Sir, I wonder this myself. I have no idea why I am here. I was asked to come and since I am always looking for a new adventure, I agreed.

I am now sitting in the waiting room/consultation room of this beautifully decorated lawyer’s office in Central Bangalore. At first I though I had entered a Hindu temple, since there is a statue of a god, about 4 feet high, with fresh flowers, oil lamps and golden ornaments all around. Because I am here on something related to a marriage, I even assumed I was going to witness an Indian wedding. Yeah! But once again I was wrong, no wedding for me today.

I am here because the lady who works in the clubhouse behind our compound wants to get married. Or wants her marriage recognized. I am not sure. Her first husband committed suicide when she was 22, leaving her with three children. She’s now 28 years old, and in love. I have met the young man and he’s really sweet on her too. He works in North Bangalore and comes to visit her every weekend. They’re cute together. I have seen him with her children too, and they all seem to like and respect each other. An Indian love marriage, how cool is that!

She’s asked me for help getting the marriage recognized. She believes, erroneously, that as a foreigner, I know everything, or possess some kind of magic wand that can accomplish miracles. I went online, but the marriage process is extremely complicated, especially since she was married before. I read that she may need a “NOC” or No Objection Certificate from her dead husband’s family, who resents the heck out of her for refusing to be their slave any longer.

Last week, I was told to be ready to come with the love birds to your offices this Monday morning. She got dressed in a pretty yellow saree, with flowers in her hair and Mehendi on one hand. He was all decked out in neatly ironed pants and shirt. That’s why I thought there was going to be a wedding.

After you gave me a dirty look and proceeded to ignore me, which bothers me not one bit, I heard you tell them that some of their paperwork was incomplete. I may not speak Kannada, but I still understood the gist of the conversation. You told them you would check the law pertaining to their unusual situation and tell them in a few days.

She walked out of your office rather agitated. I was told that she didn’t understand why you couldn’t simply produce the missing form, as in, “hey, here’s a few hundred rupees, do the needful.” She may be on the lower rungs of the Indian social ladder but she understands how the country works. She doesn’t however understand your honesty and professional integrity.

To answer your question Sir, I was here for two reasons: to provide transportation with our beloved Sathya’s car, and to provide moral support.

A foreigner in your corner can only be a good omen.

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Do your homework

It has happened now three times. Someone asks me for help with their homework. Nothing wrong with that, I am always glad to since teaching has been my job for the last 20 years.

The first time was when I was still a professor in California. I had bonded with a student, a young woman from Punjab since, you guessed it, I was the only professor around with an interest in her country. We talked sarees, Bollywood superstars and her intention to join law enforcement in the US. One day, she came asking me for help with an assignment from another professor. I don’t understand what he wants, he doesn’t explain things in details, you are the best teacher, could you help me? Sure, if you’re going to stroke my ego, I will help you, I am not above vanity! So, I read the first page of the assignment and explain, and write and draw charts and look up stuff on Google while chatting about it with her sitting next to me. Good, first page done. Flip page. Nothing on it but a more detailed explanation of the paper to be handed in. She smiles in victory. I had just done most of her homework. I had been had.

Last spring, our neighbor contacts us because her son needs help with this French homework. He’s taking summer courses to advance in his studies and has to perform a skit in French with other students. Could I help with the translation? I was in France at that time, trying to find my way out of a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork. Sure, I will find a few minutes to review a couple of paragraphs written by a 15-year-old, how long could that take? Ah, I was wrong. I received a full page of English writing on the topic of French fashion, with clear instructions not only to translate it, but to adapt it to the way a French person would talk and perceive other people’s clothes. I stared at the email for a few minutes and decided it would be faster to do the homework than to argue with our neighbor that this doesn’t fall under the definition of “help”.

Then I became smart! A few weeks ago, at 10 pm, I got a call from an acquaintance asking me to help her son out of a bind with his homework. She’s awfully proud of her son, as he’s currently enrolled in an American university, the success of his family. I get his Skype name and we start to chat. When is the assignment due? In two hours? How long ago have you known about it? No response. What’s your topic? I don’t have one, whatever you’re an expert in. Could you ask for an extension? He doesn’t allow that. (invisible eye roll). Then I see the email he sent his mom, which states, and I quote: “she [meaning me] has to find the articles (…) whatever she reads she can summarise and say why I can use it with this topic”. I am stunned. He’s cheating and he knows it. He’s asking for his mom’s connections to commit academic fraud. And she sees nothing wrong with that.

This is seriously problematic. In the last case, I didn’t do his homework and he understood pretty quickly that I had no intention to. I directed him towards the online library of his university and left him there, so to speak.

This brings several points for Western educators.

  • Students cheat. No big news here.
  • Do not take it for granted that students know how to use your fancy online libraries.
  • The definition of the word “help” is different for everyone. Even my little bitty school kids say “help” when they mean “do it for me”.
  • Indian families, due to the incredible opportunities afforded to someone with a good education, put tremendous pressure on their children to succeed, especially sons. Sometimes at any cost. The cost is financial of course, but includes also cheating, seen as a means to justify the ends. Around this time of year, when national exam results are posted, the number of suicides increases drastically. It is common to read about imposters taking test (they even made a movie about it “The Three Idiots”). Recently, pictures of parents and friends climbing the outside walls of a university several stories high, to give their loved ones cheat sheets while taking a national test went viral. It goes further: a friend told us about interviewing someone on the phone for a job, liking the person, only to have someone else show up for the face-to-face interview.
  • There are two facets to academic dishonesty: the plain cheating described above, and the lack of understanding of intellectual property in Western scholarship. While I was lamenting the latter, one of E.’s colleagues said “in all fairness, they never teach us that in schools here”. I have also seen it in my school: the kids are taught by the young teachers to copy the answer directly from the text provided instead of writing their own sentences. It’s a tough job to take into account education styles across cultures while avoiding judgment.

Culturally, Indians don’t say no. They don’t refuse. During our first trip together here, we were caught in a bind when we had asked Sathya to work for us one extra day. We later understood that his beating around the bush had to be understood as “no, sorry, I can’t”. Unfortunately, we were dumb and didn’t yet know how to read the subtext. That made for an interesting day where we could hear his wife on the phone yelling at him for not being where she wanted him to be! They also often won’t admit defeat, in fear of losing face. The books I had read about Indian culture before moving here stated that. Experiencing it is, however, rather unsettling. It ranges from “Madam you were not here when I came to fix the lamp”, to more damaging business claims. Christopher Taylor Barry wrote a rather funny piece in the Huffington post about his experiences. So, for me, saying “No, I will not help you cheat, and if you push me I will call the Dean of your school” is not an option. I have to finagle my way around it. Bear in mind that the acquaintance I am talking about actually has some clout over our life and could rapidly make it difficult if she wanted to.

This morning, the Delhi law minister was arrested for having a fake law degree. I have said it before, I don’t like it when stereotypes come true.

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Passing with distinction

Last week, around 9pm, rather late, our maid calls. She’s talking about ticket numbers and computers. I have no idea what she’s talking about. Mam, my brother call you. He did a few minutes later, explaining that the results for the examination of 10th standard, the last mandatory year of school, have been released. They would like his wife’s results. [We will not comment here on the fact that a 30-year-old man recently married a 16-year-old girl]. It seems I am the only person they know who has internet access and I was very happy they felt comfortable enough asking me for this small favor. It only took me a few seconds to enter the correct keywords, the Department of Education of the state of Karnataka really made that easy. See, they can be efficient when they want!

What a wonderful feeling to call back after a few minutes to deliver the good news: she passed!

Now my job is to try and convince them that she needs to stay in school. She’s a girl, so it’s not considered important. From what I understand, she will be attending a three-month computer class and then go to work in an office. It’s progress I guess.

PUC Examination Results - 2015 

Today our maid shows up at the door all decked out in a beautiful beige and gold colored sari, flowers in her hair, and a smile to lit up the sky. Her son passed his PUC exam. 90%. She pulls a little piece of paper from her blouse with the marks scrolled carefully in pencil. She’s proud as a peacock and brought sweets to celebrate. She’s so relieved. Good marks mean he can get more scholarship money for engineering school. She says all her praying has paid off: her daughter passed, her sister-in-law passed, her son passed. There’s only one wish that hasn’t come true yet, so she runs to our puja room and does sit-ups in front of our Ganesh statue. Yes, sit ups! I tell her to stop but she insists it needs to be done in sets of 10!

I guess tonight I will exercise a little.

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You read about it in the expat books but it doesn’t prepare you much. You hear about the problems you will have with your maid but it’s always from the point of view of the employer, poor victim taken advantage of by conniving women. You read about the drama they will create, the stories they will come up with to get days off or a few rupees out of you. Then you read “White Tiger” and hope that your driver won’t stab you to death, and “The Space Between Us” and understand that house help should never trust anyone.

It is rare that you hear the other side of the story, and when you do, “people” tell you that it’s most likely made up. My one good friend here seems to see both sides of the fence. She talks about the young woman who worked in her store, disappeared for a month and came back wanting her job, but also describes that another young employee passed out in the store because she had had no food for a while. My friend now always brings more food than necessary for her own lunch and makes sure her employee gets fed. She told me that “their lives are so complicated”.

I am now in the middle of this complication. No, not the middle, I am on the sideline, watching a young widow cry. I can ignore her if I want. It would be easy to simply not talk to her anymore. But I can’t. I just cannot walk past her when she has tears rolling down her cheeks. I have no idea what she says to me. She cries and speaks in Kannada and sobs in my arms. Her hair smells of coconut oil. I have been warned that Indian women can be very emotional and cry at anything. But sobbing on command would require good acting skills. And I am tired of cynicism. I am tried of sarcasm. I am tired.

She’s a young mother of three who works across the street. I have met two of her kids, the two youngest. I do not know how her husband died. I suspect she liked him quite a bit since she has his name tattooed on her wrist. His brother has turned into a living nightmare. He harasses her constantly, destroys her belongings when he’s drunk. The rest of the family is of no help since her status is to be invisible, silent, a nobody. Remember this is a country where a (not so) long time ago, widows were expected to perform Sati, to be burned alive with their husband during cremation. We hear about the status of daughters-in-law in India in all social classes, engineers who leave their job after marriage because it would make the man look like he cannot provide, women who never come out of the house anymore.  You’re appalled, but it’s just in books, on paper. When it hits you in real life, it’s more difficult to comprehend. Though I didn’t get hit, she did.

Last week, the cretin broke her stove.  In India, without a stove, you don’t eat much and neither do your children, and tampering with propane gas tanks is dangerous. We offered financial help. She was so confused she didn’t know how to respond.  She cried, she refused and said that no one in her own family had ever provided help for her.

Today she was crying again.  I got into action.  

  • Call Sathya and figure out what the problem is. The problem is the same it was last week. Her bother in law is an abusive jerk. He should thank the gods he doesn’t live in Texas. Yes I am that mad.
  • Post on the expat women’s forum asking for leads. I got many. Thank you.
  • Have my maid cook her lunch since she has a miserable little tiffin box and was asking for “utta”, Kannada for food. She has enough for her kids for tonight.
  • Spend some time with her and our maid, sitting on the floor, listening to her tell her story again, crying again, thanking me again.  They were using the word “Madam” a lot so I know they were talking about me!
  • Listen to our maid on the way back explaining that being a widow in India sucks. She should know, she’s a widow too, but she lives far from her in-laws. She told me they are not nice to her, except one.
  • Tweet to the Bangalore Police. They are super efficient when they want. They tweeted back, emailed me, called me, unfortunately asking for her precise address, which I do not have and would not give them anyway. I gave them her number.
  • Later bring the lady the phone numbers of organizations I have collected. Try and explain that she can get help from them.
  • Get a very grateful thank you, and a big smile, since she got a call from the maid of a French lady I talked to today who lives in a village north of Bangalore and may be able to get her a job.
  • Go home and write a blog post. Because this needs to change. The status of women needs to change. Do I have the right to ask that another culture changes? Yes. When it condones violence. Keeping an entire class of people in fear, in tears, in poverty, in shame is not acceptable.

A month ago the BBC released “India’s Daughter”. It’s time to produce “India’s Daughter-in-Law”.

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Lazy Saturday afternoon, I go visit my puppies. They are getting big now, love to chew everything, including human noses, or the splint Puppy Girl had for a while since she broke her leg running around. Yes, we took her to the vet, again, she got X-rays done and wore a cone of shame for a very short while. She hated it. She still has a slight limp but she’ll be ok.

The two ladies who took care of the grounds of the clubhouse are now down to one. We heard on May 7th that they hadn’t yet received their salary for April. Jyothi quit. Radha is still there. She calls Sathya when there is a puppy emergency. She cares for the fur balls quite a bit.

I went there alone earlier. Radha was sitting on the floor petting Jadoo while Puppy Girl was chewing on a bamboo chair and some kids were playing in the pool. I sat down next to her, slowly since I threw my back out this morning trying to get the dumbbells out of the way. She knows I don’t speak a word of Kannada, nor Hindi, but she chats away nonetheless. Gesturing helps. We laughed at the puppies who were assaulting me to get the non-veg treats I brought. She had a question for me and was quite animated. Something about her sister, medical something and chest pains. After a couple of minutes, I thought it was time to call Sathya to the rescue. Until I realized the story is about breasts. Breast size. How can her sister who is flat chested increase her breast size to be like mine?

Trust me, I am not the biggest around here! There are some aunties who have a bra size ten times bigger than me, and smush their breasts into blouses ten times too small. Women like their clothes on the tight side.  But E. reminded me that those aunties have a waist girth commensurate to their bra size. I don’t, especially since I have lost 10 pounds in the last month (thanks to depression, so I don’t recommend it to anyone).

What am I supposed to tell her? It’s clear she’s looking for the name of the medicine I take, or the cream I use, or whatever magical thing I may have discovered. I was trying to explain that it’s natural and not enhanced in any way. So, out of answers, I did the Namaste gesture and told her to pray. Hypocrite that I am.

Now, which one is the breast goddess?


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April 23, 2015

It took no more than 3 minutes to go from pre-monsoon rain to flooding. Inside the house. Because we just don’t have enough more problems in our lives right now. But this story has a good ending, at least for us.

Last night, E. fell asleep for a short nap on the couch. It was raining, the nice rains we enjoy in the early evenings almost every night. We often sit out on the patio with a Diet Coke to watch the rain, listen to the wind and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have a concrete roof over our heads. Suddenly, the tree in our neighbor’s yard started shaking violently. I thought it was pretty and tried to wake up E. but got a grunt as a response. A couple of minutes later, rain became a heavy storm, and three doors slammed simultaneously. That woke him up, spewing curse words.

I have been through intense weather in the US, the worst being Hurricane Ike in 2008. Regardless of the extent of the damage caused, at least we had notice, hence were prepared, especially closing, and in some cases, boarding up windows.

Rain is supposed to fall from top to bottom. Vertically. That’s the laws of physics. It’s gravity. But with the force of the wind, the rain entered the screened windows at a 45-degree angle and landed several few meters away. Four meters to be exact, I measured. In a matter of minutes we were flooded. We rushed to first close the curtains to minimize damage, then close each window. We have over 30 windows, each with an involved mechanism for opening and closing the lock. With the wind hell bent on keeping them open, E. got his fingers crushed more than once. More curse words. We unplugged all appliances and once everything quieted down a bit, we called Sathya and our maid to make sure they were not sleeping in mud tonight. She said she had a leak. “Leak not big, leak small”. Good.

Then there was hail. Hail in South India. Hail in South India in the summer. I just don’t understand. Hail cannot be common here as people were sending reports of “heavy rain with ice cubes”.

heavy rain with ice cubes 

Overview of the damage:

  • Because the house is somewhat sheltered by our neighbors’ house on two sides, the first floor didn’t get too much water, except for one computer monitor. However, the living room on the second floor became a big lake. The house must be slanted as the water was slowing finding its way to one side. I laid down every bath towel, dishtowel, and dishrag I could find to soak it up. Pretty useless. And if the second floor was a lake, the third floor was an ocean.
  • Everything within 1.5 meter of an open window got wet. Electronics, clothes, pictures, books, toilet paper. Out of two skylights, one is leaking. The one above the printer of course.
  • The water that came inside the house was brown. It came through the screens, which have probably never been washed. We now have streaks of beige drips on the walls below each window. Where the puddles of water formed, we now have brown dirt. The white towels are brown. The bathroom wall mirror is covered in brown splatters and so are the black kitchen counters.
  • The wind was so strong it blew the refrigerator magnets off and into the living room. That’s a distance of about 5 meters, or 15 feet.
  • We lost power for about 12 hours, working on the generator. We were preparing for a few days without power, so we used the strict minimum: fans and phone chargers, using flashlights and book lights instead of normal lights. We didn’t lose our internet connection.
  • I was afraid that we would soon get a musty smell, but thanks to our supersonic fans, everything is dry this morning.

Once I knew we were safe and the house ok, I thought it was pretty cool. I was a minority in that opinion. E. wasn’t impressed with the potential damage to one computer, one kitten ran under the couch the second she heard the doors slam, and the other kitten was no where to be found until we walked around the house with a plate of Kitty Paté, which brought her out of her seclusion.

But we don’t live under a tent.

Hail aka Ice Cubes

PS: If you’re reading this to assess the state of my mental health, you’re an idiot.

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This is the time of year when maids and cooks and others come asking for loans or advances on salary for their children’s school fees. The difference between a loan and an advance is that a loan is repaid over several months, and an advance is taken off the next month’s salary.

It was a bit strange for us last year because we had just hired our maid. She was very shy and asked us through our driver, apologizing profusely. Her son was starting “commerce school” and that wasn’t cheap. Like millions of maids around the country, she had to go to all her employers and beg for a little bit of money here and a little bit of money there. We were new to the “game”. I cannot imagine the shame of having to do that. Going through a bank loans would be disastrous as it takes mountains of paperwork. Loan sharks charge exorbitant interest rates. Lately I have noticed more pawn shops. I wonder if it’s a coincidence.

A few weeks ago, our cook S. asked me to get in contact through email with one of her ex-employers. That lady moved out of India four years ago and continues to pay the fees for the three children. For some reason, this year the funds were not being transferred properly. I am only an intermediary with a working email address. After an evening of online banking frustrations and back and forth text messages with that lady, everything is now squared away. Our cook can breathe a bit easier at night. Although I despise some of the rich greedy people, there are many generous souls, and I tend to forget that sometimes.

How much are the fees? In private schools, I have no idea. I was under the assumption that schools were free for the poor in India. I was wrong again, I am used to that now. K.’s daughter goes to an English medium school, so it may be a bit more expensive than a Kannada governmental school. This year I didn’t wait for her to come with her head down begging, I asked up front. She needs 30,000 rupees, roughly $500 for one child. To put that into perspective, a full-time maid makes about 10 to 15,000 rupees a month if she works for an Indian family. She has two children. Our cook has three. You do the math. We learned last year that when a child starts a new school, there is also a one-time “donation”. For one person we know, it was 60,000 rupees for a five-year old entering a government school. I thought it was a bribe, but it is not.


School is compulsory until the age of 16, or 10th standard. During the school year, we see a lot of little kids in town, dressed in uniforms, girls with their hair braided with big black ribbons, boys often with a tie. Now that summer vacation has started, we see more kids working. They are behind vegetable stands, alone if they are old enough, or sleeping next to a parent if they are toddlers. The bigger boys work in construction. During the school year, I huff and puff when I see school age kids running around during the day. This time of year, I cannot complain. It breaks my heart. There are anti-child labor laws, but I don’t see much enforcement. And I am not sure it would be a good idea, since it would mean financial ruin for many families.

This country is challenging every notion of economics and human rights I have held dear for decades.



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Invisible people

We are now “godparents” to not one, but two puppies. The ladies talking care of Jadoo, whom they renamed Ramu, realized he was lonely (since he was screaming bloody hell at night) and brought his sister from the same litter to live with him. Once again, Sathya got to drive with a puppy in his car on the way to the vet (it was cheaper this time, go figure) who gave her her shots, dewormed her and gave us some vitamins since she’s anemic. Her name seems to be Pila. Visiting the pups is becoming the highlight of my days. Not only do the puppies like us, but the ladies working are slowing opening up to us. One speaks a few words of English and mimics what we say to the dogs. I asked her her name. Why Madam? I was taken aback by the question. Why would someone ask her her name? Why would someone pay attention to her?   We had been referring to her as the one in the green sari, and her colleague as the tall one. After a week, that just wasn’t right. People have names. Even invisible people who work as gardeners, maids, rickshaw drivers, security guards, cashiers and construction workers. In return, she asked for my name. Now when we go there, the generic “Hi”, has become “Namaste Jyothi. Namaste Rada”, to which she replies, giggling “Namaste A.” She tells me when they run out of milk for the pups, and helps us find them when they go hide in the new shaded spot. I need to ask the night guard for his name next time I see him.

Yesterday, the black and yellow line along the sidewalk signifying you cannot park was being repainted. It didn’t need to. You could still see the very yellow and very black blocks, though it could have been washed to give it back some oompf. But water is scarce, so someone decided instead to have about 6 men repaint it. They were all sitting on the ground, each with a can of a gallon of paint, with a brush. I saw them on my way to the puppies, about 200 meters from my front step. I smiled, waved, mozzied on, and played with the puppies who are becoming true Indian dogs, doing nothing but sleep when it’s hot. I gave Pila her vitamins, scratched Jadoo’s ears and walked back home. One of the men sitting there, with a turban on his head, looked at me smiling and said: “Ma’m, piha”. Huh? Piha? What? Oh yes, Piha, I remember, Rosetta Stone Hindi, one of the first lessons. Piha or Piya or something like that means “drink”. He’s asking for something to drink. Darn, it’s 100 degrees outside, they are all sitting on the pavement under the sun with no shade nor water. They’re thirsty.  I smiled, told him to wait a minute, I would come back. I got home, grabbed several 2-liter bottles of Aquafina, stuck them in the front basket of my little pink bicycle that hasn’t been used in a while and pedaled as fast as I could with a semi-flat front tire.

Our sidewalk now looks like a swarm of giant nuclear bubble bees missed their landing and crashed on the road.



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Jadoo the puppy

On Saturday night, we found a puppy, or more exactly, a puppy found me. We were walking towards our compound’s park when I almost stepped on a furball. Apparently he had been following me for a while. Forgetting our ironclad rule of staying away from stray dogs (rabies you know), I picked him up. Who could resist such a cute little thing?


Within minutes, we named him Jadoo. It is one of the first words of Hindi we picked up, in “Koi Mil Gaya”, a silly yet popular Hrithik Roshan movie. It means “magic” and it fits him perfectly. On a very dark day, when spirits were about as low as they can get, he was a ray of sunshine. Full of fleas and ticks, but sunshine anyway. He fell asleep in our arms immediately and we carried him around all evening. That puppy was pooped! We took him home. We quarantined him in the upstairs laundry room, away from the cats. We fed him milk and soft bread, gave him a soft blanket (our kitten is not pleased since it is “her” blanket), spent the night in a hot room with him curled up next to us and woke up 100 times a night whenever he would whine. And he whines a lot.

What to do, what to do? Our situation is such that we cannot keep a puppy. So we went looking for a home for him.

Free, adorable Indian stray dog to a good home.

I sent tons of messages to friends and colleagues. There are dozens of dogs around, surely someone would want him as 1- he’s cute, 2- he’s so young that he hasn’t picked up any bad stray dog habits.

Nope. Dog discrimination abounds. Classism again. It’s akin to the caste system (see article here). Exotic (foreign) dogs, such as Labradors, German Shepherds or Huskies are popular as they are status symbols. They don’t belong in 100 degree weather (40 degrees centigrade) but are seen on leashes at every corner, usually borderline obese, and often dragged by bored maids or dog walkers (article here). Indigenous dogs are regarded as vermin. Does this look like vermin to you?


We wanted to take him to the vet the next day, but on a Sunday, only a few are open and we were not willing to go for a long ride on the scooter with a canine in a box. A short ride sure would have been fun and a good story to tell, but not 10 kilometers! We took him for several walks instead. He loves to run. Sometimes he would lose his balance and flip over. Hilarious.

On Monday we introduced him to our driver who played with him, held him, and for the first time agreed to pose for a picture with him. He, like many others, warned us that no one would want a stray puppy.

While Sathya was getting the car ready, we took Jadoo for a walk outside the compound and around the clubhouse, a nice lady in a burgundy saree started pointing to him and talking in Kannada, a bit agitated. He obviously knew her. I went back to the house to get Sathya to translate. The workers (read: dirt poor people) had found him and taken care of him. They told Sathya that if we could not adopt him, they would continue to care for him. We really cannot keep him.

That afternoon we took him to the vet who said he’s about 45 days old and gave him all his shots and a vaccination certificate, all for 750 rupees (US$12). We got him puppy food. We took a long nap with him, gave him a flea bath, which he hates, and walked him back to his other home. He cuddled up right away in the woman’s arms. We walked away. We were so distraught that the lady called us back and tried to give him back to me. Once home, I texted Sathya telling him about it and he wrote back “don’t worry Madam, WE can go and see him whenever” (emphasis added). He likes the puppy too!

Jadoo now has two families as one will be able to watch him everyday and one who will come and play, take him to the vet when needed and bring him food so the workers don’t have to share their rice with him. And we’ll bring human food too once in a while.

His other home is within a stone’s throw of our house. That poor thing has been yelping for hours, and most of the night. Of course, every time he whined he broke my heart. We went to play with him this morning. He was easy to find, we just followed the sound of the whining puppy. The workers had put him in the men’s bathroom, a cool place, shaded, with the little bed we had given him. Oh, what a joyous reunion that was! For the first time, he licked me and licked E. and screamed in joy. He wanted none of the chew toys he liked so much yesterday. We took him for a run, put him on our lap, went for a walk, and put him back in the mens’ room. He cried a bit but quickly settled down. We will do that twice a day. It will be good for everybody’s soul.

I have trouble choosing between the present or the past tense when talking about him. He was our puppy then wasn’t our puppy then is still somehow our puppy. If the world didn’t seem to be collapsing around me right now, he would become a full-fledged family member, with two feline sisters. But not now. My current state of mind is certainly not helping with this confusion. Blame it on the meds!


Another blog posts about adopting Indian dogs 



Posted in Adapting, Frustration | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When it rains, it pours, and I am not talking about monsoon. I must have entered a bad spell in my life, and bad news after catastrophes are piling on to me at a speed so intense I have trouble standing on my feet. I am grateful that I have a roof on my head, food in my tummy, and a fluffy pillow to sleep on. Our neighbors don’t.

After being reminded that expats are merely puppets whose strings are handled by heartless people in San Diego, it was time to grab the bull by the horns. Though they may have forgotten about the value of humanity, I still have to be alive, for the sake of, well, life. Since this task is becoming more daunting by the day, I decided to fall back on modern medicine to help, more precisely psychiatry and its range of anti-depressants. Yes, I have managed my depression with and without medicine for decades. Currently, I need a pill. Judge me, I don’t care.

I like doctors in India. Efficient. Professional. Not shackled by insurance companies. That is of course if you can pay cash. I saw two doctors yesterday. One in a brand new spectacular hospital, one in the little bitty clinic across the street. But none under a tent.


Psychiatry is a tricky field of medicine, with a reputation for harboring quack doctors. As a holder of a Master’s degree in clinical psychology, I believe in my field. I believe in its science. I also believe that many incompetent people practice it. Add to the mix the fact that depression is often misunderstood. It’s perceived as a condition suitable for people who are down on their luck, who are poor, who have lost their children, not for expat women with all the material amenities known to (wo)man. I have spent countless hours explaining to my university students what depression really is. Depression is not ingratitude. I think I would have to give that lecture to the shrink I saw last night.

Madam, if you cannot control the situation, you should just let it go. Riiiiight.

You have not yet forgiven the people who wronged you when you were a child? Time for you to take Counseling 101.

Madam, my spiritual guru teaches me that we should relinquish ourselves to a higher being. Are you a shrink or a proselyte?

Madam, I have seen three people today. One with a gender identity problem, one with cancer and one with hallucinations. And I care why?

Myself, I have had hardships in my life, I had to move from Mumbai to Bangalore 10 years back. Thanks,  I still don’t care.

Madam, you should wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you have a sad though. If that’s a new therapy, it’s time to invest in rubber bands.

Madam, you should drink milk before going to bed you will not have insomnia anymore. Time to invest in a cow then.

My spiritual guru reminds us of the story of the sparrow that goes to the South Pole. Mention your spiritual guru one more time and I deck you.

Two doctors’ visits, four prescriptions and an ill-advised spiritual lecture, all of that for under 20 bucks.


Posted on by Kitty Vindaloo | 4 Comments