You know that Doggie on the Block thing I do here? It’s now a column in the Mumbai Mirror. It’s going to be published once in every two weeks. Now I get to accost doggies professionally. I am so grateful that I’m afraid I might jinx it. I miss my Boo. Not that he could read.
Those, ladies and gents, are nip marks by [Hurricane] Bella, who is really enthusiastic about running. In all, I have a dozen of these and they only get angrier. Bella expresses excitement by reaching for you with her teeth. The thing to note is that she does not do this out of anger. Dogs! You’re in trouble if they are big and playful.
One of the best things I like about setting out to formally study at this age is the chance to employ hindsight. You can 1. Choose what to study 2. With whom 3. Actually learn because a. There is no pressure b. You know what to do.
Getting number 2 right has enriched the process. Too many people turn teachers to a. Be the tallest person in the room. b. To be able to insist they are right. I am not of the school that you can demand respect because you beat the race to conception. I didn’t even get admission forms for the one that said teachers are always right.
I knew I wanted to learn understanding and manipulating dog behavior from Shirin Merchant. I am inspired by her professional conduct, agree with her training methods and respect her knowledge base. Plus, her kids are really well behaved, so that’s a big hint. When I interact with her for work, I always fix appointments at her home, in the middle of her teaching sessions, so that I can be run over by dogs. I may have sat down on the floor and rolled about in them a couple of times. These are my longest assignments and she has never called me out, yet.
Okay now, toss me your dogs.
This is Sam. To put it kindly, he is simple. Simple as in the sound two cells make as they clang around in his cranium. Sam comes for a walk at the doggie park on Carter Road, Bandra. Someday, Sam is going to be my friend and will no longer recoil when I make eye-contact.
Till that day, he will remain Rock’s bitch.
See that tiny fellow there? That is The Rock. Can’t stop The Rock. He should be a motivational speaker. He sees a new dog come into the garden and thinks, “Bitch is fine” or “Dawg’s going down.” And then relentlessly chases, trampolines up on and harasses said four-legged creature till it jumps over the wall and swims to Dubai to seek asylum.
Only Marshall remains unfazed. Marshall is a retired barrister-cum-neurosurgeon who sits in the far corner. He spends his afternoon napping in overstuffed leather chairs in gentlemen’s clubs, but tells his wife he is going for an important meeting. Marshall doesn’t talk much but is great with babies.
The other regulars at the park are Wall.E, Bono and Frisky. Bono is a black Great Dane who comes up to my waist. I want him in my house so I rest a book or cup on his head as he follows me around. Wall.E has the face that launched a thousand canine products. Frisky has the ardent soliciting nature of a stray. He stands on your foot, leans against you leg and before you know, you’re picking off his fleas.
1. The old man with four dogs and umbrella with doggie pictures asks me, “India?”. “Yes.” “Eechak dana, eechak dana. Indian, no?”
2. When I leave work every day, my boss says, “Thank you girls. Thank you for everything.” Sometimes, she gives us chocolate or cake.
3. My extremely aggressive and controlled room-mate gets wasted. The others wake me up to take care of her because they’re too drunk to handle her. She keeps asking for the English Girl, saying she’s her room-mate and stumbles into her corridor. The English girl runs into her room and locks the door. She then starts puking violently into the lawn, while the Nice Swedish Guy says soothingly, “Don’t worry, Sunny-D is here.” The red-haired Swedish girl is trying to calm her claustrophobia by instructing her to breathe in, breathe out. The Colombian Couple are calling out from the staircase, “That’s right L**! Throw the devil out.”
4. My shy South Korean roommate asks: Do you make frat in front of friends? D made frat in front of me. I think it’s very rude.
5. Things L says. For example: She looks like she can’t count till 10.
6. The Columbian Twins have a Bitchy High School Girls thing going on. One of them, M, has been thrown out of every job on the kibbutz for a. Being lazy b. Licking her boyfriend and distracting others c. Being bossy. Unfortunately for her, she tries to tell L how to do her job of pasting stickers on apple boxes. L: “I am not your fucking child. You don’t fucking tell me how to do the job. I am not fucking working for you. You are slowly and surely getting on my nerves.” M says something in Spanish to other Columbian volunteers and gives out a high pitched laugh. L, thrusting her palm in M’s face: You see this? I will fucking smack you right here.” Work halts and the managers pull L away. M’s Swedish boyfriend walks by, giving L hard looks. L yells at him, “IS THERE A FUCKING PROBLEM?” We make L tell the story again and again for the rest of the day.
7. The Member’s club behind Dinning that has comfortable seats, soft lights, magazines, 12 flavours of herbal tea, many types of coffee and cakes and cookies. It opens three times a week and I sit there sipping my tea, watching the members playing with their grandchildren on Shabbath, wearing their best. Some of the founder members still dress like it’s an evening in Europe — coiffed hair, silver barrettes, polished shoes and scarves.
8. The flowers. Made more awe-inspiring by the knowledge that the orchards and forests in this hills were hand-planted by kibbutzims, 60 years ago. The garden in Ba’ram, in particular, is looked after by a lady who has done this job since she was 17. She looks like she’s in her mid 60s and drives around in a modded golf cart with a stuffed doggie splayed across the steering wheel.
9. Pancake Wednesdays. Olives. Cottage cheese with olive oil on toast and tomatoes.
10. Things that happen in the bomb-shelter — poker nights, PlayStation wars, Hebrew classes, Karate classes and hormonal hook-ups.
There’s so much I want to write about my life here, but I didn’t know where to start. Let’s start with Lulu.
She belongs to a member but hangs out with the volunteers because we have Sven — the Alpha Male Swede. Life is pleasantly simple on a kibbutz. We all work in whatever fields are needed for community living and share the profits.
Ba’ram’s main avenues of income are fruit orchards and a plastic factory that makes the tiny toggle that moderates the fluids that pass through the drip. El Com occupies 40 per cent of the world’s market for this apparatus and probably made the ones used on Tushar during his recent hospitalizations.
And now I have to clean their toilets to say thank you.
Yeah, I clean toilets, and floors, and dustbins, and changing rooms. I polish windows, take out the laundry, check the refills. If this was my only job, I would be festering with angst and desperation. Since it’s not, it gives me a perspective. And using alcohol and industrial strength detergents to clean is fun.
Our duties rotate and I might work in laundry, apple-packing, dinning, kitchen, gardens or the members’ club soon. Work in the orchards is limited in winter and mostly requires big men to chop and bind and carry little dogs in their jerseys.
Everyone eats together and the laundry is where everyone’s laundry is done. There are only three places on the kibbutz where monetary transactions take place — the Colbo which is the utility store open for three to four hours a day; the fruit market that a farmer sets up twice a week (we have access to all the fruits we grow, if you’re about to get smart); and the boutique (open for two hours a week). It’s rehab for compulsive shoppers.
And my timings? 6.30 am to 2 pm with three breaks — one for an hour and two for 40 minutes. Did I mention a five day week? And two extra holidays a month? I’m switching careers.
Pictures are here, here and here
1. You know how all articles or advertisements about women say ‘She’s a mother, a sister, a friend…’? It makes me want to wipe out a few worlds.
It took me 20 minutes to steel myself to even type it out. I had to frame the sentence, take a walk, insult some callers, do a few minutes of Kapal bhaati and then do what the shoe brand urges me to.
Because? We don’t live our lives within labels. Those words up there? Those are names for relationships. A series of which, along with experiences and consciousness, is called living. Life is a bildungsroman.
You are not being a mother, a daughter, a sister, you are living relationships and performing duties as a course of existence. At what point do you stop being a daughter? When your parents die or you are not in their presence?
Men, they are suggesting, exist without forming relationships. Not even with their loving hand.
I am a harried mobile-user, juggling my rickshaw usage and with my ATM withdrawal duties. I need to escape and just be myself.
2. Those are not the only labels that rile me up, would you believe? I save aside an ampoule of potent venom for branded crutches. Such as Star Sign-endorsed excuses. ‘I’ll never learn to swim; I have an irrational fear of water. I’m an Earth sign, yaar. I need my feet firmly on the ground”.
There’s a nice choice of debilitation. Self-survival and the story of the Titanic makes us fear water. Youth is the best time to get over such fears before your mind is set on the path of certain death. Any fear is harder to overcome when older. That’s why I can’t use the mixer.
You fear something because you haven’t done it before or have had a bad experience. Don’t blame the constellation. They want nothing to do with us.
Here’s a cute doggie to distract those I’ve offended:
He is not allowed to go outside the gate. So he bends the rules to say hello to you.
How does he get back in?
Those ears are retractable.
We met Whisky when we were at the vet having Boo stitched up (after he attacked a Great Dane in the latter’s territory). Whisky is 2 months old and was bought at Crawford market and was riddled with the diseases associated with trafficked animals. For full details and some proganda, mail me at educatedtatya at gmail.
He was utterly soulful and pliant in the way of sick puppies and is without doubt one of the most beautiful ones I have seen. TB agrees, but since we are no authority on beauty, we asked someone who should know.