By the time a human is wise enough to watch where he’s going, he’s too old to go anywhere. I twirl the fluorescent ball. Its fibers catch the ridges of my fingerprint. I wipe the saliva off my hand. A Doberman puppy on the other hand–

            The complex art of putting paw in front of paw, maintaining her balance and keeping an eye on the ball is too much for the puppy to handle. She stumbles on her own cast. I lunge to catch her fall and in one swift motion she snatches the ball out of my hand and hops into the open yard.

           I smile at her triumph. This tennis ball means the world to an eight-month-old puppy. The past is behind her; the future holds thousands of promises and a sea of sunshine.

            It didn’t seem like it five months ago when I got a call early in the morning.

          “We found an injured thirteen week old female Doberman puppy by the sidewalk.” The volunteer’s voice was more urgent than usual.

            I’ve done this a hundred times before but it hurts every single time more than before. I take a deep breath. “How bad is it?”


            Gosh. “How did we find her?” I press my palm to my forehead.

            “Somebody saw her fly out of a pick-up truck at about 50 mph.”

            When will people stop taking their dogs out in pick-up trucks? Dogs don’t belong in the back of pick-up trucks. Like children, they must be strapped in with a seat belt.  “If she’s a puppy and she fell out, the truck must’ve had its tail-gate lowered.”

            “Yes, he slammed on the brakes and then took off at a break-neck speed. The witness said she flew out like a cannon-ball and struck the pavement. The driver didn’t stop. She’s been here since. Can’t move.”

             A lump forms in my throat. “Stay with her and keep her calm. I’ll rally the troops.” The call I make to the director puts the entire organization at Houston Area Doberman Rescue into auto-pilot mode. There’s a certain amount of mechanical synchronicity in the way we become when we hear of an abandoned dog. We act swiftly and deliberately; get medical help, identify a foster, estimate medical costs, start a fundraiser, ensure the dog’s safety—then we breathe.

             Finally we name the dog.


             Yip Yip Yip. She jostles me out of my thoughts by dropping the ball at my feet and is pawing it with the leg covered in a blue cast. Messages are scribbled on it.  GET WELL SOON, HOPE. I LOVE YOU, HOPE. YOU GO, GIRL. YOU’RE MY HERO, HOPE.

              Hope. Yes, that’s it; simple, honest and straight from the heart.

              Aoo Aoo Aoor. She taps the ball with her cast, sits on her butt and waves her front legs in the air like a Kangaroo. I caress her head and playfully tug her cropped ear. “That’s enough for today. The cast came off your other foot just yesterday.”

              Aaoooooooonnnnn. She cocks her head.

             “Yes, little girl. And your E-collar came off yesterday.” Poor puppy has worn that uncomfortable collar for sixteen weeks straight; half of her life so far.

             She cocks her head in the other direction.

            I sit cross legged in front of her and run my finger on the fur between her eyes. “You’re doing great now. Yes you are.” She had a broken femur, a displaced and chipped left hind leg, fractures on either side of the growth plate in her wrist where her wrist had hyper-extended upon impact with the pavement.

               She blinks a few times.

             “Yes you’re very brave, Hope. You had some lung damage, radial nerve damage in your front leg and you pinched a nerve in your hip because you sat on the concrete for five days.” I put my arm around her neck. “Every bit of you was banged up, wasn’t it?”

             She presses her muzzle to my chest.

            “Yes Hopey, the doctor said even your heart was bruised.” I kiss her nose. “Does this heal your heart a bit?”

            She takes out her broad spatula-like tongue and licks my cheek.

            “Yes, Hopey. I know. I love you too.” 


            This is what we humans classify as an aggressive breed? The ones who are indifferent to an animal’s suffering are the real aggressors. This puppy still responds to the one feeling that is lost on the driver of that truck: love. She doesn’t know she’s being rescued by a rescue group. The children who write on her cast, the foster family that spoils her by feeding her the yummy treats or by the vet who kisses his patient before and after each surgery. To her they are all the same- the people who show her love. That’s exactly how she responds to all of them– by showing love.

            Many years ago, when my niece turned one, I tried for weeks to teach her how to walk. She’d clasp her tiny hand around my finger and I would guide her. She would take a few flat footed steps, cross her legs, lose her balance and plop on the floor. So we’d try again. She’s nine years old now. When she grows into a woman and gets married to someone, I’ll watch her go to her new home and her new life and I’ll cry. I know this today.

            I’ll cry when Hope goes to her new home too.

            She’s eight months old now and has undergone three surgeries. Her puppyhood has been spent in hospitals, e-collars and casts. She hasn’t run at full gallop ever. A puppy masters the complex art of running by extending both its front legs in gallop, not worrying about stopping. It gladly lets inertia make it fall and roll over. There will be none of that for Hope but with the love and care of her foster Ms Carpenter and her companion dogs. She will run soon.

            The one thing the human indifference hasn’t extinguished in her life is hope. She is hopeful that one day her wrist will extend the way it should. She hopes that when this cast comes off, no further surgery will be required. She hopes that somebody will fall so utterly and completely in love with her that they will take her home.

            Yes, that’s what she has: that’s what we have for her.

             And now, introducing for the first time, in the red corner wearing no shorts at all, this black and tan girl weighing in at forty pounds when dripping wet- Hope: Our hope.Humanity’s Hope.


 © Inderpal Sandhu and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


THE KISS CULTURE – The only culture I know is agriculture

-Inderpal Sandhu

         I’m sure if the band ‘KISS’ had played in 80’s India, they would’ve moderated their name down to ‘HUG’.  That’s the culture in which I outgrew my boyhood. Having grown up in boarding schools, I’ve learnt most everything from Bollywood movies; friendship, respecting parents, singing songs, whistling through life and romancing.

         When the hero and heroine were about to kiss in Indian movies the camera would cut to a shot of two flowers touching each other and we knew a kiss has taken place. Alternately the heroine lifting her leg in the air confirmed that the hero has successfully planted his lips on hers. I would stop chewing the popcorn in my mouth, my jaw would drop. I couldn’t risk blinking or I’d miss it. And God forbid, if the camera showed birds fly out of trees, my pre-teen mind had to imagine that a carnal sin had taken place. The heroine was no longer a virgin. Ohhhh Noooooo.              

         A few years later, un-kissed by a soul (barring a rare shining moment of glory that my mother deemed was kiss-worthy) I was pushed into the world of dating. My father’s friend’s bumbling sixteen-year-old daughter seemed like an easy-enough start.

“You can have all my Sidney Sheldon novels.” I slid the stack toward her.

She threw her arms over my shoulder. “You’re such a sweetheart.”

The smell of Listerine lingered between us. Inder, that’s one strong mouthwash. Either she’s giving you the ‘go ahead and kiss’ signal or she has serious oral health issues because that mouthwash is one pH away from being classified as an acid. Come on man, your friends asked you to lookout for clear hints. Slam dunk– I closed my eyes and opened my mouth slightly, cocking my head to my right I leaned in.

Her body stiffened. She arched away. “What are you doing?”

“I’m umm…err…uh… nothing. I was just… I thought–”

She struggled out of my arms. “I knew it. My friends say all boys want the same thing.”

I punched my open fist when she walked away. What’s this ‘same thing’ that girls keep on talking about? Kissing is the biggest deal. Six months of exchanging gifts and notes and holding hands. When’s the right time for moving on to the mouth to mouth handshake?

Ten years, several girlfriends, many pull-backs and an occasional slap later, I had taught myself to just ask first. To kiss or not to kiss- that, my friend, is the question.

At age 24, I immigrated to the US. My first date here was a fellow-intern.  After failing miserably within my own community I was now venturing into cross cultural dating.

I downed the fifth refill of diet soda and suppressed the thirteenth burp. “Why do they keep refilling my glass?

She leveled her palm and waived. “–Because you keep finishing it. You stop- they stop.”


            She held a cookie in her hands and used her thumbs to crack it open. She pulled out a small piece of paper from a secret compartment within. “Man who scratches ass should not bite fingernails.” She read aloud the profound wisdom in the paper. “What did your fortune cookie say?”

Gulp. “Mine didn’t have anything in it.” I picked up another one. No wonder that cookie tasted so darn horrible. Chinese restaurants in India do not have these–

“–Well what does this one say?” She chuckled.

I pulled out the paper. Fuckgoshdarnit. I held it up in two fingers for her. Passionate kiss like spider’s web, soon lead to undoing of fly.

She guffawed and winked.

Wow. I mean wow. “Girls here are easy.” My Indian roommates had preached earlier that day. “Just make sure you take protection with you.”

“It’s the first date, guys.” I’d stated.

“Yeah, but it’s best to be prepared. If she gives you a lead in, invites you in for coffee, talks about making out or ahem ahem…. chitty-chitty, bang-bang… you know.”

I had run into the Walgreens just before picking her up and purchased a packet of ‘To Maximize Her Pleasure’. The best place to hide them was under the passenger seat because she might open the glove box for any reason.

The waiter nudging me with the check brought my thoughts back to the date. What? 4378 There goes 5 post tax internship hours. “Per November’s Cosmo, if the bill is more than 40 bucks, you have a 33.3 % chance of getting laid.” My software engineer roommate had clarified while he primped my tie.

I pulled back her chair and draped her jacket over her delicate shoulders. The indicators were clear as day.

“You’re such a gentleman.” She crooned.

          Fuck. There go 50 dollars down the toilet.

I opened the passenger door to my hooptie and adjusted the second seat-cover over her seat so that her dress wouldn’t get torn by the multiple springs poking through the foam.

When I spun on my heel she was breathing down my throat. “Thank you for the date, Inder.” Her silver polished nail traced the side of my mouth and slid off my chin.

          Listerine? Darnit. I stared deep into her eyes. “Would you like to kiss now?”

She straightened her head. “What? Why would you ask me that?”

I tried putting my arm around her back but she put her palm on my chest. “I thought it’s better to ask–”

“That’s such a momentum killer, Inder.” She straightened her elbow.

“No No…we have momentum.” I reached out for her waist.

We drove silently for a few minutes. You almost had her, you bumbling moron. If only you could’ve kept your pie-hole shut for three more seconds–

She placed her sweaty palm on mine. “I understand the cultural differences, Inder. Kissing and sex is such a big step for–.”

        No No it’s not. How do you think we became the second most populous country in the world. It’s just that–

Her voice became crisper “–Your society is very conservative. In the US it is acceptable for people who are dating to be intimate.”

I turned to face her. Her eyes became wider. She clasped my hand. A tinge of red light fell on her face. My instincts made me hit the brakes as hard as I could.

Her head almost hit the dashboard. She lurched back.

“Phew, that was close.” She straightened back up. “Hey what is that–?” She pointed to something between her feet.

I looked over. Her immaculately painted toes were inches away from a small box. It said in bold letters. Ribbed, for her pleasure.

© Inderpal Sandhu and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

O My Indie Dog, How I Fear thee, Let me Count the Ways

-Inder Sandhu

             Aiiiiyiiiii.” The scrawny shirtless kid holds up two sticks in his hands and chases a dog. His ten-year-old legs allow him to catch up to the limping stray before I can blink my eyes.

“Whaaack.” A smile of triumph beams across the boy’s dark complexioned face.

“Aoor Aoor Aoor,” The dog lifts his injured leg higher and tries to scramble away. The boy raises his sticks again.

My body kicks into action. “Oye!” I charge the boy.

He drops the sticks and tries to flee.


injured dogMy fingers sting from the pain. The boy is holding the back of his head. “Why are you hitting a defenseless dog?” I yell in Hindi. The onlookers at the Fatehpur Sikri surround us. The boy runs away. “How does it feel to be hit like that?” I shout at his receding figure.

The mosque has drawn its weekend crowd of visitors and devout locals. Merchants by the Kotah stone coloured forty meter high entrance gate, the Buland Darwaza, trade their wares in song. The mild wafting aroma of groundnuts roasting over coal saturates the air. The azaan (call to prayer) blares over the loud-speaker. “Allah-hu-Akbar.” Although not a Muslim, I repeat the phrase aloud. I’ve been taught as a child to respect all religions. I fold my hands in prayer and bow my head.  

              Ḥayya ʿala khayr al ʿamal.” (The time for the best deed has come) the Muezzin’s voice is crisp over the loudspeaker.

             The best deed? I slump. How does it feel to be the perpetrator of the crime you just accused him of? Hitting someone weaker than you is just wrong. I close my eyes. That kid hasn’t learnt his lesson and he never will. Where did we go wrong? When did it become acceptable for peace loving Indians to hurt defenseless animals? What happened to our concept of ‘be kind to animals-‘nahi to paap lagega’ (or you will be cursed by your karma).

A part of the answer is fear and the lack of education of how to handle the Indie dog; a stray of no particular breed. We see them everywhere and are indifferent to their presence. Their plight is so common that we’ve become immune to it. We Indians are experts at shutting our eyes and zoning out problems from our lives if they don’t affect us.

            We have no idea how to approach these dogs. We’ve never learnt it. We fear them.

            Imagine if you will the life of a stray dog. Born into scarce food supply and poor health conditions, they have ticks and fleas and no form of vaccination. Most of them in the litter die within a few days. Only the tough survive. They face other big, rabid dogs and children pelting stones at them.


            Oftentimes, the mother is too busy searching for food or gets runs down by cars and trucks, leaving these puppies to fend for themselves. Like children, these puppies need the human touch, love and nurturing. A human that is orphaned and struggles for survival often becomes a criminal. These dogs are the outcasts of our society. They have very little in terms of orphanages or shelters.

         When we can show them love, we show them fear and hatred. Even if our children try, we’re guilty of shooing the dogs away and reprimanding our children for trying to get close. When these children grow into teenagers we offer them no outlet to quell the fear we instilled in their hearts. We offer them no opportunity to volunteer with these defenseless animals.

         When our children have children of their own- they propagate the same fear in them. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear begets more fear- until one day our society becomes immune to their plight. Then we are left with the only option of scoffing at our own country and the overpopulation of dogs. We cite examples of other countries, those don’t have these problems.

animal cruelty       The simple question is- Will we do anything to break the circle? Will we allow our children to volunteer with these poor helpless dogs and nurse them to health and love? Allow the children to ensure that our administrators have policies in place to control the overpopulation of strays? Or will we just sit back and make the circle of fear get stronger and stronger? Will we do nothing and then complain?

The child comes back with his father. “Why did you hit my son?” He jabs a stick in my pectorals. “You thought he has nobody to support him? Apologize to him” He looks over my shoulder at the growing crowd behind me.

I sit down on my knee and rub the kid’s head where I’d struck him. “I’m sorry I hit you, little guy.” I straighten up.

His father triumphantly twirls his moustache. He turns around and walks away.

I call out behind him. “Now will you ask your son to apologize to the dog he hit because he thought there was nobody to support the dog?”

He pauses for a while, then turns around. Tears have pooled around his now soft eyes. He loses the grip of his stick. I see it rattle on the bitumen and I would’ve heard it too- had the applause not drowned out the sound.

© Inderpal Sandhu and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Love-Love Match

-Inder Sandhu

             Quitters never win, winners never quit, but those who never win and never quit are idiots. I run my fingers over the yellow ball smoothing out the fuzzy strands. Wilson 2 embossed in bold black letters catches my fingernail. I stuff one in my pocket.

“Match Point.” Angela announces the score.

I bounce the ball a few times. My opponent swings his racquet in anticipation of picking a side. His partner smoothes her skirt and crouches by the net. I toss the ball in the air and arch my back. My opponent skips on his toes and moves towards the forehand. I change the angle on my racquet. When the ball is at the apex of the toss I unload with all my 170 Lbs behind the serve. The serve is directed at his midriff. He’s jammed temporarily and just moves out of the way of the hundred mile and hour serve.

Thud. The ball hits the canvas behind the court. Angela throws up her hands and I run towards the players.

            “Good game guys.” I slap a few palms.

“We just hope we’d given you more competition.” He points at the 6-0, 6-0 score on the board.

I pack my tennis bag. “Good game partner.” Angela slings her bag over her broad shoulders. “Do you think we can make the playoffs?”

“Dunno. Who cares anyway? We’re just having fun, right?” I spin my phone in my hand.

Yep. Who cares about Victory.

Three weeks ago I had driven out to our weekly tennis meetup with Veronica. “I’m switching partners. I’m going to play this season with Jacob.”  Veronica’s voice was firm.

Before I could react, Jacob walked into the courts and they did the ‘fake-kiss-peck-greeting’ thing to each. I stood behind her. Next, he clasped my hand in his clammy palm.

Is he going to kiss me too? My pseudo-Indian alienation strategies made me want to chew my fingernails. I stiffened my elbow so much that it wouldn’t have bent if I had to drink the last gin and tonic of my life.

“Whassup bro.” He slapped my back.


            So the new equation was that I and Jacob were on a first name basis and Veronica and Jacob were on a kiss-cheek basis. She must really-really want to win. I would never ever ever ever change my partner to win a league. I swished my palm flat pretending to hit a forehand. What value is victory in my life?

The very next week I and my new mixed doubles partner, Angela played our first league match. We barely knew each other. We didn’t even attempt making friends. Me; on account of not giving her the wrong message. She; on account of not caring either way.

We lost the first set in a tie-break. We were down and out in the second. A great cross-court shot that Angela made left the opponents grunting. We made eye contact and decide to make a go of it. We pulled out the second set in a close 7-5 score.

            In the third set we were up 6-5 and lost the next game. In the tie-breaker, we were up two match-points. I chipped an easy return into the net because I wanted to be cute and play a low percentage drop-shot v/s an easy hard hit. On the next point Angela was standing behind the baseline. The ball was over hit and almost at Angela’s ankles.

“NO.” I yelled out, imploring her not to hit it.

Too late. She dumped the volley into the net. Ugggghhh. Two match points wasted. We lost the match on a very questionable line call. Amongst muffled apologies for not playing up to the mark we both left. I sang songs on my drive home, grooving to the music, drumming the steering wheel.

I reached home and text Angela. Well played. That was fun. It was followed by a smiley face with a halo on its head. Loss; the cost of victory? It’s easier to say who cares about winning when you lose…

Back to today’s match. We won the first set 6-0. We were up 5-0 in the second. I pondered letting them win a game, or to bagel them in the second set as well. The decision was to not give them any hope of a comeback. It wasn’t done for embarrassing them. They could’ve been boyfriend and girlfriend, or husband and wife. I should’ve cut them some slack so they won’t blame each other.

I send Angela a text message when I reach home. Good game partner. I add a smiley face. This one has a red face and the devils horns on it.

At what cost victory?

© Inderpal Sandhu and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.