The transformation.

When I make my husband sit down and read this blog at gun point, he will be mortified that I shared some of his deepest secrets with the world. But share I must because those moments and secrets are very tender and when we are both old and Sage is just a memory, we can look back at this and remember the unconditional and uncomplicated love he generously gave us.

To put it very stereotypically, Sean was the quintessential male who was getting a dog. Just before Sage came to us at 8 weeks, he would make arbitrary comments like ‘a dog is just that, a pet! I find it funny when people make it their children. They humanize them! That is ridiculous!’ He doesn’t come from necessarily a dog loving family, although they owned a dog when he was growing up. He dog sat for friends, but as a dog owner, he was a newbie. I heard him and stayed silent, not knowing what kind of owner he would turn out to be. Of one thing, I was certain, he wasn’t going to be an unkind one. I read up zillion books on puppies, dog training, dog ailments, fictional dog stories. I went back to my childhood favorite James Herriot. I rented Marley and Me to watch with the kids (and then did a lot of explaining to 4 year old Ryan – as Marley’s owners tried to conceive a baby) ! Finally, after thanksgiving, Sage was ready to come to us.

As Sage walked into our house diffidently, the three of us – my two children and I melted like ice cream on a hot summer day. Sean kept his distance so as not to ‘overwhelm’ the puppy. Finally, when he uttered ‘Hi there big guy!’ Sage looked up at the big, tall human, heard his deep voice, promptly rolled over on his back and presented his belly in complete submission. That continued for quite some time. A sighting of Sean and bam – tummy side up, little paws kicking in the air in total submission. I am sure the first few nights, Sean silently questioned our decision of bringing a puppy in the family. Sage squealed and cried and wanted the furry comfort of his mommy. I was a poor substitute. I carried his crate to the guest room, put it right next to the bed, let one of my arms dangle where he could sniff my fingers. That seemed to calm him. We both caught a few winks that way for about a week, till Sage started sleeping through the night.


The first few months were fun and frustrating. There were chewed furniture, there were accidents, there were sock stealing and sharp puppy teeth. Sean was loving but firm. And Sage was still….a dog, a pet. Then one fine morning, we decided to take our 8 month old scared dog to a dog park in an attempt to socialize him. It was a disaster from the start. Sage stood by us, tail between his legs, literally shaking. Sometimes he would peek his little nose to take a sniff and retreat quickly when another dog came by to say hello. In the meantime, a German Shepherd and a huge Mastiff mix got into a terrible fight resulting in a ripped ear and a bite on one of the owner’s arm. While this chaos ensued, we tried to make a hasty retreat. But Sean was apprehended by a pit bull who cornered the poor guy and started barking viciously at him. A transformation happened before my eyes. The runt of the litter, our scared puppy launched himself between the pit bull and his human. He didn’t bark back but he stood his ground and protected his ‘dad’. The owner of the pit bull ran up, apologizing profusely. The dog didn’t like people standing in front of a chain link fence. Sean was doing just that, it was ‘nothing personal’. We left, and needless to say, never went back to that particular dog park.

The relationship, however, between the dog and the man changed. I don’t know if I attribute the change towards that particular incident or the charm that Sage naturally possesses and it was simply a matter of time. All I can say, I witnessed a change in words and demeanor. Gone was the ‘pet’ owner, instead ‘dad’ took over. I overheard mumblings like ‘you are my boy! you are my good boy! Aren’t you my good boy?” as Sage’s belly got rubbed. Ryan was chastised with ‘leave your brother alone’ when he was too rough with the pup. I was found thus, “Go find your mummy! Where’s is your mummy, Sage?”

Today Sean is most certainly the prefered parent as he is the one responsible for walks, runs and playtime. Mom is the one responsible for heartworm pills, flea medication, and dreaded baths. As I see Sean walk around the yard, trimming bushes, sweeping the driveway, I know his white shadow is not far behind. Sage follows him with adoring gaze and a heart full of love. When Sean comes home, he waits patiently for his dad to get out of work clothes before he claims his share of attention. After the initial romp, those two are joined at the hip. Sage silently pads along with Sean, and flops down with a sigh where ever Sean settles. Often times the long snout peeks in through Sean’s hands to investigate the laptop dad is working on. Sean gives an absent-minded patting on his head, and Sage just disintegrates in happiness. He smiles widely, settles down at Sean’s feet, closes his eyes and lets out a sigh of contentment. As long his favorite man is by his side, all is right with the world. They play, run, converse or just commune silently. The mutual giving is a thing of beauty for me to witness. The adoration and the love are precious. Sage came into our lives for a reason, I know. He teaches us to love selflessly, without holding back.

Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’ for the love of his life. I hope he won’t mind if I use just a couple of his lines for both my son with four legs and his human dad because life is indeed wonderful since they are in the world. I don’t know whether humanizing an animal is good or bad, all I know that Sage has added immeasurable value to our lives. His patience, perseverance, unconditional love enrich our lives. In our tumultuous google calendar dictated life, he provides the gentle shade where we come to relax, and unwind. His non judgemental, loving presence is our comfort. Sean transformed from a dog owner to a daddy. I am not surprised. How can one not, when one is given unadulterated adoration for no reason other than simply being, just existing!




My love for Kolkata…inexplicable.

I can never sell Kolkata to people who show interest in touring India.

“Errr.. there is the Victoria Memorial, and the St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Maidan is a nice green expanse in the middle of the concrete jungle. And then there is the Ganga and Outram ghaat!” I stammer.

But we can’t boast of the Taj Mahal or the Khaju Raho temples, we don’t have the Lal Quilla or the Lake Palace, we don’t have the pristine Himalayas (unless you go to North Bengal) to lure tourists. Instead, we have bandhs (strikes) at the drop of a hat, we have traffic jams, we have terrible pollution and we have tall concrete buildings which, I feel, are suffocating the whole city. And we have terribly long summer. The pleasant winds bringing respite in the summer evenings, are halted by tall buildings that are choking the city slowly.

In my young and foolish days, I took up arms against those who dared to say a word against Kolkata. I was ready to break up with my boy friend who dared criticize my city. I got this passion from my fire-brand mother, who brain washed me from an early age “east or west, Kolkata is the best”. Yeah, she is very parochial. I inherited that mentality from her and kept the fire of nationalistic pride ignited in my heart. My friends too, were die-hard Kolkata fans and believed that only us, the Kolkata lovers, had the right to criticize our city but heaven have mercy on those outsiders, who dared utter a word against it.

Those days are gone. I am a wise, mature woman now who left Kolkata in the mid nineties and never went back to stay. I learned, in due course, that criticizing something/ someone doesn’t mean loving it less. It means we acknowledge a problem and that is a first step towards looking for a solution. That also means something/someone does not have to be blemish free for us to love, we can love something/someone warts and all.

I wonder sometimes why I love the city like the way I do. Does distance make it easier to love Kolkata? Why does the city invoke such a passionate need in me to protect it from outsider’s disdain? Objectively speaking, what exactly is going for the city of Kolkata? Am I really protecting the city or am I safe guarding the memories that the city and I have built together? I still get teary eyed when I listen to Kabir Suman’s

“Ei shohor jaane amar prothom shob kichu
Palate chai joto she aashe amar pichu pichu”

This city knows my every ‘first’
It comes after me, no matter how far I go from it.

It is not the brick, mortar cement of the city that I love, but the faces, the love, the blessings, the friendships, the heartbreak, the experiences that slowly and lovingly molded me, created ‘me’ and shaped me to the person I turned out to be. It is a very personal kind of love that I have for Kolkata.

Those of you who read my blogs know by now, I am a big believer of living in the moments. I have grown up and moved away but whenever I think back to my home city, the moments and memories of my past crowd around me. The sound of Indian classical music coming from the different houses in the neighborhood as the little girls sat down with their harmonium to practice music every evening, the smell of meat cooking only on Sundays in our middle class neighborhood, the communal ‘antakshari’ game on our respective balconies during daily power cuts, the collective sound of ‘Aaahhhh’ when the lights came back on. There are unpleasant memories too but those don’t surface in my mind much. I have lived through them, and left them behind. I came away with the beautiful ones.

I am going home in a few weeks (still over a month left but the time remaining seems shorter if I talk in weeks, hence….)! Friends ask me what are you going to do when you go back? Do? I will do absolutely nothing. I will lay in our king size family bed, next to my mother and talk. Or not. We will probably read or listen to our favorite songs. I am looking forward to those moments of easy silence next to the person who I still want when I am sad or don’t feel well. I will accompany my father to Gariahat market and hear him proudly say to the fishseller ‘Shob cheye bhalo mach ta dao dekhi. Meye esheche.’ (Give us the best fish, my daughter has come) ! I will cherish his ways of showing love – by buying the tastiest fish, the choicest mangoes, the tenderest meat and the satisfaction in his face when I exclaim how good everything is.

I am not sure if this is true for every immigrant. The thing that I miss most about home is the familiarity. I miss the shared history. I love my adopted land but I am not familiar with the tv shows of the seventies, or the baseball players of yester years. When my contemporaries exclaim about how much they loved a certain show growing up and turn to me and say, ‘Remember?’ I say, ‘No, I don’t!’ I remember Humlog and Fauji and Sunil Gavaskar and East Bengal Mohanbagan rivalry.

I will immerse myself in all that familiarity, all the love for two weeks and come back with enough memories to sustain me in the coming year. The greetings of the neighborhood boys, the smiling faces of my aunts and uncles, the welcome from my friends are my personal treasures. They are the city’s love for me which I can’t show an outsiders. They belong to me and to those who can still feel the love.



‘Let’s do something for the Underprivileged’

Parents cease to be infallible to children once they cross the magic years of childhood and enter the murky waters of preteen. It is a confusing age, an age where the boundaries that parents set seem cruel, meaningless and restraining. Parents become the beloved jailers, loved in many ways but hated in some. I felt the same way towards mine while growing up yet at some level, I always knew two well-meaning, kind-hearted people who gave birth to me have also bequeathed me their legacy – kindness.

As a child, I have seen my father spend hours next to his aging, bed ridden relative by marriage, listening to his tales of yester year glories. His gift to the lonely old man was a patient ear and his time. He was, and still is, the hero and savior to all stray dogs and cats in our neighborhood. He instilled in me the life long love for animals. My mother, not only indulged me in all kinds of madness with animals, which included, but wasn’t limited to assisting my cats birth their kittens on my bed and saving and nurturing countless dogs and cats during my entire childhood. She turned a blind eye as I donated generous portions of family rations to alm seekers who knocked on our door. Well, she couldn’t have stopped me anyway. I still remember witnessing the tears in the eyes of our domestic help as she took off her gold earrings and gave them to her for her daughter’s marriage.

After I grew and moved away, my parents found a sudden void in their lives. With me gone, they suddenly did not know what to do. Their lives revolved around our visits to them and vice versa. Then came the grandchildren. Their joy multiplied, but when it was time for us to part, so did loneliness. They waited for phone calls, visits. Life became a long wait.

My father, possessing an inquisitive mind, started tinkering with my old computer. He taught himself enough to land in his first social networking site – Orkut. After a first few shaky steps, he discovered a different world in there – one of online friendship. He dragged my reluctant mother into this and an addiction was formed. My mother came into social networking kicking and screaming, but she was fascinated by the expansiveness of the world it presented. The barriers of sex, age, caste, creed fell away. Her gregarious, jovial and spirited self was just perfect to attract a large number of online friends. They both started spending hours interacting with individuals they knew through Orkut and Facebook, exchanging ideas, talking about Tagores’ poetry, quotations, songs. Gone were the days of lonely sighs and long waits. Life took on a different meaning.

I was happy at the distraction the social networking site provided since I suffered from the single child guilt. At the same time I was alarmed at this addiction which I feared may take a toll on their health. Well, I was wrong and how!

Hours of chat on Facebook gave birth among some like-minded friends, the desire to do something for those in the lower strata of the society. They talked, discussed, debated, planned for hours and created a community called:


Their ultimate goal is to reach a position where they can help people change their lives. They are not there yet but they have put some precious smiles on some precious faces. They have collected money and given out school supplies to elementary school children in slums of Kolkata, India. They are planning their next project, which is to donate clothes to the needy before the biggest festival of Bengalis – Durga pujo. They have pooled their own resources but they can not help as many people as they want without donations. So they are reaching out to you to help their cause by donating money/ time to help their efforts.

I humbly ask you to please visit their Facebook page at

See what they are all about. If you like their initiative, please like their Facebook page to tell your friends about this community. If you are able, please donate money and/or your time. If you are local, feel free to join in their efforts and further their cause in bringing a change. They are a group of well-meaning people but new at this venture. They will certainly benefit from your advice and expertise. I request you to know this community and support their efforts in any way you can.

I am immensely proud of my parents that instead of looking inwards in their twilight years, they finally found the time to do what they wanted to do all their lives (and did in small ways) – give back to the community. I am thankful they found a group of friends who share their zeal to make a difference, no matter, how little. I salute this endeavor and I hope they will continue to grow and become a bigger organization to help more and more people in their community and beyond. I also hope you will join me in giving them the support they need.