I finally pronounce food affairs as most romantic. It would be no understatement to state that Indian weddings are the real epitome of palatable lust. Gone are the days when guests at weddings were hosted to a standard fare, usually comprising the roti-sabzi-daal-chawal combination and a sweet or dessert towards the end (read: gulab jamun or kulfi). And let’s not deny how the people then showed equal, if not more, enthusiasm at the sight of free food. The term ‘free food’ quite aptly and easily summarizes how pocketless transactions and a no-food-shaming policy form a core foundation of every Indian’s life.
A major food war broke out when I attended a wedding reception a few days ago. I was updated about the extensive list of items on the menu even before I got there. Apparently, and to add water in my mouth, the most popular caterers in Mumbai were hired to serve the wedding attendees. No sooner did I step out of the car than a natural bounce in my walk dictated my entry into the venue.
It was quite strange to think that the bride and the groom had conspired to remain absent till I addressed my increasing food cravings. At a glance, an exhaustive line of food stations filled me with contention. I rejoiced upon knowing that I wouldn’t go home hungry. There were a startling 8 cuisines that awaited a binge attack.
I believe there are primarily two types of experiences that our lives are divided into. The first category constitutes experiences that are dominated by a suspected eventuality of being rewarded. Here, you get indulged only after you have successfully seen all hurdles through. The second category constitutes experiences that are born out of the greed for extracting divine satisfaction. Without any exaggeration, my food tour starting with Cheese Burst Dosa and ending with a seven layered exotic mousse, screamed lust from the word go. With every portion that decorated my platter, I became increasingly desperate and lustful about relishing every ounce of what lay in front of me.
Stall no. 1 was a big hit with the guests who did not wish to venture past the tried and the tested. A tawa brimming with cheese on top of a fermented layer that was lathered in butter was enough to melt my calorie-centric guilt. I was almost waging a war while trying to grab my share of the dosa amidst frantic hoggers. My hard earned bites were worth every bit of the shoving and restlessness. Not withstanding the fact that cheese is the secret to all the sacred deliciousness in the world, I was coming to life a little more with the feel of every other ingredient on my tongue, including hot spices and exotic chutneys.
“Excuse me! Excuse ME…EXCUSE MEE!’’ I shouted, “2 slices please!” I blurted. The live quesadilla counter was the real crowd puller. It was like that showstopper that everybody was looking forward to. I pulled myself out of the frenzy with my hoops almost coming off and the parting of my hair losing its shape. I frantically began to adjust my dupatta in anticipation of the new couple when I was told that my bindi had disappeared. Wait, the embarrassment continued still further. I chanced upon the groom’s parents just when I stuffed a rather lavish slice of quesadilla into my mouth all at once.
A saree-clad server kept catching my attention intermittently. My mind wandered to thinking about why a woman so elegantly dressed should ever make rounds across the width and length of the venue to fetch food for guests. She looked graceful even while carrying two heavy platters in her hands to a table. The nacho chips gently glided back and forth over the thin pizza crust that was carefully laid out to resemble the petals of a flower. At once, I was seemingly hesitant to tamper with any food art. After much contemplation, I carefully pulled out a slice of the pizza. My ears ate as much of a big, crunchy bite as my big mouth. And here I was, 6 cuisine trials later, sitting with a bloating stomach but not willing to give up any soon.
Half an hour later, when a long queue had already made its place, I was back in action, ready to get going once again. This time it was the steaming hot Thai curry. There’s something about Thai curry that is gravitational in nature. Maybe it was the therapeutic aroma of coconut milk, tossed in an assortment of veggies, that did the trick. The item had all the elements to cause catastrophic hunger in a satisfied stomach. The exotic mix of ingredients combined with a rich gravy was truly a diner’s delight. So well-crafted was the menu, that I was lost in a maze of perfection.
BURP! My stomach was showing signs of extreme fulfillment. The last gulp of the Thai curry felt like a moment of glory. Never earlier had I experienced the kind of pleasure and satisfaction that I sought in the knowledge that I had done justice to almost every dish on the menu. I would like to believe that I came close to receiving the full worth of the money spent (which screamed off the plate’s reflection) on every plate. The reason why I choose to remain modest in my claim that my feast was a little short of perfection is because I missed out on smacking my lips to the cold-stone delight, owing to an overdose of paneer kebabs and crushed pistachio sprinkled over piping hot Kesar-Badaam Doodh. And, maybe, Kit Kat tiramisu.
A night-long sandstorm and land sliding, combined with absurd changes in the climate, had seriously damaged the land space, so much so that many humans and non-humans alike ended up getting displaced. The land and the existence were so badly hit that it became difficult to recognize the surroundings after the devastation. When the sun finally dawned upon the disaster, the birds that had survived the calamities cuckooed from their shattered nests. A host of small animals indulged in loud cries, most of whom were crying from the pain of their injuries.
Amidst the frenzy and haphazardness, there was a group of dogs that lay unaffected. When their land was being subjected to serious harm, they all came together under an open sky, which saved them from the consequences of the event. After ensuring that the grave calamities had subsided, the dogs began their journey in search of familiar terrain—their home. The seven dogs began their journey by moving in the same direction. Although the canines did not know each other, they thought it best to travel in a group, to ensure they reached their destination safely.
As they went along, there came a point when they had to make their way through a settlement. One of the dogs suddenly shook in rage when he came across a cat fighting the fire on its tail “Let’s help her, guys! The cat is in big trouble,” shouted the Golden Retriever. While the Labrador in their group immediately jumped to his feet, the others took a little time to ponder over their course of action. Notwithstanding the pressure to help, Aldo The Husky retorted, “That’s a cat, you bastards. How can y’all think about helping her out? All cats must die!” By this time all the other dogs had reached out to the poor cat, Aldo was the only one who chose to prioritize his pride. Not the one to take accept his indifference, Ace The Golden Retriever decided to give a little piece of his mind to the furious Aldo. “Don’t you feel for those with a life! Imagine yourself in a situation like this. All the lives perish away soon if we continue to fight amongst each other,” shouted Ace. After showing some reluctance, Aldo finally followed the Ace to soothe her wounds.
The group proceeded towards its destination after saving the cat. The dogs were clueless about the way, but they decided to move till they found something familiar. Before they could realize, the dogs were already inside a private farm. Everything around was lush green. As it turned out, they were standing amidst the crops inside the farm. The dogs were worried, fearing that they would be punished if someone saw them. There was pin drop silence in the farm. Even a little noise was enough to get them in trouble.
All eyes turned towards Hope The Pomeranian when a sharp, flowing sound lasted for a few seconds. As luck would have it, the little man had inhaled a favourable smell, and instantly decided to relieve himself on the crops, before starting to bark incessantly. The farmer immediately ventured out of his tent to check on the intruders. He hurriedly started pelting stones at the bunch. “Whoa! Well done, buddy. Thank you for inviting offense. Now let’s fight this war together,” taunted the Labrador, who knew how to add ‘Spark’ to everything he did. Before the poor Pomeranian could grasp what had happened, the man was brutally attacking the dogs with sticks and rods. No sooner did a big rock come in the little Hope’s direction than Aldo The Husky jump upon the attacker and bring him down. The brave heart that he was, he ensured that all his mates had made a safe exit from the farm before he could get off the angry man’s torso. Unfortunately, he escaped with bruises on his face. “I apologize to you my friend for letting you take the whips for my careless action. Even when you could have easily chosen to tell the farmer who the real culprit was, you chose to fight as if it was a battle of your own, and suffer on my behalf. Please forgive me!” Hope requested, while weeping uncontrollably. Without a second thought, the Husky reached out to his new buddy. Wiping off his tears, he said, “Please calm down. I understand that you have felt bad about making a mistake, but I don’t think I would have ever been able to see you all suffering. Let us remember that we have chosen to stay together so that we can help each other in adverse situations. If we want to win any situation, then we must learn to stand up for those of our kind.”
By now, the dogs were well adjusted to each other. As they kept moving forward, their path appeared more bleak than before. They realised that a vast area of land was struck by the disaster, which had devastating effects. Tonnes of vegetation was lost. Several homes and buildings were damaged. It seemed like an entire region was washed in a wave of misery. A vast portion of the forest cover was destroyed. Many a wild creature had been killed from the collapse of Live Oaks and Redwoods. Mac, who examined the scenario helplessly, looked skeptical about the route that his group was following. The ferocious-looking German Shepherd warned his group mates against entering any unknown zones.
The day was about to end in a few hours, but the hope of reaching home was distant. After toiling hard, loitering around acres of ruins for hours on end, it was time for the seven dogs to placate their growling stomach. The sun was preparing to begin its journey of comforting itself into the horizon. With hardly any food around, Warrior The Doberman seemed irritated. Looking at him, even Aldo The Husky started becoming restless. “How I wish I could enjoy an evening barbecue by the beach! My stomach is craving some real spicy stuff,” he exclaimed with a straight face, “I think we must take a night’s rest here and continue our journey tomorrow morning,” he added. As Warrior and Aldo planned to go hunting for food in the near distance, the others looked too exhausted to even think about looking for food.
The stomach had grown a considerable size. If one looked closely, with every breath he exhaled, the extra layers of skin wobbled up and down, left and right. As Warrior inched closer to the dog that comfortably lay asleep on the shore, he grew intensely suspicious. The light brown fur, big, black spot on his stomach, heavily crimped tail fur and a nose that was a shade of pink only suggested one thing—the canine that was moving his limbs even when in a state of slumber was known to Warrior. But that was not all. Warrior The Doberman turned red in the face the moment he learned that his familiarity arose from the long-standing enmity he had shared with the sniffer. “This guy is a backstabber!” he exclaimed. The Husky was taken aback with this statement. Before he could ask for clarifications, the Doberman added, “He is the one who conspired against me with an army of loyalists, to make sure that everybody in my neighbourhood disowned me.” He was almost shaking with rage. Aldo was baffled to see the expressions on his face. “As an insecure lad, he has envied me. He decided to accuse me of causing terror in my vicinity, and blamed me for degrading my own species by propagating dogs’ fool-hardiness and cruel demeanour,” he continued. Having gone an extra mile to lend a keen ear to Warrior’s words, Aldo The Husky was unsure about choosing a reaction. “He has indeed caused a great amount of pain and hurt to me by putting all my close relations at stake. I would have appreciated had he come and fought with me or confronted me with the problem. Making me a culprit in front of others is no way to deal with a problem,” Warrior The Doberman expressed with profound grief.
Aldo and Warrior had barely managed to find a few ripe bananas, but they did find a spot under a Banyan tree where they could sit and watch the sun set. The sea was a perfect shade of light blue while the rays of a setting sun gleamed through the waves in the water. One could spot the beginning of land from across the sea. “I did not know that this guy can trouble others even in his sleep,” an annoyed Warrior remarked in response to his foe’s loud and incessant snoring, that was heard even from a considerable distance that the homeless Siberian Husky and Doberman were sitting at. Looking at Warrior, Aldo asked his buddy to pacify and focus on enjoying the moment and the view.
Facing the sun, Aldo The Husky and Warrior The Doberman soaked up the view and chatted away to glory. A few minutes into the chatter, Warrior’s eyes kept drifting to the flowing water in the sea. He tried to convince Aldo of the presence of a fast-moving object that was drifting towards the shore. “All I can see from here is the sea water, sunset and a vast stretch of land on the other side,” the wolf-like Husky replied. Before Warrior could suspect what he had seen, he had already anticipated that the so-called object was headed for the shore. As it came closer to the shore, the long, slimy and narrow structure which widened around the face looked more than just an object. “It is a snake!” Warrior exclaimed. While Aldo was instantly filled with trepidation, Warrior closely began to monitor its movement. The snake soon touched land, before quivering on the greasy sand for a few seconds. The Husky indulged in loud cries, and begged the Doberman to flee from the sight. Warrior noticed that the snake was moving in the direction of his enemy, who was peacefully asleep, and, hence, remained oblivious to the situation.
From a distance of 15 feet, a strong came straight in the direction of the snake. Bang! It was sharp hit in the head, and the snake was thrown off its track. Warrior had aimed a stone at the snake to evade any harm to the restful dog. He later went and shook the dog into wakefulness and intimated him about the situation. The three dogs quickly made their way out of the snake’s sight. On their way to where the six other dogs were resting, Aldo, who was recovering from the fateful incident, appreciated the spirit and courage with which Warrior had tackled the situation. “May I ask you why you chose to risk your life to save someone you shared a bond of hatred and enmity with?” he asked Warrior The Doberman. Heaving a sigh of relief, Warrior replied, “The dog and I may be sharing a bad past, but I cannot let that act as a barrier when it comes to helping him against somebody that did not belong to our land. Had I continued to hold grudges against him even in front of the snake, then it would have easily taken advantage of the situation. He would have attacked that animal first, before coming to harm us. The snake was an outsider here, and letting him in on the truth would only have destroyed us all.” Aldo was left contemplating the intensity of the words that Warrior had just uttered. He sat to acknowledge the magnitude of the lesson he had learnt that day.
Betty The Shih Tzu was always known to be timid, well-mannered and lady-like. She was one of the dogs in the group that was on a mission to find their respective shelter. Unlike the others, she belonged to a very urban and wealthy household. On the night when the storm left her house in shatters, her entire family made an escape out of the house, leaving Betty alone to save her life. Betty was heartbroken upon realizing the harsh truth about those she called her own. “I wonder why my humans even cared to bring me home, if they had to leave me to die,” Betty confided in her stray friends. All she was now hoping for was to become strong by trusting herself and becoming her own guide.The dogs had grown increasingly compassionate and secure around each other. Their travel so far had already included enough banter and learnings to keep them all going.
Spark The Labrador was smitten by the beauty of Betty The Shih Tzu. Her poise and graceful demeanor had attracted him to her from the time he saw her, so much so that he naturally started wagging his tail every time she was close to him. He was truly discomforted, when he heard Betty’s tragic story. A few hours after they had resumed the next day’s journey, he noticed a growing sense of sorrow on her face. “I hope you are aware that you are not alone in this battle. Your humans may have abandoned you. We won’t!” the black Labrador consoled her. Hearing this, Betty immediately adjusted her position to brush off Spark’s claim and state the purpose of her grief. “It’s not what you are thinking. On our way, today, I saw a dog mother being pushed out of her house with her newborn puppies. Her master said he could not look after so many of them. The poor mother was pleading for mercy, while her puppies squirmed under then harsh sunlight,” she explained, with tears in her eyes. “I could see the pain in the mother’s eyes. In that moment, All I wanted to do was lend a helping hand to her and calm her anxious puppies,” she further stated. By now, everybody in the group was sensitized towards their plight. Spark could no longer see tears rolling down her cheeks, but all he could do was egg her on to pour out her emotions. “As a woman, I shall be merciless and worthless if I did nothing to help a woman out. I believe I have nothing more to lose. Maybe, this could be my chance to serve the womankind in my own little way,” Betty concluded. Betty The Shih Tzu’s journey with her six, male dog companions came to an end, after she decided to stay back with the dog mother and her puppies.
While all the dogs in the group came across as helpless animals till the time they remained lost, what was most striking about them throughout their journey was the understanding and insight with which they led every situation. They had rightly acted according to their priorities. Their fight began by contributing to their role as living beings, and continued till they fought in the capacity of their status as non-humans, true patriots of the land they belonged to and, finally, as those who were well sensitized about their gender.
The one thing I most fear in my life is the thought of living the life I was living until 4 years ago, again. For me, it was a battle to rediscover myself after a series of setbacks. Whether it was going through a slump along my academic journey or losing the ability to reckon with my real self, while fighting anxiety, my life was quite evidently showing a decline.
With this letter, I shall, hopefully, reassure myself that I have indeed overcome my past challenges, and more importantly, I shall seek comfort in the fact that I have attempted to make peace with my past.
I know that you would sitting all day and thinking that you are just going to be a wreck all your life and fail in everything you take up. You have a long life ahead, and I advise that you don’t lose hope. But then, only hoping for things to get better is not the solution. It is equally important to work towards setting things straight.
A lot of people think ending their lives is a good option to permanently bring an end to all their problems. It is usually the losers who come to associate life as being a punishment. If you think you are going nowhere with your academics, then find an answer to where you are going wrong. I would also like to draw your attention to the turmoil that countless other beings around you go through. Everyday of your life is going to be a challenge, and so will it be for everyone else. Accept the truth and face life.
There are a few things that I would emphasize, which will help ease your pain along your journey. The first of the many crucial things you are expected to do is to find your conscience. ‘How will I do that?,’ you may ask. Avoid doing things that don’t resonate with you. The more you give into the temptation of seeking unwanted pleasures, the more you will see yourself moving away from your real self. This also entails distancing yourself from those people who are with you only to change you.
As important as it is to be sensitive to human emotions, it is equally important to remain your own person and strive for your individual happiness before tending to others. It is good to find a strong support system in your family, spouse and friends but, it is better to have your own back during the toughest of times. It’s important that you realize the importance of self-reliance and self-independence so as to achieve your full potential.
In the four years that I have taken to gradually evolve and tried to get myself on the trajectory of growth, I have learnt how crucial a role having the right attitude in life plays.Whether it is unparalleled success or miserable failure, don’t underestimate the power of your attitude and outlook, which will eventually decide your fate. Look at yourself as someone who is here to fulfill her duties, and everybody else close to you is meant to serve a similar purpose. Yet, don’t forget that your paths are different. People may change their paths, which is why it is important that you don’t lose sight of your path, to avoid excess attachment.
I’m at that stage where you have been dreaming to get all this while, and I continue to face challenges. I still get bouts of anxiety, at times, when my mind goes into an overdrive thinking about what lies ahead. So, if you’re to ask for something, then ask for peace of mind and contentment. During my anxious moments, I forget that I’m living the life I was once anticipating and dying to see in reality, which, then, ruins it all. Take one step at a time, and pause to experience the magic in your life. If you’re looking to verify what I’m stating with proofs and if that lets you stay happy, then know that you will soon become a blogger and a full-time writer who will successfully complete her master’s degree. And most importantly, you will constantly try to become a good human being!
Your anticipated self