched by the beautiful York River, strolled the historic lanes of Williamsburg, went on a guided tour of “Ghosts among us” and heard stories of vampires, cannibals and ghosts that supposedly frequented and still haunt the streets and mansions of Williamsburg. We played mini golf and ate ice cream. We laughed and teased and hugged each other.

As the children ran ahead of us, excited at things they saw, chattering happily, Sean and I looked at them and realized a few things. First, they are growing up way too fast. Life is going by us and we aren’t making much of an effort to stop time to enjoy the moment, we are too caught up in meeting deadlines, working, taking them to structured activities, paying bills, worrying about their future. We sometimes forget to enjoy the present because we are doggedly focused on their future. A little time outside the structured life we lead, gives us the chance to really see them, as the little humans that they are becoming.

The vacation wasn’t perfect. We are not a perfect family with well behaved kids and smiling, patient parents like they show on television. There were moments, as I said, when I wonderer if going away is really worth it. Sahana’s temper flared, Ryan whined and whined to buy a toy gun. Sean almost made Ryan go to bed without dinner for bad behavior, I yelled at them to stop fighting. But those moments have already been shut down in a tiny, little compartment in my head. The moments that I will air out and smile upon are the brilliant, happy smile of my thirteen year old Sahana, constantly scribbling quotations in her little journal, toothless laughter of young Ryan after riding the Lochness monster, the beaming face of my husband, who posseses the ability to have most fun in any vacation. I can cope with my regular, google calendar dictated life for a while. The happy moments will see me through. When dark clouds start gathering in the horizon, I will need to pack up my little family, and get away again, to regroup and rejuvenate, to bond and to be part of some meaningful experience – together.