Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy, I wanted to meet you today,
But I don’t know where they put you away,
I just want to wish you and tell you I miss you,
How I hoped I could see you on your 80th birthday.

Dear Daddy, where have they kept you?
Where have they left you? What have they done?
They’ve bruised you, abused you,
And sadly you still call him “son”.

Dear Daddy, you drove me away,
He was the one you turned to on any given day,
I was cast aside while they fed you lies
I can’t bear to see you this way.

Dear Daddy, I sent your son a message,
He did not reply,
If he says I didn’t want to meet you,
Please understand that is a lie.

Dear Daddy, I’m sorry I couldn’t find you,
He wouldn’t tell me where you are,
I hope you are doing well,
And today, he treats you like a star!

Dad and me, Christmas 1985. I used to tell people I was my father's son.

Dad and me, Christmas 1985. I used to tell people I was my father’s son.

(One of the only things that has remained true through all the turmoil and upheavals is my Poetry! Written over two days because I needed inspiration and fortunately (or unfortunately) I got it. I use my poetry as an outlet of expression. My way of venting/ sharing/ being. I have experimented with the style again. I combined two different styles.)

Painting pictures

Mesmerizing pictures in my mind,
Peaceful seas and blue skies aligned,
Who knows what I will find,
Happiness has been redefined.
Enchanting silence in all its calm,
Enveloping me like a soothing balm,
With convivial thoughts I drift to sleep,
This bliss is for me to keep,
On a bed of tranquility where
The ocean of contentment runs deep.

Summer breezes and starry skies,
Capturing my contented sighs,
Magical sunsets in twilight hues,
This is the happy life I choose.
Flowers and fruit in full bloom,
Fill the air with sweet perfume.

(Experimented with a new poetry style. I wrote this on May 8 2013. I might build up on this later… who knows? I just thought I’d write something different, something about where my mind’s been taking me.)

Wharf’s cooking?

If you like long drives or you’re heading to South Goa then a good dining option is Fisherman’s Wharf. A few friends got together and drove down south to Cavelossim. The drive, the good weather and good company was just the tip of the iceberg. We’re all huge fans of good food so we were looking forward to getting there but had no expectations. We had all heard good reviews about the food there and thought it would be a good idea to try out a new place.

We reached, got a table for five and placed an order for food and drinks (if you like wine then you need to ask for the wine menu). We ordered a few starters. The food was on our table in about ten minutes. Prawns in ten minutes? Squids? That was a little scary. Very apprehensively we reached out for the squid tempura. It looked good, fried to a nice golden brown. That first bite and we broke into smiles. Fried to perfection, it had the right texture. Every dish that was put before us was with precision and every morsel worth every second of the ride. The seafood was fresh but then with a name like “Fisherman’s Wharf” one would expect fresh seafood.

The butter garlic prawns had a nice amount of garlic and it was not overwhelming. Just the right balance. Prawn masala was not as spicy as one would expect. What really knocked our socks off was the cheese butter garlic naan. Now that was really something. A generous amount of cheese oozed out of freshly baked naan with a light yet “flavourably” (yes, I just made up this word) amount of garlic. The naan was soft which made it even better. That took a good twenty minutes to get to our table but it was worth the wait. The starters had filled us up for a while. Baked crab cutlets could have been slightly spicier. The prawn jalfrezzi was excellent. Our meal focused mainly on the seafood and we were not disappointed. The desserts were out of this world. Apple pie, Tiramisu and Cheese cake one better than the other.

The service was brilliant. The waiters were friendly. The ambiance is not to be complained about. The restaurant is on the banks of River Sal and we were engrossed in gazing at the silhouettes of the fishing trawlers docked across the river. We saw a couple of trawlers leave for the open waters. It must be a really pretty sight during the day.

If you’re heading to Fisherman’s Wharf from North Goa then you can expect a long ride/ drive. It’s one and a half hour from Panjim depending on the traffic. Being a holiday yesterday there was not much traffic on the road. Head straight to Margao, take the road from circle and head towards Cavellosim, pass Raddison Blu, Dona Sylvia, enter Mobor and you can’t miss it. If you’re lucky the signboard will be lit up.

It’s definitely worth the drive. The food and service are excellent. Definitely a place to visit at least once. We’ll definitely be returning to Fisherman’s Wharf and the next time it will be during the day.

My pets and me!

I’ve received some pretty weird stares from people who have seen me talk to animals in public. Stares that say “Thees one ees a leetul loco in da cabessa, no?” Fortunately that doesn’t deter me in any way. I would rather be greeted by a volley of genuine barks than a fake handshake from an acquaintance.

I’m really glad I was raised in the midst of a menagerie surrounded by all sorts of animals. We had poultry (ducks and hens), rabbits and dogs, not forgetting parrots, budgerigars, munias, tortoises, turtles, even a gander at one point, cattle at my grandfather’s farm property and a pack of strays there as well. I enjoyed trips to the farm on picnics. I learnt how to feed animals and care for them. I found myself becoming more compassionate especially towards the furry and feathered ones who had no voice.

Now I am all grown up (or so I would like to think) and I have pets of my own. Three dogs. Got my male (a mixed dalmatian with street dog) seven years ago. The two females came a few months later. One is a rescue dog (mixed pom with local) who we are extremely proud of. She made it to the top 10 cutest rescue dogs in a PETA contest and there’s the black Cocker Spaniel. Shortly after I got my first dog I moved out of the house. He was my only companion and protector. Saved me a couple of times from being attacked. I dubbed him “My hero”. This was now in 2008. I spent my first Easter away from home with these three fellows. I was so depressed to be alone and then I had three little reminders that I was not completely alone. That was some solace indeed.

I’ve been questioned a lot about my choice to keep three dogs and that too in my extremely humble two bedroom apartment and no matter what answers I gave there never seemed to be a “right” answer. “Oh you have three dogs? You should give away two and keep only one. It will be easier.” “Three dogs? Don’t you want to go on holiday? Give the dogs away and go on a trip!” “How do you manage three dogs? That’s too much work. Just give them up.” Give them up? No thanks! They were there for me when I had no one. They were always there to remind me I was not alone. Any genuine pet owner who reads this will understand the love behind the words.

I do admit I have put my pets before humans and quite honestly have no regrets doing that. My pets have not betrayed me yet. What are they going to do? Go around telling other dogs what a rough deal they have? My pets will not attack me for sure. They definitely cannot rob me of anything I have. So far there’s just positives here. Oh wait! I have less space for humans? Now how bad could that be? The genuine people still come around and that’s good enough.

So you think I’m wrong to keep so many pets? Since when did you matter to me? Do you pay my bills? Yes, it’s so easy to judge what’s right for someone but what are the reasons behind the actions? Do we analyse that or do we just jump to harebrained conclusions? Where were you when some Jehovah’s Witnesses tried to force themselves in my apartment to “talk” about the word of God when I was living alone? Nowhere but guess what? My dog came to my rescue. Where were you when it happened the second time round? Not here for sure but not to worry my dog was there again! When I first moved out of my parents’ home my dog did not sleep for an entire week. We were in a new place, new sounds, he would stay up all night and stare at the front door. I barely slept for the same reasons. A girl living alone in these times. I thanked my stars he is a little rambunctious. It makes me feel we chose the right name for him “Nemo” after Captain Nemo from 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne (still one of my favourites when it comes to classics). Yes, no! I’m not a “Finding Nemo” fan if that was your first guess.

Why can’t I abandon my dogs and rehome them? The answers are simple. They don’t judge me (and of course no one likes to be judged!). They are always there by my side to cheer me up when I’m having a bad day or a bad week or I’m depressed or unwell. Those brown eyes looking up at me to remind me I am not alone. My Cocker Spaniel is like Vodafone… follows me everywhere. When I got my dogs I committed to take care of them til one of us breathes our last. I’ve sat up all night nursing them back to health when they’ve been ill. We’ve had some crazy fun playing catch around the cramped up apartment. When I look at them I feel blessed to have experienced unconditional love and even more blessed to have learnt that from them.

I think my reasons are pretty clear. If I choose my dogs over someone then there must be a fairly good explanation as to why. So far the toughest thing I have had to deal with when it comes to my pets is a few sleepless nights caring for them and that too only the Cocker Spaniel. My other two have not been sick a day in their lives apart from minor indigestion but that’s not something out of the blue. I wish I could say the same for some humans. Sleepless nights were definitely not caused over not being healthy but that’s another story or two or three or more.

I look at my pets as a blessing not a burden. My home is not a home unless there are pets to fuss over. They’ve taught me so many lessons about life and love, about friendship, about just being there and mainly about choosing who to like and who to befriend. So what if I can’t go on holiday as often as I’d love? I have the rest of my life to do that but I don’t have the rest of my life with my dogs. I value my friends who understand and share my compassion for animals. If you have a pet you’ll know exactly what I mean. Our pets are family and not just a “pet” or an ornament or something we keep out in the yard for our neighbours to admire.

Nemo - The one with the attitude

Nemo – The one with the attitude

Narnia - The rescue dog who was given two weeks to live.

Narnia – The rescue dog who was given two weeks to live.

The happy dog.

Nibbles – The happy Cocker Spaniel.

(Manic) Despressive me.

“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Now this is something I could relate to on every level at one point of time or several points of time or maybe actually years. Sometimes I would tell my mom I was depressed. I was in my teens and my mom would laugh it off saying I was too young to even say the word leave alone what it meant. I began to think I read too much (which I did anyway). I always had my nose buried in a book and I was lost in some other world beyond the one I resided in. I stopped talking to my mom about my “depressions” and tried to find ways of dealing with it on my own which was almost always finding something new to read. Something “beyond my years”. A lot of people who knew me growing up would describe me as “proud” or “snobbish” or “aloof”. In truth I just didn’t know how to relate much to people I was not used to and I still get that way sometimes.

I grew up and out of my teens but the depression did not end. When I didn’t know how to cope with it I would spend hours, sometimes even days, locked in my room, away from people and I would stare blankly into space. I had no idea who to talk to or where to go for help. My mom would keep telling me that there’s no such thing as depression and she would laugh it off. I was a little too sensitive by nature and when someone made sleights at me I would tend to take it seriously and retreat into my shell. I was always shy and I still am and sometimes meeting new people is quite scary.

I grew out of my 20’s and entered my 30’s but the depression didn’t end. There would be days I would just go deep into depression and I just couldn’t figure out why. By this time I learnt not to talk about it and I learnt to deal with it on my own, in my own way. Music was a good outlet. Writing poetry was another great way to get thoughts out on paper.

Then I moved out of my parents’ house. I was on my own. Well not completely alone. I had three dogs for company. One can’t really converse with dogs. No TV. New surroundings. At times the loneliness would get unbearable and the silence within the walls would be deafening. I went from a size S (and that was loose) to a size L overshooting M completely. That was another reason to feel depressed. I did not feel like getting out of the house. I did not want to be seen. I was embarrassed about the way I looked. I was not eating any extra food but I was ill and was put on steroids and that made me bloat.

One night I was exceptionally depressed. I had a couple of strips of sleeping tablets with me. Wild thoughts running through my mind in the dead of the night, I reached out for the strips and swallowed every little pill in there. There must have been something or someone watching over me because I lived to tell the tale. I have no recollection of those forty eight hours, it could have been more than 48 hours, I don’t know. All I remember is sleeping and sleeping a lot. That was the last time I ever touched any soporific substance or even thought about it.

Bipolar is not exactly how I was, I did not experience mood swings or rapid mood swings. I would just sink into a severe depression and not be able to get out of it for days and sometimes weeks. Sometimes I would let music pull me out, my writing would keep my mind off things, most importantly my pets always seemed to pull me out of the darkest places. Every pet I had as a child, growing up and now as an adult have shared deep and special bonds. Even though no words were spoken the hearts would communicate. They always seem to know when I was reaching despondency. Looking into those honest, soulful eyes somehow got me pulling myself together. I didn’t save my pets, in reality, in truth, they saved me. My Alsatian, Duchess, as stunted as she was, she was extremely smart. My father could never raise his hand or voice at me in her presence. She was like my shadow when I was home. Losing her made me plummet into a chasm I had no idea how to get out of. I went completely “recluse mode” as my mother would call it. Locked myself not only behind the door of my room but within myself. Luckily for me, at that point I had my band and some very good friends who refused to let me be alone. The wound of that loss never really healed.

I am blessed now that I can tell when I am about to sink into a depression and I can get myself out before I even go there. What’s my secret? It’s simple and as corny as it may sound, it’s “happy thoughts”. I think happy thoughts, indulge in things that make me happy. Music, reading, playing with my dogs, eating chocolates (I eat a lot of chocolates when I am depressed) and I would go swimming to a beach close by on my own. The sea always had a calming effect and I loved being alone in the deep, surrounded by water, sun shining down and the sky as a gigantic canopy. I don’t talk to people about it. I live in my own little prison but over time I learnt how to deal with it without paying a counselor or psychiatrist (and who can afford that? Definitely not me!). When there is no one and there has been no one I could really open up to about stuff like this I would lose myself in music, writing, reading, watching sunsets, spending time with my pets because I didn’t really have to talk to them they just knew how I felt and would stay by my side.

My advice to anyone and everyone who experiences depression is to eat your favourite food and don’t worry about the bill, if it’s going to cheer you up then just do it! Go for a swim or a long walk. Indulge in your favourite activities (stay away from alcohol, narcotics and anything that has a negative effect), go shopping if that is where your happiness lies. If you have family and friends who will understand you then there’s nothing better than talking it out. Depression is like a deep, bottomless rut, so easy to sink in but very difficult to get out of. Learn yourself well enough to know the telltale signs and nip it in the bud. It’s really tough to have to face it on your own but it’s quite doable if you know how. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford a counselor’s fees then that is the best way forward. Be honest about your feelings, most importantly to yourself before anyone else. Never be in denial about it because that is when it will just get worse. If you have days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or you feel like doing nothing then stay in bed and do nothing. If you live alone, keep a pet or two. Knowing that you have another being depending on you will keep you from entering the dark places you are so familiar with. Go for drives, dance, sing, take long showers, watch good movies, learn something new, learn a musical instrument or learn a new one. Do a course. Pursue a lifelong dream. There’s so much to life. So much to learn.

I am fortunate. I have not had to face a depression for quite a long time. All I did was to stay positive (and trust me times were unspeakably tough) and did things that made me happy. I did acquire a new skill, I learnt how to cook and I am still learning new things in the kitchen, discovering ways to make cooking faster and easier. I listen to music, I sing, I write poetry, I get all those dark feelings out of my system by blogging. Most importantly I have three lovely souls who keep pulling me out of those chasms. I fought my depression and it is not as tough as one might think it is. I did it all on my own and there’s hope for anyone else too. We’ve all had dark days. We’ve all reached the end of our tether but whatever the problem is suicide is never a solution! There’s just one thing you have to do and that is to follow Peter Pan’s advice and “think happy thoughts”.

Misanthropia

If I’ve lost faith in humanity,
You know you just can’t blame me,
I’ve been beaten, cheated and cheated some more,
I’ve been tossed around like a rag doll,
And then flung on the floor.
I’ve been stripped off my pride,
Til there was nowhere to hide,
I’ve been battered and bruised and ignored.

If you’ve heard your heart break,
You’ll know how it feels,
If you’ve felt a heartache,
You know it’s so real,
And all the tears you try to conceal,
Will somehow, slowly be revealed.

Even the weak hearted know how to fall and rise,
Even the brave hearted breakdown and cry,
Even the broken winged rise up and fly,
I will too as time goes by.

I fall down, I rise,
I breakdown, I cry,
Pin me down with lies,
Clip my wings, I’ll always find a way to fly.

(Another experiment. I’ve tried to combine three different types of verses to see how it works out. The beauty of poetry is it is versatile and if you’ve been writing it long enough (I started at 6 thanks to my grandfather pushing me into it) it’s easy to experiment. My poetry is partly stemmed from experience, part emotions and sometimes just sometimes, it will be from other people’s experiences of life and situations. My favourite sources of inspiration are depression, hatred, sadness and anger. I channelize the negativity into poetry and this is the result.

I love these quickly written poems because I write spur of the moment, driven by the emotions I’m feeling then and then I cast the work aside to be edited later.)

Ten years ago today.

Ten years ago at this time I was on the phone with a very close friend and at that moment I had no idea I would end up marrying him. I could hear my mother’s groans over the din of the TV and our “low-tone” midnight conversation. I ignored the nurse when she told me there was no pulse. She seemed like an amateur. I walked up to bed around 4 a.m. I could still hear my mom’s groans. I couldn’t sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to mask out the sounds of everything nocturnal and then there was my mom. I tried to imagine what she was going through and I drifted off into a fitful sleep. Every night had been an almost-sleepless night since the first week of January.

My door was flung open by my boisterous father. He was always strangely vociferous in the morning or it could have been me thinking “morning” people had far too much energy the minute they sensed the break of dawn.

“Get out!” he commanded, tactlessly.
“What? No!” I muttered and turned the other side. “Go away! I need to sleep.”
“Sleep? You need to get out of bed and call the doctor. That bloody nurse can’t find a pulse!” my father had raised his voice a few decibels.
“She didn’t find a pulse last night either,” I blurted, making no attempt to wake up completely or get out of bed. Definitely not before eight in the morning.
“Are you or are you not getting out of bed?” my father demanded.
“Fine,” I muttered. “I’m awake already, though if you must know, I barely slept. Thank you for asking.”

Not bothering to change out of my ridiculously short shorts and faded tee shirt I stumbled out of bed.

“You’re not getting out of your room like that!” my father pointed out. “There are people downstairs.”

There goes my morning mug of coffee and I’m supposed to live through the day!  I finally go down. My brother had left for work. He had resumed work after a month’s break. A few family friends had already gathered around my mother’s bed. The nurse had left. A neighbour had checked mom’s pulse and found nothing. It was evident we needed a doctor. I called her doctor and a few minutes after I put the receiver down the bell rang. The doctor had gotten to our place in record time. No, but it wasn’t him. It was a family friend who was also a doctor. She asked me if everything was alright and I told her that there was no pulse. She rushed in and checked mom’s pulse and shook her head. She asked me where my brother was and told me to call him back.

“Any moment now,” she said in a low voice.

I nodded not knowing what to reply. I called my brother and told him to come home. We sat by mom’s side, my parents’ closest friends had gathered around. My dad walked out of the room, my mom called out his name and that was the last thing she said. My brother fell silent, my dad broke down and there were all those arrangements to make, family to be informed, friends and neighbours. There was no time to think but to do. I sat there making phone call after phone call, funeral arrangements. When I called my best friend’s father he just knew. Together we sorted out what had to be done. I had kept everything ready weeks before not knowing what my mental state would be when the time finally came.

Fortunately for me, a couple of my neighbours (who are also good friends) did the night vigil with me. We sat together til almost 5 a.m. and then they left. I had one hour before dawn. My eyes were heavy with sleep. I was exhausted. I finally went to bed at 6 only to be woken up in an hour. Remembering my mom forcing us to promise we wouldn’t wear black at all and definitely not throughout the year, I chose white. My mom had left a string of instructions for this day.

“Do not cry. Make sure no one cries. I want them to celebrate my life and not cry because I’m dead.”
“Do not wear black. Do not mourn. Do not do the one year of wearing black. People don’t need to see you in black. You mourn in your heart.”
“Make sure no one cries at my funeral. I don’t want to see sad faces there. Tell them to smile for me.”
“Comfort my family and friends especially my best friends. You have to be strong. Your dad and brother will need you to be strong. You were always the strong one in the family. Always feisty. No tears today, only laughter.” If you knew my mom you will actually picture her saying these things to me and you’ll be smiling thinking of how jovial she was. How she spun a party into action. How she and my dad would always be the first people on the dance floor and they danced like no one else existed. My mom always had a wicked-in-a-mischievous-way glint in her eye that made me feel there was always a joke or prank waiting to pop up at odd times. There were times when she was emotional and there were times when she would lose her temper. There were even moments when she walked away from certain friends. That side of mom was always a shock because she would tolerate a lot. Mom took a long time to get angry but when she lost her temper there was no turning back.

The entire day passed with people crying on my shoulder and telling me to be brave. I snuck a few moments alone in my favourite place in the garden where I knew no one would come looking for me. I sat in solitude, feeling numb inside. I had not eaten since breakfast the previous day or perhaps lunch before that. Life was about to change forever.

It was then time for the funeral. My mother’s words playing and replaying in my mind. “Don’t cry. You are the strong one. Don’t wear black. Don’t mourn. Laugh and be happy. Celebrate my life.” It was tough not to cry. I did break down at one point and almost hysterically. One of my best friends pulled me away from everyone and took me towards the cemetery where we were supposed to be heading. I started dreading the sound of the coffin as it hit the ground. That always made my skin crawl. I gritted my teeth and forced a friend to give me a drag from his cigarette. It was at this point that I broke a promise to a very dear friend. The look on his face but I just needed that drag “to calm my nerves”.

The burial was finally over. People had queued to wish us. I was standing in between my father and brother. People decided to chat with my father, my brother and I were waiting our turn. We discreetly cracked a few jokes among ourselves to keep the tension at bay so we could maintain the calm exterior. I could picture my mom giggling and nudging us. She had a knack of defusing serious situations, sending the involved people into splits of laughter. Nothing was done in disrespect. Nothing was said in disrespect. People who knew my mom well, knew I kept my promise and made sure there were no tears from my side. I looked around for familiar faces and I was happy to see my close friends and family.

We were home. A few people came over. We were all a little relaxed but I knew the journey henceforth would be long and tough but what I didn’t know was just how tough. Mom never told me maintaining a home and keeping house was one of the toughest things I’d have to do. She never said cooking was harder than it looks (baking still remains the fun thing). She never said how difficult it would be to get my wedding dress, shoes and accessories together without her by my side. She never said the family would fall apart. There were so many things she never said and yet there were so many things she did say and a lot of it has come true over the past ten years.

I remember every word of my last conversation with my mom. It was about my husband. My mom pointed out that I was in love with him and told me that if he was the man I choose to spend my life with then we already have her blessings. That’s ten years for us too with mom’s blessings. She adored him. He was perfect in her eyes. She’d have replaced her daughter with him if she had a choice. My mom never got fed up telling me how perfect a man like my husband would be in my life and how “in shape” I would get and how all my “princess” ways would be forced to disappear.

It has not been an easy decade but then it could have been far worse than it was. I’m grateful to be alive, healthy and happy. My riches may not be monetary but I look at my husband, his family, my friends, my pets, my life, my job, my writing, my music and I feel like a millionaire!!! As my mom used to say “Life is what we make of it!”