Sunday, February 27, 2011

How People Die

They do it when you're not looking. When you stepped out of the room for a while to go to the bathroom. Or comb your hair. Or take a nap.

That's how they die.

We hear about the dramatic deaths, that gets all the attention, but really death is profoundly undramatic. It's like falling asleep after a long, long day and forgetting to breathe. It's like unclenching your fist. It's like letting go. A breath out. No breath back in.

You know.

And then you're doing something, I don't know, maybe reading a book, maybe flipping through a magazine, maybe watching a particularly boring documentary on Hell or a re-run of Supernatural, and suddenly you remember.

You pick up the phone and call. You Google the person. Send an email. A text. You call friends of friends. You ask: Where? What number? How can I?

And there is silence at the other end of the line.

Haven't you heard?

Didn't you know?

Didn't anyone tell you?

And you say, tell me what?

And then you find out.

Death came when you weren't looking.

You allowed your attention to slip for a moment; they slipped into Eternity.

And you'll never find them again, not in this lifetime, and as you reach desperately into your mind, trying to grasp some fragment of who they were, smell something they've touched, look at the lifeless pictures in your hands, everything screams:

Death, death, death....

All that's left is death.

All that's left is the absence of life.

It happened when you weren't looking.

It happened because you weren't looking.

It happened when you weren't paying attention.

It happened because you weren't paying attention.

And that's how people die.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Won't You Look Down 'Pon Me, Jesus

Yesterday I was sitting at Pandey's waiting for the man to finish making the black puttu that Dadda had asked for when I was assailed by one of those feelings. You know the type, where you look at your life from all directions, from every angle, and all you can see is failure, the wreckage of dreams, schemes not complete, everything abandoned and rotting.

That's what I felt.

I watched the people tucking into the food, chatting amiably with each other, feeding the scores of cats twisting themselves around the outdoor tables, and fended off the persistent waiter who told me firstly, that I hadn't been there for at least four months, and secondly, I should at least have a hot Nescafe while waiting.

No can do. Coffee disturbs my sleep.

And let's face it.

I'm disturbed enough as it is.

I can't seem to get a hold of things. I keep catching the slimy ends which means they slip from my hands, leaving an icky, gooey residue.

And yesterday, I dreamed of a turtle (it may have been a tortoise, I cannot tell the difference) which had been disembowelled, its heart and liver eaten, and then burnt to a crisp, which was still staggering around, apparently alive.

I turned to the people (or person, I can't remember at this point) and asked...didn't you remove the heart? And they said, yes, nodding vigorously.

And I asked, well, then can I have this turtle? I will take care of this burnt, heartless, liverless turtle, I will put it in the tank with our other turtles, or give it its own tank, or better still, a garden in which to disport itself.

And they were reluctant. Although they didn't care, having killed the turtle who refused to die, once.

As Phoebe once said, when she found she was shedding an excessive number of eyelashes:

"What is up with the Universe?"

Oh yeah, and Dadda hated the puttu.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

After A Great Pain

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Emily Dickinson

The Bisleri Incident

I was on a train from Old Bombay to New Bombay to see a friend. Now, what I had learned about these trains was that somewhere in the middle of the journey, I would start to feel really parched and it would take a whole bottle of Bisleri to assuage the dread thirst. So I would pick one up at the Victoria Terminus just before embarking on the journey.

I sat in the ladies compartment clutching my bottle of Bisleri and the train started to fill up. On my left a truly beautiful village woman, arrayed in elegant splendour with her three children sitting around her (the children were also beautiful and probably the best-behaved ones I had seen so far) and on my right there was one woman with her solitary child, a little girl, who had burn marks running down half her face.

This little child was fascinated and kept staring at me and looking away shyly every time I caught her eye. Her mother smiled. Then she whispered to her mother and I caught just one word. "Pani."

Now, my Hindi is non-existent, but thanks to watching countless Bollywood flicks during my Salman Khan phase (I was one of the weird ones who emerged from my screening of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, with a crush on Salman rather than Shah Rukh Khan, perhaps because he was big enough to give up the girl rather than insist on his own happy ending), I knew a few scattered words. One of them was pani, which meant water.

"Oh does she want some water?" I asked proferring my bottle to the mother, who of course, did not speak English, but understood my gesture nonetheless. She explained to me in words (that I did not understand) and gestures (that I did) not to bother, and anyway, they didn't have any cups to drink the water from. I had learned that in India, it's very rude to drink anything directly from the bottle. I had learned this as I glugged my mineral water in serene unconcern, because of course, in Malaysia, there is no etiquette to mineral water consumption and you can drink your water all anyhow.

The elegant lady on left pricked up her ears, dug into her capacious bag and brought out a series of cups, which she rapidly distributed around. Soon everyone had a cup of Bisleri and we had quite the party going.

All smiles all around until one of them tried to strike up a conversation with me. Probably asking me where I was from or what I was doing there. "Angrezi?" I asked, hesistantly.

"Oh, Angrezi," that shut off all efforts at communication. The sad fact that I could not speak in Marathi or even the more ubiquitous Hindi. So we just sat there and smiled at each other and I wondered where else in the world, I could have a water party, just from a bottle of Bisleri.

I realised that the experiences I enjoyed the most in India were when I was out of my context and not surrounded by anyone who knew me or anyone who knew anyone who knew me.

Free just to be a stranger in a strange land with just a smile and a bottle of water.

I thought of this yesterday as I hung out in the Reef for Mark's last performance there. The Reef is cosier than the post-renovated Backyard (although I won't be going there after this) and I usually see people I know and go join them and they're happy to have me. Others trickled in and came over to our table and soon we had quite the party going. Surprising what a little cider and a lot of bonhomie can do.

Also I think cider is a better drink for me than red wine. I was completely hung over all of Tuesday but surprisingly unhungover today. Just tired. And now, I have not one but two stories to complete.

Guess I just need to buckle down and write, dammit!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Greater Good; The Lesser Evil

"This year has been fucked up," he told me, with a sigh. First his motorcycle, parked outside his ground floor apartment and locked, was stolen. And while he was dealing with that blow (the police said, don't bother looking for it, if you did manage to get it back it would no longer in a safe condition to ride) he received a call to tell him that his name had been picked from a database for one of those Nigerian con schemes - where an email, purportedly from him had been sent to the other people on the database (people who knew and liked him) to put money into an account. Signed by him. But the account was in the UK and made out to one Duke or something.

He flopped down in front of me, frustrated. And I wondered too. Why do these things all seem to happen at once?

A thought whistled its way down the wind and alighted on my hair. "Sometimes bad stuff happens to prevent even badder stuff happening."


The thought repeated itself, rather miffed. Surely I had heard it the first time.

"Oh yeah? What about my accident in December? Only shit came out of that. I mean what with the problems with insurance and the workshop and getting the car back only a month later in that condition....what good could that have possibly served?"

The voice was silent. Later, much later, in fact a day later, as I ambled along the pavement in front of Jaya 33, heading for the post office to post off two very important cards, the answer came to me in the form of a question.

Disembodied Voice: "What were you planning to do if you had not been in that accident?"

Me: "I dunno, deliver gift baskets, do my errands, go back to JB?"

Disembodied Voice: "Yeah, but what else?"

And then I remembered. Tired as I was at the time, I had decided to undertake a foolhardy trip up north to deliver a gift basket. And if that was not enough, I intended to stop off at Penang and pack some banana leaf from Velu Villas to take with me. I now see how dumb the whole idea was. I also see what the larger evil could have been. That old female slamming into me and nearly killing me, could have very well saved my life.



So I wondered what my friend's greater evil would have been. What would he have done on his bike? Who would have died?

I couldn't tell him, of course. Being of a very skeptical frame of mind, he would have brushed the idea off, irritated. But it was comforting for me, nonetheless. He's one of those I'd like to have around for a long, long time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Birthday Party

Stop your crying it will be all right
Just take my hand, hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don't you cry
For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm
This bond between us can't be broken
I will be here, don't you cry
Cos you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on
now and forevermore
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You'll be here in my heart

I watched her holding the white ball of fur in her lap and trying to stifle her sobs. It felt like a bad omen. They had come rushing in to the vet hospital before it opened. Emergency. The husband got out the car and rushed up the door. The caretaker answered. She had been sitting in the car, the injured doggie in her lap. He ran back to the car and took it off her. The caretaker, who had told me to wait till 10 before I could come in (or the small crowd of others who had already gathered outside the veterinary hospital) opened the door and let them in. The white Pomeranian dog in his arms regarded us all gravely, blood flowing from his nose, while his mistress dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

One of the vets got in early and went to see to them. But I guess there was nothing to be done. It was easy to underestimate the seriousness of the injuries, seeing the dog's demeanour. He barely flinched. You could only tell from the crumpled, grief-ravaged face of his mistress.

I passed her, taking Arnold upstairs for his major surgery. It was hard not to look, thus intruding into her private grief. It was hard not to stop and say, I'm so sorry. I know how you feel. She held the now lifeless body, the beautiful white fur, evidence of a dog, much-loved, much-cherished, well taken care off. One instant. And it was gone.

How could something we loved so much disappear in an instant? Surely love is enough to keep it alive? If the love is big enough? If the love is strong enough?



The vet indicated a cage and we both had to stuff Arnold into it. He didn't want to go and began to fight. But there was nothing I could do. Major surgery. Deep incisions. They would be going into his ear to see what was happening. Wherefore the pus?

Dr Prem was downstairs and I waited to talk to him. I wanted to know when they were going to do the surgery. The sight of the little dog now dead had shaken me up.

What if Arnold?

Better not to think of it.

Dr Prem took me into the examining room and drew a diagram to explain what they were going to do to my boy. He said the case had been treated as an infection before. But it looked like there was something else going on here. And if it was a tumour, it would be better to put him to sleep.

Otherwise he would suffer.

He told me about a beautiful golden retriever, Marshall, who had had tumour. They removed it. The operation was a success. It came back and swelled his face up. He didn't look like Marshall anymore. Finally his owner allowed him to be put to sleep.

This is not the kind of thing you tell me on a night of no sleep after what I'd just witnessed. My nerves, never good in the early morning, deserted me altogether. I cried all the way home.

What I actually wanted to do was stay with him until the surgery and then through it, and then after it, when he came round.

What I did do was rush back to the bakery shop, the chicken shop, the Chinese sinseh, the Jaya Grocers, to get all the stuff I had forgotten to get yesterday. Then it was back home to mix the cake and throw it into the oven. Thank goodness I had cut up most of the stuff yesterday.

But still. Eight dishes. And the cake (which was supposed to have been baked yesterday but wasn't because of gas fiasco). And all the time, my heart heavy from what was happening to my dog. I didn't want him to die. I didn't want to have to put him to sleep. I wanted him around.

My dog.

I prayed fervently that none of my emotions were going into the food. At least not the grief. Maybe the love. Yeah, the love was OK. The first layer of lemon curd cake was in the oven. And I was heating the curd in a saucepan over a pot of boiling water, allowing it to thicken slowly.

This is what it looked like done.

Yes, and next the butter prawns. Irony is that Chubs doesn't like prawns. This would be for everyone else. It was the quickest dish to make. Butter prawns. Yes. Lemon curd thickening. First layer came out still wet (I had doubled the portions to make a bigger cake and it was taking longer to bake - maybe I should have done three rather than two layers. Oh well, too late now). Put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Then, the ingredients for the asparagus belachan I had cut yesterday (except for the small dried prawns which needed to soak for 30 minutes) went into the blender. Out of the blender and into the oil, fry it a bit and then add asparagus and some water. Yes, yes, that was soon done.

And then put the stuff together for the herbed potatoes. I decided to saute the potatoes before baking (turned out to be a bad idea - next time I'll just boil the potatoes before baking - anything to make it softer). While it baked, I blended the ingredients for the Portuguese baked fish. Add the chilli powder and finely-cut lime leaves and fry...then take out the fish that had been thawing in the sink, separate the flesh from the backbone and lay it out flat, make incisions, and cover the whole thing with the sauce. Wrap it in a banana leaf and then in aluminum foil. Stuff into the oven. The third and last thing to bake today.

And then, ah, time for the vindaloo. In fact chicken vindaloo and lemon curd cake were the only things Chubs actually asked for. Dadda has insisted that we use two chickens instead of one. He said there would be 15 people turning up. Not enough food. (I don't know how he figured there wouldn't but anyway had gotten the second chicken). Problem now was that the ingredients I had chopped up would be enough for only one. Nothing for it. Chop chop again. Dadda helped slice the shallots and I did the garlic, ginger and pounded the mustard seeds in no time. So. Two batches of chicken vindaloo.

Then it was time for the rice. I had decided on two types. Saffron rice and paella. I had gone to great lengths to find actual saffron threads (not easily available) and so, OK, saute the onions, boil some saffron threads in chicken stocks with a sprinkle of thyme.

OK tired now. Really tired.

And there's still the paella.

By this time, Julie, who had gone out for lunch was back with her boyfriend. They went out to get some soft drinks and beer and then came back to help. Clean. There was a LOT of cleaning to be done.

Shan hovered over the dishes sniffing. He helped transfer it into the cheap cheap dishes I had bought the day before (when I suddenly realised that it would be no go as we didn't have any serving dishes from which people could ladle the stuff).

As I was still busy with the paella, the guests had started to arrive. There had been some confusion about the time, but dutifully before six, they trooped in. Chubs wasn't even here yet. Busy with work, and waiting for his new washing machine and fridge to arrive, he was nowhere to be seen. He arrived soon after and parked at the back. Yes, parking did present a bit of a problem, what with all the cars. He lingered on in the car, talking to (I think) his girlfriend, and finally came in with the serving plates I had requested, a box of cupcakes (one of the presents from his girlfriend with little Liverpool emblems, footballs and Baby Baby Baby on them - tickled him pink).

Anyways, I could the rise and fall of voices in the hall as Chubs went to greet his public. Julie ran to serve the drinks, Shan lingered in the kitchen helping me. Finally the paella was bubbling away merrily. I sent Shan to have a shower. Then it was me. Then Julie. We were all filthy from the cooking and cleaning and not guest-worthy.

Apparently Chubs hadn't had any lunch and was starving. He wanted to eat (esp the vindaloo) before he cut his cake. My cousin Godfrey's kids, were starving too. Godfrey's wife, Shyamala, had come to the kitchen to watch as I made the paella (having a Jennifer moment when I started to wail for my missing cumin and turmeric powder, ranting at my Dadda for cleaning the stuff up without asking me, sending Julie to look frantically everywhere - turned out it was right next to the oven. Within touching distance. So of course, Julie had to regale Shan with another Jennifer story about the time she was late for college and had been looking everywhere for her watch while I lay on the bed watching her - turned out I had been wearing her watch. And my watch. In fact, two watches. Without noticing)

So the party began. The eating part at least. The guests kept saying, I don't believe you made all of this yourself. Yourself? Alone? (To be fair, Dadda cut up some potatoes, and the aforementioned shallots) He would have done more but I had sent him away because I had done most of the chopping the night before, and he would only get in my way now).

They loved most of the dishes (I told you, the herbed potatoes didn't turn out so well, though it smelt heavenly).

A selection of dishes:

My sister and her boyfriend posing with the food

Chubs blowing out his candles

I was too tired to eat so I picked at my food on the plastic plates Julie had thoughtfully bought, with the plastic fork. I liked the paella. But don't ask me for a commentary on the other dishes. They must have been nice. People came for second helpings.

Then Chubs cut his cake and everyone took a slice of that and loved it.

Some of the guests doggie-bagged food. Uncle Eldred (Dadda's youngest brother) asked to take some paella. Auntie Saro took vindaloo. Chubs took a whole portion of vindaloo. He said he would eat it at home with bread. After all, he had his new fridge now. He was supposed to take birthday cake, but he left that. No problem. Julie, Dadda and I have been scarfing it.

When everyone had departed to the hall clutching their plates with their first helping off food, my phone rang. It was Dr Prem to tell me the results of the operation. The previous owner had removed Arnold's ear canal. Now you don't remove ear canals unless there was something seriously wrong. There was a lot of fibrous tissue there, which they had removed. But they would have to go deeper to see if there was anything really wrong. They had to stop because the little dog had been under for one and a half hours. But he was fine. Coming out of it. I could come see him tomorrow and Dr Prem wanted to have a chat with me about him.

I sipped some more Coke, feeling my heart lightening. At any rate, they hadn't found a tumour yet. I could go see my doggie tomorrow. As for now, I just wanted to pass out.

The guests left. Shan and Julie cleaned up. I crawled into bed, jeans and all, and fell asleep.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chubs's Birthday (the prequel)

It's 2.45 in the morning of Chubs's birthday. I forgot to call him at midnight because I was busy chopping up stuff for dinner tomorrow and watching Big Bang Theory. I think when it struck 12 Leonard, Raj and Howard were looking at the stars (completely stoned, stars are pretty aren't they?) and Sheldon was grabbing Penny's boob.

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur,
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.

OK. The gas ran out which means the cake I was supposed to bake tonight ,(thereby crossing it off the list of stuff to be done tomorrow) was not baked. At some point in the morning will have to get a new gas tank. At some point in the morning too, will have to take Arnold for his major surgery.

Speaking of Arnold, I was taking him for a walk at night and passed this house down our road, where a neighbour I've never seen before, who's squiffy on beer, comes out to say hello and pat my little doggie, saying he has never seen him around. Proceeds to have a long conversation with me about Arnold, and his dogs (now dearly departed). Arnold remains calm and allows himself to be patted. (I tell you this is the best natured dog in the world, as long as you're neither the postman nor the newspaperman)

OK it's late, I have a ton of stuff to do tomorrow (today, actually) and I need to get some sleep. Also, I need to set the alarm as there's no way in hell I'll wake up in time by myself.

Later for you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I hold your heart; I hold it in my heart...

Last night he was in pain. When I tried to clean the affected area, he whimpered every time I touched it. And today, he refused his food. All food. Even his favourite food, bought at great expense. And the side of his face had swollen to monstrous proportions. He looked mournfully at me, through one half closed eye (whenever he's in pain, he can't seem to open that eye properly) and there was nothing for it. I would have to take him to the vet.

Taking Arnold to the vet by myself is a little challenging. He's generally a good doggie in that he doesn't try to get in front anymore. Instead he moves from window to window, trying desperately to figure out where we're going. Not that he should bother. When I make him get into the car, there's only one place we would be going. And that's to the vet.

Arnold resists coming in, I try to drag him and then scoop him up and carry him. Even after having rejected his food for a bit, he's still a solid little dog.

And here's the payoff for his little Valentine's Day present to his vets. They are all tickled pink and the ones who see me come to thank me one by one, and Arnold is seen to as soon as Dr Chin, who happens to be passing, sees him.

There's a lady with a rabbit who's been waiting longer, but Dr Chin is Arnold's doctor and she takes a personal interest in him. After thanking me for the cake, she examines the little fellow and decides that he needs to be admitted again. She tries to out a cotton bud through the hole in his head to see if she can flush it again but one side has closed up. Arnold screams in pain, but does not even attempt to bite. That's why the vets like him. He's a very sweet dog.

Then she says she will have to sedate him to examine the area. Thing about Arnold is, he spent some time as a stray and who knows what he picked up then. But he's had surgery before, the surgery that closed up right ear. Obviously he was owned by someone before. When I found him lying on the side of the road, expiring from a maggot wound, it is obvious that whoever it was no longer wanted to pay his vet bills and abandoned him to leave him to his own devices.

So, reluctantly, I leave him there. I follow Dr Chin upstairs and together, we manage to push him into a cage. He doesn't want to go, he resists and keeps jumping out. Then he howls and tells me, please don't go. I look at him sadly. I don't want to but I have to. By taking him out early I am probably personally responsible for this.

I feel sad all the way home. My poor little doggie has suffered so much. He's been in pain for I don't know how long. I wish I had painkillers on hand to give him. Instead, I force antibiotics down his throat. (He refuses to take them otherwise and that may be what has led to this present juncture)

About a half hour later Dr Chin calls. The vets have discussed it among themselves and they want to do exploratory surgery on the affected area. It's not enough to drain it. They need to see what's there. That counts as major surgery. Which means Dr Prem, as the senior vet, will have to be present. (Thank God I met him and presented him with cake...just saying...) She tells me I can come get the little fellow and bring him back tomorrow.

We go upstairs and discover that Arnold has chewed through the bit of string used to secure his cage. These pieces of string are only used for the naughty dogs who chew on their cage doors or push it with their feet. The piece of string is lying on the ground and Arnold is beside himself with joy to see me. He wasn't expecting me so soon. Dr Chin has injected him with a painkiller which means he's a lot happier and more alert than when I brought him in, barely an hour ago.

So I bundle him into the car and take off for home. Gazing out the window, he ascertains our general direction and is satisfied. He sits right in the middle of the backseat, tongue hanging out (his happy face) and when I brake suddenly he falls forward on the floor. Not that he minds. As we're going home, he doesn't mind anything. So he simply picks himself up and resumes the position.

The moment we get home he heads for his bowl and polishes off the pork tail pieces I made for him earlier. Drinks his water. And comes to settle down on the floor of my room. Every once in a while he gets up and comes to me for some love. Patting his head and stroking his ear qualifies as love.

Then he wanders off.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


There are moments when you absolutely need someone to show up like magic, not because you need something nice, but because you need your worldview transformed. You need some hope to be born in you. You need to know in one moment that someone believes in you. You need a kindness midwife to hold the space so you can show up like magic for someone else the next time around... - Jen Lemen

My mother has this superstition: be careful what you do on New Year's Day as it will set the theme for the rest of the year. I started the year reading Harry Potter. Which is cooler than it sounds. Because it means that the one thread that has been running through my year so far is magic.

As I look at my vision board I see that "MAGIC" is one of the words I chose for it. Old magazines are good for something, hey?

I put on my new amethyst agate bracelet, slip on my rose quartz star of David pendant on a shiny silver necklace around my neck, look to see if I feel like wearing my beautiful citrine ring and earrings and sail into the night looking for adventure.

A few drops of rainbow serpent energy under the tongue and I feel like pleasant energy moving through me speaking of renewal, rebirth. Or the Findhorn essence of air which opens the heart chakra.

Colours start to swirl. My body grows hot with the energy pulsing through me. I phone Celine whom I met after the meditation session at a pub, on her first night out after a major surgery, and tell her about it. And fix it so she can go to. She wants to. She is one of those superwomen who takes care of everyone but herself. Love, love, love.

I get off the phone and Theresa calls to ask if I want to interview Baden Powell's great great grandson. Of course I do. But the time she gives me, is when we'll be having high tea for Chubs's birthday, and when he will be cutting his cake. (We're giving both high tea and dinner - I'm cooking, so I need to see to the menu - the only thing Chubs asked for is a lemon curd cake and chicken vindaloo)

I say, how bout Sunday? Or Monday? Monday, I have to take Arnold to the vet for a check up and meet a girl I've never hung out with before at Backyard for Mark on Monday.

You know what I'm saying?

Then Tuesday, I load up the car (hopefully not forgetting my passport this time) and take off to JB for a stint. Not that long, but long enough.

So I take out my new (though old) Lemurian crystal and train it over Arnold's three wounds when he's in too much pain to eat and comb his aura. The doggie falls asleep for a while, and then when I get up to go out, he follows me, heads straight for his bowl and delicately negotiates it (what with the Elizabethan ruff around his neck and all). And eats. And finishes everything. That's what I'm talking about.

I cleaned up my room yesterday and all I need to do now is to go around it with a burning smudge stick and cleanse it of all negative energies.


More magic.

More magic.

You'll see it when you believe it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Is Well

I removed my previous post because I'm no longer mad at Maxis, my account was topped up today and a nice boy called to tell me that it was (I already knew) and to apologise for the delay, saying there had been some technical fault.

All good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saying It With Red Velvet Cucpakes (with cream cheese topping)

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways
to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water
in a far-off continent, devote the remainder of my days
to a catalog of restorations. But this morning, it was the matter
of scones that drew my gaze, and my feet remained
planted in the kitchen. One must never ignore the instinct
to create, is what I told myself, and soon the counter was stained
with flour, my hands sticky with dough, the house inked
with the smell of blueberry possibility, and I knew I was not wrong
This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering, my song.

(irreverent baking, Maya Stein)

I got the inspiration pretty late, because Yahoo printed an article on Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcakes and I thought, hey, what a wonderful Valentine's Day gift. Home made of course (as I told more than one of the recipients, I don't do store-bought, that ain't my thing).

Anyway making cupcakes entailed a visit to my favourite baking store. Because, besides the exotic ingredients like cream cheese and pecans, I also needed a mould. And voila, I found the perfect one - little hearts. I mean how cool is that for St. Val's Day, hey?

Here you have the batter:

And here you have the travesty of the first batch as instead of using butter or the cupcake paper to line the moulds, I opted for the expensive and highly ineffective "cake release". If you see this reposing demurely on the shelves of the Bangsar Grocer, don't buy it.

Even butter is better.

Anyway, I had mixed up the red batter (as above) when I discovered that I had taken down the recipe imperfectly. In short, I hadn't noted the number of eggs. And a thunderstorm earlier in the evening had fried our modem (it actually started smoking, though it had been turned off during the storm), so I had no access to the internet.

Who could I call at midnight? Nobody. Who could I text? I texted Chubs and then Addy. Both were still up and Addy, nightbird as she is, was on the net. She quickly looked it up for me, and voila, saved Valentine's. (OK that is a bit melodramatic, but that's what it felt like at midnight, confronted with a whole vat of bright red batter that I could do nothing about.

So, two eggs, room temperature.

I always say that when you're making cookies or cupcakes, the first batch is your sacrifice to the pastry gods. Then you modify the temperature, or the time, or whatever else you got wrong the first time and the next batches come out pristine.

It's sort of like a totem. Like my "cabbie, cabbie, come, come" dance I used to do, when standing at a taxi rank, bereft of taxis. And it always worked. Well, nearly always. And if Jackie were there too, she would do it with me.

Two heathens in the rain, going cabbie cabbie with one hand and come come with the other. (Ah death in life, the days that are no more).

Anyway here's the first unimpressive batch:

But they tasted great and their appearance improved as I got better at it. Having only one large bowl (oh, me of straitened or lazy circumstances) I had to wait till I had used up all the red batter, before I could make the cream cheese topping. Which explains why I only got to bed at about six in the morning. And woke up at about noon.

Note to self: If you're gonna make cupcakes, plan, plan, and then plan summore. Also ascertain you have got the actual recipe down before embarking on quest. Especially if the weather proves inclement.

This is what the finished product looked like:

I decided somewhere in the night to favour Arnold's vets with a cupcake each> I mean, these vets had been awfully nice to my doggie. And other than the reluctant paying of bills, what kind of appreciation did they get? And my little doggie was quite a favourite among them (for all his biting of the cage and howls and throwing up in the car whenever he recognised the road to the vet and massive abandonment complex). I decided to make a special label for the boxes with the vet cupcakes. It went something like this:

Basically I printed out a picture of the doggie (which you will find elsewhere in these pages) and on it I had:

Dear Dr...

Happy Valentine's Day and woof woof!


Sweet, no? So I arrived loaded with boxes piled precariously on a basket that was too small in one, dragging a reluctant dog who had just been sick in the car, in another. Something had to give.

The boxes did.

OK, sleeping at six, and then spending another half hour or so before the vet trip, printing out and painstakingly sticking labels, does not put one in the best of moods.

"Arnold!!!" I screamed. And Dr Prem came out just in time to see him get a tight smack on the butt. Arnold whimpered. More from fear that I was going to leave him there than from the smack. Although of course, it could have been both.

The receptionist came to help me with the boxes, which, I could see now, on top of everything else, were bespattered with rain, the cheap printer's ink running in all directions.

Ye gods and little fishes.

Anyway, Dr Prem good humouredly calmed me down and after explaining to me that he was both diabetic and a heart patient and would only be able to eat half a cupcake, tasted a bit of the cream cheese topping and pronounced it fabulous. Then he went to get Dr Melissa, who would be performing the flushing/draining of the wound (Arnold has a hole in the head which was full of green and yellow pus which contained a nasty bacteria known as proteus swimming inside - the head was punctured thrice, the hole drained and now we have to go for check-ups, so the vets can drain it and keep an eye on it, as young Arnold REFUSES to be left there). As Arnold was placed shivering on the operating table (apparently the past few times they did it, it was incredibly painful and he had to be muzzled to prevent him from biting), Dr Adah held him.

Dr Melissa said she was surprised than in just one day (I had taken Arnold back on Sunday, unable to bear how he clung to me and refused to get back in his cage every time I visited - kinda like me when I was four and my parents left me in the hospital for two weeks, and every night when they wanted to go home, I clung to them and howled the entire ward down) his wound had healed to such an extent and the swelling had gone down. The plasma came out clear. In fact, she was so pleased she said, I would only have to bring him back in a week's time. Good for me. I was still thinking about how I would clean up his puke. The last time he did it, it cost me about RM80 to get the car lemon-fresh.

Dr Prem stuck his head in the room, in the middle of all this, cupcake in hand, to tell me that it was simply the last thing in cupcakes (which was good as it was my first time making the cakes and whaddyaknow, it worked out). Anyway, after flushing the wound, they applied the antiseptic and the pup was good to go. He couldn't wait to get out and once back in the car, he stared out of the window intently to make sure we were taking the right road home, and then relaxed, smiling all over his doggie face.

The vets were my second port of call. Earlier I had given the first Valentine cakes to Nits, who ate one right off and asked me how I knew she loved red velvet cake. I didn't. I just thought heart-shaped red velvet would be better than chocolate on Valentine's. (Huh, what I love about these cakes is that everyone I gave them to, ate one right off)

After the vets and coming home to drop off the happy doggie and attempt to feed him (attempt, because I mixed his meds in the food and he rejected it disdainfully), I was off to NST to drop off more cakes (I love Valentine deliveries almost as much as Christmas deliveries and these were more fun as I had my car). Then, one more drop off for an aunt who wasn't at home (she was off having a Valentine's dinner with her favourite niece and nephew - isn't it wonderful how Valentine's has evolved?) and I was back home and exhausted.

When Julie came home with her boyfriend later, I offered him cake. Shan is not one to say no to cake. He had never had red velvet cake before and loved it. Gave him a sugar high.

Then it was time to slump exhaustedly in bed, trying to read Patti Digh's Creative is a Verb, looking at the pretty pictures, and falling, fast, fast asleep.

Happy Valentine's Day y'all.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Little Jabberwocky Goes A Long Way

Since I have really nothing to say (or rather too much to say that there is a logjam in my head) I'll just drop in an essay I wrote in my first year of uni about Jabberwocky, mostly cos I promised Beatrix's awesome stepdaughter that I would).

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
and the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought-
So rested by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He came galumphing back.

'And has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day, Callooh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves
And the mome raths outgrabe.


Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem that parodies epic poetry and medieval Romance, seems to be the most pulled apart and psycho-analysed text of its genre. A string of writers, concerned with what Carroll could have possible meant by the nonsense words sprinkled fairly liberally into a structured, recognisable form, wove a web of interpretations to suit their particular pet theories. To the Freudians, the reclusive Oxford don was hinting at his repressed sexuality. To the limguists, he had invented a new form of art, or at least perfected what was formerly only for children, for the enjoyment of adults as well. Many pointed out that adults, as well as children, read and enjoy Carroll, though possibly for different reasons. To Carroll himself, Jabberwocky was simply a flight of nonsensical fancy and nobody could have been more surprised than himself at the amount of interest it generated. When a reader wrote to him asking him what he had meant, he replied in a letter:

I'm very much afraid I didn't mean anything but nonsense! Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them; so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer meant.

He was being prophetic indeed, suggesting the "death of the author" more than half a century before Roland Barthes wrote his famous book of a similar title.

This essay seeks to suggest that if one writes nonsense in a plausible and artistic enough manner, one will fool the world into thinking there must be a hidden meaning running through the text. The height of nonsense would be when it is presented in the trappings of sense.


Jabberwocky appeared in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass which was published by Macmillan in 1871. The opening stanza first appeared in Misch-Masch, the last of a series of private little "periodicals" that young Carroll wrote, illustrated and hand-lettered for the amusement of his brothers and sisters.

The text is divided into two sections - an identical opening and closing stanza and five middle stanzas which seem to have no relation with each other. It appears to be about a quest where the young hero kills a monster, but apart from that, making out the meaning is a matter of intelligent guesswork. As Alice herself remarked on reading the poem:

Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas - only I don't know exactly what they are! However somebody killed something: that's clear at any rate-

Carroll then introduces Humpty Dumpty (of nursery rhyme fame) as a kind of burlesque professor who decodes the poem for Alice in his own inimitable way. His explanations, however, only serve to confuse her further.

As Patricia Meyers Spacks said in her essay Logic and Language in Through The Looking Glass, his interpretation, reducing the first and last stanzas to an account of animals resembling badgers, lizards and corkscrews, going through various gyrations in the plot of land around a sundial during the part of the afternoon when one begins broiling things for dinner - destroys the poem.

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

David Buchbinder asserted in his book Contemporary Literary Theory and the Reading of Poetry that looking at the poem's structure and design will help readers figure out the meanings of strange words like brillig, by relating it to their experience of language. He pointed out that the word wabe for instance appears in the adverbial phrase of place (in the wabe) suggesting a location. The plural mome raths, combined with the verb-type word outgrabe suggests that these are creatures engaged in activity of some kind.

However, where in other poetic texts, the actual meanings and shades of meaning of words are critical in understanding the text, in a Nonsense poem such as Jabberwocky, their importance tends to recede into the background as the overall emotion evoked by the poem takes centrestage. As Alice said, it fills her head with ideas, though she is not exactly sure what. Therefore, its strength seems to lie in what it suggests rather than what it is.

Buchbinder said the first stanza, which is repeated at the end, may mean a variety of different things. Firstly, they may just provide the frame for real action set out in the middle stanzas. In this case, the stanza is both introductory and closural. Another theory he postulated, is that these stanzas are completely irrelevant to the middle five stanzas. Buchbinder, however, liked his third suggestion best, which was that the two stanzas were ironic commentary on the actions described in the central ones. This is because, if the world continued the same after the quest, there was not really much point to it in the first place. It seems to suggest the futility of this quest in particular and all quests, in general.

The desire to tack on a meaning to the poem, which Carroll himself admitted, had none, seems to stem from the fact that the words were put into a recognisable structure and Carroll used enough sensible words to fool people into thinking that there must be some meaning hidden under the layers of rubbish. Carroll seemed to be following the advice of one of his characters, the Duchess in Alice in a Wonderland to take care of the sounds and let the meanings take care of itself.

A more contemporary version of this would be American cartoonist Gary Larson's cow tools, which some critics have gone so far as to facetiously describe as one of the great mysteries of life. Larson drew a cow standing in front of her tool table with an array of tools spread out in front of her. It would have simply been taken as nonsense if one of the tools had not looked like a crude saw. Readers, seeing that, immediately assumed that the other tools must also be representations of actual tools and proceeded to burst their blood vessels trying to figure out which. Larson, who touched on the cow tools dilemma in The Prehistory of the Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit, said he had never received so many letters for any one cartoon before. He even received letters from some official societies who told him that not even their cleverest members had been able to guess which tools he meant. Like Carroll, he was bewildered by all the fuss. He insisted he had not meant anything by this cartoon and that the tools were not meant to represent any human tools. In retrospect, he admitted that his mistake had been in making at least one of them, resemble something which was recognisable, giving rise to the assumption that they all should be.

What did Carroll contribute to language and literature? Realistically, he can be called the Father of Nonsense, as a genre. Before he came long with his two Alice books, Nonsense was considered quite low-brow. It certainly did not fall under the category of Art. In the Alice books, Carroll remained scrupulously logical in the little things, while playing havoc with concepts we tend to take for granted like time and space. For instance, when Alice tells the Mad Hatter that she cannot have "more tea" because she had none to begin with, he simply replies that she must mean she cannot have less, because it is possible to have "more than nothing". In Wonderland, the Mad Hatter is doomed to an eternal tea-time because he was "murdering time" while reciting a poem. In Through the Looking Glass, the only way to get somewhere is to walk away from it. There too, one remembers what is going to happen two weeks from now, rather than what happened yesterday.

With Carroll's contributions, nonsense as a genre came of age. Elizabeth Sewell, in her essay Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot as Nonsense Poets which was published in 1958 pointed out that much of our literature - poetry and criticism - and most of our philosophy, are shaped on Nonsense principles. She said people are slow to recognise the importance of Nonsense, and by extension, that of Carroll.

The ambiguity that he brings forward in his created world seems to run through most forms of art now. They refuse definition and will not be stereotyped into any one category. A good example of this would be Meredith Brook's Bitch, from the aptly titled album Blurring the Edges which despite its title, is not a rude song, but simply a woman's attempt to elude the usual stereotypes.

I'm a little bit of everything
all rolled into one

I'm a bitch, I'm a lover
I'm a child, I'm a mother
I'm a sinner, I'm a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell, I'm your dream
I'm nothing in between
You know you wouldn't want it any other way.

Sewell pointed out that contrary to popular belief the genre of Nonsense has strict rules.

The aim is to construct with words a logical universe of discourse, meticulously selected and controlled; within this playground the mind can manipulate its material, consisting largely of names of things and members.

But once one has created this logical world, one goes for it with a battering ram, leaving only enough sense for it to retain some semblance of order. Sewell pointed out that all tendencies towards synthesis are taboo - in the mind, imagination and dream; in language, the poetic and metaphorical elements, in subject matters, everything to do with beauty, fertility and all forms of love, sacred or profane. In fact, she said, whatever is unitive, proves to be the great enemy of Nonsense, to be excluded at all costs.


Basically, the discourse of our cultures dislikes chaos and confusion and tends to move towards order. It structures the world presented to it, trying to make out trends where none exist, from discrete events; for everything should mean something. It is this tendency that causes it to reject outright nonsense that is presented as nonsense. If Carroll had simply filled Jabberwocky with words that did not make any sense in a totally unrecognisable form, chances are it would be around today, fresh and oft-quoted, studied, parsed and decoded to mean a variety of different things. By presenting Jabberwocky as a pseudo-logical parody of a quest, embedded within a dream, he succeeded in immortalising it. More than a century later, he still has numerous writers trying to figure out what he meant. This then, is the power of ambiguity, or of Nonsense disguised as Sense.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Maths and Me

I don't think years have improved my outlook or equipment in regard to mathematics, although as a grown-up I am not supposed to give out my real feelings in the matter. I have to keep up appearances before youngsters. So that the other day when I found my nephew (who has evidently imbibed my tradition in mathematics) literally in tears, sitting at his desk and chasing an elusive sum, In told him patronisingly, "Well, there is no use shedding tears over mathematics. If you read the sum correctly and think it over calmly, I am sure you will get the answer. The thing is you must not be in a hurry. You must be very calm, I tell you. At your age, do you know how we were managing it?" And I told him what I fully knew to be a cock-and-bull story about my prowess and industry in this subject. He asked, "Won't you help me do this sum?" I looked at it critically. It was something about profit and loss. As I gazed at the sum, the answer suddenly flashed on my mind. I casually turned to the last page to see if my answer was correct. It wasn't. I gently put down the book, telling the boy. "Well, of course. I can do this sum but, you know, my 'working' will be different: it won't be much use to you. You must do it in the way it has been taught in your school; moreover, you must learn to depend on your own effort. Otherwise you will not learn." I hastily moved out of the pale of mathematics.

(excerpted from Higher Mathematics, from a collection of essays, A Writer's Nightmare, RK Narayan)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Thing About Interdental Brushes

Prevention is better than cure.


Especially when cure is, well limited and the damage has already been done and all you can do is prevent the damage from spreading further.

So today, I did my best to follow my dentist's advice.

Brushing. Tongue cleaning (with a special tongue-cleaning brush). Mouthwash. Interdental brushes.

If I had done, like a quarter of this, before (and visited the dentist more often), I wouldn't be stuck with sadly depleted mobile lower teeth and gaps between my teeth the size of modern-day orphanages.

So anyway, I've started on RK Narayan's "A Writer's Nightmare", a series of essays (or column articles) he wrote for "The Hindu" over a span of 20 years, and the first essay was about mathematics and how it always reduced him to tears.

Kind of like me and Physics, I thought.

I not only wept piteously, I wrote reams of heartfelt, passionate poetry about it. About how much I hated it.

Today has been a day lessons. (Lessons I seem to have to learn over and over again because they never quite stick).

Firstly, do not touch chilli seeds.

And if you do, wash your hands quickly. Use lots of soap.

Which I didn't. Instead of washing my hands using lots of soap, I proceeded to expose them to the hot stove as I was making asparagus belachan. And Kerala spicy fish curry.

Anyway, back my en-chillied fingers, I finished making the two dishes, had a shower, crawled into bed, rubbed my hands with lotion, and whimpered softly. My fingers were on fire.

Come on, I said, to whatever higher force there was around me. Please tell me what to do.

A picture popped into my head. Of me chopping up the chillies. Removing the seeds by hand. And then not washing my hand. And a voice said, of course you're in pain. Your hand is still full of the lethal chilli juice.

And I leapt out of bed and ran to the tap and squeezed out a sizeable amount of handwash. And washed. And washed. And washed my hands.

And worked.

Not completely as the heat from this keyboard is making them sting again. But enough.

Oh the relief!

OK, painful again, gotta go now.

Later for you.

The Found Metaphor

Funny how we keep stumbling on metaphors for life in everything we do. Like for instance, here I am, working doggedly away at the darn tapestry that has been lying in my drawer for, I don't know, 15 years? 16? And I'm putting in a satin stitch in between some gold stem stitch. Very finicky and I'm trying to be careful. Then one of the gold edges pokes its way through the picture and I turn the tapestry around to see where the edge came from so I can remove it.

And what meets my eye, but the snarl of all snarls. The cream thread, tangled beyond belief. If only I'd checked while I was putting in the satin stitches, they would not be in the mess they are now.

But I didn't check.

And no amount of careful untangling seems to work. If anything, the thread gets stretched even more.

Finally I give up and start to cut through the mess. Nothing for it.I have loads of cream thread left so that's not a problem.

It's just the waste of time, and how ugly everything looks now, until I've settled it

You know what I'm saying?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Some mutton varuval, a jug of margarita, a book on womenomics, and thou beside me singing in the wilderness

Is it freaky to love your dentist? Cos if it is I am, and I do. An early morning appointment (the first of the day) after a three-margarita night, coming back squiffy to do some editing and knocking off at past 3, required me to set the alarm clock.

So yeah, Monday at Backyard with Nits and Wednesday at the Reef with Addy and in between, a great, great silence as KL went into its customary somnolence during this festive season. I stayed at home, comfortable in my jammies, hung out with Arnold (yes he's still here), did some editing, in between other more pleasurable tasks, like working on my tapestry and vision board. The first is not quite finished and the second is on my wall to give me pleasure and delight.

A few days with no contact (except the dog's) can go either way. I love PJ when it turns into a ghost town. Parking places everywhere, no traffic anywhere, the occasional firecracker going off to shatter the tranquility of the nights, Jane Austen fests going on in the background (no, not Pride and Prejudice but the 1971 version of Persuasion - and I love Anne Elliot, seriously!).

But anyway, back to my dentist. Dr Priya shares a birthday with me (so you already know she's very cool) and about a year ago, she tackled my extremely infected gums and managed firstly, to get rid of the infection and secondly, to bring my recalcitrant teeth under control. As she hacked away at the tartar, she told me I was a trooper for not flinching. (She's the only dentist who's ever called me a trooper or told me I have a high threshold for pain). Today, after she cleaned the teeth (noting that the gums had receded even further and asking me to take Vitamin C to see if I could regrow them) I told her my bottom teeth are moving around something awful. The upshot of it is that I'm to wear a retainer. She made the mould, I pick it up on Thursday. Dr Priya always has some video going at the patient's eye level to distract them. The other three times I've been here it was a Mr Bean cartoon. Today, it was Michael Jackson's old videos. When I asked her if she was a fan, she told me, always. In fact, she was one of those who forked out for a very expensive ticket when he performed in Singapore in 1992.

Remember that one?

The concert we ALL went to?

Then it was time for a little shop as Arnold's food had run out and I needed to see to that so I could make his lunch. At the pet shop (OK I finally got a card and became a member) I went looking for brushes as the boy is shedding like he's trying to stuff a mattress and when the shop assistant heard he was a mongrel, he pointed me to the cheapest brush there. I fixed him with a stern look and said my mongrel is a five-star dog and only the best will do. He pointed me to a better brush.

I was a little tired from my late night and so, made a beeline for home and cooked Arnold some chicken and added the lamb and rice biscuits the guy had convinced me to buy. (Arnold finished every last drop and then came over, as is his habit, to give me a thank you lick and fall asleep. It's a dog's life, truly!).

Counter-intuitively, the first thing I ate on getting back from the dentist was a large bowl of Snicker's ice cream. Never mind. I bought a ton of tooth care products from the doc and will be putting them to use as soon as I finish some work.

The Backyard margaritas are very good (OK that's the margaritas talking), and Mark was in top form. Well, I suppose he was, Nits and I were making so much noise either cheering, hooting or singing along, that it was hard to tell. There was another noisy table nearby and Nits flicked them a contemptuous look.

"Americans," she said.

"Yeah," I agreed. "They're almost as loud as us."

Which reminded me of being in Penang and remarking to my cousin Evelyn that wherever we go, we tend to be the noisiest people there. She corrected me: "Wherever we go, YOU are the noisiest person there."

Which I couldn't argue with. Not when it's true and I'm loud and obnoxious even without alcohol.

There's NOTHING like Backyard on a Monday night.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Metta Prayer

May all beings be happy, content and fulfilled.

May all beings be healed and whole.

May all have whatever they want and need.

May all be protected from harm, and free from fear.

May all beings enjoy inner peace and ease.

May all be awakened, liberated and free.

May there be peace in this world, and throughout the entire universe.

Love Sweet Love

Sometimes I look across the smoky bar and see a person who smiles and chats and seems OK. Really OK.

But he's not.

How could he be?

Does it matter that last time I checked we weren't talking? Does it matter that when I heard about it and texted him, he ignored my text?


His 18-year-old son is sick. Very sick.

And no matter what stupid petty grudges I nourish in my selfish petty heart, I can't get past this.

He goes up to do a song and waves to me.

"You guys on waving terms?" asks Addy. No. We're not. But still. So I smile and nod and acknowledge his wave. And he comes over after and shakes our hands. Says hello. And goes back to his table.

And then the music dies away slowly. Everyone's leaving. So I tell Addy I'll go say hi.

And I do. And I ask how the boy is. And his face crumples. He doesn't have to pretend. This was not a PR call. I know. And I care. Even after all that went on before.

Who can even remember what went on before?

He tells me. He says, I don't question God, but if anyone had to get sick, why couldn't it be me? And he says, my son is strong. So strong. He drives himself to and from chemo and he says to me, Dad, if it's my time to go, it's my time to go.

Eyes stinging with tears.

And I hug him and tell him I'm so sorry.

A break-my-bones hug, the kind you give when you mean it. The kind you give when the other person is in so much pain.

And he tells me: "I'm barely holding it together."

And I say: "Be well. Take care."

Thank you, he says, and leaves.

And it's nothing, not one tiny pebble in this great ocean of hurt.

But I'm glad I did it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What the World Needs Now

(I am aware of the irony, especially considering the rancour of my post before last, but now I want to post this even more - we get mad, we move through it and come out of the other side. Perfection is for the enlightened - as of yet, I'm still endarkened)

Installing Love on the Human Computer

Technical Support: Yes, how can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge, and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and select Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on external components." What should I do?

Tech support: Don't worry. In nontechnical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others. Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive Self, Realize Your Worth, and Acknowledge Your Limitations.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over my Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Yes, that means love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. This love program is freeware. You're welcome to share it with others. Please pass it along!


My boy is lying stretched out next to me, half on the meditation mat, half on the floor. The room door is locked so he can't wander off anywhere. Not that he will, unless I get up to go to the bathroom. Then he races behind me and I come out to find him slumped on the floor mat outside waiting, in case I am trying to pull a fast one and escape.

After that he trots peaceably back to the room, curls up on the meditation mat, shifts position, moves to the corner near the cupboard, that will do for a while, then back to the meditation mat which has cotton peeping out from various holes because Arnold decided to dig. His favourite bed is of sand and he loves to scrabble out a hole for himself and lie in it, but since the renovations are done, there is no sand to be had for love or money.

So he makes do with trying to dig up the floor, floor mats and of course, my long-suffering meditation mat which is looking rather the worse for wear and which has a fine layer of black hair all over it.

He lies with his mouth slightly open, twitching, through which you can tell he has started to dream. He no longer whimpers in his sleep but sometimes, he starts to woof. Then I reach out a hand and pat him on his tummy. And leave my hand there for a while. And he calms down and stops woofing.

He was "fixed" over the Christmas holidays and the absence of testosterone has resulted in young Arnold reverting to some of his puppy behaviours. For instance, he now wants to play. And play usually involves using his teeth. (Gently of course, but still). He also chases cats. The moment the gate is opened he shoots out and goes looking for them. A minute later you see a cat streaking across the road, Arnold in hot pursuit. I bellow at him until he comes back sheepishly, tail down, looking worried.

We've already figured out that whoever had him before used to beat him with a broom. Whenever one of us is sweeping, Arnold removes himself from the premises. And once when Julie playfully shook a broom at him, he took off. (The irony is that the boy gets away with murder when it comes to the two of I don't know what he's so busy being scared about)

I sit and watch him today as he sleeps. Earlier, I boiled some spare ribs with the parboiled rice for his meal. A last supper, so to speak. I love having him around, and despite the hair flying all over the place (especially in my room as young Arnold spends a good deal of time here, keeping an eye on me and running ahead and head butting my knees if it looks like I'm going to go out) he comforts me.

Just his presence. He is a very loving dog. And we've been lucky to have him these past few months.

He still has bare patches on his skin. Bathing, stroking and stuffing him to the gills hasn't helped. The maggot infestation has cost him dearly in terms of his left ear. The bone was eaten away and if you accidentally stroke him there, he flinches or whimpers. Some of this teeth are missing and you can see it especially when he's sleeping as his tongue pokes out of his closed mouth.

And with all that, he is still a beautiful adorable dog.

He is leaving tomorrow. One of Julie's friends is taking him. Arnold already likes his new master who is very gentle with him. The new master is coming to get him tomorrow.

He said: "Won't it break your heart to give him up to the farm?"

I said: "Yes. It will."

He said: "I'll take him. After all, he's a poor old dog. He should be happy for the last few years."

Which was all I wanted. If I can't have him, I want him to be happy, wherever he is. I wanted someone who would love and appreciate him to take him.

Sometimes, wishes do come true.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of Chances before
But I'm not gonna give anymore
Don't ask me
That's how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you're thinkin'

I write a letter in a passion. Excoriating words pour out, the kind which, if sent would mean the end for sure. I continue to type, heart pounding and then take a deep breath.

Time to edit.

But I don't want to. I want to send it as is. And to hell with consequences.

Yes, I know. But time to edit.

But she so deserves this. In fact, she deserves worse. I want it to sting. I want it to fester. I want it to grow out of control. Anger, chaos, disorder bloody disorder!

Yes, now time to edit.

Oh go to hell! I tell you I want to say these things. What's it to you?

You have said these things. It's out of your system. Now, time to edit.

Since when have you started looking over my shoulder and editing what I have to say, huh?

You're angry. I understand. But you don't write such things to friends. Even former friends. It's time to edit. You'll thank me later. Or better still, why don't you leave it for now. Come back later.

The words have been pulsing through my mind the whole day. Let's not forget the hysterical drama queen text followed by the vomit-inducing email in baby talk. The words have been building in my head. Vesuvius is about to erupt. Better still, Eyjafjallajökull.

Breathe in. Breathe out. If you were to send this email, you'd feel an angry satisfaction at first. But then, you'd feel worse. You know you would. Stop fighting me on this.

Yes. I would feel worse. I guess. So what do I do? Go back to the cold and deathly silence?

No. It's time to edit. Instead of "complete and utter bullshit", let's try "not true". And paras three, four, five are not necessary. You've say whatever you need to say in the first two. Incising the emo words... There, much better.

Yeah, bland is the new interesting. OK, whatever.

Click send.

Don't say words you're gonna regret
Don't let the fire rush to your head
I've heard the accusation before
And I ain't gonna take any more
Believe me
The sun in your Eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing