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Sexy at Sixty ðŸ‘´

As I turned three score, or 5 dozen – or , for the mathematically vulnerable, simply 60 years, I thought this was a good time to take stock of a life, which, to use a cliché, had just whizzed by. Hackneyed adages like ‘age is only a number’, ‘you are as old as you think’ etc rose to the surface, as they often do on such occasions… particularly when you want to be in denial of your advancing years. Mooted the idea of writing about reaching this landmark to the wife, who is also my ‘resident’ editor. She barely suppressed a yawn, and rendered ‘two bits’ of advice:  1) my 60 years hardly the stuff which makes the adrenaline rush, and, 2) another long blog from me may lead to my permanent ostracization from the blogging community.

Never short on criticism, the better half also reminded me that I was now a senior citizen. For good measure, she added that I wear this epithet like a loose robe…if I did not hold on to it tight, it might fall off anytime and expose me – and that would not be a pretty sight. I mumbled something like, I never cared much for this term…would rather remain a junior citizen, something to which my mind, heart…and I dare add, the body…were much better suited. This was uttered under my breath, so I got away.

Well, my disappointment and attendant quandary at the materfamilias‘ rebuff were only momentary. In fact her disaffection and lack of enthusiasm had the opposite effect…I immediately got down to writing of my six decade saga. Except, I thought I would heed the bit about keeping it short – or of readable length.

So where does this genealogical landmark find me? In a good place, I would imagine. I have more friends, am better read, play better golf, eat better, drink finer whiskey, sing more merrily, travel more (pre Corona), care less about trifles, love more, live more – if only because of the realisation that life’s aircraft is on the descent and may touch down soon. There’s more…I find the opposite sex more attractive (evidence at hand suggests that the reverse is not true). Wonder if I am a freak, or this is another rite of passage! I socialise more, particularly with the young and the women. Am not too sure though, if they give me their time due to kindness or genuine desire. Most importantly, I speak my mind without fear or favour… no more care much for being liked or appreciated. Except of course, try not to hurt people…

Maybe I am uncoiling after years of remaining ‘coiled’ in a service which, amongst other things, required you to be ‘propah’ most times. Maybe it’s all the pent up emotional energy, the bottled up me coming out. Maybe bucking the trend is a new found passion, after toeing the line for long. Maybe whatever…. but, as I said, it’s a good place to be in.

So what about the aches & pains which begin at 60? The creaking joints, the wheezing breath, the belaboured walk, tennis elbow, the kidney stones and the enlarged prostate? Well, no evidence yet. So, my detractors, mostly the  gang of my roguish pals, ask me if I intend to go to the Valhalla in mint condition…Far from it, I say. There is damage too. The ego is hurt, the respect dented, trust broken, vanity gone, pride eroded, relationships creaking. As for the organs, the liver is probably bruised a bit, but not about to give up any time soon. The heart is rosy, the brain more active than before, the eyes rove more, the nose smells trouble quick…so no lament. Of course the full body-check that the wife insists on when I blabber thus, may tell another story. But we will deal with that another day. For now, the cup of youth brimmeth over….

Chancing upon my unfinished ruminations, my wife, the dreaded ‘resident’ editor, had a peek into what I had been punching in. She said (and I am putting it in kind words) that as always I had churned out rubbish which belonged in the trash can.  And, she asked with more than usual disdain, about  this bunkum in re finding the opposite sex more alluring. Was I seeing someone? My lack of virtue at an age where I should be heading for the Himalayas was roundly and soundly condemned, as was the fact that I had become amoral (or is it immoral) at this age. My meek defence that I was only being candid elicited a rebuke that I was inviting infamy not only on myself, but the family. So much for candour and honesty.

So, spoilt through childhood, an imbecile in youth, mediocre in middle age, it took approaching old age for me to to really find me. Hereon, life’s a breeze. If my six wasted decades on earth have taught me anything, it is to not care too much about what others think. I do not want to make this trite by leaving ‘lessons from life’ and such preachy stuff. But cannot help pass on a couple of tips for those knocking at the doors of the geriatric gateway:  do not indulge in nostalgia… instead, indulge yourself…do all those things you always wanted to but never could. There is time yet. A small list of ‘activities’ could help:

  • Go places…but not on guilt trips.
  • Beat the blues… but not around the bushes.
  • Walk the talk…but not the tightrope
  • Throw the gauntlet…. but not old age tantrums.
  • Try your hand at new things… but not others’ patience.

As someone said “Time may be a great teacher, but it’s a lousy beautician.” . So the wrinkles will take over, the shoulders droop, the eyesight weaken, the back will bend as touch down nears…but do not despair. You can actually be yourself now…or, if you want, a better version of yourself, even if others find you otherwise, as in my case. But as we say in the Forces…bash on, regardless.

In sum, to again borrow from a scholar, have decided to add life to years, rather than just years to life. The seventies suddenly seem even more alluring. Can’t wait to get there. Watch this space for the gains and losses of seven decades. Cheers🥂

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2020. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction.
Cartoons, pictures and featured image from sources as indicated against each.

Crossed Word

Stephen Sondheim

Having crossed sixty and the wife edging steadily but surely towards that beatified landmark, we haven’t found answers to too many questions in life, philosophical or others. The truth in the above quote thus found immediate traction with us…helped further by the fact that we are self avowed word buffs.

In an age when people across time, cultural and social barriers are engaged in video, mobile and computer pursuits – games, more specifically – my wife and I continue to be the pencil (or often, pen) and paper people. We still start our day with the morning crossword of The Times of India. What follows as we get into a tangle over ‘5 Across’ or ’15 Down’ are crossed swords and crossed words more than crossword. Cuss words too, often.  A crescendo of accusations and ‘I told you sos’ invariably forms the backdrop of our crossword cracking crises.

We fancy ourselves as word enthusiasts and often indulge in similar word related pursuits…Scrabble, Jumble, the newly minted Wordle, Quordle and a few others. And more than any of these, we are past masters at hurling words at each other…a craft we have mastered over 35 years of marital bliss. If nothing else, it has honed our word skills…perhaps equipped us better to deal with crossword clues such as ‘dispute between husband and wife’, 11 letters – Answer: CONTRETEMPS. Or the clue ‘long married couple’: two words,8,8, the first starting with F and second with P. Some head scratching, quibbling and a bit of honest soul searching and correlation gets us the right answer: FIGHTING PARTNERS.

And so it goes, morning after morning, often stretching to late evening, till we have squelched our collective word skills juiceless, and have completed or nearly completed the checkered grid….or failed beyond redemption. Liberal use of the ink erasing whitener is resorted to when we get overconfident and start with a pen. On other occasions we are more conservative and use the pencil….the rubber eraser is kinder in telling the tale of our incompetence than the ghastly whitener fluid, which screams out loud at our word ineptitude and goof ups. Besides, it has this uncanny habit of smudging not only the small square where you enter a ‘P’ for an ‘N’, but also a few other boxes in its neighborhood. When I refer to such unbridled joys of retired life, the wife is quick to point out that it’s I who has retired and not she. 

Our Crossword solving gear

Things take a steeper turn south when we involve our daughter who lives in USA, on free WhatsApp video call to help us crack clues which are kind of All-American. She is an English Literature Hons grad from a most reputed Delhi college, extremely well read and possesses word skills and a vocabulary which we can never match. Before giving us the answers, she derides us on our low IQ, poor uptake and general lack of skills in word games. Even as our inflated ego is punctured, we latch on to every answer she grudgingly provides and fill in the vacant squares, if only to put a ‘tick’ against the wretched clue. The crossword has to be completed. Since the puzzle is often syndicated from LA Times or other American newspapers, it is not unfair to expect that the clues and the answers have an American flavour. Our several visits to USA, coupled with my childhood and teenage penchant for reading American pulp fiction have equipped me with Americanese somewhat…but not nearly enough to get all answers right. So the daughter plays an important role and we endure her barbs for the sake of achieving a higher, nobler end : the completion or near completion of the Daily Crossword.

Samples of our good efforts…
…and some not so good!

And then there is the prodigal son.  A young Content Writer, he makes a living out of words and is quite literally the last word on matters tech, music genres, latest American movies, stars and so on. He saunters in for breakfast at 9:30 am, our peak crossword hour, when the wife and I are already in argument over several answers which each thinks the other has got wrong. By now we have marked a few clues of the type mentioned above for our son to answer. He is in a huff, hungry and in a hurry, late for work. His first answer to any clue is “Chill”. Seeing that this word doesn’t ‘fit’, we realize that it was not an answer to the clue, but rather an admonishment. Several grunts and ‘idks’ (I Don’t Know) follow, as he wolfs down his poached egg. Its only when he is at the door, leaving for office, that his conscience probably makes a shrill squeak and he gives us a couple of answers. Despite his petulance, we are thrilled…each additional letter that we get gives us more clues…and eventually the answers…for other ‘down’ and ‘across’ clues. Oh, the things we put up with!

That’s how it goes day after log​or​rhe​ic day (learnt that word from a particularly difficult crossword). Oftentimes the joint family effort produces dismal results. But the chaos and mare’s nest seems worthwhile on days we crack the puzzle fully. Pics are duly clicked, put on social media platforms and sent to all and sundry, including many who have nothing to do with words…crossed or thoroughbred. We, at least the missus and I, have finally found something we both love…. and can mostly find answers to. We have  become cru​ci​ver​balists….no prizes for guessing that …..lovers of crossword. Can’t wait for the crossword puzzle which gives that as a clue. 

Till then, we will continue with our passion and pursuit on mission mode, even as this old avocation dies a stifled death. Cannot help but end this piece with our tributes to those fabulous crossword creators…you guys give us a torrid time, but also unbridled joy : your genius far exceeds that of the handful of us who can crack even half of the puzzles you put out day after day. May your tribe flourish.

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2023. All rights reserved.

This is a fictionalized work; however events & incidents related are partly true.
Graphics & cartoons from sources as indicated, and pictures from personal collection.

Cricket Momma

A highly educated and well read lady who will be 90 shortly and suffers, in varying degrees, from every possible ailment that a human body can take, my mother turned an avid cricket fan a couple of years back, well past her mid eighties. Her frail medical condition, accentuated by near complete hearing loss, has never dampened her zest, joi de vivre and spirit. She is ever willing to learn more and more…and with all the buzz around cricket, there was no way she was going to miss on this ‘bat and ball’ thing.

She lives with us. I am over 61 myself and have played a bit of cricket in my time. Never hit the big league.. but College, University level.. and represented loads of Services Cricket teams. So she sat me down one evening to know all about the Gentleman’s game… which, right at the outset, I clarified, it was anything but. I thus explained, as succinctly as I could to a person who could not possibly tell a golf club from a cricket bat, about the three formats of the game…Test Cricket, ODI and T-20. She proved a keen learner and started watching re-runs of old games… and of course would never miss a live game where lndia was playing. Given her religious and devout disposition, she would often smear the TV screen with tilak, vibhooti, chandan, etc, so that her many Gods would always be with her favourite King Kohli and his lads. It often resulted in poor viewing quality, but that was of little concern, you will learn, as this saga unfolds.

The next day she would ask me about the game. Very soon it dawned on me that except for a four, six and ‘out’, she did not grasp much else. She would ask me about power play, leg byes, third umpire and the rest. With all the patience that l could muster, l would try to explain these and other terms. Her failing auditory senses and a general disinclination for sport, however often precluded clear comprehension. Never, for example, could she fathom, why, when there were 11 players, only 10 wickets were required to fall for a team to be ‘all out’. Or why, if there was a ‘No ball’, there was no ‘Yes ball’, or if a ball could be wide, why there should not be one which is narrow…and so on.

As a professor of English in a prestigious university in her times, the terms, particularly the language (English) were more important to her than the rules of cricket. ‘Silly point’ riled her, because there was no ‘clever point’. ‘Fine leg’ got her goat, because she felt there should be a ‘rough leg’ too. ‘Slip’ to her was always a verb…so how could there be three ‘slips’….or is it, she asked, if three players slipped, or gave the batter a slip (she tried it as a noun too)! Other field positions such as third man, extra cover, square leg, long on, mid-wicket (this last, she always felt, not very wrongly either, should be in the middle of the pitch), etc kept her perpetually perplexed, as much for the odd names, as due to the fact that they changed every over. How could short mid-on become short mid-off when the over changed, while the spot (position), and often the player, was the same?

And then there was the ever bewildering quizzing about bowling. If a man bowled with his hands, how could it be ‘leg spin’? Or, were yorkers bowled by bowlers trained in Yorkshire or New York? Was a leg break meant to break the leg of the batsman? And pray, what was an off break? Was it bowled by a player joining after a long break-off? Well I was clearly bowled. She indeed gave a new twist to the term “howzzat?”.

With such endless queries, not to mention questions about maidens and actresses who married cricketers, I told her to just enjoy the big hits, the catches, clean bowleds etc. They were easy enough to relish, without getting into the intricacies of field positions, terminology and what not. Also, I said enjoy the feats of the men in Blue and root for them. “But where are they?”, she hollered from her room one morning, as the match came to life on her TV set. As I rushed in, I realised she was watching a test match, with all, save the umpires, in white. So I got down as patiently as I could, to explain the intricacies of this oldest and most classic form of the game. By then it was the match lunch time (11:30am…we had just finished breakfast), and the score read 42 for 2 in two hours of play and about 25 overs. Too many maidens, I said, to forestall further questions. Her ensuing remark kind of stumped me. “Oh, so the maidens seem more fond of the gentlemen in white, than all those players in silly, coloured costumes”. I had to raise my finger and declare that one ‘out’!

She continues, in the late evening of her life, to watch cricket and introduce her friends and relatives, all in her own age bracket, to the game. It is most instructive, not to say amusing, to hear these wonderful old ladies do their pre and post game analysis. And no prizes for guessing who takes the lead in ‘explaining’ the nuances of the game to the ever growing circle of this new breed of cricket loving octogenarians and nonagenarians. 

I dread the day when she asks me about Mr Duckworth and Lewis, whose formulae and calculations for rain interrupted games, have never been comprehended by the most astute cricket analysts and cricketers.

Up until that point, dear Momma, may you continue to bat on the front foot till the last ball is bowled! (I would add: ‘carry your bat’, but who is going to explain that to her?!). So my wife, children and I just wish her a long innings in front of the idiot box…even as we wish that ‘her’ team, blessed as they are with all her sacred smearings on the television screen, always comes out on top. 

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2022. All rights reserved.

This is a fictionalized work; however events & incidents related are partly true.
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.

All Those Gizmos


Following a spate of ill health, consequent surgery and convalescence, I, a retired man over 60, have been further reduced to a piece of furniture in the house. Of course furniture has more uses…but that lament we shall leave for another day. The wife fusses over me and lovingly admonishes me on this and that. I admit I like the attention… but she has never let go of her belief that retired, recovering or healthy, I must make myself useful around the house – earn my keep, in a manner of speaking.


I am not confined to bed…my nuisance potential in the house therefore remains the same. (For more details, interested readers may go through some of my earlier blogs). The wife was quick to realise this and had to find suitable errands for me… something(s) which would put me to no great physical or mental stress, but would keep me
occupied, while at the same time, contribute to domestic bliss and ensure that I stayed out of her hair. So Bingo!…she hit upon what she feels is a brilliant idea. I would ‘control’ all the household appliances which have virtually taken over the house, particularly since the time domestic helps were suspended due to Covid 19.

Some are remotely controlled, others manually…as in, you have to work the levers. As I had been pretty useless around the house for the last 35 years, I was not too well versed with what it takes to run a household, including, but not limited to the simplest of chores. So the wife hedged her bets… but in the end decided that surely a retired General would be able to handle some simple gadgets. The Army makes mistakes in their selection and promotion… but, hey, how much could a guy goof up? So she decided that while everybody else in the house would be doing more useful things, I would make sure the gizmos were doing their stuff right. Seemed simple enough to me…an easy way to earn some brownie points too!

The first in the list was the clothes washing machine. All I had to do was to take out the washed and spun dried clothes from the machine and hang them to dry fully. But I had to figure out the beeps and pings. There were too many…and I invariably opened the ‘door’ before I should… leading to, inter alia, a shriek from the wife…”you have ruined the whole cycle. The machine will have to be re-started”. There was admonishment from other quarters too, but milder. So I shut the damn flap again and waited for more beeps before…and this time with the lady’s consent…took the pile of clothes out. Spreading them out, particularly the six yard saris and bedsheets is never easy. Goes without saying that I hashed it up and earned baleful looks from the wife. I persevered, day after sodden day, but never got the ‘hang’ of it.

Next was the newly procured dish washer. I never fancied this gadget and to date wonder if it is a labour saving device. You had to first put the used dishes under running water, then arrange them neatly and meticulously in assigned slots in the machine, put the soap concoction in, set the machine on the chosen mode from one hour to three and then again wait for the beeps and pings before you manually opened it up and took out the scalding hot, washed utensils and arranged them yet again on the kitchen shelves. Too much work, I thought. Not worth the king’s ransom you paid in lockdown times to get the damn jigger home at a premium.

Similar was the case with the automatic flour kneader/ bread maker, microwave oven, OTG etc. Never could I fathom why someone would like to spend hours making bread, which in the end looks like a spongy, messy flour ball and has to be cut into slices with a special knife, when great, soft, ready-to-eat, sliced bread of all sorts is available for thirty bucks. There is the the air frier too… fortunately it is not much used. It mocks at the family from its cosy nook, knowing full well that these are not the guys who are going to give up on their kadhai, deep fried stuff anytime soon and use it. This was an impulse buy by the lady of the house when the average family BMI was well over 30. But someday, I fear, I may be explained how this works too.

Then there is the master of them all, the house cleaning and mopping robot. Because it moves and is literally all over the house and makes a noise, it seems to lord over the other contraptions. The circular, thick plate with wheels and a vacuum cleaner is overrated. It has a remote control too… but the damn thing could neither be controlled manually, nor through the remote by me. My instructions were to just sit and ‘turn’ the robot in the right direction to ensure it missed out nothing. But the thing seemed to have a life and will of its own. Not only did it not respond to commands, but I spent considerable time in contorted positions under beds and tables, trying to pull the damn thing out from where it was stuck. Besides, it had this uncanny penchant for going over the same tract of floor again and again, while the messier parts remained untraversed. Perhaps human company had taught it a few tricks on how to pretend to be busy without really doing much.

The only ‘controls’ I liked were the AC and TV remotes because these trusted widgets really gave me a feeling of control…and comfort, shall I say! But these would be quickly snatched away because they were apparently distracting me from controlling the other uncontrollables. Flawed logic… but whoever said life was fair?

So give me back my Ram Pyares and Kanta Bais. Nothing like the human touch. These worthies have been around much longer than the quick-fix gizmos and will be around long after the latest models get past their sell-by dates. Moreover, they will always ensure that a retired old man does his stuff… like golf and afternoon beer, even as they do theirs. You want change? Leave it to the millennials and their mojo. Let me be a status quoist, as I allow the Ramu Kakas and the Ram Dularis to earn a decent living, even as they ensure that I get mine in my sunset years. Shall we ping to that?

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2021. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction.
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.


Yogahurt

Pinclip

A disclaimer…or health warning if you will, before I proceed further : I have nothing against Yoga or its purported benefits…or against the thousands who are its diehard adherents. Amongst the aforementioned thousands is the wife…a self proclaimed Yoga Guru. This blog was occasioned when she recruited me as one of her disciples. She has great persuasive powers, my wife. Her arguments were centered on my sedentary lifestyle, how all the whiskey was ruining me, how my middle protuberance was a cause for family embarrassment…and how I had generally made an ass of myself since retirement. Get a life, she said…Go Yo!!

cartooncollection.com

I have learnt better in 31 years of matrimonial bliss, than to push my case…and my defence…beyond a point. On the rare occasion that I won an argument, it  came at a cost…almost like an open-ended loan, which is paid till you are laid (to rest!), and still left unpaid when you leave for the netherworld.

So, a used, frayed Yoga mat (my guru’s discarded durrie) in the armpit, I followed the Master and joined a motley group of 50 plus (age-wise) women in various stages and angles of contortion. I stole a glance to see if there were any pretty lasses too, to make my classes more interesting… alas, there were none. A reluctant participant in the first place, the ambience of the makeshift Yoga studio did little to enthuse me. But there was colour all around… printed leotards, rainbow headbands, multi-coloured wrist wear, snazzy tops…and a fair amount of make-up. Well, perhaps these were required to propitiate the Yoga gods…or maybe the Yoga guru. In my sleeping t-shirt and oversized bermudas, I was literally and figuratively the odd ‘man’ out.

Alamy

I had joined in the middle of the session…this, and my attire, invited a stern, disapproving look from the Guru. Experienced wives can direct that look at you in a large crowd without anyone, but its intended target, noticing it. I decoded the look…apart from scorn which is part of all looks, it conveyed the following: do not be an embarrassment…and be a quiet learner. If I have learnt anything in these years, it is the  ‘look decoding technique’. So I played ball… rather…decided to play by the Guru’s rules.

By now I was the centre of attention of the performing ladies…if only for what I wore, viz, a bemused expression and faded t-shirt  with old bermudas. At that point (as, I imagine, at innumerable points in her life), the wife would have liked to disown me. But she grinned and bore it…Yoga had bestowed composure and self control, though I suspected I would be hearing more on this after the session.

For now however, I ‘took position’ (as a soldier does when ordered). Due to a congenital defect, I cannot sit cross legged on the floor. My wife knows this, but drew vicarious pleasure in ordering me to. So, as I tried to imitate the ‘asanas’, I fell back with a thud, with my bermuda covered posterior open to public view…. while this drew muffled titters from the ladies, from the Guru it elicited a furious I-am-going-to-kill-you look! Well, I collected the remnants of my frayed dignity and got back into position, the best that I could. A bit awkward, you would agree. But I was determined to prove myself.

Noticing my physical and mental discomfiture, and seized of her position as mentor, guru and more importantly, an acutely embarassed wife, the Master looked for an escape route for me…and for herself. She said, a bit sheepishly, I noticed, that I should do ‘Pranayam’…the simpler breathing exercises. In one of her kind moments, she also allowed me to sit on a chair. Breathe in and out, slow and easy, with your nostrils, she cooed. That was easy enough…or so I thought.

I did just that, I thought. But apparently, in my laboured inhalation & exhalation, I made enough noise to have the neighbours call in to ask if someone was dying. We live in a hostile neighborhood, and some might have actually savoured the thought that the old, irascible General may finally be copping it. What do you think you are doing… enquired the now flummoxed wife. Breathing, I said. Well, don’t she said. So, as a true disciple I stopped. In 45 seconds I turned blue…heard someone from far off asking someone, who asked someone else, to get water. I came around, was pleased to see some women fussing around me… but saw from the corner of my eyes that the Guru was mighty displeased.

iStock

Well, I shrugged my embarrassment and braced myself for the next lesson. In my breathless state, I heard the wife telling her students to ignore me and contort themselves into more unimaginable postures. I was asked to lie in ‘Shavasan’…play dead, in effect, which I suspect the ‘mater-familias’ has always wanted. Just lie down on your back, motionless. I did just that…and within two minutes launched, unwittingly, into a rhapsody of elephantine, monstrous snores, so  loud, they drowned the instructions of the the mentor. Not pleasant at all, for the class. A rude nudge with the heel, I was told later, did nothing to change my state. In fact I was informed during the debriefing, this helpful prodding only made me turn around, get on my stomach and let go of grunts, sounds and expletives (here I thought she was exaggerating) which would embarrass a sailor.

But eventually I did rise… not to the occasion… but to fervent, renewed instructions and glares. I muttered something like I would hereinafter be a true disciple or some such inanity. But now the students, more than the teacher, would have none of it. Out with this cad, they said as politely as they could. He can be given instructions in private…let it be a family matter, rather than a public nuisance. This man belongs in a home, chipped in one fiery matron. He should not be let loose in public, added another, for good effect. All this while I was conscious and listening. My wan smile, conveying an apology, did little to assuage feathers…bulging midriffs, rather. The wife went with the popular sentiment and banished me from the studio. You are no good, never were in any domain…big mistake I got you in this, she seemed to say. She was never one to let go of this golden opportunity to have people air views which she had held from the day we were married.

So, with that look (remember the look decoding technique?) which said I-will-deal with-you-later, I was told to leave post-haste. I wore a hangdog expression, pretended the best I could that I was hurt at leaving something I loved, picked up my frayed durrie and the remnants of my pride…and withdrew.

Realised that it was only 6:45 am. So, changed into my golf rig and in 20 mins, was teeing off! There is going to be misery at the links too, I thought… but the kind of misery I like. Might as well fail at something you love, rather than something you dread. Readers may go through my blog ’18 till I live’ to gauge my tribulations vis a vis golf…but that’s another story for another day.

I dread getting back home after my nine holes. However, the soldier in me tells me…fear not…worse fates than a wife scorned in Yoga have awaited men. You will live to fight…or fake…another day.

Wish me luck!

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2021. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction.
Cartoons from sources as indicated against each.

We the ‘Booked’ 📖

Inspired by a discussion I recently heard on the reading habit , or lack of it, in today’s children, am re-posting my blog ‘We the Booked’

nothingmuch

Before any other thing, let me explain the ‘we’ in the title. It is people born in the 60s, a little earlier, or possibly mid 70s. A generation which (in India) did not have access to television and the internet. A generation which could not tuck itself into bed without a book – many often hoodwinked parents by hiding Archie comics between text book pages. Later the comics occasionally made way for Hugh Hefners’ Playboy and his centrefold bunnies. We were boys tasting the first bittersweet joys of adulthood. ‘We’ lived through exciting times – times of want and longing, an era which despite some harmless amorous pursuits, was defined by innocence and naivete. As Charles Dickens wrote, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

I am not sure if youngsters still do…

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Love me? Stay away!

Corona times. Difficult times. Unforeseen times and conditions. Too much has been and is being written on the subject for much novel thought to be added to the stockpile. Gallows humour on social media abounds. Stoicism, wit, clever double entendres and smart memes keep you amused on your WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter, as you put up with only the third day of what may turn out to be a longer than 21 day lockdown. A semblance of sanity, ironically, is found in humour and dark wit, some of which portends an apocalypse. Strange indeed is human resilience, forbearance and capacity to accept, what till the other day would have seemed straight out of medical doomsday thrillers like Contagion or Last Man on Earth.

Who, for example, would have thought a week back that the skies would not see aeroplanes, the rails be bereft of trains or the roads shorn of public transport? Anyone suggesting so would have been mocked and laughed out of a gathering. Or, closer home, your own financial savings, so painfully accumulated over years, and most wisely ‘invested’, would give you negative returns – and if things keep going further south, maybe even turn to be dud investments. Or, migrant labor in our big cities having to virtually forage for their next meal and trying, in a desperate situation, to head back to their native places on foot, when there is no public transport. There are so many other eventualities and scenarios that were literally unthinkable ten days back. So indeed… uncertain times… difficult times.

Social distancing, a freshly minted term, unheard of till recently, is the buzzword. It is actually an oxymoron if you look at it closely enough…if you are social, you are close! If you are distant, you are unsocial. You can’t really argue with these language niceties, and that’s not the idea either. But the only panacea against

this invisible, yet so potent new enemy, is…. stay away. All our humongous scientific and technological advancements in this 21st century have actually fallen flat in the face of this microcosm, this killer to beat all killers. As an aside, one cannot help but observe if science has invested more in destruction of life than its preservation, if it has failed mankind in its worst hour of need…and so on. But that’s a debate for another time…healthier times, hopefully.

Well, the world is fighting… fighting to live and tell the tale another day. A generation comprising Millennials, GenY and GenZ, which has never seen want, which has never lived in deprivation, which has treated school as a haven, may find it difficult to order a pizza on line, or to take the hourly coffee break  to which it has got accustomed, or the must-have Friday evening hangouts…and more. This is only metaphorical and not to make light of their plight. They are being hit hard in so many ways. They worry.

But what of us…the Baby Boomers…the 60s generation which grew up in scarcity and dearth…who invested in relationships…who bruised their knees and elbows in playfields without being rushed to the ER, who got caned on the knuckles in class (and took pride in not crying), who read books…We are being told by Covid 19 to stay away from those that we love if we wish to survive… at a time when we need to care most and be with our loved ones. We are looking out for our  parents – a generation far removed from societal pulls and pressures…and the internet, as well as our children… the impatient, impetuous and even irascible, tech-spurred breed which may want to shoo away Corona with its trademark, dismissive, middle finger gesture. Only Covid 19 doesn’t scare easy. So all of us, in our own ways, worry… even as we find, deep within our emotional reserves, means and ways to respond to this pesky out-of-the-blue (actually, out-of-China) menace.

Well, as I said, enough has been written and said. The little that remains to be said is that I am hard put to accept that in these grim times, when one does not know if he/she  will even live to revel in and tell tales of the times we went through, whether asking me to ‘stay away’ as the only means to survive poses more questions than it answers. This is when sharing, caring and sticking out together… metaphorically, if not literally…matters more than it ever did. A conundrum, no doubt. Much as every fibre of my old being cries out to mingle, I choose as an avid adherent of social and legal order, to stay away.

So, I wrap up with the party line…. for the very survival of those you love, do not mingle with them. Not for now, at any rate. The several extant generations will view this as they invariably must… from the prism of their own take on life and relationships. But the bottomline screams out loud…if you care enough, stay home, stay safe and stay away.

God bless the corona victims, the corona warriors and the corona survivors. We shall overcome.

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2020. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.

Paper Caper

One of the several several joys that retirement held was reading the newspaper at leisure…a pleasure often denied during service due to many faceted demands of work, lack of time, small places I was posted at, bum jobs and so forth. So, early after hanging my spurs, chalked out a schedule, central to which was scouring the ‘paper from masthead, advertisements and right through to the last page. In addition to the avowed benefits, my paper pursuit would keep me out of my wife’s hair. The prospect of me hanging around the house 24×7 had given her nightmares, which only grew as R-Day got closer. Secondarily, it would provide grist for the mill in my favourite, though worthless pursuit of having an opinion on everything…and trying to be on top of things.

So the ‘Old Lady of Boribunder’, aka, the Times of India, hithertofore neglected in the household, as is sadly the fate of old ladies, assumed dimensions of a new, coy wife and the fuss that her arrival occasions. The Man Friday was given specific instructions to personally receive the rolled bundle, lest it fall in a puddle, straighten it out, remove the pesky ‘flyers’ and place it neatly on the tea table. It all appeared good. I would smack my lips in rapacious anticipation of devouring the gazette.

The plan was to get up with the lark, get over with the irritating morning schedule and settle down with the paper in my favourite nook in the house. Well, as old soldiers say, the first casualty in battle is the plan. So the plan starts going awry when I get up well after the lark has done its stuff, fed its chicks and is out foraging for lunch. I am about two hours behind schedule… but no worries, I have the whole day. Don’t need more than two hours to devour the newspaper.

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Rolled paper under the armpit, I saunter at leisurely pace, a song in the heart and a bounce in the step, to my armchair. This is when the wife announces the chores she has lined up for me for the day. “What!”, I exclaim. “I completed those yesterday”. “You didn’t,” she says and adds for good measure, that I have a backlog extending (or receding) two weeks. She lists the usual attributes I possess in abundance… sloth, ineptitude, procrastination, to mention only the nicer ones. Also, she doesn’t forget to add that there is no help in the house and I would do well to shake myself out of my service-days induced reverie and lend a hand.

Well, the paper remains in the armpit as I grudgingly proceed to drive my tormentor to the vegetable vendor, the grocery shop and all possible outlets in the neighborhood. Of course driving a four wheeler necessitates letting go of the paper from the armpit and parking it on to the car dashboard. But as the spouse does her haggling, I get through the first two or three major news items on the first page in the car. Feel a sense of victory and draw vicarious pleasure at having got the better of the wife. Such are the little joys of long married life… and retirement.

It is nearly lunchtime by now and I am not even through the first (and most important) page of the ‘paper. So I settle once again and am just immersing myself in the niceties and nuances of the PM’s foreign visit, the latest SC ruling and the economy which continues its journey South, when I am reminded by the wife of a promise I had made to her in a weak moment : I would set up the table for all meals once I retire. A man of honour, I couldn’t go back on my word, even as the relish on the spouse’s visage as I grumble through the chore, is repugnant. Since my heart is not in the job, I bungle up and the damn thing seems to take forever.

The daily crossword, which I must attempt despite never having done better than two across and three down clues, takes an hour on return home. In between there have been so many calls to make to and take from retired friends, whose full-fledged vocation, like mine, is to make a nuisance of themselves at home.

Lunch, with four people, including two octogenarians, who chew each bite 32 times takes an aeon. Having quickly wolfed down my share, to the accompaniment of angry glares from round the table, I grab the paper and try to go through the third page, when it is rudely snatched away by you-know-who. This is family time, I am reminded, even as my table  manners are called to question.. So I watch the oldies chew and talk of their pains and problems… and irresponsible, retired progeny. Their auditory senses having long since deserted them, none can clearly hear the other. The wife politely nods and smiles at all, while I wear a surly, hangdog expression.

I try to go through another page after lunch as I settle in half sitting-half lying position on the couch, ignoring pitiful, baleful glances from the house-warden. These are however not enough to deter me from my afternoon siesta – you can’t let go of these well earned pleasures of retired life. Before I have read one news item, I am snoring, paper covering the face to ward off flies…and to bounce baleful glances.

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Am woken up all too soon…it’s time for golf. But the paper lies unread : a momentary dilemma ensues…the paper or golf. But  in the battle between reading and playing, the latter has always won, ever since I was a truant school kid…the reason for all those F grades. So golf bag in tow, I am out for the next three hours – the links beckon. Tell myself that there is enough time after I get back to catch up with the news and the newspaper. Suffer misery at golf… for details you may see my blog “18 Till I Live”.

At 6 pm sharp, pick up the paper… have done two pages during the day and now open the third. Strict instructions had been passed round the house: no one was to touch the paper in my absence, lest the sheets fall in disarray. Quickly get over the local and regional news pages in anticipation of coming on to what I love most…the national, international news, op-ed page and the sports news. This is when the demands of Twitter on which I am active, WhatsApp texts which have piled up, unanswered e-mails, etc jolt me and I drop the paper again. Teeming with self importance, I get busy on social media…all those people are waiting for me. All the linked articles, however trashy, must be read so I can comment. The entire SM edifice will come crumbling down if I don’t contribute. Paper be damned.

By the time I am done making an ass of myself on Twitter, have invited rebuke and abuse, been blocked by a few of my very few followers, lost to a few online Scrabble-mates, dabbled with my blog writing, where I suffer a ‘writer’s blog’, it’s news-time on TV. I have to watch all those anchors and panelists with revolvers in their throats, firing at cyclic rate. This staccato burst of verbal volleys is as heady as the two drinks I must have almost every other day. So with the drinks and television ‘on’, the newspaper, four pages read, is straddled on the lap, with an occasional glance, only to satisfy myself that I am doing justice to the neglected broadsheet. I have not yet reached the all important editorial, world news and other pages when dinner is announced by a completely uncaring spouse. She has no regard for my time, multiple commitments…and of course my half read newspaper. However, this is one call I can  ignore only at great peril to myself…and to domestic bliss.

Netflix is another invention which seriously disrupts schedules. It induces what in modern jargon is termed binge watching. There are all those unfinished, half-seen movies and serials which must be watched. But what of the unread paper? It’s past 10pm…well, there is time after the serial/movie. 

It’s almost midnight now. Don’t have to be up early, so can spend a leisurely hour in bed to pour over the editorials, World, Business and Sports news. I ignore the first few yawns. The several books that I have simultaneously started on a range of subjects from sleaze to strategy, nudge with their colourful bookmarks from the mantle piece. Another momentary dilemma surfaces…but I fight the demons and stay the course. The paper has to be read.

The wife by now is into the second, presumably deeper phase of her sleep. Her somnolent snores punctuate the blissful silence of the night. Oddly, however, instead of irritating or disturbing me, they (the snores) begin to also lull me into gentle slumber. I wake with a jolt…God, I haven’t read the editorial, and so much more! I struggle with the print (the fine and the bold), but seem to be losing, as I nod off repeatedly. Have had a tiring day… doing nothing day after day takes its toll. Finally, in despair and sheer disgust I throw the paper down…and guess where it lands? On the sheaf of unread papers of the last full week.

At the end of the day, am no wiser than I was at the beginning. Each successive day follows the previous with disturbing similarity. I can never keep my tryst with the 16 page newspaper… and this when I do nothing- as the wife aptly puts, doing nothing takes a lot of doing. I philosophize and ruminate at her utterance, shrug the old shoulders and say- what the hell, I will do better tomorrow. The next 15 years, or till I am consumed by the elements, seem promising: am going to drink to that tonight- with the newspaper in hand, of course. Cheers!

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© Sharabh Pachory, 2020. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.

Till Life Do Us Part

A close friend, rather scholarly, a man of letters, once gave me a bit of ‘literary’ advice which I have since mulled over and only now decided to act upon. With more than a little trepidation, though. He said if I wanted to gain traction, resonance or begin to establish myself as a serious writer on contemporary social matters, I should write on issues deemed controversial . “Your blogs so far”, he added as consolation, “have too much ‘feel good’ and/or canned humour. They therefore go thus far and no more”. Much as this hurt my intellectual pride, I decided to take his counsel and try my hand on something that I feel is polemical, or contentious in the least.

Having discussed with my house-editor, my wife, I homed on, after some discussion, hold your breath – to Marriage. (We surprisingly agreed!). What about Marriage, that to all social, moral and historical beliefs is as non controversial as it gets – so, after some thought, I developed a hypothesis : Marriage is a fundamentally flawed institution. That is surely controversial. I can see the red flag going up already. Let me put myself to test and see how I can carry forward and ‘treat’ this so called hypothesis of mine.

Well, where does one start – to begin where it all begins would be a good bet. I must however posit two disclaimers here : a) I am no sociologist, social scientist, marriage counselor or expert. My views are based purely on my observations and readings. b) I have had the best marriage for 30 years now…. going strong and good, if only thanks to the wife, an extremely amiable and nice person. It has thrived in spite of me!

So, to begin…boy meets girl, or in the context of most Indian households, parents of the boy and girl meet…will skip a number of intermediate steps… marriage happens. There is bliss, mostly, for the first one to two years…the couple discover each other, dislike a few things, but the novelty of marriage and the idea of marriage, with which they are possibly more in love than with each other, are potent forces – you don’t want to shatter the euphoric dreamworld you had built. So initially the kinks are overlooked. And of course the carnal pleasures of marriage, which you are only just discovering, are the proverbial glue that bind the couple.

As must come to pass with time, the novelty begins to wear off. The sex starts getting stale…the hidden, suppressed demons start rearing their ugly heads. Small irritants, say, the loud blowing of the nose or a peculiar sound you make while chewing, which were always there but not spoken of, start getting big on you. You don’t know yet, but the journey south has just begun. Again, from the Indian standpoint, families and extended families get in the equation, try to ‘help’, but only make things worse. Welcome on board the downhill ride.

Children enter the scene, priorities change, professions start demanding more, parents get old, responsibilities increase…and so on. Marriage takes another hit. This happens because in the first place itself the foundation of marriage was possibly never strong enough to support the edifice, or sustain the rigors and vicissitudes of life. Marriage was more a rite of passage which had to be gone through, its success and sustenance guaranteed in a social system which attaches the greatest importance to the value of marriage, but little to its outcome….too much is taken for granted.

Sooner than one would like to accept or believe, marriage turns into a chore, a routine with little spice… something that merely has to be gone or lived through. Marriage starts appearing as such a lot of work, and is sadly allowed to drift, not unlike flotsam. Aimless and occasioned by necessity and pressure to maintain a facade, rather than more enduring emotions like love. Couples drift apart emotionally, but stick together physically.

My wife gave the analogy of icecream to explain how most of us treat marriage post the aforesaid period of nuptial bliss.To make good ice cream, you need milk and sugar with several ingredients which have to be mixed and treated in the right proportion, blended, whipped and frozen carefully till set. What most couples and their parents do, my wife added, is to just put the milk and sugar, aka boy and girl, together and expect perfect ice cream to be made. No other ingredients. No process. In other words, I infer, no real effort is made to make the marriage work…it’s just supposed to work. Compromises are made at each step, and I dare add that bulk of these are on the part of the wife. Men seldom even notice this, and if they do, tend to ignore it.

Without debating the merits of the ice cream metaphor, I would say that if despite this the odd marriage does work, it is a tribute and testimony to the endearing human resilience and spirit. The thought of getting out of the marriage is an anathema. Things often drag on, year after sordid year. The breaking point is often reached…well meaning and concerned parents and elders step in with their counsel and ask the couple to go on enduring the misery…form is important after all, substance less so. And then of course there are the children and their ‘fate’ to think of…an argument which is often clinching and conclusive, and at the altar of which countless marriages have ‘perished’ .

Above everything else is the stigma that a broken marriage or divorce invites…for the couple and parents. It is because such hallowed sanctity and virtuousness has been attached to the institution of marriage, that it’s dissolution is deemed nothing short of sacrilege, a defilement as it were…social, cultural and religious. Little wonder that marriage counseling has become a small scale industry lately. Placebos like second honeymoon, romantic vacations thrive… they work to rekindle the fire sometimes, but more often, do not.

One substantive argument going in favour of marriage is mutual support and emotional sustenance for each other in the sunset years, when children have flown the coop. This makes you pause for thought. While you spend your sunshine years barely able to stand each other, you are basically investing for later years. Sounds unconvincing, trite, not to mention that it may turn out a dud investment. I would go as far as to say that 20 years or more together ‘habituate’ you to each other, inure you to the others’ multiple follies and essentially reduce you to emotional survival tools for each other. A resignation and surrender to inevitability. Can this symbiotic relationship be an argument in favour of marriage? I wonder.

The almost final argument put forth is stability, calm, peace and ‘filling a vacuum’, whatever that may mean. But given the bitterness, lack of adjustment, disquiet and even frustration that many, if not all marriages bring in their wake, these higher attributes are often neutralised. Marriage is reduced to a chore, a dull co-existence and discharging multiple responsibilities and obligations, in the din and cacophony of which the noble mores of marriage are subsumed, at times irrevocably.

The general waywardness of the male of the human species, a proclivity to be insensitive towards needs and sensibilities of the fairer sex and a ‘taking for granted’ attitude does not help matters. There is promiscuity too in a few cases…in thought, if not in deed, most men are promiscuous. These are indeed slow but sure recipes for further erosion of marriage. The dice, as I averred earlier, is loaded against women.

I am most likely to be labelled a cynic, and worse… not least, because attacking the sanctity of something as pristine as marriage appears socially incorrect, almost devilish. Most couples would not like to believe or accept that their marriage really hasn’t worked. The purist in us would tend to instinctively reject the hypothesis and the arguments put forth. Accusations of personal bias and possibly personal experience, are likely to fly at me thick and fast. But scratch the surface and each one will find varying degrees and element of truth in these arguments.

It is entirely understandable that each reader will view this reasoning in the backdrop of the course their own marriage has taken. I have no quarrel with that. But a more objective, neutral, impartial approach would perhaps give you food for thought, as it did me. The burden of expectation from marriage on the part of both spouses and families, in India particularly, is so high, that it can invariably never be met. A cloak of ‘normality’ is thus worn by couples who go on, as it were, for the sake of society, children, parents, reputation,… several things which sadly do not include themselves.

So if marriage is not a perfect institution, what are the alternatives? Would the naysayers recommend procreation without the legitimacy of marriage? Live-in relationships as a substitute? Contract marriages? Trial marriages? Perpetual bachelor/spinster hood? These are obviously not great or even acceptable solutions… socially, emotionally, culturally, economically. Their pros & cons, more cons actually, are not being debated. That would lengthen this piece inordinately and also alter it’s scope.

Do we therefore come to a pallid and rather stale inference that marriage survives as an institution only for want of better, stronger alternatives? This is not, by any reckoning the same as saying, marriage is a firm, good-as-it-gets, rock-solid edifice and warrants a thumbs up. On the other hand, cynics may argue that other alternatives have not been tested substantially enough to declare marriage as the numero uno arrangement. The universal acceptability and time ‘testedness’ of marriage would seem to make light of alternatives. That said, I would still tend to veer towards the view that marriage has too many imperfections and is excessively subject to human nature, emotions, sensibilities, character and characteristics to have a true success rate of more than 25 percent. While 25 are complete disasters, the balance 50 percent are the trudging-along, make-do marriages… not successful, but dragging along. The figures are ballpark estimates – you may arrive at your own numbers.

I would finally conclude that the hypothesis with which I began stands true for most part… except it needs to be modified to read : marriage is a faulty institution, but is our best bet. As a concept it is noble and pristine…in practice and implementation, less so. So all ye newly married, long married, much married and even unmarried people…stick it out, make it work – if not till death do you part, at least till life keeps you together. Given the high rate of marriages going bust, would it be too long before the the holyman pronounces during the vows: “till life do us part?” Amen.


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© Sharabh Pachory, 2019. All rights reserved.

The views expressed are the author’s own
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.

The Hector Years

What would you say about a dog who lives the most vivacious life, gives joy wherever he goes, loves everyone unconditionally, never sulks, knows no dog tricks and then dies on you? That was Hector, our pet Labrador who was part of our lives for 8 years. Happy years, growing up years, tumultuous years – the Hector years…a term which later came to be associated with a short era and all that happened in and around the family in that period.

Like our children who perhaps a bit pompously, are known as Army brats, Hector was an Army Dog… except, he was not trained to sniff out bombs or hidden arms caches as Army dogs are. In fact Hector was pretty dumb… except for loving everybody, he could do nothing right. 

But I digress. So, as an Army dog, Hector moved from place to place in the truck with our baggage. He earned friends, human and animal, with ease in the new places, quite like Army children do. In one of our big, old colonial style houses, Hector, after some early showdowns, got friendly with a turkey, which was part of the animal entourage of the house we ‘inherited’. It was a bizarre sight to see the turkey chasing Hector all over the place and later, after the peace accord, strut along in the garden with Hector in tow. There was never any doubt who the boss was…the tag of acolyte clung to Hector like his skin.

Hector was spoiled silly by my daughter Nimisha, who incidentally had brought him, a month old, in a shoe box from Delhi in a train…ticketless. Not only would she be indulgent to a fault, but would not allow anyone in the house, including me, the purported disciplinarian, to chide or rebuke him. Hector therefore got away with much. It was only when Nimisha left home for higher studies, that Hector could be admonished for anything. But his grooming years were behind him by then.

The Hector years saw happy and heavy moments in the immediate and extended family – wedding, reunions, promotion, success, sickness, failure …he was an inalienable part of it all. Though he would only get in the way and be shooed away, he would sense the moment and do his best to be a part of it. He was happy with people around him and the feeling appeared mutual. In fact the only forlorn part of his short life seemed to be the phase when he lived with me alone in a remote corner of Kashmir, where I was actively involved in intense military duties and would be away for long periods. But there too he made the best of his time by befriending a whole lot of soldiers around my ‘basha’ and generally doing what he did best – being silly.

One of his several endearing attributes was the manner in which he would dash, at lightning speed, to meet & greet  unsuspecting visitors at the gate. His ‘charge’ would often unsettle the uninitiated visitor who would freeze, before realising that it was a welcome routine, peculiar to Hector. He would then escort the visitor inside and, embarrassingly for us, be present throughout the proceedings. 

Hector was greedy. Food meant the world to him. No matter how well fed he was, he would never miss a chance to eat or grab more. He was a permanent fixture at the dining table… despite admonishments from Anju, my wife, the children and I would feed him crumbs. He would lap them up like a starved cretin. He would then go scrounging around the kitchen for more. I have often thought in the years that Hector has been gone, if overeating did him in. 

There was only one dog trick Hector ever learnt…to not touch a food offering till he was told. A greedy fellow like him would stare at the offering, eyes popping out, drooling from both corners of the mouth, but not devour it till the okay was given. We tested his resolve once too often , I thought, throwing things like chicken bones at him and saying “Hector, no!” We rather selfishly and meanly teased him with this stratagem often….drew some wicked ‘hooman’ pleasure out of a loved creature’s discomfort. I now wonder why.

The Hector years went by before you could say, well, Hector. My daughter would come home on holidays and Hector would unlearn all that he had painstakingly learnt in the interregnum between Nimisha’s visits home. As I said, she had proprietary rights, both material and emotional, over Hector. You didn’t want to mess with that. I suspect Hector remained amongst the dumbest creatures because of Nimisha’s excessive protection and indulgence… together the two ruled the roost and we could only wring our hands in affectionate despair.

Fun Hector and Serious Hector!

We once hired a trainer for Hector. In a month, Hector learnt nothing…the trainer however, as per his own admission, became a more loving human being…. that was Hector : stupid, stubborn, silly, but with his heart where it should be. Long after he had gone, Anju and I (both children had flown the coop to pursue their own careers by then) would often try to think of someone who did not like Hector. We finally zeroed on to a  ‘safaiwala’ (cleaning man), who would actually try to hit Hector with his broomstick because he would be all over him, day after day, despite his rebukes. He could, it seemed, never understand Hector’s love. But Hector had the last laugh, or more appropriately the last cry…. when we were burying Hector, Shyam Lal, the safaiwala, on his day off, was at the grave with a bunch of fresh bush flowers. He was actually crying!

The Hector saga is endless. He was so much like, and yet so much different from pet labradors…for one, he probably had a genetic, congenital defect, we thought, wherein his tail would never be still. My nephew Shubbu, who was often with us, and in Nimisha’s absence, was the leader of the ‘Spoil Hector’ gang (with close competition from my son Rishabh), said his constantly and vigorously wagging tail could produce enough electricity to run a small turbine. On more occasions than we care to remember, we have seen him wag his tail in his sleep. Don’t know if dogs dream, but he apparently did. Happy dreams… of probably food and Nimisha.

Hector’s Diwali

On Diwali, when most dogs hide under furniture, scared to death due to the firecrackers and the din, Hector would be super excited. He would whirl around with the chakri and leap high every time a ‘rocket’ was fired from a bottle. Would also run to fetch the extinguished remains when they hit the ground, sometimes smouldering. There were some ‘retriever’ genes in him, after all. He played Holi with equal fervour – would take my wife weeks to get the colour off him. As I said, there are endless Hector stories…

Hector is long gone from our lives but, clichéd as it sounds, he lives not only in our hearts, but in the hearts of hundreds of people whose lives he touched. This includes a few non-dog lovers in our acquaintance, whom he unwittingly ‘converted’. Anju often asks what his thoughts could have been, as he gasped for his last breaths. I would imagine he didn’t even know about death, so, while in agony, would have only thought of the love of his life – food, and/or possibly Nimisha, who was then literally across seven seas in USA. He could also have shed a dog tear for his family…us. Who knows – none of us have souls noble enough to imagine how Hector’s worked.

Hector’s funeral was grand. Many of my colleagues, their wives, house helps and neighbors were present. As he was tenderly laid to rest in the backyard on a warm March day, many felt that by the time the ‘service’ ended, Hector would already be furtively scratching at the pearly gates of Dog Heaven. Having been let in, he would have made friends with the angels and could have become St Peters’ ‘pet’, even as he was being mourned in the world he just left behind.

Hector- Long gone but never forgotten

When I decided to write an ode to Hector and discussed the same with Nimisha over phone, she had only one advice: do not sentimentalize the write up. I said I wouldn’t… don’t know if I have been able to keep my promise. However, in closing, we would like to remember Hector by the epitaph which Rishabh, my son, placed on his grave:

On the uptake, was often found slow
Never did he put up a very good show,
But for him there was no one high or low
Didn’t matter whether you said yes or no,
Lively, loyal, loving and always on the go
Hector was certainly a nice dog to know!


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© Sharabh Pachory, 2019. All rights reserved.
Photographs from personal archives and albums