Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Special Needs Dog and Other Stories*

I am sorry to say Nike has a special needs dog. I am sorrier still that it was I who discovered that it was a special needs dog. I’ve been living in this house for over two months and yet the silly dog barks every time I come down the stairs or go up. You’d think a dog would get used to a person in two months’ time, but not this dog. I confided to Nike that I felt the dog was rather underdeveloped mentally, and he agreed with me, but we decided to keep this to ourselves so as not to hurt the sentiments of the others in the family.

But the events of the last weekend led to this sad truth coming out in the open. I was alone at home, and the dog R kept howling continuously. Thinking he was afraid of being alone, I went and sat near him but the howling continued. I finally started talking to him in a soft, consoling manner, and that seemed to calm him down somewhat. I then decided to pat his head. If you knew what an absolute phobia I have of animals, you would realise this was a very brave move on my part (you’d also realise the extent of frustration brought upon by the dog’s non-stop howling); but as soon as I reached out to pat its head, it jumped angrily at me.

This was of course sufficient incentive for me to turn tail and run upstairs, and shut the door to drown out the howling. When everybody else came home in the afternoon, I described the dog’s inexplicable behaviour, and Nike pronounced “R is retarded”. We then googled for ‘how to tell if my dog is retarded” and proceeded to try out the first simple test. It involved calling out the dog’s name and observing if it responded consistently. Of course, R decided not to respond at all for the first 10 calls of its name; it then responded at the 11th call, but then it also responded when we called out ‘mango’ and then lost interest and went to sleep.

We were very discouraged by this and didn’t have the enthusiasm to try out the next test – also what was the point. The next day, the dog barked the daily maid – this poor maid is devoted to the dog, walks him all around the place, keeps talking to it while she’s doing her chores, carries him in her arms like he’s a little baby, and even buys him sweetmeats from the corner store. And R bit her!

It’s the Dog, not the Doorbell!

In the ensuing debate about whether R was a special needs dog, or simple a badly behaved dog, the MIL told us a story. When the moved into their new home, the dog went berserk every time the doorbell rang. My MIL assumed that the dog didn’t like the sound of the doorbell and changed it. But the insane barking continued. My MIL, who is given to thinking the best of others, continued to replace doorbells, hoping that when she found the right doorbell, the dog wouldn’t go mad every time it rang. It took over a dozen doorbells before she finally gave up and accepted that ‘it was the dog, not the doorbell’. (And yes, R still goes into a mad frenzy EVERY SINGLE TIME the doorbell rings, irrespective of who is on the other side of the door).

Despite all these events, we still want to give it the benefit of doubt – that it’s just a badly behaved dog. Next week a trainer is going to come to meet R and assess if he is a badly behaved dog who can be trained, or if he is incapable of being trained. I will keep you updated on the verdict. Till next week then!

* I wanted to title it ‘The Retarded Dog and Other Stories’ but I was afraid that wasn’t politically correct, and I didn’t want to offend anyone. But throughout the text, you can replace special needs with retarded, if you wish.

Where are the other stories, you ask? Well I did have two other stories to tell, but I was so carried away by this story that now I don’t have the time for the other two. Maybe some other time (Your sigh of relief came a tad too early, dear reader).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Birthday Blues

Friday, 10th June 2011 was a momentous day – Nike turned 30! And the day was an unmitigated disaster. Of course, being the 30th birthday, the day was at a disadvantage to start with. Now I believe there are two ways of celebrating milestone birthdays – one is to go wild and crazy and make it a birthday to remember; the second way is the other extreme, where you lie low, hope no one notices its your birthday, wait for the day to get over and for life to return to normal.

Nike started out deciding that he would enter the 30’s with a big bang. In an ideal world, he would have wanted to ring in the 30’s at Vegas with his friends. But its not an ideal world, so he settled for a road trip across Lebanon with his friends instead. Of course, as I am only human, I was jealous, and tried to encourage them to do said road trip across Germany or some such less exotic destination, but my ploys were in vain. But then all the upheavals in the Middle East began, warnings were issued, and the Lebanon road trip was cancelled (Let it be said on record that I did NOT rejoice; I felt really bad for Nike, and even felt as guilty as hell).

Then Nike made plans to go visit the UK with a cousin, spend some time with his brother-in-law there, and drive around the countryside. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either. Undeterred, Nike decided on a road trip to Ladakh with his friends. By this time, I was skeptical of any of these plans working out, so I didn’t die of envy at the thought of Nike going off on a bike to Ladakh while I slaved away at office in the Hyderabad summer.

Ladakh is the sorriest story of all. Nike put in a lot of effort into coordinating among different groups of friends, and a group of friends finalized the Ladakh trip for June. Then, one of Nike’s best friends, A, said he couldn’t make it in June, so could they go in May instead. I warned that May was a dicey time to do a road trip to Ladkah on account of the road conditions, but they decided to go ahead in May anyway. Leaves were taken, tickets and accommodation were booked. After Nike reached Delhi (and was to set out to Kalka early the next morning), he found out that the road to Ladakh was blocked due to an avalanche.

His friends decided to go to Dharamsala instead, but Nike headed back home, deciding to save those leaves and use them in June to go to Ladakh. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, none of Nike’s friends could do the Ladakh trip in June. The poor guy was so keen on it that at one point, he was considering doing the road trip solo, but thankfully decided against it!

By this time, I was being eaten away with guilt – I was envious of his trips and that’s why he couldn’t go, so its somehow all indirectly my fault, get it?. So I suggested making it a weekend getaway – but for Nike, it was Ladakh or nothing at all (and I couldn’t take so many days of two months into joining a new job). I even suggested a day at a resort in the city outskirts, but both of us aren’t really into that sort of a thing, and of course he wasn’t enthusiastic about it. And so it was that the birthday was going to be in Hyderabad.

The next tricky part was the gift. He wanted a camera bag! I couldn’t think of a more boring and forgettable gift. So I suggested I would enroll him for a two day paragliding course instead – he wasn’t enthusiastic about it. I then suggested buying him a guitar and enrolling him for guitar classes - he wasn’t enthusiastic about it either.

Two days to go for the birthday and no gift yet – I was beginning to despair. I then hit upon the idea of making a scrapbook. I spent the day reading up how to make a scrapbook, and then left work early that day, and headed out to buy scrapbook supplies. I spent the next day and two nights slaving over the scrapbook, but I had grossly underestimated the amount of work required for it, and so it wasn’t complete on time.

I had decided that we would have dinner at the Faluknama Palace on his birthday. The views, the setting, the service, the food – if reviews are to be believed, all of it is completely unforgettable. So I called many days before the 10th to book a table for two, only to be told that the entire palace had been booked out for a wedding! Damn it! Why couldn’t people get married at some other time? Why do they have to do it bang in the middle of the husbands 30th birthday?

The next plan was to send him 30 roses. However, on the night before the birthday, when a discussion came up about flowers, he said he didn’t like being given flowers at all. He said it was silly, and it was a waste of money. Now, I knew he didn’t care for flowers, but I had foolishly assumed that if it was for his birthday, he might actually like the gesture. But he was rather vehement in his dislike of receiving flowers and his opinion on their wastefulness (despite my protests “But you can put them on your desk!”) and so I hurriedly cancelled the flowers.

Anyway, in the midst of all this chaos and confusion, his birthday arrived. The mother-in-law baked a delicious cake for him, which he cut at midnight – apparently it’s a birthday tradition from his childhood and it made him very happy. The next morning, I wanted to serve him breakfast in bed, but since my culinary skills are very limited, I asked him if he’d enjoy being served bread-omlette with juice and the newspaper in bed. He said he would rather eat dosas at the dining table, and that was the end of my breakfast in bed plans – anyway, we woke up very late that day, so if I had made the breakfast, it would have ended up being brunch.

After breakfast, I shut myself up in the guest bedroom to continue working on the scrapbook, but Nike knocked repeatedly till I had to let him in and he ended up seeing the scrapbook without my completing it! He said it was a ‘lovely gesture’; and instead of being content with that, when I pressed him for more he added “Its rather like a child’s craft project, isn’t it” and then “You aren’t very artistic are you” and even “What is this thing on this page? Haha…that’s funny!”.

We then got ready to go out for lunch, only to find out that his parents had taken one car for the doctors appointment and the other car had been sent off for repair. We waited for well over an hour before one of the cars came back, and by the time we set out for lunch, it was well past 2pm, and we were both VERY hungry.

As luck would have it, we were stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, and reached the restaurant at 3.30pm. Luckily, the place was still open – possibly our only piece of luck on that day. Our drinks arrived and tasted awful – turns out, the bartended wasn’t around! Thankfully, the food was good, and we enjoyed lunch.

After lunch, went to pick up the next surprise for Nike – a camera cake! Getting the camera cake had been a major hassle – I had googled for and printed pictures of camera cakes, and then gone to three bakeries around town (and sent friends to another two) before I found someone willing to make the camera cake. So when we went to pick up the cake I was very nervous and excited. Thankfully, the cake turned out beautifully and even Nike was very pleased with it. Though he did comment that it was unhealthy and we shouldnt eat too much of it!

As we set out home after picking up the cake, we kind of got lost, and accidentally ended up in a one way. And promptly got stopped by the traffic police and received a fine. I wanted to tell the policeman “But its his birthday today!” (In case you were wondering, I didn’t). We finally reached home, Nike’s cousins joined us there, he cut the camera cake (which received much admiration from everyone), he showed everybody the scrapbook (which again received much admiration inspite of its incomplete status and gratified me sufficiently), we played Taboo (which Nike and his team won for the first time in the 18 months we have been playing against each other), we ordered in biryani for dinner, we played dumb charades in the lawn, and then everyone left, and Nike and I went for a drive.

After we came back home, I sent him a mail titled ’30 Reasons Why I Love You’. I assumed he would be touched and emotional. Maybe he’s respond with 27 reasons why he loved me. He read it and said “That’s very sweet of you. Now lets go to sleep”.

And thus ended the day. Next year, I’m just going to stick to a simple cake, and biryani for dinner. And the darned camera bag for a birthday gift!

P.S: Oh, and we finally decided that I would gift him a tattoo. It has him very excited!

P.P.S: He did mention that despite all the things that didn’t happen/went wrong for his birthday, he had enjoyed himself and had a good day. And that’s my reason #1 – it doesn’t take much to keep him happy. I should learn from him. Oh, and also, I told him I want to go to Paris for the my 30th – it’s a good 3 years away, but a little advance planning never hurt.

Monday, June 06, 2011

No Post

A terrible tragedy has occurred today in the family of someone closely related to us. I have been feeling very shaken and disturbed all day, and now have a splitting headache. I sat down to write, since writing usually calms and soothes me. But today, I have no words. My thoughts are with those affected by today’s awful events – I can only hope and pray that they find the strength and the courage to move on with their lives.

I am not even sure why I am blogging about this. I am closing comments on this post. I will be back soon, hopefully on a more cheerful note.