An option called ‘Love’

Today as I sat down to sing a Raga that I had not sung in a long time, by learning a new bandish with my guru (the raga being Madhukauns), I just started to weep by the end of the new composition, because its words were such- ja ja re pathikwa (go away you traveler) . I just thought the recent traveler who moved out of my life, and the tears began streaming out.

Then I thought, is this the way I am going to live now? I love Raga, not loved – the love remains in my heart, there is no change. I did everything I could to make her life’s journey and our companionship joyful. I tended to her, loved her, kept her comfortable, kept her utterly clean (she didn’t have a bath in the past six months, since April) and she even smelled fragrant! I did not allow any secondary infections to develop in her, I carried her around to let her experience every part of our home and our lives, so she would not languish in one room while the others were all over the house, I never left her out of anything- ever. Even when her body stiffened to the extent that she could not even sit up any more (which was for the last three weeks or thereabout), I did not forget to carry her around. My own spinal pain has been a constant part of my life for years now, and yet there could not be any compromise or exclusion when it came to Raga.

When she could not pee any longer, because of a progressed stage of her illness, I just learned to tease her bladder and help her empty it out. She would just lie on one of her sides and I would press her sides, enabling the urine to come out. I washed her feet if any drops fell on them, and kept her eyes clean by wiping the discharge that came out. I picked up her stools and made sure she was defecating by changing her diet if need be, to ensure some bowel movements. I never let her lie in any of her discharges. When she stopped eating the food that all other dogs ate, I just checked and tested other things that would interest her and even if it was a little expensive started feeding her mutton (which i pretty much cannot eat with any regularity myself).

I have left no stone un-turned for Raga’s sake- neither physically, nor financially, or my own efforts. This is the most I could have done. I did not want to have any regrets later, and I know that when I go down this dog would be one dog that will remain in my heart until then, or perhaps they all will. But she was my youngest in this pack of four, and she left first! That was the sad part for me.

Dec 2010, Delhi-Goa 008

Getting ready to drive out- some time in 2011/12

So coming back to the tale of where I sat with tears streaming down my eyes and the emptiness of Raga’s physical presence, which was by my side these past ten years and more. It is also ten years ago that I had moved to this house in Faridabad (barring the over two that we were in Goa).

Upon an impulse I decided that new life is needed. I came to the computer and checked to see if I could get a Dachshund somehow…and then guess what…within a few hours this little duo was on its way …

I thought to myself, love cannot

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Checking out my table!

diminish because the one that you love is gone- that love is eternal. I will always love my Raga, but that does not mean that there is no more love in my heart. This heart needs to love because it is its nature to love, it must embrace new life and new journeys, because it is the nature of life to love, to grow. It is my ancient nature- the nature of my species.

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Sitting on our mummy’s music notebook that she wept singing a song from, just this morning 🙂

Then recalling the ancient wisdom of the flow I decided to give it a go and here are the newcomers in my life…Floe and Rhythm.

My sister upon hearing that I was planning to get a pup home, decided to throw her weight into the deal as well- got one herself, a very beautiful black labrador, whose name is now Masha. So here we are, less than 48 hours of Raga’s passage, embracing new bundles of joy and loving the ones we already have and the ones who have left us, for that is a choice nobody can take away from us.

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She sat closest to me when I sat for riyaaz. In this picture, taken earlier this year in the summer, she dragged herself to be close to me…one of the last occasions to do so.

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Our Two shepherds and October third week

It is not usual that a family would lose two dogs in a few days- but we did. Lalu, the mixed shepherd passed away on his way to Jim Corbett Park (18th October 2017) and Raga- passed away last night (23rd October 2017).  I had pulled her bed close to mine and decided to go to sleep. But before that I had teased her bladder and helped her empty it out to the extent possible. She was very weak- the whole day she kept breathing with her mouth open ,with eyes fixed in an uncertain gaze.

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Till she could still move, she would sit closest to me as I sat down for my riyaaz. May-June 2017

I could not be with her too much , but many a times I came and sat by her and I kept an eye on her from a distance, to be sure she was breathing. At night, when I knew it was time to sleep I pulled her bed close to mine- to keep an eye on her and ran my hand over her head repeatedly. She looked at me and then settled once again- mouth open, laboured breathing. Then I held her paw in my hand, it was warm- she had fever. I held her for as long as I could without changing my sides. Then I had to change, and I did- while keeping the lights on in the room, for i did not want to lose a sense of time.

I turned sides and dozed off at may be 11:15 or 11:30, i cannot say for sure. At 11:40 I opened my eyes and looked at the clock first and then at her. I noticed she was not breathing. I got up quickly and touched her- there was no life in my baby- she was lying limp there, or was she? I had to find out. I could see the absence of breathing for sure…I was not ready to accept yet.

I went next door to call my sister, who was staying the night over anticipating Raga’s end. She got up quickly and came, and confirmed she was no more. I was not sure how long I would have slept…I could not make out how long she was thus. But the body was still soft and pliable. We had kept a pit two feet deep ready in the garden for her burial. I just wore something on top as it is cool in the night outside. I picked up my baby and the last few drops of urine came out…she was so light weight by now. Her head rolled over to one side on my left arm- the body was still warm. I carried her to the garden…and lowered her into the pit. Then we both put mounds of earth on her and covered up the entire pit.

In these past few months I have been writing about Raga frequently, trying to capture my story with her. And I did a photo montage as well in one of the posts. It has been a great life with Raga- she would have turned eleven in January 2018. But exactly three months short of it, she passed away.

Raga and Lalu died within less than a week of one another. Both of us sisters have lost one dog each- both of them shepherds too. Lalu had come into her life from a shelter in Austin, Texas. When she moved to India in 2008, she brought him and Lucy along. Lalu was over 14, is her estimate. We both feel grateful for the opportunity to love such beautiful dogs

july visit to goa upon Aires' demise (30)

, while they enriched our lives in deep and transformative ways. And yet we are also grateful for the presence of all our other dogs too, who are still with us and who not only are sagely managing the loss of their friends, but also keeping the flame of canine love glowing by their unquestioning presence in our lives today. Thank you Ginger, Nikki, Dash and Lucy. What would the world be without loving a few animals every day? And also thanks to the other street dogs who have adopted us and continue to man our main gate, offering us hope, security and companionship in your funny little ways.

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Street dogs eating inside my home

Re-casting

A lot happens between two blog posts for me. This time, it was (is ongoing) a journal article, a number of musical compositions, a whole lot of reading on at least three different aspects of mental illness research, tending to the dogs, an attack of cough and chest congestion (still on), putting a new garden in place and I don’t know what else.

Its September end, so technically it is autumn here- the heat has subsided and the last two days of rain have actually hastened the pace of the oncoming winter, I fear. I am not too fond of being bundled under layers of clothes and trying to keep myself warm on a chair.

The article that I am currently writing is a direct outcome of my research- especially the data that I am collecting in research. My ‘data’ is basically stories or narratives of people’s brush with psychosis- a lot of things come out when you listen to stories and that of course also depends upon the questions you ask. But the next stage, is going to be the real challenge- the data interpretation one. At present the struggle is to get the data set together before embarking on that journey.

Changing the way things look leads to newer insights, growth and outcomes. What fits ideas also fits with physical spaces. For the last one year I had been thinking that the backyard needs to be remodeled. Low level of sunlight does not augur well for grass and having a lawn where you do not even sit on one day in a year, makes no sense. After much thought and planning I am now changing it. Here are the four stages of the garden just for a reminder to myself, before the past is forever replaced.

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The backyard in the winter

Putting a new garden in place is a lot of thinking first. Especially if the only resources you have are your own mental ones, backed by a little money. I do not like to bring in professionals, though no doubt they would have all the ideas- and a big list of options to choose from. But I feel that for a garden I should just stick to what I can afford and what I want, rather than someone telling me how to do what. I am being frugal and I am letting myself experiment here. How else does one learn? If we keep taking everything from the market itself, because we feel those who are in the market know better (which they may because they have spent years training for the work) the whole world starts looking alike. I want to look like myself- even my home should be like me- relaxed, calm, a sense of joy and a variety of plants, books, etc etc.

Maintaining a lawn is always an issue, and no lawn survives without careful maintenance. It was a big step for me to consider pulling the lawn out completely- mostly a big step in my head first. And then I began to conceptualize what I want instead. So I decided I want flowers and flowers and yes vegetables.

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Stage 1- empty patch

What purpose the lawn serves is going to be much less than what flowers and homegrown vegetables serve me. So there you go- the grass was pulled out and I sat thinking now what is to be done.

I made a few designs and then decided that I need to build that slowly. So I first measured the piece and decided to cut out a few straight beds. The wall side, which is to the left in this picture is where I made a vegetable bed. Also the wall adjacent to it- where there were green vegetables last year as well.

After that all the center is left. So I have cut out more spaces that are independent units in it. I am still watching the play of sun and shade, and this is still autumn. I know that in the winter the patterns will be entirely different. The trees also have to be pruned and trimmed. So on the whole, things are looking different.

At present things have already moved forward from this stage, and the seeds have been bought for everything. There is a whole lot of investment done in plants, manure, earth and bricks etc. More will be needed still- I am still holding it in my mind, like the Rubik Cube.

A change of perspective is usually generative. It made me also somewhere change the idea of the Hansadhani Foundation, which I have been feeling was something dead and difficult at the moment- considering it is such a small thing. SO I decided to put it on a back burner and carry on work independently, as myself. As an entrepreneur. I have already put SwarGanga together and I intend to do more with it. Hopefully Antardhwanee will also come together soon.

In the next blog post that I write, I hope there will be better things. Raga is stable – better than earlier now that I have figured the mix to feed her. She was simply not eating earlier and neither much urinary output, which is a sign that the kidneys are not working well. Adding a little Psyllium Husk to her food has made her bowels stable and changing the food to simply putting mutton instead of chicken has also helped. I know of course she is living on borrowed time- but till as long as she does, it should be nice, easy and comfortable. Naturally I am doing all within my means to ensure that.

 

Uber and its little frauds

I hired an Uber Cab today. A Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire landed at my door with a driver calling himself Rahul (when I saw Rahul’s picture later, it was a different person!!). I am a recent Uber client, and even more recently I have added my credit card for payment for it- until now I was using the cash payment method. I did not realize that I ought to be paying for every trip by my credit card only and no further cash payment would be permissible.

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I went all the way, where I had to and incurred a bill of about Rs.340/- But at that time the driver said to me the bill was 300! I did not see any payment device in his hand and I was unsure what was happening- so I asked him whether he would like cash payment or card. He said to me ‘Madam, if you can give cash, that would be nice. I do not have any way to take card!!!’ I of course did not know that the card payment goes directly to the Uber company which pays the drivers later. So I said, don’t worry, I will pay you by cash. It is my father’s birthday and I was just a little happy that he is safely out after a major surgery, so I did not mind being a little generous with my pocket cash, which I do not otherwise give away easily. Meanwhile the driver ‘Rahul’ was giving me the story that he had a stomach pain and he needed to go to the doctor. I could not make heads or tails about the whole business, but I thought giving cash would just be fine as it was not a big amount anyways!

He took the money, as according to him the amount was 300. A few hours later I needed to come back home and had to book a cab again. When I opened the Uber application on my phone it said I had a pending amount of Rs.349/-! Would I please care to authenticate the transaction?! I was shocked, surprised and upset all of a sudden, because I had already paid and was being demanded a second time payment.

So I thought they would have a redressal mechanism, decided to approach it. Here is the conversation that ensued

Me: He (the driver) said he would not take card payment. As I have only recently added my card I didn’t understand. My payment amount was 297 (may be I got it wrong). He didn’t tell me that I didn’t have to pay. I asked him whether he wanted cash and he replied in the affirmative. I didn’t know that i need not have paid cash as my card is already attached. Please help me.

Leela M. (on behalf of Uber writes back)

Hi Prateeksha On checking this, I see that teh trip you are referring to was a non-cash Mastercard **** trip. Riders are expected to pay by the payment method chosen before they request a ride.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to process a refund in this case.

Appreciate your understanding in this regard.

Me: So what happens to the money I paid…since Uber app is showing me a pending payment

Harman (another Uber flunky)

Hi Prateeksha

I get where you are coming from and can imagine how frustrating the situation must have been. However, cash exchanged outside the Uber system cannot be recorded, and we would not be able to account for it and make adjustments to the trip fare.

For your future trips, whenever you’re requesting an Uber be sure to check the payment method you ‘re using so that you don’t end up paying twice for the same trip.

Appreciate  your concern in this regard. (well of course, it is my money, I will be concerned and why not? Wouldn’t you be?)

Me: So what is to be done now? If you expect me to pay a second time…it will not be fair

Me: I am not going to pay a second time here, be assured of it! I will discontinue using Uber

Kamaljeet S. (a third bloke to carry on the same conversation from Uber)

Hi Prateeksha

I get where you are coming from and can imagine how frustrting the situation must have been (hey is that a standard line all Uber blokes use to address customers who feel cheated?) However, cash exchanged outside the Uber system cannot be recorded, and we would not be able to account for it and make adjustments to the trip fare.(I get it, you have the same lines…by typing them out a second time I know it now!)

For your…blah, blah,…(read above in red)

And after every dialog from Uber I get a green band saying Resolved. In other words, they have resolved my problem!

In further words, they want me to pay a second time…!@!!

And I say- In what manner is the issue resolved, I am not clear! Is my balance clear or is there a pending payment?

Now for god sake…another flunkeeee called

balraj s shows up to enlighten my path

Hi Prateeksha (really, I must be your school buddy)

We were unable to charge your outstanding balance of INR 339.45 to the payment method selected for your trip on September 2,2017 10:47 Am. You will be unable to request a trip until this balance is paid in full.

If you’d like to use a different payment method to settle your balance, tap Payments in your app to add a new payment account or select a different one.

Please let us know if you have questions.

Really! Do you really want to solve my problem- then how come no one person carries on a conversation and innumerable people keep popping up for the next response, which is nothing but the same thing over and over again?

I realized by now they can really out-talk you, no matter how wrong they be. And what is the point in talking to idiots where the system itself is so deeply flawed.

I would like to report the following things about the Uber…who have a rotten mechanism in place-

  1. When their cabs come the designated drivers are often not driving. In my case the cab was driven by a man called Rahul, whereas the picture of the person which the Uber app sent to me was completely different. In other words, someone else was posing as Rahul and driving the car.
  2. Had he been the designated driver hired by Uber he would have told me to not pay as this was a cashless drive (yesterday’s driver told me)

If your drivers are so well known to you, why not call up the driver and find out if I paid the amount or not?! Why are you harassing me?!

How can you risk anyone this way, and let people who are ignorant be cheated?

Is this not a matter of great SHAME?!

 

The difficult month that went…by and by

This was a difficult month, for all of us. But today is the last of the month and a lot of that difficulty is now behind us. Yet I want to scribble here in brief what all happened so that if ever a time like this should come I would remember, we have been there before.

Papa had to undergo a open heart surgery- all of a sudden. That was decided in the first week of the month. The date was set for the 10th. On the 1st of the month it was his angiography which told us about the blockages in his heart- they were four when the surgery was performed.

Around the same time Raga’s tail amputation happened, and while the tail was still recovering she had a bladder issue- she stopped passing urine. the vet said that she has lost sensation of a full bladder- due to paralysis. It was a nightmare after that- every alternate day I would be taking her to the vet for a catherization! As a result in the second week, she developed a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). That coincided with Andre being here- so between him and me, we kept taking her to the vet daily for cleansing her bladder with saline and antibiotics- six days continuously. By the end of this time it was time for Andre to go back, as well as for papa to return from hospital post surgery.

But this was not all, I also got to teach music in a teacher’s training department for three hours at a time- six sessions in all, to over 20 girls per session. Not the easiest of tasks to perform. Tomorrow is the last of them- thank god. Teaching such big numbers is not interesting at all, unless the students are motivated.And that usually does not happen easily in Indian universities. But every effort of this sort is generative to a researcher like me- so I am busy writing about the experience and drawing the outcomes from it, whatever they could have been.

I had to let go of writing an article for a special issue of a journal in mental health, which had earlier accepted my abstract, many months ago- because my mind was very scattered this entire span of time. The sort of peace I require to write was simply not there. Plus Ginger also got a diagnosis of chronic Otitis and a couple of other things. So now, we know all our cards, no more surprises- hopefully the worst is behind us.

After the UTI I learnt to tease Raga’s bladder and now I can manage to press it twice a day in a way to help her empty it out. It is a great relief to see my girl fine, though weak and becoming more and more so. However, I know that I am tending to her the most I can, and keeping her close to me, the most I can…loving her, petting her, cleaning her, hand feeding her, grooming her, putting medicines in her mouth when required. I know this is the last of our moments together, nobody knows when the end comes- I do not want to miss whatever scope life still gives us- the borrowed moments- to love each other and remind ourselves how much we will love one another, even when we would not be able to touch each other. Until then, let me run my fingers on her back, her head, her face…my weak little old yet baby girl- who had once come into my life as a 45 day old puppy. My darlin Raga. The beauty is that while I write this, my baby is still sleeping behind me peacefully.

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Raga, Marwa, and Malkauns

On 31st July, at 20:20, Raga went into her surgery- for a tail amputation. She had developed gangrene and the decision was taken in the morning itself when I had taken her to the vet’s, for a catheterization- to empty her bladder. On a sudden thought I decided to take my electronic tanpura with me, hoping the vet would not mind my intrusion into his surgery!

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I braced myself and asked him, if he would be okay that I played the tanpura to my little girl. He was a little amused that I asked, and asked me, if the dog understands it– I said, yes, I am a musician and this girl whose name is Raga is actually steeped in classical music!

He was amused I am sure and he gave me a nod. But not before asking me, whether I would be staying in the surgery while he performed the amputation. He must have thought this woman is a nutcase! But he was too tired to thrash out anything further, being the fag end of the day for him. In any case I wanted to stay because she was not going to get general anasthesia but a local one and having her in the surgery without me would not have been possible that way.

I played the tanpura and put my arm on her across her neck- two boys held her, and the procedure went ahead. There were three boys to support the vet, and I sang along to my baby. I sang Marwa first- piya more anat des (Amir Khan Sa’ab’s bandish) and then I sang what Khan saheb is singing here-

Obviously I was in no mood to sing the Raga in the sedate way it is supposed to be- my intent was more to keep my girl calm. I was sad, but deeply calm- ditto her. Was she sad? Cannot say, but definitely very quiet and unperturbed.

And then when I felt that things were progressive, and possibly I ran out of ideas of how to do more alap in Marwa, I turned the Madhyam on the tanpura and lo and behold Malkauns popped in front. Jin ke mann ram biraaje, by Khan sa’ab connotes Malkauns to my mind. Another deeply felt bandish, that I sang a great deal once upon a time.

The surgery was over in less than an hour. Raga, me and Imdad bhai returned home- it was a new experience for everyone. My baby was cool enough to come home and have a meal- as I had not fed her earlier as per the vet’s suggestion due to the surgery.

Life and surgeries can go so smoothly with the right melodies…

 

The countdown begins >>>

This is the countdown we are all moving towards- some fear it, some dread it, some accept it resignedly, some with equanimity and some with peace. I do not yet know where I stand on this spectrum. Perhaps just somewhere from where all these options seems recognizable. This is the countdown towards reaching the culmination of our earthly journey.

In many a  post, such as this, or this , or that,  in these past few months I have been writing about my dogs, in particular Raga. This post is just a round-up of today and unlike many other days when I write blogposts in the evening or late evening, this is rank afternoon. My computer clock is showing 2:03pm. This is not the time for blogs entries!

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As I write this post Raga is sitting right behind me, and the backyard is behind her

But this is. For today is the day that the final end is staring loud and clear- not that it was not earlier. But I do not want to mourn her passage- i want to write a note to myself for the morrow when she would really not be there, and I would be crying around. To tell myself of the future, how much I loved my baby…i need to write this down, while she is still breathing right behind me.

Last week, I had to take her to a vet in Noida- as she could not pass urine. It got me very worked up, because all these months she is not able to get up on her own as it is and every act of her bowel and bladder involves my role in cleaning up after her or washing her sheets etc. So in two days when I saw no wetness anywhere I just knew it was something serious. She was made to pee through a catheter. She had accumulated 2 and a quarter liters inside her. For a bladder capacity of 150ml that female german shepherds have an accumulation of 2.3 liters is too much. I shudder to think of the toxicity. The doctor was quite expensive and forcibly saddled me with a dog food packet having formulation for urinary issues. I came home lighter with an empty bladder of the girl and my own pocket of Rs.3000/- That is a lot of money for me.

Two days later I had no success and the same point came- she needed another catheterization. I was frantic. Taking her to Noida with my own spine not yet healed and paying an expensive veterinary doctor, notwithstanding how good he may be, is never an easy option. I called up the local chap (who is good enough only for small issues I figured, for he never seems to rise up to the occasion) and he said he was down with fever and at a clinic himself!! His assistant said he would come, only to tell me two hours later that he cannot manage a catheter with a female dog! My two hours had gone, and anxiety was building rapidly. Raga had not peed again in more than 48 hours.

I called another local vet, who is right here in our sector- he turned out to be an a***hole. Refused to deal with the issue, because another vet had already started the treatment! I never thought vets could be lacking in ethics, but having that encounter was an eye-opener for sure.

A blind fluke of a chance and I landed up in sector 19 market, at the reference of a local chemist- who I buy my canine medicines from occasionally. I met this vet for the first time only on Saturday-29th July 2017. He managed the insert the catheter with great difficulty and told me to unfasten her tail…let the wound dry. I did that yesterday. Even in his clinic there was a bladder output of over two liters! Today is the third day…for after coming back day before yesterday, there was no bladder movement again, while the bowel movement continues as normal.

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In the veterinary operation theater today morning

All this while I did not have a diagnosis for Raga. This vet wrote down- quadriplegic and paralyzed. My heart just shuddered to read it- my baby was so severely crippled that I did not even see it so. But of course I faced its outcome everyday…

Her kidneys are filtering yet the nerves that have to send a signal to the brain. The vet used the term degenerative myelopathy. There is nothing to be done, but support the animal till the last stages- however long one can handle that. My baby is so quiet…ever so gentle, still ready to bark at others especially the outside dogs who come into our compound to eat every morning, and on mornings when I have carried her up to the front lawn she can amuse herself by looking at them – eating right under her nose.

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Right in front of her

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The five outsiders eat their morning meal

Life is a great journey, which is so deeply enriched by the presence of animals , so much so that I cannot imagine what it could have been without them.

So today when I took her for another round of catheterization, the vet saw her tail and told me it had gangrene. Already in the morning i had a teary breakdown while talking to Andre, about Raga and to hear the gangrene word…i was jolted. I immediately requested him for surgery. Could it be possible without general anasthesia, the one thing I am so afraid of for Raga, for I fear she will not revive after it. He calmly told me to let him get over with the bladder issue.

While managing that he told me, that her tail can be numbed in two or three different spots and that way the amputation can be handled. the time for the surgery is 8pm. I will teach my students of music and then leave home around 7:30. It is a sigh of relief- though i know it is a sign of the end. My baby is getting ready to go and this, all this, whatever I am doing right now is basically my own preparation- to accept that she must; or else I end up prolonging her misery.

So finally it is all about coming to terms with our losses…our un-fill-able losses. Our animals are parts of our souls, as much as we are their’s. And this is the time for me to get ready to accept that my baby, my littlest one, who came to me as a 45 days old puppy, the daughter of Pepper and Ranger (and I saw them both) will soon be gone. This is my time to love her the most, to hug her what I can- to clean her body with the nice spray I bought for her, because she has not had a bath since April for I find her so weak. She does not smell in the least…and still I want to comb her, wash her nails and toes. My Raga- you were my music and the music must live.

I have tears streaming down as I write these last lines, yet I look back at our lives together- our interwoven tapestry is a beautiful one, and Raga has been through so much of it- thank you life for giving me such beautiful dogs and letting me love them and live for them, till as long as we had to share the road. Perhaps the next post will be my farewell post to her.

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