WHAT LEVEL CRAZY ARE YOU FOR BOLLYWOOD- A simple test

Years ago, I worked at Nestle India in Moga. One day my factory engineer called me in his office for our weekly Ghee Plant project report status.

His office door swished and he looked up over his half-frame reading glasses, “Kya laaye ho, Inder?” (What have you brought, Inder?), he pointed to the pages in my hands.

I looked out the window, “It’s just–” — a scene of a frail old man carrying a sack flashed my mind.

My manager continued poring over some papers, “—hmm?”

My mind tried to focus away from the scene playing in my head. The frail man drops the sack on the ground and folds his hands, trembling like a reed. “—Jowar laaya hoon maayibaap. (I have brought a sack of millets, sir)” I managed to say.

“—What did you say?” My manager raised his eyebrows.

I realized instantaneously that I had just said the next line from the movie, Sholay from the scene that had been playing in my head.

A few awkward moments later I exited his office and slumped in my chair. Goshdarnit… what on earth is wrong with me? Why does my default thought go to Bollywood?

               Such is the influence of Bollywood on me. I grew up with those movies. I learnt my sense of righteousness, respect for elders, love for siblings, victory of good over evil, horrific dance moves and even my awful romantic thoughts from those Masala movies.

But am I alone?

Or are you one of us crazy people who on the surface dislike Bollywood movies but are deeply influenced by them?

Well here is your test. There are 5 levels of crazy.

  • Level 1– If you’ve ever boarded a train and then done a double take to check if there is any woman running towards you with an extended hand to help board the train.
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–You sir, are level 1 crazy Bollywood fan.

Level 2– If you’ve ever been in an open Jeep and have automatically started humming- Mere sapnon ki Raani kab aayegi tu? Or if you were riding a motorcycle with your best buddy

and both of you started singing, Yeh dosti hum na todenge.

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–You sir, are level 2 crazy Bollywood fan.

 

  • Level 3– If you have ever used any of these lines in your regular speech.

Kaanon ke haath bahut lambe hote hain. (the law has long arms)

Police ne tumhe chaaron taraf se gher liya hai (police has surrounded you)

Ismein ehsan kaisa, yeh to mera farz tha (this is not a favour, it’s my duty)

Apni gali mein to kutta bhi sher hota hai (Even a dog is a lion in his backyard)

Mein tumhare bacche ki maa ban ne wali hoon (I’m pregnant with your child)

Tumhari maa aur behan hamare kabze mein hain (your mother is in our custody)

Kitne aadmi the? (how many men were they)

Mein tumhare bina jee nahi sakta (I can’t live without you).

 

–You sir, are level 3 crazy Bollywood fan.

 

  • Level4– If you know who any or all of these people are?

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–You sir, are level 4 crazy Bollywood fan.

Level 5  – If you know the name of Gabbar Singh’s father

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–You sir, are level 5 crazy Bollywood fan.

 

AND YOU’VE FALLED OFF THE DEEP END—THERE IS NO HOPE FOR YOU….NONE…AND NO REPRIEVE…

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ROAD-MAPS OF THE SOUL- August’s tale

A human’s journey is complete when there is someone at the door to greet them when they get home. What is an animal’s journey? Some unfortunate ones struggle through the ups and down of a horrific world that we’ve created for them.

Dinggg. The amber light glowed on my cellphone screen. New text message from the Mole. I pushed the green tab. “One male black puppy. 8-10 weeks old. Rail-yard.

I gulped and quickly checked my watch. 7:47 PM. The fading sunlight in the Texas sky stopped me in my tracks. I was planning to go to the scariest part of town for picking up the puppy. A neighborhood where drugs exchange hands and possessions of guns and knives was the norm. The brutal practice of dog-fighting and killing of the weak bait-dogs was an everyday practice and this remote rail-yard provided the ideal backdrop for it.

Yet the puppy tied to the railway tracks wouldn’t make it till the morning. He was deemed too weak by the dog-fighting gang so they had tied him to the railway tracks for the train to crush him. I must get him from there tonight. I wore dark clothes and armed myself with a flashlight, a bag and a knife for protection.

I crouched low to the railway tracks and whispered, “Here, puppy puppy.” I whistled and strained to hear a sound in the darkness. My fingertips rested on the tracks and the shiny metal felt warm on my fingertips Gosh, has a train gone over these tracks recently? Is it too late?

I crawled down the tracks as they curved by the bushes and vanished from the view of the road. The beam from my flashlight danced on the broad gauge sleepers hoping I wouldn’t be spotted by the gang-members. My eyes squinted to adjust to the all-encompassing darkness.

           Aooor.I strained to listen again. Aooor.

I sprinted towards the sound. There he was; a little black puppy tied so close to the tracks that he couldn’t move more than two inches away from them. Just as expected he was a Labrador-Pit bull mix. Blood still oozed from the scar across his face. His legs had scars and his fur was matted with crusted over blood.

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“Don’t worry, little guy, you’re safe now,” I cut the rope and lifted him in the air. He was cowering and trembling but the moment I held him close to my chest, he stopped wailing.

Next morning, back at the animal shelter where I volunteer the 8 week old puppy played with the Labrador Retriever, Chevvy. He had been fed, bathed, given medicine and a new name; St. Augustine A.K.A August.

August stood up to Chevvy and teased him into playing with him. Even when he was pushed to the ground, he never backed down from a scuffle. One day when he and Chevy were playing with a tug rope. August got a little too bossy and Chevvy lost his cool, grabbing one end of the rope he flung August about six feet away. August got up, shrugged himself off and was back bothering Chevvy to ‘do it again’……

St. Augustine had boundless amounts of energy and he ran around in his small cage at breakneck speeds, the centrifugal force propelling him higher in the cage like a motorcycle in the well of death. The motorcycle gets higher and higher, the faster it goes.  It made such a horrible mess in his cage, that everyone thought he was un-adoptable.

I knew he was just burning his energy and being a rambunctious puppy. One day I caught him trying to bite his way out of the cage to try and escape, so he could play with the rest of the dogs.    It’s sad to see such a live-wire spend his puppyhood in a kennel.  August’s journey wasn’t complete yet, he needed a new home.

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Week after week of taking him to adoption events, failing to find him a home and leaving him inside a small cage every night made my heart bleed. I spent several nights staring at the ceiling, imagining his sad empty eyes behind the cold stainless steel rods, wondering if the cost August was paying for being safe at the shelter with his puppyhood was a fair one.

My friend, Navnit met him on one of her trips to Texas, fell utterly and completely in love with him and decided to give him a new home and a new name; Augustus Maximus.

A month later when I visited Navnit, August ran to the door to greet me. His tail wagged merrily and his butt shook in glee when his tongue licked my cheek. ‘All dogs are adoptable’, I thought to myself. We just need to give them a chance to succeed.

Augusts journey spanned being a lone puppy minutes away from being crushed by a locomotive engine, to finding limited joy at the animal shelter and finally an overabundance of love from Navnit.

The warm Texas breeze tousled my hair when I drove back that evening, worried about when I’d receive the next text from the Mole; my informant within the dog-fighting gang. How many more puppies can I save among the sea of cruelty all around me? A new puppy would be starting his journey soon.

August’s journey is now complete – he has found his road-map; now I need to find mine.

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FRIDA- Bella

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As I peel off my socks and groan the long day out, I run my finger over the mouse wheel.  My Facebook page races upwards and I pick up my re-heated sandwich from the Tupperware and take a big bite into the bland meal.

A piece of tomato escapes my mouth as I catch the image of a puppy, reposted from a page that sells goods. Puppy for sale. Will let it go for 100$. Several people have commented on ‘how sick they are with such posts’ and ‘how can FB allow people to post dogs in an item sale’. Some want to ‘kill the person selling it’, but most just say ‘how sad it makes them’.

Some parts of the rescue workers body function involuntarily. The brain gets put in the Tupperware along-with the awful sandwich and the heart kicks into over-drive. Ugggh. The long day is going to extend into a long night. I’ll need the nutrition. I stuff more of the sandwich in my face and crack my knuckles.

Its go time.

My desktop, laptop and cellphone are conducting Facebook searches, Craigslist scanning and I’m trying to rally a team to save the Coffee brown pit-bull puppy with a white butterfly patch on her chest. The freshly printed picture of the hazel eyed puppy is pasted over the portrait of my own beloved dog speed. Her eyes stare into mine asking me one simple question; will you save me?

Within half an hour my mind is saturated and my heart is overwhelmed by the number of ‘free puppy’ postings on Craigslist. All of these sweet pit bulls are headed to the dog-fighting rings that scour the underbelly of the American landscape. Why am I losing sleep over this one puppy out of all of these? I clasp a fistful of my hair and stare at my reflection in the TV screen. Because, she became mine when I looked into her eyes and saw a soul. Yes, there are countless others but today, right now- this puppy represents hope for all the other ones those will die this day. Her rescue will signify victory of good over evil. God, give me the courage to save her. The dog fighting rings are dangerous. I’m just one person. I touch the picture of Guru Gobind Singh – our tenth guru who gave his Sikh’s the famous line

“ Chirion te mein baaz tadaun,

Sawa laakh se ek ladaun,

tabhe Gobind Singh naam kahaun”.

(I will make birds fight hawks and win, one of my Sikhs will win against 125,000 of the enemy. Only then will I call myself Gobind Singh).

                By morning I’ve tracked down the puppy and his owner. Now it’s a matter of pin-pointing the house and stealing the puppy. Yes steal it. My money will not go to the dog-fighters. By instinct, I offer a hoodlum fifty bucks, give him the picture and show him the house. He leaps across the fence and I drive around the corner and sit and …wait.

My mouth is running dry and my car’s engine has been idling for twenty minutes when I he turns the corner scruffing the weak tan puppy and ducking across the street. I throw open the car-door and he dives in.

“Go Go Go.”

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I ran every stop sign in the wretched neighborhood, stopping at a local Walgreens and let the man out. He counts the money and gives me a homie handshake. “Aiiight, Lemme know if you want sumthin’ else, bro.” He adjusts hi crotch, “Pretty dog tho’. What you be naming her?”

Her pink nose has been on my mind all day. She’s as pretty as the first stroke of paint on a blank canvas.  “I’ll name her Frida Kahlo; after my friend Tina’s favorite painter.”

“Daaawg, who dat’ be?” He splays his arms.

“Thx Man.” I look straight ahead and gun it, driving till the yards are manicured and then finally I breathe. The puppy is sitting on the back seat and cowering. “Come here little, girl. You’re safe now.” Tears stream my face when I touch Frida for the first time.

She’s surprised by a kind touch and stands behind me on the car seat. She tentatively licks my ear and backs away. On her next lick I pet her head. She plants herself in my lap while we’re zipping on the freeway. She’s enthralled by everything; the steering wheel, the music, the air-conditioning vent letting out a stream of wonderful cold air.

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For the first time in my life I take a selfie, while driving with a dog in my lap. I don’t want to be unsafe anymore because now Frida’s life depends upon mine. The past is behind me and it’s certainly behind her.

In three minutes she’s snoring. After two baths and some food, we head to my newly found friends Jill and Dori from Dori’s cat rescue. They rescue cats but just like me they couldn’t close their eyes to this puppy. My hard work for the night is over and theirs has just begun.

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Within 24 hours she is transported to a foster and is even adopted. I know how hard these women have worked to save this one pretty dog. But I also know that in a matter of 24 hours Frida has touched the lives of all of us …and she’s just getting started. Frida has forever united me and Jill and Dori and Oktober into a cohesive team.

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Tonight the evil will be out in full-force again, money will exchange greasy palms and dogs will die. Tonight several rescue workers will be disheartened and overwhelmed. But our team will sleep peacefully- Just like Frida will.

Tomorrow I’ll be disillusioned by a fresh dose of cruelty. But tonight I sleep- with new hope.

The audacity of Hope.

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