We have a Dog!!

About a month ago, we went to the local Humane Society and adopted a dog.  Somehow, it was my idea.  I was really pushing Satya to go to the Humane Society and then once we were there, I decided that we’d like a closer look at this dog.  She was curled up at the back of her cage, but her information page said that she was 22 lbs and house trained.  Then, we took her for a little walk outside.  She walked nicely-not pulling the leash too badly and she shook paws with Satya!  Then, somehow I told the volunteer, “We’d like to fill out an application for her.”  After filling out an application and the Humane Society verifying that indeed yes our apartment complex does allow dogs (max. 2, must be under 50 lbs.) we walked out with Lego.  3 days later we returned to finalize her adoption and now she is ours.

Some things have been a pleasant surprise.  She is very well-behaved in the house-no shoes chewed yet or accidents (knock on wood).  She can sleep in her crate just fine.  One of my favorite parts of the day is in the evening when the 3 of us all go to the park together.  We play frisbee across the park and back with her and it is a lot of fun to see her jump up and catch the frisbee.  Other things aren’t so fun-I don’t like getting up at 6 am so she can toilet outside (better than her messing up the inside though).  We also discovered she has some separation anxiety.  At first, I couldn’t even leave her alone to take out the trash without her barking and whining.  Now, I can take out the trash and she will be quiet and calm, but I can’t leave her alone to check mail without the barking and whining.  We are going to try the advice in Patricia McConnell’s I’ll be Home Soon and if that doesn’t work we’ll call a local dog behaviorist.

I’ve never had a dog before. Growing up I had rabbits.  My grandfather grew up on a farm and thought that it was cruel to have a dog in the city, so he got my mom and aunt rabbits.  My dad agreed with my grandfather.  Dogs are much, much different from rabbits. Like a good ex-librarian, I’ve been trying to find out all I can from watching Cesar Millan’s  Dog Whisperer, to reading books like Tamar Geller’s 30 Days to a Well-Behaved Dog, to ordering Patricia McConnell’s books and pamphlets.  Some things we are doing right-Lego has to sit and wait to enter and exit the apartment, sit and wait for her food, etc.

Lego is a miniture Australian Shepherd.  At the Humane Society they warned us that her breed is very smart and very active.  Lego gets 2 walks a day-morning and evening for physical exercise.  For mental exercise, she has a purple treat dispenser, Busy Buddy’s Squirrel Dude (best toy ever!) and she goes to basic obedience class on Saturdays.  We also practice her obedience commands a bit throughout the day.

Why did we get Lego?  For me, it was for Satya.  He had a dog in India that he loved very, very much and he always talks about that dog.  Also, he is very stressed from work so I thought a dog would be a great way for him to relax and get some exercise after a long day in the office on the computer.  Originally, I’d wanted a labradoodle or barring that, a lazy couch potato dog like maybe a whippet.  Satya wanted a dog who “looks like a dog” which meant no toy dogs.

What have been the effects?  Well, Satya’s stress acne has gone down.  He says my skin as also improved and that my stomach has gotten smaller (I walk Lego by myself during the day and with Satya at night).  I think the two of us also feel more like a family now.  Lego does complicate things though-with her separation anxiety can’t do as much.  We either take her with us (one sitting outside with Lego while the other one grocery shops), or we take her to doggy day care.  Satya’s sister loves to see the dog on Skype which is sometimes sweet and sometimes annoying-like when the dog is asleep and she wants to see Lego play.

Differences between us having a dog now and Satya’s dog in India:

  • Here we have commercial dog food, in India Satya’s mom cooked the dog’s food which was the same vegetarian Lingayat food the family ate.  The dog’s mom brought him bones to chew herself.
  • In India, the dog would be let out to run around by himself during the day.  He was trusted to return on his own. Here, Lego is never off the leash unless we are in the apartment.  We have a long 16 ft. leash for her frisbee games in the park.
  • In India, the vet made house calls here we drive to the vet
  • In the U.S. lots of commercial dog toys vs. homemade ones in India
  • Dog trainers and obedience classes in the U.S. are plentiful in India in the ’90s there weren’t any in his city
  • A lot easier to get vaccines here.  In India in the ’90s Satya had to special order his dog’s rabies vaccine from Switzerland.

 

Has anyone traveled with a dog to India?  Online I’ve read that Europe is very dog friendly and that it is not a big deal to bring your American dog along for a trip.

A very happy looking Lego!

How is it for India?  We plan on going to India again in the spring for 3-4 weeks.

2011

Things are changing once again…..this time we may finally move!  Yipee!  Well, we will move it is just a matter of when and where.

At the moment it could be to the West Coast!!  I’m hoping it will be more relaxed.  We may be moving to a place that has one temple and just one small Indian grocery store.  Satya visited there and noticed lots of mixed couples (in his words), but I wonder how it will be.  Will I have to worry about people yelling at my in laws when they visit?  (In fairness to people in small places, this happened to them in NJ where there are lots of Indians).  Lots of little anxieties-what if we don’t like the one little temple that is there??

I’m hoping we will feel at home and will be able to settle in and maybe buy a house.  I’m hoping we will not feel stuck. Overall though I think I’m ready and willing to trade East Coast aggressiveness, lack of space, and good food for West Coast relaxation, friendliness, and bad restaurant food (we’ll just cook more at home).  Yes, I know that the West Coast has lots of great restaurants-this place though will have few.  Maybe our focus will change-less on art museum stuff and more towards outdoorsy things like hiking, biking, and running.

Anyone else in a mixed relationship living in a small city with one temple and one grocery store?

If this all goes through, it means we’ll be in India in April.  Bright sides-we will be there for the Kannada New Year, Ugadi, and will be there for the house blessing of the home of Satya’s cousin.  Bad news-hot, hot, hot.  I will have to stock up on cotton salwars then.  How do you cope with India’s warm temperatures?  Dress in light, loose clothes and drink lots of water and stay out of the sun?

In terms of reading, I’m reading now Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins.  It is a teen novel.  The protagonist, Jazz (short for Jasmine) is in Pune with her family for the summer.  She hates having to leave her business and her best friend Steve in California while having to accompany her family to India while her mom works at an orphanage.  In India she feels out of place because she is pale like her white father and huge (she was a shot putter at her California high school).  It is ok, but sometimes I want to shake the main character and tell her to be brave (send those letters to Steve!) and to quit whining about her appearance (but then, who hasn’t been there when they were a teen?).  I thought it was weird how caste comes into the book.  Jazz or her brother asked, How do you know someone is of a low caste?  The answer was because of darker skin tone, smaller, lighter build, and flat nose.  Really?  That was disturbing a bit.  Some of those characteristics are just those of Southern India-not of caste necessarily.  But, as my husband reminds me and as I see everyday working in an inner city library, the U.S. is not colorblind nor class-blind either and has its own struggles-1 in 4 children in the U.S. at risk of hunger and in the city we live in a high school graduation rate of 50%.  Anyway, will have to find out if Jazz’s mother ever does find her mother and whether she did come from a lower caste.  If so, how will Perkins handle that?

Also, at my library I found the book Does Anyone Else Look Like Me? A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.  Has anyone read it?  Do you think it is useful?  Am just trying to look ahead for when Satya and I have children of our own.

Thoughts on “Nine Lives”

Yesterday I finished reading Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple.  I highly recommend this book.  It is readable and insightful.  Even though all the people Dalrymple profiles are extreme he does humanize them and makes them understandable.  He has a wide geographical range-from Sindh in Pakistan, to Bengal, to Karnataka, to Tibet, to Kerala, and a wide range of religions (although some may argue they are all aspects of Hinduism) Jains, Buddhists, Sufis, and various sects of Hinduism.

The first chapter is about a Jain nun in Karnataka who is slowly starving herself to death.  I was not looking forward to reading this chapter at all.  Jainism had always sounded so bleak to me and pointless.  It is a testament to Dalrymple and the remarkable nun he interviewed that the chapter turned out to be beautiful.  Her decision to leave her family while a teenager and to undergo extreme privations (like having her hair pulled out strand by strand) made sense.  The description of the tightly controlled ritual starvation also seemed beautiful-the person undergoing the ritual is never left alone-people are there to recite religious texts and to provide company.  If the person wants to stop the ritual at any point, they have that choice.  Her decision made sense because it was what she had prepared for her whole life and because she looked on death as an eagerly awaited adventure.

The third chapter was most troubling.  I didn’t think it contained much beauty at all.  Instead it seemed pathetic and hopeless. In the past, people dedicated to Yellamma had high positions in society-they were educated, wealthy, etc.  Now they are like common prostitutes except they wear silk sarees, and sometimes are invited to important rituals to give blessings.  The woman in the chapter was dedicated as a child against her will to pay off her family’s debts, but ended up also forcing her daughters into the same thing (her daughters ended up dying as teens from AIDS).  The woman hoped to save up enough money to get out of prostitution, but that is highly unlikely as it is revealed that the woman herself is infected.  The Indian government is trying to stop the practice, but Dalrymple writes that their efforts and the efforts of earlier British reformers has worsened the situation by driving it more underground and by marginalizing the position of those dedicated to Yellamma.

Some of the chapters focused on people whose way of worship may disappear soon because of the modernizing of Indian society-the man from the Rajasthani desert who with his wife and family performs epic poems, the man who creates idols, the man who embodies the gods when he dances.  Others represent traditions that are in danger due to politics and violence-the monk from Tibet, the woman from the Sufi site in Sindh.  I asked Satya what his view of this was, and he said that nothing in India truly dies, it just changes.  People still are interested in the age old traditions.  I’m not so sure.  He gives the example of the wealthy middle-aged bankers whose hobby is Yakshagana.

The importance of marriage and family in Indian culture was reinforced for me.  The chapter about the epic singer of Rajasthan wasn’t just about him.  Dalrymple writes about how one cannot be an epic singer without a wife who is equally talented as a singer.  At the end of the chapter, Dalrymple describes a performance where even the four year old grandson of the singer was included-he danced alongside his father and grandparents.  That was a very beautiful passage as well.  Even the chapter about the Tantra practicioners focused on how important family is.  Despite the view in the West of Tantrics being wild “anything goes” types, in reality the Tantrics need to get married to have a partner with whom to do the rites. Again, Dalrymple was able to go beyond stereotypes.

Overall, the book was enjoyable and fascinating.  I very much recommend the book.  I don’t think it helped much wiht clarifying how everyday Indians experience Hinduism or what they believe.  If you have any suggestions for a book about that, I’m open to suggestions.

Preparing to Travel to India: How To?

It looks like our trip to India may finally happen at the end of this year.  People have been telling me I need to prepare, but I don’t quite know how.  On the bright side, Satya’s parents will be living with us for another two months this summer so that will help some. 

 

For all those non-Indians out there, how did you prepare?  One piece of advice I heard was to travel to the Southern U.S. states to get a taste of how the bug situation will be.  (The furthest south I’ve lived is Virginia so I haven’t really seen giant bugs).  I’ve also heard that watching travel dvds and reading books is useful.   I have read some of the typical classics already Malgudi Days, Maximum City, etc. 

 

How well did your preparations prepare you for the reality? 

 

What shots did you get?  I heard there is a new anti-diarrhea one which seems practical.  I hate shots, but there doesn’t seem to be another option. 

 

For all of you Indians, what do you think foreigners need to know about India before they arrive?  How do you recommend they prepare? 

 

I think for this first trip we are going to stay around Karnataka, especially Northern Karnataka which is Satya’s home turf.  We are planning to see sites like Hampi, Gokarna, etc.  I’ve always wanted to see Kerala too for some reason.  Satya also has an idea of seeing the Himalayas-maybe Darjeeling or Shimla and maybe even the country of Bhutan.  We shall see……my honeymoon ideal is more of the kind of a houseboat in Kerala while his is the frozen Himalayas. 

 

Also, his place doesn’t seem to fit the stereotypes of India.  He isn’t from a huge, sprawling metropolis and he isn’t from a poor, isolated village.  Are there any books that focus on more mundane India?

“Born to Run” Review

Love to run?  Often bothered by running injuries? Wonder how people can possible run distances of 50 or 100 miles over inhospitable terrain? This week I am reading “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never See” by Christopher McDougall.  The basic premise of the book is that most of what we think we know about running is wrong.  Sometimes less is more.  Are fancy, expensive shoes with custom orthotics the best for your feet?  According to the author and many in the book, the answer is no. 

 

The book does not have much to say about India.  The closest excerpt I’ve found thus far is

 Maybe the ancient Hindus were better crystal-ball-gazers than Hollywood when they predicted the world would end not with a bang, but with a big old yawn.  Shiva the Destroyer would snuff us out by doing…nothing.  Lazing out.  Withdrawing his hot-blooded force from our bodies.  Letting us become slugs.  (pg. 99)

 

Is that really how Hindus believe the world will end?  I don’t know.  I know Satya does believe that this time we live in is the “Kali Yug”, a time of more evil than good, but we don’t sit around waiting for the world to end around us.

 

I was also disappointed when the author was asking a training coach about how he can learn to run injury-free.  He asked about yoga.  The coach said something like “The runners I know that do yoga get injured.”  What do you think?  Unfortunately, the author skimmed over this observation and didn’t give reasons why the coach said that. 

 

The book also includes some more little bits of philosophy such as,” When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.” (pg. 114) And,” You can’t hate the Beast (exhaustion, fatigue, pain) and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”  (pg. 125)

The book ends with an account of a 50 mile race between some of the best ultra runners in North America and the Tarahumara Indians.  The Tarahumara call themselves the Running People and can run many miles on narrow, steep paths among desert canyons.  I will not say who won the race, but McDougall’s account is exciting and hard to put down.

 

I loved the eccentric, larger than life characters such as Barefoot Ted and Caballo.  I enjoyed learning about the Talahumara Indians of Mexico and some of their traditions (don’t just walk up to their door.  You have to sit a few meters off and look away and then wait for them to invite you inside.   If they don’t, then you leave quietly.)  The bits of science were intriguing too.  I never heard before that people were meant to run, and that running gave us an edge over the Neanderthals.  Another scientist believes that running and hunting gave human brains the push it needed to cross over from purely survival thinking into logic, humor, deduction, etc.  He lived with the Bushmen of the Kalahari and actually did run down an antelope with a group of hunters and actually did hunt by imagining the actions of animals.

 

So will you see me running miles upon miles barefoot?  Perhaps not, but this book did give some interesting and convincing arguments to rethink some common running beliefs I’ve had since high school such as “Always stretch before a run,” “Get running shoes with lots of support and replace them often”.  It also supported Satya’s belief that it is possible to live a healthy, strong life as a vegetarian and gave some reasons why he has seen so many bunions here in the U.S. and many fewer in India. 

 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and will recommend it to my sisters who love to run and to my aunt in Iowa who loves going barefoot.

For a link to a Time interview with McDougall click here.

Indian Folktale

As part of my job as a children’s librarian I am trying to improve my storytelling skills.  This has resulted in reading lots of folktales.  Here is a strange one I found in Judy Sierra’s The Flannelboard Storytelling book published in 1987. 

 

There once was a parrot and a cat who were friends.  One day they decided to go to each other’s homes to share a meal together.  First it was the cat’s turn.  The cat gave the parrot a salty fish to eat.  Next, it was parrot’s turn.  The parrot cooked 500 small, spicy cakes and gave the cat 498 cakes and kept two for himself. 

 

“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 

 

“Here, eat my 2 cakes,” said the parrot.  And the cat ate the two cakes.

 

“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 

 

“Well, I have no more food.  You ate it all.  If you’d like, you can eat me.” Said the parrot. 

 

And the cat ate the parrot.

 

A woman was standing in the parrot’s doorway as the cat ate the parrot.  She said to the cat, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” 

 

“I was hungry.” Said the cat.  “In fact, I’m still hungry so I’ll eat you too.”  And the cat ate the old woman.

 

The story continues like this, and the cat goes on to eat a man and his donkey, a king and his elephant, and two crabs for dessert. 

 

Everyone is miserable and complaining in the cat’s stomach until the crabs decide to snip open the cat’s stomach.  Everyone is freed.  The elephant carries the fainted king away with his trunk.

 

The parrot gets back his two small, spicy cakes. 

 

The cat spends the rest of the day sewing up her stomach.

 

(Judy Sierra is a much better writer than me.  If you are looking for some fun folktales to tell or looking for flannelboard patterns, her book is absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it!)

 

Can anyone find a moral to the story?  My interpretation is that if you are a bird, it is pointless trying to be friends with a cat.  Also, being greedy will leave you friendless and alone sewing your stomach.

 

Has anyone heard of this folktale before?  Where did it come from? 

 

Like the folktale?  Hated it?  I told it to my mom in abbreviated form and she hated the story because she said there isn’t anything kids can learn from the story.

Book Review–Maximum City by Suketu Mehta

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading this on lunch breaks and on the train.  First off, it is a long book 560+ pages!  Secondly, I can see why some love this book and some hate it.  Mehta is a great writer who writes with beauty and power.  Some of the pages brought tears to my eyes-describing the street children, interviewing those who burned Muslims during riots, etc. 

 

I think the reason people hate the book is because Mehta does not spend much of his book talking about ordinary, middle-class people.  Instead, much of the book is given over to gangsters, rioters, bar dancers and their customers, Bollywood, and slum dwellers.   Do these people make Mumbai unique?  Are the middle classes the same as everywhere?  Perhaps not, but maybe Mehta wanted to focus on people who are far from ordinary or maybe he wanted to find out “why?”  Why do gangsters become gangsters?  Why would a girl choose to be a bar girl?  Why would someone leave their comfortable village life for a crowded room in a slum that they’d share with their spouse and 3 children?  How could someone marry someone only 4 weeks after they met for the first time and never having met their future spouse alone?  I think Mehta does answer all those questions well.  Maybe Mehta is calculating-he focuses on those people because those are the people that people in the West know about, wonder about, and want to read about.

 

Another reason people might not like the book is that Mehta does not do much to change Western stereotypes about India.  The India he chronicles is (mostly) the India that Westerners see on tv commercials that ask for donations to help feed starving children.  The India in the book is mostly dirty, poor, and chaotic.  Or it is fantastically wealthy draped in gold, diamonds, and silks.   Perhaps if Mehta had chosen to write about more mundane characters perceptions would change a bit or if he’d chosen to write about other parts of India. 

 

I read parts of the book to my husband.  He does not have fond memories of Mumbai. Each time his family visited or passed through, they would get ripped off.  The “Mumbai for Mumbaikers” mentality doesn’t make it more popular with him or his family.  Also, the city is very crowded, loud, chaotic, corrupt, and dirty.  He takes umbrage at Mehta’s assumption that all Indians aspire to Mumbai and that Mumbai is the future of India.  He prefers to think of Bangalore as the future and as a Gandhi follower, thinks most people are better off in villages.  Strangely enough though, he doesn’t think Mumbai is any more corrupt than NY or any other huge metropolis.  To him, all big cities are the same.  For those that have read the book and visited both cities, do you think they are equally corrupt?

 

Reading this book did not make me long to visit Mumbai.  I can see why people love it-relying on personal networks to get things done rather than on “the system”, the excitement, etc.  Despite the corruption, in some ways Mumbai is a very safe city.  For example, if you walk alone at night you are not likely to be robbed, raped, or killed.  People are still kind to each other and accommodating-even the people in the insanely crowded commuter trains will make efforts to make room for each other and to help others catch the train if they are running late. 

 

Some parts of the book were fascinating and I think very relevant to today.  Mehta clearly describes why Mumbaikers rip off each other and everyone else possible and why gangsters are so powerful there.  He also clearly makes the connection between gangsters and terrorists. 

 

I enjoyed reading the book a lot.  It did help explain why some things are the way they are.  Mehta wrote a great book.

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