Close Your Eyes- Occlude the World.

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My Bauji (Grand-father) used to say, “This is your country, these are your people, your animals, your environment. You can either open your arms and take it in or close your eyes and be occluded.”
In a period spanning 7 days I’ve had the following things happen;
1) I was told by my best friends wife that I take way too many liberties with my friend (to the point of being obnoxious). As I reflected on it- I realized it to be true. Because my friend is my ‘comfort zone’ I keep on pushing the envelope. It didn’t hurt my ego to hear it. It was more of an ‘eye opener’- sometimes we need to hear the facts to try to start changing.

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2) Then I was told by a friend that I was a cause of so much hurt to them so many years ago. And that they haven’t been able to forgive me. My Bauji used to say- “All we can do is beg for somebody’s pardon. If they forgive us or not is their prerogative.” So despite the amends I think I’ve made- whats more imp is that my friend still feels hurt.

3) My brother told me that one of his 12 steps to quitting Alcohol thru AA involved making amends to loved ones.

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He told me how he lied to me while I was making efforts to help him quit alcohol.

At the end of the conversation he was relieved because he had admitted to his lying. The 12 step program determines his journey.

Me, on the other hand, haven’t determined my journey yet. Being Vegan has helped me in a huge way in being non judgmental, but the last incident involves a reality check for me.

4) Halfway through conversing with a female friend about a part of a womans anatomy, I shut down and said, “I am vegan so I’m not going to utter the funny comments swimming in my head about the anatomy.”

To which she added, “Yes, but you thought it. However funny it sounds in your head. The fact that the thought exists is your judgement.

So the answer is – Yes, Im not there yet. I do judge and till such time that not thinking and being nonjudgmental becomes second nature to me. I am just as guilty as anyone else.

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A New Sheriff in Town

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Que Sera Sera…

 

“When my foster Mommy, Sarah picked me up from the euthanasia list at the pound, I was fifteen minutes away from the pink stuff.” I settle in for the bedtime story Daphne, the Great Dane has been begging for. “In effect my life already is a blessing- and Sarah is my angel.”

“She’s my angel too.” Daphne perks up at the mention of Sarah’s name.

“And mine.” Pickles chimes in.

“Not mine- I’m her master.” Diesel licks his giant paw with his massive spatula like tongue.

“Unnhh hunnnh.” I take a swipe at Diesel.

“She picks up my poop, guys. That proves it.” Diesel’s bed creaks under his 165 Lb. weight.

I must say he does poop out mountains. “Anyways, moving on. Nobody wanted an emaciated black puppy with severe mange. But she saw something in me that NOBODY else could.”

“Yep, that’s my Sarah.” Daphne says. “She sees with her heart.”

Pickles interjects. “But what sort of a name is Wyatt? What the heck is Wyatt?”

 

Whatever will be will be…

 

Yes, she named me after an American hero, Wyatt Earp. I run my tongue over my sharp puppy teeth. “Although every day is a gift for me, I often wonder what I will be when I grow up.”

“Your name must indicate to Sarah what you might become.” Daphne says.

“Will I be handsome, Daph?” I lay my head on her paw.

“Absolutely, little brother.” Daphne licks my head.

“Will I be brave, Diesel?”

Diesel yawns. “Wyatt was a very flawed character. The sort that storywriters love. He was a sheriff—

Pow pow. I imagine myself as Wyatt the sheriff, badge and all- Sweeeeet.

“–He was a miner and a boxing referee–” Diesel adds.

Gentledogs, lets get ready to rummmmble.

“–He was a pimp and a brothel owner–” Diesel says.

A what?? “A pimp- OK. Maybe I can pimp you, Pickles. Wyatt the pimp-doggy; bling-bling.

“Hey, I’m a boy.” Pickles blinks rapidly.

Diesel turns over and closes his eyes. “But he was mostly a great cowboy who killed three outlaws at the gunfight at OK Corral.”

Wooohooooo.

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I asked my mamma, what would I be? Here’s what she said to me…

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Diesel and Daphne are lying on their backs with their legs in the air; the typical Great Dane, sleeping pose. Pickles is snoring through his snaggle teeth.

Sarah stares into some papers sprawled on the table. The incandescent light reflects off her brown hair. It takes me two well-directed jumps to land into her lap.

She runs her soft warm hand over my now full head of hair and kisses me between the eyes. “The long hours and these bills are killing me, Wyatt. Rescue work isn’t easy- but just looking at you makes it all worth it.”

“Mommy, thank you for naming me Wyatt. I will be the bestest Wyatt ever. I will watch over you and Daphne and Diesel when they becomes old.”

“Shhhhh. No barking Wyatt.” Sarah rubs my ear and speaks in more gibberish. “How am I going to live without you when you get adopted? My heart is sick from breaking over and over.”

Words are such a beautiful things if understood. “Did you hear what I said, Mommy; The best Wyatt ever. Ever, ever, ever times infinity.”

Sarah sighs. “…But break it must. Because you deserve a forever home. Someone out there will see what I see in you. The fun and frolic, the unfathomable amount of love you offer. The mischievous and lovable puppy that is just so thankful to be alive. Someone will take you and break my heart- and surprisingly I pray for that day to come everyday.”

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Fearless Nadia- Who’s scared of Whom- Animal or Human?

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“My god, this dog has either never seen stairs or is so afraid of climbing them that I’ll have to carry her.” I pointed at the golden-brown pit-bull mix.

“She’s got to be pushing a hundred pounds.” Tina urged the dog upstairs.

“This is the first overweight abused dog I’ve seen.”

Tina pointed at the bruises on her back, “We see well fed, but perennially shackled dogs all the time. She’s been hit repeatedly.” She rubbed the dog’s ear. “Don’t worry little girl, we’ll smother you with love.”

After we cajoled her upstairs and into my apartment she dashed under my bed. All the coaxing couldn’t get her out from under there. Well into the night, the dog’s water bowl and food remained untouched.

Then in the middle of the night I heard her creep out and go to the food bowl. Poor girl, she couldn’t take the hunger anymore. No sooner had she finished eating, she was back under my bed.

Tina called me next morning. “How did it go last night? Do you think you can socialize her enough to help her get adopted?”

I knelt by my bed. The dog’s empty scared eyes darted away from mine. “It’s not possible for me. She’s scared of everything. She cowers and doesn’t respond to anything. Somebody sure has done a number on her.”

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“Maybe I should take her.” Tina started. “She’d do better around my handicapped dog.”

“You’re the expert. I’ve never seen a dog this scared in my two years in dog rescue.” I laid out my palm flat.

“What should we name her on her adoption papers?” Tina was in her adoption and fostering supervisor mode.

“I have the perfect name for her. There were a bunch of C grade stunt movies made in India in the 1950’s they all had a female lead stunt woman by the name of Fearless Nadia.”

Tina guffawed. “Nadia then?”

“No. Fearless Nadia.”

Tina choked on her laughter. “You might be new at our shelter but you are the most optimistic guy.”

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Thus began the tale of Fearless Nadia. The endless hours Tina spent showering love and affection on her; the back breaking sit-ins with under Tina’s bed to help her come out from under there. Several times during the process I lost faith, but Tina’s dogged determination made her go on and on…and on.

            ..And on.

            Then one day I walked into Tina’s house and Fearless Nadia greeted me in all her glory; a wild wagging tail, an eager-to- kiss- tongue and an eagerness to be pet. In five months we’d just evened the playing field between her and the other rescue dogs and it still seemed like a long way away from finding a home. Both of us were concerned with how she would react to people she didn’t know.

I was at work one day when Tina showed up un-announced at my office door. “Somebody’s interested in adopting Nadia.”

My heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“Only problem is they’re in Utah and can’t get her.” Tina cupped her mouth.

“We’ll drive her there.”

“Inder, I knew you’d say this.” Her eyes smiled.

“You’ve done so much. We can’t let a few hundred miles snatch the only chance she might ever get at having a family.”

The landscape changed a few times from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. She lounged on the back seat; waiting, anticipating, hoping- enacting all the rituals of expectation that a migrant like me felt when I had moved to the US.

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Her new family loved her instantly. A little boy to play with, an adolescent girl that would care for her, a mother, waiting to dole unconditional love to the new family member. She couldn’t have asked for more.

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Tina stared out the window with her palm covering her face. Six months of loving Fearless Nadia had drained her. Her tears had not stopped for an hour. Every adoption tests a rescue workers heart. The joy and the sorrow, the elation and the loneliness push their heart to fluctuations my heart was not equipped to endure.

My trance was broken by the sound of a police siren. I hit the brakes and pulled over.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” The burly officer pulled up his pants

by the belt buckle. “Where are you driving from?”

When we explained the situation to him his scowl softened. “Thank you for caring

for dogs the way you do. What do you think makes Fearless Nadia so fearful?”

Tina wiped her cheek. “I think she was abused so badly that she forgot what it feels like to be a dog.”

The officer squinted. “And you suppose she remembers now?”

Tina sniffed. “Yes she does officer. Love changes everything, she’s joyful now and her new family will cherish her.”

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“I’m going to let you get away with a warning this time just because my partner Sgt. Scott asked me to.” The officer touched the brim of his hat. “Now you two be careful and drive slow.”

 

I started the engine and eased past his parked cruiser parked by the freeway. The red decal on the white door read ‘Utah State Trooper- K-9 Unit.’ And staring out the window with his tongue hanging out his mouth was Sgt. Scott.

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Children of a Lesser Dog- II

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Two months ago, on a vacation to India, I’d stepped into the kennel at the SPCA shelter in my hometown of Chandigarh. The acrid open sewer-like smell blasted my nostrils. Dogs sat on straw beds with week old excrement scattered around them.
I dug my nose into the inside of my elbow “When were these kennels cleaned last?”
“We clean every morning.” The Supervisor did the Indian nod.
“Really? You could use that poop as chalk on the black-board.” I pointed at the crusted over lump.
He nodded. “Well the sweeper has been on vacation for–”
“–What if children from a school show up to volunteer–”
“No sir, no children come here.”
“You mean like never?”
He scrolled through his smart-phone. “The kids from Vivek high school came in August. Some kids started vomiting and–”
“What did you expect? You must make volunteering a pleasant and fun-filled experience for kids.”
“No sir, kids in India don’t have compassion–”
I walked out in disgust. Typical. Blame someone else for our faults. Kids are the same everywhere. These kids aren’t sissies. We adults are.

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I read the email one final time and take a few deep breaths before hitting the reply button. I type a few words and then delete them. After repeating the process a few times I wonder what an appropriate reply would be.
Here in the US we have the infrastructure, the volunteers and school programs in place to foster compassion in children but we are hampered by the ‘Cover Your base’ mentality of lawyers and insurance companies. In India we have no infrastructure that allows the natural bond between child and animal to come to the forefront but the laws are conducive to kids interacting with children.
Although one is slightly better than the other, neither situation is ideal. Problem is, there is just one factor common to both countries- the losers are the animals.

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The A,B,C’s of L. O. V. E

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Three eight year old boys A, B and C are walking back from school when they chance upon a mangy stray dog. A digs a few rocks out of his shorts and flings one at the dog. Boy B recedes behind a tree and keeps a close watch on the dog. Boy C plants himself firmly between boy A and the dog, ensuring that the dog is not hit anymore.
Which of the 3 boys from the scenario defines you? A hypothetical question, you say? Maybe it doesn’t jog your memory enough. Okay, read on;
Boy A goes home and his mom is indifferent to him. She’s busy arguing with his father or planning a kitty party.
Boy B goes home to a mother that is the quiet contemplative type. She’s a housewife concerned about her family’s well-being. Worried about her son having all he needs to do well in school.
Boy C goes home to find his mother feeding a cow or teaching the servant’s six- year-old child how to read and write.
Does either of these scenarios sound familiar? Too general, you claim? Well, read on;
Boy A’s path in life is as follows. From seeking fun in hurting others he becomes a bully at school. He then becomes an eve-teaser in college. He ends up getting into a few fights, always on the verge of getting in trouble, or worse; arrested. He gets married and has a good chance of being a wife-beater.
Boy B is the classic case of someone that does what’s expected of him. The “also ran” in life. The one who observes everything, does nothing and is educated enough to talk about it at a party. He gets married, has kids and watches out for them like his mom did for him. He will complain about ills in society and his country but he won’t do a thing about it.
And then there is boy C. He has learnt compassion from his mother. Love and care for animals and other humans has been nurtured in his heart. He will grow up to encompass everything. The environment, animal abuse, sex workers, oppressed classes, geriatric care; everything will be of concern to him. He will do something about each and everything. He will fill his life with causes those are beyond himself.
Now does the picture become clearer?
Here is the simple truth. Most of us fall under the category B. Always afraid that our B child doesn’t become a category A kid. All we have to do is make him a category C child. That will make a generation of category C children.
Most of us ask what one person can do for this world or to change our country. Well here’s the answer for you. Encourage your child to be a type C child. Learning about compassion early in life builds empathy and moral character, reduces violence and builds a sense of empowerment and responsibility. Society as a whole benefits when its members are more caring toward each other and the animal those live among us.
Studies have shown that kids those abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit theft and three times more likely to do drugs than kids who don’t. In fact the FBI uses violent crimes against animals to profile violent criminals.
Hence A is not equal to B and B is not equal to C. So there you have it- Hence proved.
Q.E.D – Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

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JOHN’S ON THE DAILY NEWS

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 “I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t” Vidyut counted the money again and stuffed it in his wallet.

I tossed the car’s keys to him. “This is the craziest thing we’ve done–”

“– so far.” He winked at me. “If I don’t outperform all her previous boyfriends, she’s going to dump me.”

“She’s ditched you three times already.” I slapped his back and laughed. “ Slutty girlfriend, virgin boyfriend.”

“HOT slutty girlfriend.”  He turned the key in the ignition.

We drove across the crowded bridge over the train tracks at the New Delhi railway station. The traffic light turned red and children appeared from nowhere with rags in their hands. They wiped our windscreen begging for a few rupees for a job poorly done. A song from the latest Bollywood movies blasted from the loudspeakers and the children danced to its tune.

Vidyut bit his lip and faced me. The reflection of the red light illuminated half of his face. “Inder, will there be actual red lights? How will we know if we are there?”

“M mm m,” (I don’t know) I hummed.

The light turned avocado green and his lead foot met the accelerator.

“There.” I pointed to the green sign that read in white bold letters. ‘Mahatma Gandhi Marg’. Vidyut made a sharp right turn. Gosh, did they have to name this road after the ‘Father of the nation’?

I opened my window and stuck my head out the window. Decrepit wooden multistoried houses lined the street with paint peeling off the walls. Street vendors sold various unhygienic snacks to hungry hard-working day labor.

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The narrow street was webbed with illegal power lines crisscrossing the passageway. In the next few houses several women clad in bright gaudy clothes stuck their heads out the windows.

Vidyut dropped the car into second gear.

Oye chikne, idhar dekh,” (Hey handsome, look at me) one yelled.

I plopped back into my seat, “Vidyut, where have we–”

“Arre O Rajja, Majja lena hai to idhar aaja,” (Come to me), another voice boomed.

I snapped my fingers. “Let’s get out of here–”

“–Hello, Sir. Wan’t girl? Best girl.” A boy all of fifteen years old tapped the drivers window.

Vidyut rolled down his window. “How much?”

“Come up and look, Sir. All girls. No charge for just looking sir. You select. I give you good rate.” He gave us the Indian head nod.

The wooden stairs creaked under our weight. We walked into a room no bigger than a volleyball court. The dank smell of sweat and cheap jasmine incense fought with each other to overpower the hall. A man sat on a small platform with a harmonium and sang a poor song to a badly played tune. People sat on the tile floor and rubbed shoulders and elbows with each other.

“You want girl too?” The fifteen year old asked me.

“No buddy, I don’t have a slutty girlfriend. I’m the ‘hero ka dost’ (Hero’s friend), the sidekick Danny. I make sure he doesn’t get in trouble.

“Danny?”

“Danny Zuko…as in Grease” I puffed my hair.

“Like Vaseline, Sir. You want?” he stroked his finger.

“Nooooo… Grease… Never mind. Rahul…DDLJ,” I splayed my arms.

He sang. “Tujhe dekha to yeh jana sanam…chahihe mujhe bhi nahana sanam.” He guffawed. “You sit. Enjaay music.” He pointed to the lone open spot on the tile floor.

The second god-awful song started. I yawned. Come on Vidyut, hurry up man.

Thock thock thock. The fifteen-year-old body appeared in the doorway. He put his hands on his knees and coughed out, “Police-Run-Police.”

I gulped and tried getting up but my knees were locked in their position. In the next few moments everyone in that room scrambled around me. They disappeared into cubby-holes and attics and behind doors.

Five khaki uniform clad men entered the room. The lapels on their shoulder announced, ‘Delhi Police’. One of them barked. “What are you doing here?”

“Listening to music…,” I pointed to the platform in the now empty room. “Uhh… There were fifty people here… five seconds ago. I swear. Trust me–”

Tanne ko to gaane sunayenge ib hawalaat mein. (you’ll surely face the music in the lock-up).

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I blinked a few times. Handcuffs? I’m actually wearing handcuffs. And all because Vidyut… I gulp. Gosh, I hope Vidyut is–

“I swear it officer. This is my first time here–” Vidyut walked behind another office into the room. His eyes widened when he saw me. He thrust his shackled hands at me, “Inder, do something.”

“Dude, where are your pants?” I pointed to his smiley faced Jockey’s.

“–I’d just taken them off.” He crossed his legs.

“You’ve been gone for seven minutes. What the fuck?”

“Dude, I was talking to her. Making her comfy–”

“You blooming ass. We’re being arrested for you talking to a–”

The policeman shoved me, “–shut up and walk.”

We stepped into the police van and sat on the hard, metal seats.

“How many did you get?” The sub-inspector asked his constables.

Just these two, janab.

I turned to Vidyut, “Just two. Goddamnit. There were two hundred men and fifty women in that building and they got two. You and me. Rahul and Deepak. Danny and Kenickie. And you’re still a Virgin. How can this day get any worse?”

Vidyut smiled. “It just did. They have my pants and my pants have my wallet. No bribes will be offered today.”

I slid my fingers on my cheek. “Well at least I shaved today for my first appearance on the news.”

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It’s been twenty years since that incident. It was the only time either of us made the news. Two lowlife John’s in the vast sea of hormonal, oppressive men seeking any means to justify their whims.

We grew up in a society where it is okay for men to look down upon women as if they were objects. Where it is justifiable to take advantage of oppressed girls those couldn’t survive any other way. This is the same city of Delhi where last year a woman was raped in a bus by six men while they drove around town. I am amongst the millions of people who criticized the cruelty and the brutality of that rape.

I’ve travelled the world and lived in several countries. It’s not just Indian society- men of all countries are afflicted by the disease or treating women poorly. In the US women are protected by laws- but the attitude of men going to strip clubs uncovers their unabashed primal instincts. The flourishing business of strip clubs and whore-houses world-wide is a slap in humanities face.

I put the newspaper down and remove my spectacles, “How far was I from committing a crime of sex.” Even before the thought permeates my brain I have excuses ready; We were going to pay for it. We didn’t even do anything. We were teenagers. I never did it again. It wasn’t even for me. I was just being a friend. Prostitution is legal–

–I gag even before I complete the last thought. What kind of a sick bastard am I? Admit your mistake, damnit. I pick up the phone and call Vidyut.

This is what I’ve learnt about myself.

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— I’ve shamed my education and my family for doing what I did.

— My demand drives the supply. I’ve a hand in the flesh trade industry in India; however small it may be. I have a hand in it. I had the education and ability to stop exploitation of women and I didn’t do a darn thing about it.

— My biggest issue as an animal activist is the attitude of people those turn a blind eye to the plight of animals. I turned a blind eye to those women.

— That never again will a single Dollar or Rupee I earn go towards supporting exploiting women in any way, shape or form. Strip-clubs, porn, flesh-trade industry; all exploit women.

— That never again will I turn a blind eye to the plight of anyone- be it human or be it an animal. Nor will I judge anyone till I have successfully cleaned up my own act.

That is what I understand by ‘Being Human’.

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© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 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 inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.