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.