A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)


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Kuttan – Alpha Everything :)

That mewling sound, that morning, at around 8.40 am, will always stay with her. Discovering him, gathering him in her palms, carefully wiping him down, before handing him over to his birth mother, who was trembling in the anxiety of just having had her first baby. The joy, the bewilderment, the miracle itself, unfolding. She and his mother, they both owned that feeling.

His mother then went on to have another six babies over the next four hours. Gently heaving, an experienced mother, by the end of it all. All the while the other mother watched helped, and was the mid-wife. 🙂 The babies were healthy, jostling and suckling her immediately. But that first one, that Alpha Male, he was already earmarked – he’d always be hers, other than his own mother’s, his Amma’s own special brat.

And so it came to be, he stayed with his Amma, and his birth mother Paru, those first three months, after which his mother, Paru, went back to Cpl, her “tharavaad” to her Ammumma (my mother), and he, the Alpha, stayed on, with is Amma, his brothers, and his older sister, Chinnu 🙂 (LINK)

 

The Menagerie*

Paru, his mother, and the seven, Kuttan I like to think is the one, flush up against her, head of the puppy pack!

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12 December, 2017

As I write this, I’m struck by this wave of emotion. A poignant nostalgia, seeing him, lifting his head from where he lies, close by, a quizzical look in his eye, as if to say, Amma, you called?

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The Alpha, my alpha everything, as you know, by this time, is my very own Kuttan. Naughty, mischievous, rambunctious, bordering on aggression, sometimes too often, needing to be cautioned, monitored and occasionally whacked 😀 a bit, he grew up, as kids who are loved deeply and unconditionally do – with supreme confidence in himself, and ready for anything!

Even in the face of dire warnings and well-meaning advice, his Amma never let him go. She never spoiled him, though it seemed like that to his Ammumz! Well, when you’ve got an awesome personality, with an edge of energy, you gotta show it, right? 😛 That’s one question that always bubbled over from his raised (invisible) eyebrow look! He even added a low growl for good effect. You don’t mess with me, was is USP, especially nights. Except his Amma, no one was tolerated within 10 m., once he’d had his dinner, and had settled down on Amma’s bed for the night.

But we’re getting ahead of the story. When his mother, Paru, returned to the ‘tharavaad’, and his siblings all found loving homes, his Amma, despite much advice against it, decided she wasn’t letting his go. He knew that he owned her, from that moment on. He did own her heart, and would do anything for her – including listening to her, to shut the eff up, when he got aggressive with the others – Chinnu, Appu, or even his mom Paru. His Amma said so, so he would. 🙂

As all young boys, he had much energy, kinetic, potential, what you name it, and expended that energy by scaling the compound wall and going off for a walk/run on his own. If he was allowed to wander on his own, in the walled in compound, or if by accident, the gates were left open, he’d be off in a shot, like a bat out of hell, particularly if there were cats in the vicinity. His racial memories had these lores of what enemies cats were, and he couldn’t help but be conditioned by it, and set about cleanly finishing the few he came across, who were no match for his lightning speed! (Wait! he must have wondered, as I do, if he had some feline blood in him to move so fast? Naah! he must have answered to him self too!!! 😛 )

Now comes the twist in the tale, if indeed he was CAT! Because, how does one explain his bonding with the cats at home?! M’mzelle Malu (LINK), Mia, her kitten?! How! That’s a question his Amma, and his family wondered… He never did though, it would seem. They, them cats, were family, weren’t they? DUH! 😛 You always got you family’s back, doncha?! You sure do! Even if they were cats! Because, here’s the thing see – the members of this family are the same – pretty much human, though some of them take the form of a cat, dog, squrrel, or occasionally as has happened, a bird or a bat!

Thus happened, the seemingly impossible. The Mellowing, the Meaowing too, to put it lamely, of The Kuttan! Mia Arrived dramatically, a rescue cat, scrawny, feisty, even though she fit into the palm of my hand when I brought her home, it was clear immediately who was boss! She had to be bottle fed, the first few weeks with me. Kuttan now had a constant companion, too, out on our long drives… Mia was as unfeline, and Kuttan was uncanine 😛 Maybe that’s one of the reasons they got along so well together! Err, did I tell you? Yes, we are a rather hatke family! 😛

Those rides with Kuttan and Mia, in my AK 47 (car, duh!) are legendary! Initially Mia travelled, protesting all the way, in a wee basket, with constant chatter from me to keep her comfy. Kuttan got the back seat, Mia up front, in her basket. In time, Mia began protesting in earnest and therefore was permitted to roam the car- she wasn’t very uncomfortable, but neither was she fully comfortable, though she accepted the rides well enough. She would roam around, plonk herself on my lap, sometimes rest her head on my shoulder, or sit behind my feet, that were on the pedals of the car. Sometimes she’d be at the window, looking out… Closed spaces and cats do not go well together 🙂

Eventually, in the nearly one and half years of to and fro travel, we decided that Mia would stay at my parents’ place since she loved the sprawling compound and open spaces there, and far safer from the stray cats that thronged my own neighbourhood in the city. I must also mention that in the intervening period, she had three kitten, and they were old enough to be on their own – in fact she had practically given my home to her kitten and became an infrequent visitor, when we planned to shift her to my parents, where she was extremely comfortable 🙂

This was nearly three years ago. Kuttan had grown more quiet, mature, and was becoming a model of good behaviour, except for the nights 😛 He and Appu, the males in the family, were constantly at logger heads, and came to actual fights many a time when they were younger, but had grown accustomed to each other, and tolerated each other better, as the years passed. In the meantime, his best friend, Chinnu, had gone ahead to pets paradise, in 2013. It was him,Mia and I, till her kittens came along.

Wiser, older, and yet his Amma’s Kuttan, that’s who he came to be. Each morning as she left for work, he’d see her off, standing by the window, and each evening he’d be up at the balcony, to greet her, with his own signature greeting… An oooooooo, OOOOOOOOO…. following by happy high pitched appealing barking 🙂 His Amma still looks up at the place, each day when she returns, and hears it, even though he remains unseen … Her heart knows , and isn’t that finally what matters?

Early this year, in the third week of February, he developed a breathing problem. He’d gasp, suddenly for breath, when he hadn’t been physically active too. It got his Amma worried enough, and so began a week long trek to the vet, as grew progressively weaker. He needed to be on drips, as he wouldn’t eat, or drink. Thinking it might have been a lung infection, all the tests were done to rule out possibilities, till the final x-ray revealed an enlarged heart which was probably pushing itself on the windpipe. Medicines were started.

Kuttan, as you know by now, wasn’t one to take being held down, or given an injection, with any kind of docility. However that week, he submitted to all the injections, the drips he needed to be given, the poking and prodding, like he’d always been such a paavam! Never a jerk, never a growl, nothing. It does not cease to amaze me, how much he’d changed and accepted that we were trying to help. However, that day, Sunday, 26 February, 2017, at the morning visit to the vet, for his drips, and his injection to reduce the enlarged condition of his heart, the students at the vet hospital, were unable to find a vein easily, on his hind leg, and it hurt him enough to react. So he was muzzled, he got panicky, started to froth, and very quickly, I removed the muzzle, calmed him down, but he lay so still, so so so still on the table, unmoving. Heart in my mouth, I tried cajoling him into responding, shook him, tried to lift him up… The doctors gathered around trying their best too. I was told to just was a few moments, since he was breathing, his heart was beating. I did, and he finally stood up, with help. Slowly he walked to the car with me, and we got home.

He still wasn’t eating. Barely drinking water, but breathing a bit easier. That morning, being tied up with some work, that was another trauma, I left him at home to complete it. He had his water, his medicines, and was resting. It took me a few hours, to get back to him, and he simply came and sat at my feet, when I returned. I remember calling my kids, and we were on a skype group call, when suddenly he came up, sat in front of the laptop for a long time, looking at the screen, where they kept calling his name, and he kept looking at them. (He never does that, I thought. He NEVER does that!) I continued with the chat, as he lay close. We finished, and then came a call from Daddy. As I was talking to him, answering his query about Kuttan, I noticed he was not at my feet, but had gone out.

Stepping outside to check, all I could do was just keep repeatedly calling out his name. He lay on the verandah, his favourite spot, at the edge, his head having fallen gently, lax, peacefrul, to touch the first step down. He’d gone on. He’d left. He’d …. just, gone. The irony of the whole thing was that he had always been the healthiest of the lot we had, hardy, dependable, never ever ill.

Gently, I lifted his head and placed it on my lap, told daddy what had happened, and asked that he arrange for someone to prepare a grave for him there, since I wanted him next to his friends, Appu and previously, Ammini, our first Alsatian, buried there. I called his favourite friend, C, my help, and she came, heartbroken to discover he’d gone. When the taxi arrived, I carried him onto the back seat, cradled his head on my lap, and kept talking to him for the two hours we took to reach my parents’ place. It was almost 9 in the night, by then. We kept Paru inside, till the next morning. But a strange mournful howl, as Kuttan was taken to his final resting place still echoes in my ear, his mother’s goodbye to him perhaps.

He’s in a better place, oh yes, he is! And what is that final goodbye, but just a liminal, I tell myself, knowing that we’d meet again, some other lifetime, after we meet at the Rainbow Bridge, that is 🙂 He’s here, with me, for as they say, those who die, are never gone, not when you carry them in your heart ❤ and see them around you, talk, as often as you can to them.

Yesterday, I watched, for the first time (I know I’ll watch that one more times yet!) “Cloud Atlas”, and was struck by some of the wisdom in the beautiful writing of that script 🙂 Like these, for each of them leads me to believe, I’ve not finished my time with Kuttan!

Our lives are not our own. we are bound to others, past and present

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This world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts.

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I believe death is only a door. One closes, and another opens. If I were to imagine heaven, I would imagine a door opening. And he would be waiting for me there.

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I believe there is another world waiting for us, Sixsmith, a better world. And I’ll be waiting for you there.

I know he and the gang are waiting at the rainbow bridge 🙂 And that he’s happy with them, up there! It’s never goodbye, you know… for you’re always with me, Kutts!

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Kuttan of the pointy ears! 26 December, 2006- 26 February, 2017

25 December, 2017

Labour of love ❤

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The Thorough Gentleman

Alert: Almost 2400 words, so. 🙂

As chauvinistic as the title may seem, this is about someone who was anything but. Chauvinistic, I mean. (though of course, it will be another thesis here, as to why the title could be considered chauvinistic- but, no, this rambler is determined to be on track here!)

As a lad, as all young children do, really, he had to markings, forewarnings as it were, as to his greatness in the “gentlemanly” role he was to play. He was, like all boisterous boys, sprightly, lanky, thin, to the point of being a despair to his mom, and, as all mischievous kids do, loved to eat mud, scrape the wall paint off, that too, with his teeth! You’d never guess, too, that he was adopted. He was more family, than the other kids 🙂 – loved, cherished, adored, by others who knew him as well.

As the other kids before him, he was at once goofy, yet he bore a regal bearing, a steady stance, all done in by that goofy grin, so integral to who he was!

That’s Appu, our Appu.

The pictures, clockwise 🙂
From Top left: That was when Ashwin held a stone just above his mobile camera 🙂 Look at his concentration.; Appu in the Kulam, and look at the frisbee 🙂 ; The Gentlemanly pose, undermined by that stone in his mouth 🙂 ; I told you “mine mine mine mine” – all four of them, at Biscuit time 🙂 That would be Kuttan at the far end, then his momma, Paru, then the Black Beauty, Chinnu, and then Appu, with their Amma 🙂 ; And then there is his concentration on that dratted stone again 🙂 🙂 

He came home to us, in 2005, in the month of May, after we bid final goodbye to our other Alsatian, a gentle girl,  elfin, charming, wonderful soul, Ammini (LINK) As mentioned in that blog for her, she had a sort of OCD – she needed to ALWAYS have ball, a Frisbee, a something with her, as a pacifier, of sorts. Serendipity, maybe (yes, I am in Love with that word, to a point of being in relationship with it 😀 ) but Appu had the same, the very SAME trait, except that he would chew on it, and it extended to things like a chewed off stick, a stone, misshapen pieces of things. The fierce concentration on his face while you held the object to throw to him was a sight to behold.

I remember our first meeting, bringing him home from that kennel, settling him in. Memories rush in with these words. It had been barely a month or so, since Ammini had gone to Pets Paradise, and my mother was still recovering from that loss. She wanted to care for another again, and suggested a “boy” this time, feeling he would be less susceptible to ailments that came to the girls, as Ammini had had a cardiac arrest at 6 years, something related to her gender. However, mummy couldn’t have been more far from the truth.

Appu, the moment I laid eyes on him, that dusky evening in that kennel, I knew he was coming home to stay. Scrawny, all arms and legs, tall for his age, he stayed at the far end of his pen and looked on with liquid eyes. It seemed to me at that point, he needed much love and care, for there was an air of neglect about him, and the poignant feeling from more than 11 years ago to that day, still haunts. We lost no time in grabbing him, Ashwin and I, and taking him home, almost immediately. The change in him was almost instant, like he recognized long lost family, which I’m sure is what happened. At home, in an instant, he was all over place, even making advances on our 2 year old beauty, our darling Chinnu, who suddenly became coy and sprightly, for him 😛 (LINK) The rest is history, cliché though it be, for us. Not him, the story 🙂 You shall not be spared the history, of course 🙂

He grew, flourished, and seemed in so many ways, like our precious Ammini, not as gregarious perhaps in the initial days, having a more pedantic penchant for the pensive. Poetic, ain’t that! He’d be most animated when taken for a walk (which dog isn’t!!!) or maybe throw him his ball, Frisbee, or a stone, something, anything, or maybe to take a dip in the pond 🙂 along with Chinnu. A couple of weeks, the first two with us, he spent at my home, and then to his permanent home we went, my parents’ – where he was undisputed Lord of all he surveyed for the next almost 12 years. He, like all our kids, loved to travel, and along with Chinnu they made a great team. But wait.

When he was almost a year old, Paru joined the gang. 250781_4104330176467_1960399793_n  She must have been maybe 2 or 3 months, and was abandoned outside my parents’ home. A “nadan”, nondescript, except to us she was endowed with much grace, beauty and downright friskiness, and song, oh my!! What song!! 🙂 With great trepidation, I brought her home, wondering just how long it would take a hulking 1 year old Alsatian to snap her neck. The damnedest thing happened. He merely sniffed her thoroughly, checked her out, and then she followed him, EVER AFTER. She’d sleep, that impossible tiny bundle, between his paws, be ALL over him, playing, nipping at him, and they’ve remained best friends right through. That was in 2006. So our family grew, the kids were now 3 – my Chinnu, Appu and Paru. Officially, Appu and Paru “belonged” to my parents, but really, they are ALL mine. (remember those gulls in “Finding Nemo”?)

At the end of 2006, 26 December, the 2nd anniversary of the deadly tsunami that struck the east coast, in India, there was a minor tsunami of pups in my home. Paru’s. Seven to be precise. I’m quite positive that Appu was the dad, though we’ve not been able to really confirm, since most of the pups took after their mother, especially the fur and tails 😀 However heartbreaking it was, I had to give away her babies, once they had been weaned, except her alpha male, Kuttan who is still with me 🙂 He’s my baby more than he could ever be hers. So, the family grew again, two at my place, Chinnu and Kuttan, Appu and Paru, at theirs. The girls by now had been spayed to avoid further mishaps 😛

Appu, right through it, was pretty good with the kids when they were young, which is probably why I consider him their dad. However, with Kuttan, there has always been an ego clash of sorts. Like Ashwin once said, he’s like that kid who found out pretty late that his dad had not done right by his mother, so he carries that anger in him! Cripes! Yep, you guessed right. We, as a whole, attribute extremely human reasoning even to them. Heck! We’re right too, always. Told ya, we are one heck of a family! What I’m getting at is, growing up together, the almost 2 years older dad, and his (Alleged) son, Kuttan, always led to confrontations, testosterone displays, and there’d always be a need for referees, not to mention active, get-into-the-fight-and-separate-them occasions. Appu was far more powerful, and Kuttan was no less tenacious. Dynamite, on a short fuse, that was the situation till recently, ever since Kuttan sobered down, and “grew up” 🙂 Appu, all through, except in these confrontations, was the thorough gentleman, with the ladies, with us, with visitors, with anyone, except some stranger, who he discriminated, strangely enough!

When he was about 6 years old he developed the usual skin problems that affect his breed, as they are not really suited to the humid environs of Kerala. Since then, he had been a constant visitor at the Vet Hospital, attached to the Uni here. He’d improve well, then a few months later, it being a fungal condition and subject to weather changes, he would be afflicted again. My mother diligently, and with such devotion nursed him through it all. His hair would be all over the place; the ear infection, a consequence of the skin problem, which would aggravate with alarming regularity, despite the best medical attention, auroscopy, regular cleaning, that would have a discharge and foul smell sometimes were taken in our stride, and he was never banished from the house. He owned it, and us, no matter how he was. Once I remember the panic call mummy made, early morning. It was about his ear bleeding. They live about an hour and half away, but they got here quick and we got him to hospital to discover that is was a maggot infestation, in his ear, and that is why he bled so much. The process of getting him better was a constant, but he held up so well, with such composure and a stoic demeanour all through. He would have associated the hospital with much pain, but there was never any hesitation in going there, though it was always a tough time, holding him down. According to the intensity of attention required, he needed to be sedated, on occasion. Imagine your ear being subject to the kind of cleaning it needed. I must, at this point, commend the doctors and students at the hospital for their vocation, their dedication and their unconditional help, on all the occasions we’ve been there. Exemplary, they were.

The infection took its toll on him. Though he remained cheerful, playful, and ever ready to fetch, his legs began to give way, and he had another major maggot infestation, this time on the left side near his ribs. He was given an anti-parasitic which almost paralyzed him, and yet again, we rushed to the Vet hospital with him. It is nothing short of a miracle, his recovery. It took him nearly two days, to walk again, but he did, and this too, had passed for him. That time, we even considered euthanizing him in case he was going to be paralyzed. It was heartbreaking to see him so still. So he flourished. That was nearly two years ago.

This year, from over two months ago, the old ear infection reared its ugly head, this time robbing him of his hearing. He responded to signals, so beautifully, so beautifully that one wondered why he needed the danged sounds at all. But he was weaker, the skin condition far worse, despite the best kind of care, brushing, medication, bathing, anything mummy could do. Till that day on 30 October, 2016. The three days prior to it, he along with Paru and Kuttan were being cared for by my parents’ help, who loved these kids as we do, as we had to attend my niece’s wedding. The call came, on the evening of the wedding, that he, yet again, had a severe wound on his leg. Maggots. Couldn’t get up. Can’t hear.

It was time for the decision. All the more since my mother was also suffering along with him. We were, all of us, watching him hurt, shake his head, fumble while walking, and all the while, ALL the while, holding a stone in his mouth, or maybe a scrap of his Frisbee, or a stick, something. OCD, remember? Just like Ammini.

So we decided. We’d help him onwards to be with Chinnu, who’d been gone three years already, to be with Ammini, gone 11 years, and Malu, and Kunji, our cats… It was time for him, and we’d help him. So with the medicine provided by a vet my brother knew, my mother and I went on, as no one else could. A Sunday. No vet. Appu had to be patted awake, for he did not hear the wild, ecstatic barking of the mother-son duo greeting us.

All the way down, there was this lump that grew and grew, choking all sense except the focus on purpose. So once he was patted, petted, fed, along with the other, who were sent into the house, we lay him down near his favourite spot in the front compound. He lay, quiet, but sensing something, so my mother had to hold his head, and our help his feet. I administered the injection. I could not let anyone else take that away from me. Even though, forevermore, I would remember; I do wonder at the strength, that comes with its attendant guilt, on how I could play God. Did I do the right thing? I’ve asked myself and still do, with a regularity, as involuntary as breathing, but yes, I’ve finally learned the answer does not matter. What matters is that he found a way out of his pain. In the few seconds it took for him to sleep.

I lay beside him, Lay my head on his side, only to be fascinated by his heartbeat. How it grew, then softened, whisper soft, till he was at peace. A few seconds. But those beats will stay with me, till mine go with his. That much I know.

When Chinnu went onwards on angel wings to Pets Paradise, I could write, almost in a day, for her. With Appu the dam was firm and strong, welling up with more words each day, each heavier, laden with a million memories, delightful ones, each of them, till that last beat of his heart, whisper-soft and tear-drop heavy. Yesterday, it was a month, and it hit me, then. Suddenly, there he was, as he always is, in my sleep, his heart-beat is the rhythm that rocks me to sleep or drums me awake sometimes. This time he was there, so clear, in front, asking for his stone to be picked up and thrown.

Appu. I heard myself. And he wagged his tail, liquid eyes up, then fiercely down, on that stone, that I picked up and threw, with him bounding after… Away, away, happy puppy that he was deep down inside.

Appu. You understand, I know. You’re happy, I know. I won’t say sorry, my Appoosseee. Not now, not anymore. I can’t, can I? Not when you’re in peace, and not when you’ve lived such a loving and happy life, and given us so so so much of love and joy! I know we’ll meet up at the Rainbow Bridge, and in another lifetime.

We’re family. We’ll always be. You’ll always be mine ❤

Appu, The Thorough Gentleman
(January 2005 to 30 October 2016)

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This, from my Meggie, made it much easier.

poem-for-appu

Sigh. It did make things better

1 December, 2016


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Microblog Mondays 6: The Gift of Memories

This is one impromptu post; but one that has been prodding relentlessly; urging fingers to take charge of the words that linger, lean and push one to let them free from captive thoughts.

Over the past couple of months memories have surfaced more than usual, with the personal loss of a dear dear friend, guide, colleague; and two beloved father-figures. Even when one believes that it is time to let go of someone, something, some very strong tie, most times, prevents one from doing just that. There are, one believes, things left undone, still more to be done, people to meet, things to say, things to undo… it never is the time to let go. And this, with people who, some say, “have lived a full life” – I myself am guilty of using that cliche once too often, at least thinking that, in consolation to myself.

So to the memories that visit – and often- I welcome them, I really do; some visits are so real, I wonder if I’m in a time-warp, so much so that at times I’ve pinched myself just to be sure. That, probably, was the reason I really loved “Inception”, and wrote this (LINK).

Loss is personal; it is private; it sharpens the moments you have framed within, a sliver of thought, sometimes, and a lot of affection surges within, without, with the torrent of tears, maybe, laughter- the gift that this is, if you accept them moments, relived, is something else.

Remember, memories can be gifts too.

8 December, 2014

Written for Microblog Mondays 🙂

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Microblog_Mondays


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Elsie Abraham, Teacher Extraordinaire!

3 December, 2014

Elsie Teacher passed away early this morning. Rest in peace, teacher. You ARE so missed.

Today, 14 April, 2014, is yet another special day! The birthday of a very very special friend, mentor, guide, soul-sister. Mrs. Elsie Abraham, of the Social Science Department in our school, who has just retired after twenty-three years of dedicated service  in her vocation. I had written this piece for the School Magazine, ‘Bhavana Jyoti’, but I know that there are a lot of her former students who would want to share in this, who might not have the opportunity to share in celebrating her, and her birthday, collectively, otherwise. I do wish that each of you, who read this, and have some memory of her to share, will do so in the comment section at the end! I know for certain, that it would be one of the best gifts she would receive this day! 

Sometimes when you meet a person, for the first time, you wonder how it could be that it was the first time! A déjà vu strikes. Haven’t we met, sometime, some place, before this? That feeling is so real, but rather rare – for that is when you meet a kindred soul; someone who instantly gels with your thoughts, and meshes into your world.

How glad I am, this day, to tell you, that Elsie Teacher has been one such person in my life. Mrs. Elsie Abraham. Our beloved Elsie Teacher, to all of us. Also, how poignant a moment this is when I realize why I am writing this. After 23 years of exceptional service to Bhavan’s, Poochatty, Elsie Teacher has bid farewell, as she retires; only from her work, at school, as I see it! She never could leave our school really, for we would talk of her, sometimes even to her, knowing her presence would still stay, vigilant as ever, in our Staff Room!

Elsie Abraham, Teacher Extraordinaire!

Elsie Abraham, Teacher Extraordinaire!

I must tell you more – which of course, you would probably already know, and if not, you would nod your head in agreement, for sure!

If popularity polls on a favourite teacher were conducted in school, it is certain, that Elsie Teacher’s name would be right up there in the top few. Her knowledge of the ‘subject’ she taught, her manner of ‘teaching’, as it were, the ubiquitous thread of humour, kindliness and firmness, strung together with her ever present warm smile, which was never far even from her eyes, always, is part of what made her a beloved and unforgettable teacher. I know this personally, for even though I was not fortunate enough to be a student in her class, the kids in my family, sons, nephews, nieces, have always considered her to be a firm favourite. So also the innumerable ex students I have had the good fortune to interact with on a regular basis. Elsie Teacher rocks, is, I’m sure, a firm tagline for her! That in itself, speaks volumes for me.

On Teachers’ Day, when Elsie Teacher’s name is announced, the spontaneous burst of loud applause offered with such uninhibited joy is something I look forward to, each year. I’ll miss that the next occasion we do that!

She inspires. For ever so many reasons. Her skills, obviously, in class. Her diction and language – unerring in its use as well. Her warmth and non-judgemental nature – something so rare these day, everywhere! Her indomitable spirit in managing problems in health. That has to be perhaps the greatest inspiration from her. Her never-say-die-spirit! A lesser person would have buckled under the overwhelming pressure to just throw the towel in, and taken the easy way out. Not Elsie teacher. Her Devotion to Duty (there are awards, in this category given to the Defence Services, announced on the Eve of The Republic Day – Elsie Teacher would certainly qualify for this! ) and the integrity with which she sustains are exceptional. With all the vagaries of humanness – the spirit within her has fought and won the day!

Each one of us has something special about us, don’t we? Something that sets us apart from our fellow beings. Elsie Teacher’s, apart from her indefatigable spirit, is her infallible memory! Her gift for remembering things is legendary – parts of a conversation, of an aeon ago, Birthdays and Anniversaries of friends, colleagues, their families, extended families – gosh! It’s a constant source of wonder to all of us who know her. We’ve warned her that the awesome ability of her will definitely be called upon, and she should prepare to be constantly bombarded by phone calls from us, to know, and be reminded of all kinds of things! Many a time when we were stumped for words, dates, we’d turn to her unanimously, to supply all the missing bits. And, to our relief, and collective laughter, that would ring out from the staff room, she would oblige.

For those who do not know, Elsie Teacher grew up in Madras (now Chennai), having studied in Good Shepherd Convent, and Stella Maris College. Her fondness for Tamil is just as legendary here – and many a time we’d witness lively conversations and songs between her and other teachers like Meera Teacher (who is now in the Pottore Bhavan’s) and Lakshmi Teacher.

Perhaps the feeling of empathy, of being on the same wavelength with Elsie Teacher, that I had was due to the fact that both she and I (and others in school) had grown up outside Kerala, and so we came with what the natives of Thrissur called an accented Malayalam. All of us in this rather exceptional state of being NRKs for a major part of our own youth have this instant empathy, and sorority – the hapless Malayalee in us needs the support of the other.

My own association with Elsie Teacher is from 1996, when I first joined this school. I do remember meeting her, and she (but, of course) remembers the first thing I asked her, after the introductions were made! I did not, when she mentioned it to me recently! So amazing is her recollection of facts, dates and happenings! 18 years is a long time, is it not, to remember first words spoken to each other! Hats off to you, Elsie Teacher. I know I am blessed for the good fortune of having been in her company for the years I’ve spent in school, and more so, for I do enjoy it, a feeling shared by all who know her! I hold her amongst my closest and trusted friends. Just talking to her, unburdening sometimes, is calming – in fact, life looks up. Her interest too, in our well-being, be it a student, a support staff or a teacher-colleague has been consistent and heart-warming.

I’m tempted to take liberties with Shakespeare’s words, right out of Mark Antony’s speech from ‘Julius Caesar’ and say this of Elsie Teacher –

“Here was a Teacher!
When comes such another?”

And, I’d respond too, just like that citizen in the mob:

“NEVER! NEVER!”

Elsie Teacher, you’re one in a zillion. Each time we miss you in school you’re going to sneeze and cough, for sure. Just so, you know, we’re going to be a mighty (dis)comfort to you, even when you retire! God Bless! (for each time you sneeze thus, too!)

Khalil Gibran says it best, and I know these words are for Elsie Teacher too –
“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

Written in February :), perfect for 14 April, 2014, Elsie Teacher’s brithday!


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Celebrating a life lived well – Chinnu’s

Chinnu - 15 January 2003 to 23 April, 2013

Chinnu – 15 January 2003 to 23 April, 2013

For ten long years, which, all of a sudden seem to have flown by in less than ten seconds, she gave us of herself. Unconditionally, lovingly, without complaint, and with a whole load of her special brand of love. This one is for you, Chinnu, and for all of us, who have been touched by you, and known you, and known how special you were.

There is always this thing in our family; when guests, visitors, friends, acquaintances, refer to our pets as “cats’/”dogs” (poocha or patti, in Malayalam 🙂 ), we always get them to qualify – not cat/ dog, but Malu, or Chinnu/Appu/Paru/Kuttan/Ammini/Kunji … whoever they might have been referring to. That perhaps is the simplest way to tell you that they were family – much more, and never less than any of us. That is who they were.

Chinnu came to us on 15th March, 2003; picked out from a Kennel full of Labrador pups, the only one who sat in a corner, looking appealingly at us, while the others jostled for attention from the visitors. There was no doubt, we chose each other. Ashwin, my younger son and I, we were the first ones who she drew into her charmed circle of loved ones! 🙂

She worked entirely on her inner biological clock which was set to meal times, and meal times 🙂 Sharp snappy barks indicated it to us… A never let up till I get my fooooood kind of barking 🙂 Those who have labradors will empathize 🙂 Food, swimming and car rides… that is what she lived for 😀 Except for the part about food, the other two could change in order 🙂

I’ve already written about Ammini and Kunji (link) and My extended family (link), and a couple of years ago about the wonder of a non feline called Malu, who quite captured our hearts (link). I was just going through her pictures just now, when I could finally bear to look at them, and I wondered which ones I could share. And I suddenly realized I would not EVER be able to show you how she was, perhaps not even through these words that come through me, but yes, I do want to share, and find that peace in me, for her, and for Arjun and Ashwin, Mummy, Daddy and Vinu, and for all of those people who loved her so. Especially Ashwin’s friends, and her own special favourite, Chandrika.

Her first car trip was memorable 🙂 It’s the stuff of legends for us. I was driving my dad’s Ambassador, and this is ten years ago, with Arjun up front and Ashwin in charge of this two month old bundle of energy, at the back. She kept up a steady stream of barking, till Ashwin was directed to get a couple of biscuits out to keep her quiet. Ashwin blissfully set her aside and opened the tin to get a couple of biscuits out. In that fraction of a second, she had propelled out of the car window, right out onto to the pavement (from a running car, mind you!), done a couple or more cartwheels, and landed winded on the almost-not-there sidewalk. I screeched to a halt, Arjun off and running to get her before she got up and took off again. I thought she was done. Oh no! Not her. There she was, quiet, dazed, but well aware of herself, but, all of a sudden quiet, and docile. That was it, I guessed. We’d shut her up nicely!!! But guess again, is what she seemed to say – in a couple of hours she was back to barking like crazy 😆

The day she discovered water and the lovely feel it had, she was sold on it 🙂 If the gate to the pond at my parents’ place was ever unlocked, she’d find her way into the water and spend as much time as possible, swimming in lazy circles, with such enjoyment! I’ve shared a video on facebook, showing how much she loved this 🙂

The one thing that really put her off, and scared her was loud noises. She’d scoot under the bed and would not venture out till she was sure that the noises would not ever again come back. And she would wait as long as it took! That perhaps, finally, was her undoing.

At ten years, she was healthy, and full of energy. I had already started having this gnawing unspoken terror of when it would be that she’d decide to take off. Turned out too soon. The last week, just after Vishu, she fell ill. Because of loud noises. The crackers set off at Vishu had made her scoot under the bed as usual, and this time she remained there a whole day, without food, and without venturing out. It had happened before and there seemed no need to worry, except that the next day, she developed a mild paralysis of her left hind leg, and therefore found it difficult to walk comfortably, or even stand on her own, and therefore, inhibited her desire to mess up the place she was lying in. No amount of coaxing could get her to take a leak outside, or even inside. This in turn led to a severe urinary bladder infection. All of which she was recovering from, quite nicely.

And this morning, on the way home, from my parents’, in the car, riding shotgun with me, in the passenger seat, with Pratibha and Kuttan at the back, she just gave up and decided to move on to Pets’ Paradise. Just like that. It is still unbelievable … and I need to keep checking, pinching myself, and wondering it really happened.

As my brother says, time really does not heal anything, but lends a capapcity to perhaps live with the loss. We’ve been there before, and having lived through loss often enough, one would think that the next time one would handle it better. Wrong. Each time it’s new. Each time just as heart wrenching. And each time, no matter how much you tell yourself, it’s okay, you’ll get through it, you still struggle.

But then this is not a sad story. It is all about how much of a wonderful life she had, and how blessed we were to be touched by that wonder of her. Unlike our other ‘kids’ she did not ever wear a collar, except when she travelled – a harness usually. She never needed to be tied up or isolated. Indeed, she was the most social of all the people I know 🙂 Labs are like that 🙂 The trusting liquid eyes that are hers have shut, but will stay with me. Even this morning, it was with such enthusiasm that she got into the car, bad hind leg and all … and decided to go ahead of all of us, while she still felt the wind flapping up her ear 🙂

Peace, sweetheart. You are the best. The only human thing, if at all, you could not do, was talk. And you did not need to anyway, did you? 🙂 You loved us, just as we did you. And that is the greatest blessing of all.

But. Oh God. It hurts not to have you around, physically. Say Hello the rest of gang up there from all of us, won’t you 🙂 Till we meet again, Chinnukutty… here’s a big bear hug, and nosey nosey sloppy kisshey kisshey darling 🙂

Dr Brian Weiss (‘Many Masters, Many Lives” ) writes of pets thus:

“Our pets can come to us again in our lifetime, reunite with us in future lives, and greet us on the other side. Unconditional love knows no end.”

Absolutely. We’re going to meet up sometime, that is definite. Perhaps another lifetime, but meet up we will, Chinnu. We can’t not 🙂

23 April, 2013