Thursday, December 3, 2009

In memory

Your woolen shawl that smelt a strange comforting fragrance of vicks and ointment. The dentures that we loved to hide. The way you would mix up small pieces of deboned boiled fish in small pieces of rotlo and feed it to me when I was little. When you gifted me my first ever white jeans and I swore they were the coolest thing any teenager could own. Our banter back and forth when you would ask me to massage your legs. The knick knacks you’d always have hidden away in your closet that you’d dig out for us to have. A perfume from one part of the world, a lotion bottle from another. Little bits of jewelry that you’d ask me if I liked. My favorite pickles that you sent for me all the way from India and asked me if I wanted anything else. That night when we went for a walk, inching along the footpath, you holding on to my hand and stopped for bhel puri at the food stall. When you scolded me for being a spoilt brat. The loving way in which you would place your hand on my head and ask me if I was happy. How you held on to each one of us and hugged us for the longest time when we left. And ran out the door onto the porch to receive us when we came back. Tears of sorrow turning to tears of joy. Your sense of humor. Your laugh that I’ll never see again. The letters I never wrote. The phone calls I never made. The years that passed us by. And then the phone conversation I had with you when you found out about my love for a man you’d never ever met and all you asked was “is he a good man?”. Your unconditional acceptance. The face in the mirror that I inherited from you. The care you always showed even when there was just silence from my end. The words I never said. The many excuses that I made. I never once said how much I care for you, and it’s the deepest regret I’ll ever have.

Unending conversations, countless images, the many words both spoken and unspoken over the years, endless memories that ebb and flow through the seas of nostalgia in my head, now make me cry.

I know I don’t say much when I should, but just for one last moment I wish I could say and you could hear that I miss you so much, grandma. And that I do really care.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Do you believe in fate?

That sneaky old lady who creeps upon you when you least expect it? Startling you and then laughing uproariously at her own dirty joke. That mean, cranky old hag who carries all your good fortune in that dirty sack over her shoulder and laughs menacingly at you as you stare at the empty packets of nothingness she hands over to you when you beg? You know, that stern crabby woman who raps on your knuckles with her long walking stick, pulling out a scraggly list of all your misdeeds, remembering your many flaws long after you’ve forgotten them. That grouchy old rat who is impossible to please.

Do you believe in fate?

She just curled up her wrinkled lips and smiled at me today.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009


So fluid. So mercurial.

Dissolved before ever created.

Created before it could dissolve.

Existent even amidst nonexistence.

Nonexistent even amidst its existence.

A concrete identity even when unnamed.

A slippery nothingness even when named.

The complicated web of trust.

Fine threads. Delicate strings.

A beautiful silk tapestry. But pull one string and it comes undone.

Cynical and me?

I just let you reach in and grab my heart.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mornings in Africa

At first all I see are the eyes. Eyes without bodies. Big green dots lighting up the pitch darkness of the night like fireflies. As my sleepy eyes grow accustomed to the blue black darkness outside of my tent, silhouettes start to come alive.

The jagged edges of umbrella acacias fill up my horizon. A mournful wuuuu huuu huuu breaks through the quietness of the night and I see the curved outline of a bush baby crawling slowly into sight, its big sorrowful green eyes all the while watching me. The heavy built frames of buffaloes dotting the savannah, softly grunting. A flicker of a tail swooshing and somewhere out in the velvety darkness a hyena laughs at his own secret joke before running off. I hear muffled rustling in the tussock grass around the tent and turn my head toward it just in time to see a startled bush duiker dart out of one bush and into another. Up in the trees a twig breaks free, and an accusatory chattering ensues between the black and white colobus monkeys. I hear scampering and swinging in the trees, as Africa awakens out of its slumber.

The weaver birds always awaken first. Noisy and loud, bickering back and forth, chasing each other, flashing streaks of yellow into the blue hours of dawn, dangling from one nest, flying into another. The hadada ibises squawk loudly at them scolding and shaking their heads in disapproval, their loud cries resonating into the early morning. The go away birds pitch in their dissatisfaction at the scene, hopping from one branch to another calling out at everyone to just “goooo goooo awaaaay”. The noisy choir of morning birds in the air grows louder and louder and then all of a sudden there is silence.

There it is – that breathless sunrise. Just as suddenly as the first warm glow rises up from the dark abyss of the horizon, the noise of the world around me hushes into a perfect silence. It’s as if nature and I agree that this is a sacred sight that can only be gazed upon in the midst of absolute serenity. Peace and quiet fill my world for that one moment as the sky fills up with crimson and orange rising higher and higher up into the sky until a perfect fiery ball of red sets the sky aflame. It is only six in the morning but already Africa is on fire.

This isn’t the memory of a single morning, but rather the nostalgia of countless memories of waking up to countless breathless sunrises in my beloved Kenya.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The waiting

We play a waiting game – life and I. I wait for it to turn into what I expect out of it. And it waits for me to turn into the person it wills for me to be. Some days life wins. Some days I win. And in all the days that lie in between, there’s just the endless waiting.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Faces from different places

There he is. The boy who once knew me for the little girl that I was. The one I hung around with over my holidays, playing marbles in the dirt, riding our bikes around the neighborhood. The one who taught me to swim by shoving me into the swimming pool. I thrashed and slapped the water. But today I can swim.

And that’s her. The girl who became my very best friend. The one who befriended the shy seven year old me when I first started school in Kenya. The one who helped me make friends. The one who loved goldilocks and the three bears just as much as I did. And believed me when I said fairies were real even when everyone else didn’t.

That photo right over there? The one taken the third year of high school.
The mary jane shoes. Polished and shiny black with white socks up to the knee. White shirt and a gray skirt with a navy blue blazer thrown on top. Complete with a matching blue tie slung loose around the neck. And we all collectively hated it. A bunch of awkward teenagers, searching for self-identity.

And that’s her. The one I keep telling you about. My teacher from high school. Who always dressed funny. The one with the big glasses, who once apologized to the trashcan. And yet the one who believed in my ability to achieve more than I dreamed for myself.

Him. Him. And her. My college buddies. The people I travelled around Kenya with. The ones I get together with even now, laughing uproariously into the wee hours of the night, remembering shared memories of camping adventures gone bad.

Faces collected in different places over time, brought together in one tight space. The collage that makes me me.

I just joined Facebook.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


A congested mess. Words stuck together. Like an icky gooey mess. The blink-blink of the cursor, waiting and waiting for that single elusive word. A single lost muse. A single slippery thought to color its blank white pages with the splitch splotch of black ink that spits out onto paper when a hundred untouched feelings, a hundred unspoken words come undone. A dotted collage of black against white. An elaborate sketch of intricate feelings. Parts of a painting still incomplete. A single elusive word is all it takes. And then they spill out faster. Words chasing one another, tumbling after one another, bumping and colliding to fill the empty spaces between the lines. Words evocative and provocative. Vivid and descriptive. Begging to be used. Bringing to life a writer’s foggy dream. Spilling out the secret hidden thoughts buried within the innermost depths of the writer’s soul as a tight knot comes undone.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Whispered prayers

I light a candle and whisper a prayer.

In the quiet depths of my heart, I recognize your sadness, your unbearable suffocation. My heart breaks for you, setting loose a thousand emotions. And I watch as the countless feelings contained within my whispered words float on a prayer, and are carried gently by the thin threads of the blue gray smoke of the candle wafting its way toward you. They glide gently in the air, crossing the distance between us, reaching you when I cannot.

In the empty loneliness you feel they find you. They uncoil and unravel around you. Whispered words of a whispered prayer, they comfort you. My love wraps itself around you. They promise to protect you.

I light a candle and whisper a prayer, knowing deep within my heart that even despite the large distance between us, when my prayer finally reaches you, you will be okay.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The child within

Remember the five year old that once was?

The one with the lopsided pigtails and the big curious eyes? The eyes that grew bigger and rounder as she stared into the fish tank ogling at the colorful fish that swam inside. Her face brightening up into a big, dimpled smile as she called out gleefully to everyone to come see the "fishies" inside. The trip to the aquarium. Her first trip to the aquarium. The one that would create the magic of a childhood memory freshly formed lighting up her face for days thereafter as she talked about the visit to her friends, embellishing her stories with exaggerated details over how big the aquarium was and how colorful the fish were.

Remember the five year old who had a simple innocence to her being?

The one with the naivety that only childhood can bring? She frolicked around the neighborhood in her tshirt and boyshorts, scruffy knees speckled with dirt from playing marbles. Chatting up to friends and strangers. She had unquestionable faith in people. An inability to read hidden intentions and the implicit belief that people were inherently good. She trusted openheartedly. Accepting them for who they were. As they were. Without ever trying to change them. Because there was never a need to.

Remember the five year old that believed in happy endings?

The one whose face radiated with endless sunshiney optimism as she listened to stories on her grandpa’s lap? She had absolute belief that things would turn out okay. No matter what. That no matter what else happened to the characters in the story, things would always be okay in the end. The knowledge that stories always had a happy ending. The absolute belief that life would turn out okay.

Remember that fearless five year old?

The curious little girl who let go of her mother’s hand on the busy city streets and found herself lost and all alone? She had no doubt whatsoever that the world was a safe place and that she would be found. She had an unrestrained, uninhibited curiosity over life. Fearless to dream big dreams. And eternal faith to accomplish it all.

Remember the five year old that once was?

Somewhere in life’s complicated maze we’ve lost sight of each other, she and I.

I miss that inner child within.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Longing

It tugs. It pulls. It frustrates. It yearns. It mourns. It weeps. It lashes out in anger. At the world. At me. It hopes. It dreams. It hurts. It bruises. It yells and screams.

The longing of a caged heart just to fly free.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Restless rain

Dark gray clouds threaten the angry sky above me. The raindrops continue to pound noisily against the rooftop just as they have all morning long. A silver bolt of lightening darts through the sky, its silvery whiteness brightening up a dark gloomy day, if only just for a moment. A loud roar of thunder escapes through the clouds, its resonating boom waking up the quietness of a lazy afternoon. I gaze out of the window and watch the water puddles swallow up the ground beneath them, growing bigger in size, one quick raindrop at a time.

When I lived in Kenya, rainy days made me feel happy inside, in an ethereal, dreamy sort of way. There is something extremely satisfying about watching the first of the long rains of the season end a stubborn drought. The dry thirst of an entire savannah quenches up before your eyes, as the yellow brown ruggedness magically transforms itself into a luscious green. Back then, I found rains inspiring. They quenched the thirst of my own parched soul. This Midwestern winter storm that rages around me just doesn’t soothe my soul quite the same way. Instead it makes me unbearably sad. And restless. And extremely homesick. Except that, for the longest time, I’ve been wandering around lost, and just can’t seem to find where home is.


Splat! I stomp through mud puddles, a spunky five year old, dressed in my favorite bright yellow rain coat, holding on tightly to my mother’s finger as I skip along the road. We run from one side of the pavement to the other, hiding under the rooftops of various stores along the way, seeking shelter from the monsoon rains. The streets are already starting to flood and I’m just happy that school has been cancelled for the day. As we pause for a break through the rain under a rooftop, I spot a man roasting singodas (chestnuts) on a charcoal stove along the side of the road, a big red umbrella covering both him and the singodas and the stove all at once. The earthy smell of the fresh roasted singodas wafts its way through the raindrops towards me. It’s my favorite street food of all. “Pleeease mum, can we buy some? Pleease? Pleeease?” I beg and plead. “Okay, okay…we’ll get some.” She gives in. “But you can’t eat any until you get home. You’ll get the black soot all over you.”

In that moment, beneath the flimsy shelter of a roadside store rooftop, basking in the warm heat emanating from a charcoal stove, watching the monsoon rains flood the crowded street ahead of me, reveling in the thoughts of eating hot singodas once I got home, I felt completely at home. It was the only home I had ever known.

Mumbai, India. Where countless memories of a carefree childhood lie buried. Where the earliest of my memories were formed. Is this home?


We’ve been driving in circles for the past hour. The rain continues to drum a steady beat atop the Range Rover as the windshield wipers sway wildly back and forth frantically trying to clear away every drop. Long branches from the trees around us reach out and grab at the windows of the car, scratching it as we drive along the narrow dirt trails carved into the forest. In the midst of the thunderstorm, the forest ahead of us looks dark and eerie and we are by all counts lost. Lost in Mau Forest. I regret ever coming out here today. I regret my year long internship with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). We had gone into the forest to search for the mouth of a river, had found and marked the origin of the river but lost ourselves on our way out of the forest. We didn’t have any food with us, no water and we were slowly running out of gas. And the steady rain made it impossible to see through the forest ahead of us. What was I thinking when I had decided to go along? A herd of gazelles suddenly bursts out of the thick forest around us, interrupting my thoughts, darting out from the trees on one side of the narrow road, disappearing into the nothingness on the other side of the road. I never should have come.

And then all of a sudden, the forest gets thinner, and the narrow trail opens up and we look through the rain to see a small village dotted with mud huts along the edge of the forest. We search around for someone to ask directions from and then we see her. She sits by the doorway of her mud hut, watching the rain pour down, patting to sleep a baby wrapped up in a bright purple khanga around her chest. She looks at us with curiosity as we approach her, her face lighting up into a bright smile as she realizes that we’re just lost. She invites us into her cow dung plastered mud home as she calls out to her husband to help us. “Mzungu! Mzungu!” a bunch of small children surround us, touching our face, feeling our hair, exclaiming in joyful astonishment over how different it is from their own African features. As I stood in the doorway of her mud hut, sheltered from the rain, I felt safe once again. I felt at home.

Kenya. Where I first discovered what I wanted out of life. Where I first learnt to pursue my dreams. Where I truly grew up. Is this my home?


And then there is this angry Midwestern winter rainstorm that I watch outside my window today, that bears an eerie resemblance to all the storms in my life that I’ve weathered over the past few years to create a career and a life for myself here.

America. The country that I came to in the hopes of turning dreams into a reality. The country that showed me a secret courage I didn’t know I possessed. After having lived here for eight years of my life, shouldn’t this be my home? And if it is truly home, then why does this storm outside sadden me, and make me miss home today?


Living segments of my life simultaneously on three very different, diverse continents allows me to soar free amidst them, opening up my life to cultures and customs so different from and yet so alike to one another. And for that unique perspective of a free flowing life, I’ll always be grateful. But it also gives me the saddest feeling of fitting in everywhere and yet truly belonging nowhere. Each of these places that I’ve lived in, that I’ve grown up in, that I’ve had life changing experiences in, holds on to bits and pieces of my soul, but there is none that my soul stakes its claim on. I recognize the turbulence of the storm outside. I recognize the restlessness it brings. It’s time for me and my gypsy soul to move along, in search of a new home. I’ll wander. I’ll roam. I’ll search some more. And perhaps I’ll realize that while there is no one place that I can call home, all these places that make me me together define home.

~vagabond~ © 2009

PS. This post was eerily written around the same time that Bindu asked "where is home?". She has an extremely interesting post (read it here) answering the same question. Bindu, you have my answer now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In the footsteps of strong women

She throws the fish head into the pot of boiling water and searches around the empty kitchen for something else to put into the soup. She tosses in idle pieces of carrots, a tomato and an onion, the last of any food in the house, even as she contemplates over what to serve for dinner the next night. It has already been a month since the mailman brought her any money – the money her husband tried to send her every few months, his small income from toiling away as a manual laborer in another distant village. There is no telling when some more money will arrive again. Until then, she will just have to find ways to stretch the meals, to raise and feed six children all on her own.

Perhaps she’ll get lucky, she reasons as she stirs the watery broth. Perhaps she’ll get some more fish heads for free from the market at the end of the day – left over pieces that nobody else wants to take home. Saving her worries over tomorrow for another day, she pours the watery liquid into six small bowls. “Not fish soup again, Ma”, complains a little voice. “Drink it up, fish head soup makes you smart”, she encourages.

Each day brings with it a new struggle. There are always school fees to be paid, doctor visits to be made, shoes to be repaired, old clothes that need stitching, six mouths that need feeding. And yet she faces every day with a resilient spirit, refusing to be knocked down by whatever struggles life brings her way.

There is a knock on the door. It’s the post man with some money. But even as she stretches her hand to receive the money, it quickly passes from her hands into the hands of all those who stretched their hands before hers, demanding payment for every favor lent in the past.

I admire her spirit of resilience, her silent tenacity. I admire this woman who is my grandmother.

She takes her first step into her husband’s home. She stands in her bridal clothes by the doorway inspecting the tiny two room house – the small kitchen and the living room that makes the entire house. There is a communal toilet outside, some distance away from the house, shared by everyone else who lives in the neighborhood. He shows her the tiny bathroom he built into the kitchen just for her, so she can take a shower with some privacy in the mornings. She peeks into its tiny space and wonders how she’ll wrap her sari around in its small space. Or how she’ll comb and braid her long hair without a mirror in the house. Lost in anxious thoughts, she looks up into the face of the man she had chosen to marry. Had she made the right decision? She had turned down suitor upon suitor because she contended, she didn’t want a rich husband who would take care of her every need, she had wanted an educated husband who would respect her and treat her as an equal. He looks at her, trying to gauge her reaction to the house, wondering what she will say. “It’s just a starter home. I’ll work hard, we’ll save money to move somewhere else later.” She looks up at him and smiles, knowing she made the right decision.

Months turn into years, and she tenderly turns the two room house into a home. Then one day, he comes home, bursting with good news. He has just been offered a job abroad, should he take it? The very thought of leaving all her friends and family depresses her. Her first instinct is to put her foot down and say no. No, they can’t leave this home that they’ve created for themselves. No, they can’t leave the family or the life that they’ve created for themselves here. But then she looks up into his face. And she sees the enthusiasm, the dreams, the ambitions, the hope, the possibilities contained within. And she nods. Yes. You should take the job. We’ll be okay.

She gazes out at the view from the airplane as it takes off, rising high up into the clouds, leaving her country, her home, and the life that she knows behind her. In that moment, she chooses instead to put her own dreams, ambitions and hope into the hands of this man she has decided to trust. To trust him completely as she starts life afresh in a whole new continent far away from home.

I admire her implicit faith in life, her very strong courage. I admire this woman who is my mother.

I turn around to take one last look at my family as I walk on to the airport gate to check in my luggage. I see the tear that rolls down my mother’s cheek, and I want so desperately to run back to her and wipe it away. She smiles at me through her tears and waves a goodbye. I lift my hand and wave back in response, a tight lump forming in my throat. The enormity of what I am about to do dawns upon me and suddenly I feel scared and afraid. Why am I leaving the security and the comfort of the only world I know to start a new life in a country whose culture and ways are alien to me? I don’t know anyone in America. I have no friends or relatives there. I will be completely on my own. What if things don’t work out the way I’d imagined them to be? What if the elusive dreams that lead me there disappeared from sight along the way? I contemplate turning around but then stop and take a step forward heading to the gate.

I’ve wondered about that moment so many times over the years. What stopped me from turning around at that moment? What prompted me to take that first step ahead, to have the courage to move to America? What made me believe I would be okay despite it all? I still don’t know the answer but somewhere deep down inside, I think it is the power of the legacy I possess. I walk in the footsteps of strong women.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A few moments with myself

Lately, I cant hear the voice of my soul speak to me. I miss our conversations. The searching, the dreaming, the creating something out of the nothing. Finding myself within myself. Discovering thoughts misplaced. Ideas forgotten. Dreams abandoned. Planning new journeys to undertake. Instead, a noisy chaos surrounded me. A blur of rushed activity. Overbearingly important and seemingly necessary yet meaningless and unuseful. As the noise from the chaos around me grew louder and more demanding, the hushed voice of my soul spoke softer and softer, growing tired and weary, fading away from a whisper one day into the stillness of a tormented silence. I missed the voice of my deepest expressions, the nurturing voice of my dreams, the voice of my innermost conscience, the voice that calls me to live life again and again. Lately, I've been straining to hear it speak to me again. I've begged and implored it to talk to me again. To speak louder that I might hear it above all chaos. When all I really needed to do was just to step away from the noise, to walk away from the chaos, and to just listen.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009


So many thoughts in my head.
Noisy and cluttered. Disarrayed. Confused. Jumbled. Knotted up. Tight and twisted.
A thousand different emotions all tangled up.
Demanding. Wanting. Longing. Hurting. Nostalgic. Sentimental.
A messy cobweb.
Incoherent and loud.
And yet not five minutes of calm serenity to de-tangle it all.
To pause. To breathe.
To just express it all.

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

8 weird things that you didnt know about me

I normally hate doing tags but this time I've been double tagged by both Alok and Cuckoo to do the same tag and I can see them giving me the evil eye every time I stalk their blogs, walking right past the tag and ignoring it to the best of my ability. So for once, I'm just going to raise my hands up in the air, surrender and just do the damn tag. So here goes...eight weird things that people don’t know about me.

  • A snake or a rat? Which one would you pick up if you saw it on the ground? Which one would send you out of the room, screaming and shouting for dear life? Which one would give you the creepy crawlies? Which one could you absolutely not stand? This is where things get weird. Because you see, while I have perfectly no problem holding a snake or even two in my hands, I go absolutely nuts when I see or even hear about the faint possibility of a rat being present within a thirty mile radius around me. During my undergrad years, I co-founded a herpetology conservation and education program in my university and snakes do not faze me out one bit. Rats on the other hand are a whole different creature. They creep me out endlessly. I cannot stand the sight of one. Not even in a photo. They give me the heebie-jeebies. It would bring me endless joy if every single last one of them got exterminated and were wiped out from the surface of earth.

  • My taste buds. They're quite possibly the weirdest thing about me. My favorite vegetable of all is karela. I once got one of my American friends to try it by enticing her with "It's delicious". A disgusted face, two glasses of water and three candies later, she still hasn’t forgiven me for it. And the last time I checked, I am still the reigning queen of unusual, disgusting and weird food combos. Ever tried peanut butter-banana-and honey sandwich? Or a bhel puri sandwich? Go on try it, it's delicious. You can thank me later.

  • I absolutely hate makeup. Detest it is more like it. I hardly ever use it, and on the rare instances when I do use it, I walk around all day painfully uncomfortable like my body just got taken over by an alien whom I barely recognize in the mirror. In fact, I did not even know how to use makeup until I was midway through my twenties. I learnt how to apply foundation by video-googling it because I was too embarrassed to tell my friends that I didn’t know anything about it. Girly conversations on makeup still annoy the daylights out of me even today. Deep down inside I attribute it all to having more guy friends than girl friends when I was growing up. Which had an upside and a downside. There, that's a whole lot of weird contained in that paragraph right there.

  • I can be totally OCD about some things. Obsessive-compulsive to the very last bone in my body. Like setting the alarm at night to wake up early in the morning. I just don’t trust myself to wake up without an alarm. So I set it. And then check it before I go to bed. And then settle into bed and check the alarm again to make sure I set it for the right time. And then place it on the side table. And read a book. And turn a page. And check the alarm again to make sure it's on. Put some lotion on my hands. And check the alarm again. And then adjust my pillows. And check it again one last time before I turn off the lights and go to bed. And of course, I recheck it if I get up in the middle of the night to pee.

  • My right leg is jinxed. Over my lifetime, I have twisted my right ankle three times. Fractured my right leg in two places all at once. Bruised the same leg black and blue endless times when I was learning to play hockey in school. And even have a scar to show from the time I fell off my bike and jammed a spoke from the bike into the cut in my ankle. Klutzy things happen when I am around.

  • I once ate mosquito repellant thinking it was toothpaste. I blame it entirely on the packaging of the tubes. Both tubes had the same white background with red writing on it. Except that I didn’t read the writing and proceeded on to eat the repellant. After which it took endless amount of eating actual toothpaste to get rid of the taste of repellant. After which I was disgusted by the taste of both toothpaste and repellant and stopped eating both.

  • I have horrible observational skills. In the words of Joe, I would be the worst person to be present as the only person present at a crime scene when it happened. Because I wouldn’t remember the color of the murderer's hair or eyes or clothes or anything particular about him or her or whether it was even a him or a her. I once told a work colleague how her new hairstyle really made the color of her eyes stand out only to get a dirty look and be told, "I haven’t changed my hairstyle. I switched over from wearing glasses to wearing contact lens" I stunk at my hematology course because I would look at a cell under the microscope, look up and get asked how many nuclei I saw within it, and say "Erm. Hang on, I need to look again."

  • I cannot for the life of me parallel park. I just cant do it. No matter how many times you teach me to do it. Which brings to light the other bit of weirdness I possess. I have the patience of a flea when it comes to learning something I don’t care for. I do not like to learn to crawl and then walk and then run. I just want to get to the running part and get the heck over with learning how to do it. Already. And thus, I cannot parallel park. Because I don’t have the patience to figure out how. How I passed my driving exam to get a license without knowing how to parallel park is a complete mystery to me. On the day of my exam, I was able to miraculously parallel park for the first time in my life and the phenomenon has never repeated itself since.

Erm. Is anyone still reading this crap? I think I may have put a little too much weirdness out there and lost my audience. See, now this is exactly why I don’t do tags. But if I'm going down, I'm taking all of you down with me. So to spread around the embarrassment of being a weirdo, I tag 'A', Trisha, Bindu, Lakshmi, and Dust and Vamsee. Muhahahaha!

~vagabond~ © 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Charlie and me

I had read the book Marley and Me long before it ever got made into a movie. And it immediately became my favorite book despite the fact that the ending made me choke up and cry. Sob is more like it. Which is why I was so hesitant to go watch the movie version of the book. I wanted to see it and yet I didn’t want to see it. I was afraid if the movie was anything like the book I would burst into tears in the movie theater itself. I finally watched the movie this weekend and yes, the movie did make me cry but it also inspired me enough to pen down bits and pieces of my journey with my own dog.


Charlie at eight weeks old

Charlie today (three years old)

I didn’t really need another dog. I already had a dog. And yet I couldn’t just drive by the house advertising German shepherd puppies without taking one small look. Just one look, I promised. I had absolutely no intention of getting another dog. I was only going to look. How much can a look hurt, really?

I had barely stepped out of my car when I saw a small patch of brown fur wiggling free out of the small fenced in backyard. Seven other puppies yapped around him, cheering him on as he burst through the small opening, dove right past me into the blueberry bushes along the side of the garden. “Oscar!” I heard a voice shout out, “Come back here, right now! Oscaaar! You’ll get yourself run over, you silly puppy!” Excited over his new found freedom, he joyfully sniffed through the bushes, running around in large dizzy circles all around the garden, before finally coming to a stop right at my feet. Panting heavily, he looked up at me with his big brown puppy eyes, a blueberry colored tongue sticking out on one side of his mouth, inspecting me with a cheeky grin on his face.

Before I knew it, I had laid out a blanket on the car seat next to me and he was coming home. “Oscar, huh?” I said to him as I picked out burs and dry leaves from his blueberry infested coat. “What a solemn, grown up name for a dog as goofy as you. You don’t look like an Oscar to me. You need a more goofy name. Like…maybe…hmm…Charlie?” “Charlie?” He perked up his ears and cocked his head to one side and looked up at me. And Charlie it was.

A little girl came up to me one day, not too long after I had brought him home and asked me where Ears was. “Excuse me?” I said. “Ears. You know, your puppy with the big ears. That’s what all the other kids call him.” For the longest time thereafter, everyone in the neighborhood called him “Ears”. Strutting down the street with his happy go lucky personality, and his big, oversized ears, he soon became everyone’s favorite puppy.

I remember the first time he saw snowfall and puzzled over the soft white flakes that fell on his face. He looked up to the sky with the most perplexed look on his face. “It’s snowing, Charlie!” I shouted out happily to him, rolling up a snowball and throwing it at him. “Woof!” he barked as he caught the snowball midair and bit into it, baffled over where the ball had disappeared. A few more barks later, he was in love. He jumped in and out of the white blanket that covered the ground, burrowing his nose into the snow, biting at it, coming up with a brain freeze, and trying to figure out where it all came from and where it all disappeared to. Winter is still his favorite season of the year.

And then there was the day I came home to an exceptionally quiet Charlie. Gone was the rambunctious little dog who would greet my arrival with sloppy kisses and instead he just lay there, tired and exhausted, barely able to lift up his head. “Want to go to the park, Charlie?” – his favorite sentence of all time and nothing. I brought out his red ball and tossed it in the air. And still nothing. No reaction from him whatsoever. He just lay there on the carpet, not even wanting to eat or drink. I frantically called up one vet office after another, only to find them all closed for the day. I would just have to observe him through the night and get him to an animal hospital first thing in the morning. As I sat down on the floor next to him, he placed his head into my lap and let out a big sigh. I stroked his head and sang softly to him and hoped and prayed that he would be okay. The next day, the vet declared he had panosteitis – a self limiting, fairly common, not-so-serious disease, equivalent to growing pains in dogs. A few days later, Charlie had recovered completely but to this day when Charlie is afraid or ill, he nudges into my armpit, places his head on my lap and doesn’t settle down until I sing to him.

He is my sunshine on cloudy, gloomy days. No matter how miserable a day I may have had, he makes me laugh in his own silly, goofy way. Whether it’s the day he was chasing a ball and ran into some ice and went skating on all four paws or the splashing around in the lake that he calls swimming, it’s hard not to laugh when you’re around clumsy Charlie.

And then there are those days when I just need to talk to someone and he listens. There was the day right before I quit my PhD when I wondered where I was going in my life and called home and cried over the phone in sheer frustration. After I placed down the phone, I was consumed with the enormity of what I was about to do, and a flood of mixed emotions swept over me, and as I sat down on the couch, tears suddenly flowed down my cheeks. And there was Charlie, sitting by my side, licking away the tears as they poured down my face. Or the day when I had a terrible fight with Joe and just lay in bed too angry and upset to talk to anyone. There he lay, right by my side, nuzzled next to me as I hugged him and cried.

When I first got a dog, everyone warned me about how destructive dogs can be. They told me about how they’ll chew up slippers and shoes and furniture alike. And how noisy and yappy they will be. About how they’ll break things. And how they’ll pee and poop all over the place. But Charlie did none of that. He turned out to be an incredibly obedient dog and amazingly easy to train. What no one ever warned me about however was how he would trample all over my soul and leave his indelible paw prints scattered across my heart.

Life wouldn’t be life without Charlie in it. He shows me how to laugh out loud. And he shows me just how unbelievably irrelevant a lot of my fears and anxieties are in the bigger, broader doggy context of life. How my job is just a job and does not take precedence over playing in the park. How it is so much better to sleep and dream of chasing squirrels than it is to lie awake in bed worrying over tomorrow. How it is so important to just be comfortable in your own skin and accept yourself as you are – big, silly, clumsy goofball and all. How nothing in life is quite as important as a walk around the neighborhood every evening. And how sloppy kisses from a dog who loves you just for you can make everything seem better.

From the first day since he stepped into my life till now, it has been quite the journey for Charlie and me. Over the years, I’ve changed careers, moved apartments, moved cities, almost had to return home, gotten a new job, gone through the happiest moments of my life to depressing, abysmal moments when nothing seemed to go right, and through it all the one thing that has remained constant is his presence by my side. No matter how circumstances may have changed the chaotic background of my life, through it all there has always been Charlie and me.

There are dogs. And there are dogs that leave a paw print on your heart forever. And then there is Charlie.

~vagabond~ © 2009

To see more photos of Charlie, click here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The jitters

I have the jitters. The new job jitters.

I'm starting a new job tomorrow. My first real job here in the United States. My first job here that isn't work disguised as "gaining experience" in the form of internships or clinical rotations or research assistantships. My first real job that brings with it the coveted work visa and a salary finally higher than the measly wages paid to overworked, underpaid grad students.

It's the start of a new journey. And I'm nervous and anxious and panicky and sweaty. And yet in so many ways I'm excited too. Excited to begin it all. I am finally ready to put all the worries and anxieties and uncertainities over the what-could-have-beens, and what-should-have-beens of the past year behind me and just finally take a step forward and embrace the new year of possibilities that lies ahead of me.

I have no idea what to expect out of this. No idea what lies ahead in store for me. No idea where this journey will take me. And the not knowing scares me a little. I wonder if I'll like them. Whether they'll like me. I wonder if this will turn out to be the smartest decision I've made. Or whether I'll look back at it and kick myself in the butt. I wonder if this will bring me fulfillment. Or whether I'll be miserable at it day after day.

And yet regardless of where it takes me, I'm finally ready to embark on the journey. And I embrace it all with endless, eternal hope. Hope that I can be good at what I do. Hope that I enjoy it enough to want to come back to work on it everyday. Hope that it provides me with a sense of satisfaction. Hope that I can form new lasting friendships. Hope that it opens up new career directions for me. And hope that the journey, despite all the nervous jitters, is pleasant after all.

~vagabond~ © 2009
Yes. I am perfectly aware that I am rambling. Nervousness makes me incoherent. But I do want to document these thoughts and this moment for myself. So forgive me if this post doesn't sound very coherent to you.

Thanks for all your good wishes. I do appreciate them all. I just thought I'd clarify...this isnt technically my first job. I have worked ever since I was eighteen years old and have held many different jobs over the years. My first job was in an different career can read about about my very first job here. After a horrible experience that left me hating my previous career, I switched career paths and this is my first new job in my new career. It is my first true job in the sense of the work visa, but I have worked informally for NGOs here in the US before. I know these jitters are normal, but I always feel them the first day of a new job nonetheless. It takes me a couple of days into my new job to get them out of my system. LOL.