Forever in my heart…

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What can I say about a 10-year old Dalmatian?  That he liked snoozing with his snout on my feet. And that he liked waking up my husband by breathing heavily on his face. And that he liked chasing the red dot from the infrared pen.  And loved howling for fun, with us joining him in chorus. And that he was the apple of my eye. And that his name was Scotty.

For all you avid readers or Erich Segal lovers, the above may sound similar to the start of Love Story.

Yes…it is. For this too is a love story.  Of a different kind.

The one by Erich Segal deeply touched me and probably was instrumental in adding Romance to my reading list, which otherwise contained only Crime & Courtroom Drama. Scotty too, has left lasting paw prints on my heart and was instrumental in making me a better person.

Being someone who cannot easily cry in front of others or verbally express pain, Scotty’s loss brought a lump to my throat that has still not fully gone, even after 9 months.

What do you do in a situation like this to ease the pain? This got me thinking and I realized that while I may not be able to talk about it, I am able to write about how I feel. So I decided why not share it? Maybe this will strike a chord with someone else who is grappling with grief too. While this blog will be about life and experiences in general, I decided to make the first one about Scotty and deliberately chose today to go live with my first post as he would have been 11 today.

Scotty came to us in 2007. At that time I was petrified of dogs – a fact that many of my friends can endorse. He was two & a half months and during that time he had already changed 3 homes. My husband got Scotty saying he was only going to be with us for a week till he found a good, permanent home for him. It turned out that his permanent home was with us. The details of how he won me over is a whole different story – a different blog, for another time.

Coming back to this post, anyone who lost a ‘pet’ and shared a special bond will easily identify with me. It is not easy to talk to people about the loss of a ‘pet’ as people who are not privy to the human-animal bond assume that they are easily replaced with another. So what starts off as a chat to ease your pain quickly spirals into an attempt to explain why & how ‘pets’ are equal to humans and irreplaceable, for someone like me.

I read somewhere that ‘Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, but never after the loss of a treasure’. To me, Scotty was that treasure. So instead of trying to fill the void, I now choose to remember and treasure the moments.

The first month was a blur, trying not to stay at home as the house felt like just an empty space. However, having realized that I couldn’t forever run away, I returned. Then came the doubts – did I not do enough to save him? Was I wrong in the way that I cared for him? Friends who understood me well reassured me that I was a good parent and had given him a good life. That got me thinking….wasn’t it him who took care of me? He took me for long walks everyday, giving me the exercise I needed. He was my sounding board, my stress buster, my partner in crime. Even in death, he took care of me…choosing to wait till we came to terms to letting him go. So some part of my fear probably also was from the fact that he was no longer there to take care of me.

Then came the task of telling people that he had crossed over the rainbow bridge. The number of people who visited us or wrote to us made me realize that he not only had a deep impact on my life, but had touched other lives as well. Even till date, some people who don’t know, ask us why is he not to be seen and if walk timings have changed.

Then came the sleepless nights, when there were no paws kicking me at night (Scotty chasing some poor cat or rabbit in his dreams). In all this, I was trying to get back to normal life but the loneliness crept in, despite being surrounded by loving family and friends.

And then suddenly, it was the new year and I who never make resolutions, made one this year. To consciously dwell on the happy memories of the 10 precious years. This was inspired by the thought that Scotty had always brought me happiness and would not have liked to be the cause of any pain to me.  In all this I learnt that taking the time to grieve strengthens bonds with the lost one and that being happy is a choice you have to make – immaterial of the circumstances.

The healing process has started. Yes – there are a million times in a day that I still think about Scotty, but not with sadness. In doing this, I am feeling liberated and sense that he is also at peace.

So here is hoping that he is running free across green meadows and wishing the keeper of my heart a very happy birthday!

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The Fabulous 40 Memoirs!

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

Best Friends are the family that you choose. There are many people who walk in and out of our lives. But once in a while, a few come in and never leave our hearts.

My two besties from college have been there for me through all the ups & downs of my adult life. Though social media and calls keep us connected, physical distances separate us and we don’t get to meet as often as we would like to. So when we touched the big 4, we decided to mark it by planning a holiday and spending some time together!

It has been a year since the holiday, but the reminiscences and photographs still make me feel that it was just a few days ago. It was a first for me in many ways – travelling with friends, travelling international without the husband, being away from my family for a fortnight…

Since we were travelling international, the 2 of us from Bangalore planned to break the trip and pick up the 3rd from her place in Hong Kong. This not only gave us a chance to spend time with her kids, but we could also see another country on our holiday! Though this first leg of the trip was short, it was well planned by our host. Unfortunately there was a typhoon alert, but we got lucky as there was only some light rainfall. Despite the rain, we took in the sights, sampled the local cuisine, relaxed with foot massages and caught up with what was going on in each other’s lives! After much pampering, we decided that it was time to give our friend a holiday too and embarked on the girls-only trip to Vietnam!

The holiday was one of complete relaxation and fun! We had booked a beach resort & much time was spent in water and chilling on the beach. The resort also had an amazing spa – infact we headed there first after dropping off our luggage!

Vietnam has many things to offer – heritage sites, charming towns, beaches, amazing food & friendly people! While the beach and spa at the resort were favourites and faithfully visited every day, we also spent a day at the UNESCO heritage site of ‘My Son’. Though it involved some walking, the ruins and architecture made it a worthwhile trip. And we discovered a connection to India as this was a project supported by the Archaeological Survey Of India!

Another day was spent exploring the ancient town of Hoi An. The quaint shops, temples, eateries and silk factories made for an interesting day. Infact, we loved the old town so much that we decided to go back there for dinner on our last night – it was a full moon night and we got to experience the waterfront festivities! Then there was the ‘cruise’ to Ha Long Bay on a small boat – a beautiful experience for me since it was the first time I had slept on a boat. Waking up to mountains & emerald waters surrounding you is just amazing!  And the food was just out of the world – though I was the only vegetarian onboard, the staff made sure I was served delicious food!!!

Apart from the amazing food and a relaxing time, this holiday really gave us the time to bond and relive some of our carefree college days. The routine of daily life can sometimes get you down. Trips like this bring in a little adventure and fun into our lives. In fact, we now plan to make this girls-trip a regular affair so we can experience different cultures together and unwind.

As the saying goes, travelling with friends can be an adventure. Travelling with your girl gang will surely give you memories that last a lifetime. Not only can you let your hair down, you also get taken care. With encouragement from each other, we were able to push ourselves to do something different and enjoy the holiday. The matching clothes, late night chats, early morning walks, planning, arguing, dressing up….are experiences that you will not find elsewhere. Who else apart from your college friends can make you feel young again by bringing back memories of weird fashion choices, lifestyle quirks and the general madness…with them you can look back and laugh at yourself.

So meet up as often as possible, travel when you can, have fun, relax, de-stress, make memories & celebrate your friendship!!! Ultimately what is left are beautiful memories, which will last a lifetime.

The Rainbow Never Looked More Beautiful!

A landmark decision and a lot of people celebrating today. Some truly understand what it means because it affects them personally, some have friends and family to whom this is welcome news, for others it represents a triumph of their values and to a few it is something to just join on social media because everyone is talking about it.
Whatever your reason, there will be changes around us now but is this really a paradigm shift for us as a society? How much will ‘decriminalizing’ actually change the reality? It is up to all of us to really bring about the actual change.
Let us look back a few decades to when ‘love marriage’ was a social taboo (though not a criminal one) – reasons varied from caste, religion, status etc., but in most cases there was no support from the people closest to you. Instead the couple battled loneliness, anger from family and heartache. However, after a few years there was reconciliation which proved that the initial animosity was unnecessary.
Today, most people in my friend circle knew their spouses before they were married and ‘love marriage’ is socially more accepted.
In the future, we may see a new kind of partnership – and as with any new change there will be initial resistance from the society. If we have even shared or liked one post of today’s judgement, updated one picture on any social media, let us now actually support.
Let us vow today that we will actually stand by those who are now free to express their sexuality. It could be your immediate family or close friends – remember it is a challenging time for them and by being there unconditionally for them you are giving them a moral boost. It could be colleagues, acquaintances and people of any age. Let us be there to lend support and take an actual stance when it really matters, immaterial of who thinks what. Let us not be those who lend their support only on social media or as long as ‘it happens to someone else’. Believe me, sometimes even being there to just listen to someone is also support enough. Our generation has the privilege of both changing our perspective and instilling the correct values in the future generations. Let us make the most of it. Let us love and let love!

13 Reasons Why

a-little-spark-of-kindness-can-put-a-colossal-burst-of-sunshine-into-someones-day

A few weeks back I was down with a bout of viral fever. Having slept through most of the day because of the medication, I couldn’t sleep nights & was prowling around the house. Since I was too tired to do any constructive work and was wide awake, I decided to browse through Netflix and came across 13 REASONS WHY.

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, 13 REASONS WHY is a hit series of Netflix. It deals with teenage school kids and their problems….and the reasons why Hannah Baker, one of the students, chooses to end her life.

Having watched the first episode, I just couldn’t stop and completed the series over a 2-night marathon session. A lot of people find the series very depressing. I could relate a lot of it to various instances that I have come across and found the series disturbing (and not depressing) because of how real it was. I think maybe that was one of the reasons that I couldn’t stop watching.

So what was so great about a TV series and why am I sharing my views on it? I felt that it was an eye opener of sorts. In the series, Hanna Baker takes her own life after being disillusioned repeatedly by a series of events at school. Her death comes as a shocker to her parents and friends too. And each episode reveals a person that was responsible in pushing her a little bit over the edge. The series also deals with drug abuse, peer pressure to do things that are not right and the seemingly harmless lies and deceit that kids indulge to fit in.

In reality too, a lot of us just see our kids as having a ‘normal’ childhood. But do we really know what goes on in their lives? Do they have friends, are they happy with the friends or are just pressured to stay with them? Are they doing something wrong to appear cool? And is the guilt slowly killing them?

When a child is wrong and someone points this out, parents usually take a defensive stand and say that their child is being implicated and could not have done it. This becomes more about ego than doing the right thing. Isn’t this actually sending signals to the child that he can continue to do wrong and that the parents will support him, because to accept that one’s child is wrong hurts the parents’ ego? There are very few of us who own up and take the effort to sit down and chat with the child and explain why what he did was wrong and how it hurt someone else. I have seen long standing friendships break because one friend tried to correct the other’s child by pointing out an issue. I have seen good kids go bad because no one paid attention to the signs – playing pranks first and then slowly escalating to break one rule after the other until when it is completely out of the parents’ control. Then, the parents wonder how this could have happened!

Then there is this new trend of “being friends” with the children. Yes, I agree that the times have changed and the parenting style is more open now. I agree that we need to be friendly with children so that we encourage them to come to us first, without any fear, if they have a problem. However, I think it is important that the child see us as parents and knows to show the respect that a parent deserves. When you portray yourself as equal to his friend, you are actually confusing the kid. So if he starts doing something wrong with your knowledge, you are either not able to correct him (i.e., if you have indirectly encouraged him) or if you do try, you are not taken seriously because he see you as a friend only.

Then there is the other set of parents who are too busy with their own lives to pay attention. A child may come to you with a problem but you choose to brush this under the table because it is more convenient than confronting the issue. You assume that the problem is temporary and will pass over. However, this only gives rise to disgruntlement which could lead the child to seek solace elsewhere.

So parents, embrace your role because you have a responsibility to protect your child, guide him to differentiate right from wrong and mould him into a good human being. Give them the strength to overcome life’s challenges and face both success & failure with grace. If they are not the ‘cool’ kind, tell them it is absolutely fine – make them feel that they matter to others. If your child is being unintentionally hurtful, talk to them about it. Make them see that what they consider as a joke could actually scar someone for life.

And watch out for the warning signs…for there is always a clue. For as parents & guardians, it is our responsibility to ensure stability and physical & mental health of our kids. A bit of kindness and alertness from us can go a long way to moulding the child and may stop him from doing the wrong thing.