Hi! My name is Alladdin. I am a cute cocker spaniel. I live in Chennai, India. I have gorgeous, glossy black, floppy ears, a long snout, a docked tail and beautiful black and white fur. I am told that I have a perpetually mournful expression, but I am anything but mournful. I am a happy-go-lucky dog with a great temperament. I love the people I live with. It is only sometimes that I feel sorry for myself. At those times, I am awash with self-pity and feel like I am being treated like a dog in this house.

Who says that dogs don’t have goals? I have a list. First on my list is to get inside a closed bedroom door. I can stand and whine outside a shut door for hours until I am let inside. Once inside, I will climb onto my mistress’s lap and nuzzle until I am petted and feted. Then and only then will I flop onto the cool mosaic floor and take a nap.

Second goal by priority on my list is to eat. I can eat anything. And I can do anything for a morsel – jump, not jump, roll on my back, sit still… you name it.

My third goal is to race my mistress to wherever she happens to be going. For instance, if she plans to go up the stairs, I can race her to the top without stopping to worry that I may trip her up. So what if she is a spoilsport and decides not to ascend the stairs after all because I win the race every time? I can race her to the bottom of the staircase too!

My most important and top secret goal is to stowaway in the car when my mistress plans to go for a ride. I have mastered the art of stowing myself in the car every time she decides to go out without me. While she carelessly keeps the car door open and continues to talk with the watchman, I can slink inside in the blink of an eye.

All I then need to do is hide on the floorboard, close my eyes so I cannot see her until the car starts off. By the time she notices me, I am already in and it’s too late! There can be no turning back, can there? I have tried this multiple times and though I manage to get into the car each time, she somehow manages to catch me stowing away before the ship leaves and gets me to disembark every time. That doesn’t stop me from trying this every time she goes out.

My hero is Abraham Lincoln. I have heard that he tried and tried and tried to become President of America and failed many times until he finally won. I’ll finally win at this too! There will be a time when she won’t notice me until the car has started and I’ll be on my way!

Here is a picture of me in the car, camouflaged in the grey floorboards, my eyes half shut so no one can see me! Wish me luck in my achieving my most important goal.

Yours truly,

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Charity begins at home

My tryst with the 3 Rs was no different from what many Indian school children undergo. Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic was rote learning. The rote didn’t do much harm: I consider myself reasonably well read, reasonably able to write and reasonably able to add 2 and 2.

The rote, however, left some lasting impressions on my mind. Predominantly, it left some sayings seared in my memory.

As a 7 year old, I remember that stern looking teacher in a starched white sari, hair tightly wrapped in a bun, ordering us to learn 100 sayings “by-heart” over the weekend and come prepared to recite them on Monday. I remember spending hot Sunday afternoons, hastily reciting them aloud over and over, so I could escape the lashes on my open palm from the skinny, excrutiatingly painful cane on Monday.

Of all those hundreds of sayings that I learned “by-heart”, the first one springs to mind with explosive force when I read about the hullabaloo being created by the Congressional Budget Office, the private health care insurers, the sundry uninformed junta and the republicans about the cost of the GREAT HEALTH CARE REFORM proposed by the Obama administration.

It was called, “Charity begins at home!”

And I FINALLY understand what that means.  What it means is something similar to the Airline lifejacket rules: If you have a child or an elder sitting beside you, first place your own lifejacket and take care of yourself in the event of a disaster, before you help the child or the elderly. There is a good reason for this: if you become disabled, you cannot help anyone, so help yourself first. Before you give to Charity, first ensure that your plate is full.

And this is exactly what we, as Americans have failed to do. No one, not one senator or congressman really, truly, opposed the Bank Bailout or what is really the beautifully disguised Great American Transfer of Wealth. There were no rallying cries about cost and debt. Public opinion didn’t matter.  They gave to “charity”.

No one really opposed Bush’s built-on-sand war on Iraq that cost and still continues to cost us a big chunk of change.

No one opposed Bush’s tax cuts for the rich that cost us and continue to cost us a bomb. There were no stentorian shouts of injustice, unfairness or unlevel playing fields. They gave to “charity”.

But wait, when it’s Charity for home

–  When it is money for the Stimulus bill to help the unemployed who have been at the receiving end of the Banks deceit that brought the economy crashing?

– When there’s talk about universal health care for everyone in the richest country in the world?

THEN, it’s time to shout about debt, deficit, spending and cost.

When will we learn that Charity SHOULD first begin at home?

Ayan – Tamil movie review

I run a company called “Dash of Masala” and frequently have people ask me what “masala” means. I generally struggle to explain the meaning of this ubiquitous and uniquely Indian word, just because it is so pervasively used in India, not just to signify that perfect blend of spices that whet your appetite and add piquancy to your dish, but also to signify any kind of perfect, finely-honed blend.

And “masala” is the word that sprang to mind when I watched “Ayan” the tamil movie, last night. Why? Because it was the perfect entertainer. I am one of those people who prefer movies that are light, fun and exotic. I am also one of those people who love to watch beautiful people dressed in clothes that cannot be carried off by the hoi-polloi, prancing to throbbing music, beating up bad guys and becoming good by the end of the movie. So, by definition, I am a masala movie fan. And the movie “Ayan” was all that and more!

Take a large dollop of two extremely beautiful, young, vibrant, gorgeous, drool-worthy specimens of humanity. Saute that in a story line of drug lords, African diamonds, movie piracy, diamond smuggling, international travel, customs officers and a gory murder. Add a large cup of a steamy love affair, a back-stabbing brother-in-law, a huge lover’s tiff, a big misunderstanding, and a wonderful making up. Stir fry for about 3 hours. Add a garnish of a couple of sentimental scenes with a widowed, doting mother. And you got it! A masala movie!

Surya, as the hero, is the ultimate droolable male. Beautiful, with greek god chiseled features, gorgeously muscle bound, 6 pack abs, and wonderful emoting abilities, he commands the screen. Tamanna is his lissome love interest, she of the pouting lips, creamy skin, large doe-like eyes and a slender, curvaceous figure. Her role is that of a playful, flippant young college going girl, who is very sure of her beauty and her appeal. All other protangonists are a foil for this beautiful pair – you cannot take your eyes off the screen when either one or both appear.

No Indian movie is complete without the song and dance sequences. And this one has it in abundance: fabulous music, hip-shaking gyrations, gorgeous costumes, lots of supporting dancers, opulent scene settings, and above all, the Indian male’s dream – the heroine wearing the floating chiffon saris complete with beautifully cut backless blouses.

The scenes set in Congo were simply breathtaking with rugged landscapes, undulating deserts and vast rocky mountains.

Ok, now to cut to the chase: here is the story in all of one paragraph: Hero is a bad man who smuggles diamonds, indulges in movie piracy but has a good mom (Oh, glorious womanhood!), meets heroine, falls in love, dances with her, fights with her, makes up with her and then suddenly switches sides to help the cops catch a rival thug. So, he becomes a good guy and his mom asks the cop who worked with the hero to help her son become a good guy. So he becomes a good guy and makes his mom happy. End of story. 🙂

Rating: 5 stars, if you like easy-on-the-eye actors, glorious settings, fabulous dances, fantastic costumes, lots of fights, hot chases, and a forgettable story line.

If you are a girl, go see it for Surya’s glistening muscle-bound hot bod.

If you are guy, go see it for the curvy cute Tamanna’s beautiful pouty smile.

Controlling the Alaskan Predators

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Sarah Palin’s defense for Alaska’s aerial hunting of wolves, was succinct and in her mind, very convincing. In her words: “Alaskans depend on wildlife for food and cultural practices which can’t be sustained when predators (?) are allowed to decimate moose and caribou populations.” This statement was made, in spite of the fact that aerial wolf hunting in Alaska remains highly controversial. Citizen efforts to stop it continue. Alaska voters have twice approved initiatives to stop the hunts, and another is slated to go on the ballot later this year.

Wolves, in Palin’s book, are predators. Because they hunt and use up moose and caribou for their own sustenance.
For one moment, I want to flip this around so I can see it from a wolf’s viewpoint.

If I were a gray wolf, I would consider Sarah Palin a predator. Palin and her cohorts who hunt and decimate the moose and caribou populations that are the wolves’ main sustenance, are the true predators. Predators who, hunt and kill not only for food, but for pleasure, for sport, for fun, for thrill and to feel macho. Predators who, somehow think that this world is theirs to desecrate, theirs to plunder, theirs and only theirs to do with, as they please. Predators who justify the gassing of wolf pups left orphaned after their mothers and fathers are chased and shot from the air.

A wolf kills caribou and moose so it can eat. That is its natural instinct. It does so, with no guile, no guns, no helicopters, no shooting at the back, no selfish and self-centered arrogance. Whereas, Palin and some of her fellow Alaskans seem to think that the moose and caribou exist for their sole pleasure. The Alaskan land exists just for them. What gives humans the right to label other animals as predators?

Are we not the biggest predators on this planet? Is there anything left to plunder, pillage and rape on any land, after a human being has set his foot on it? Is hunting ever played on a level playing field where we hunt on the ground, without fancy rifles, airplanes and shotguns? Do we ever hunt and kill only what we can consume? Do we ever desist from senseless murder of God’s living beings?

Who is the real predator?

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Until Nirvana do us part!

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Hindus are united in the belief that human life is actually a cycle – a cycle of birth and death until one attains “Nirvana” or eternal relief. Life on this earth, according to Hindu religion, is all about experiences which lead to the soul’s evolution, until it becomes one with God. And that act of becoming one with God, releases the soul from this cycle – called “Janma-mrityu” (life and death).

Ever since I was a child, I had heard mention about this life, the next one or the one before. Whenever something good happened in my life, I was told that it was the fruit of my actions in my previous life. And when something bad happened, for example, if someone cheated me of money, I was told that I probably owed money in my previous life and was repaying that debt off now. Thus it is, that I am constantly watching my deeds in this life, so that when I am reborn, I am that much closer to attaining Nirvana and hoping to be released from the “Janma-mrityu” cycle.

And as far as I can remember, people in India routinely cursed others who upset them by informing them that they would regress and be born a dog or a cat in their next life for their misdeeds in this one! Stands to reason that I inferred from those remarks that Hindus consider humans as the highest form of life, closer to God than any other being. For a very long time, I have accepted this edict, because it was inculcated in me as a very young child.

That was until we got Subbu, our cat. I am now forced to re-evaluate my assumptions. As I watch his life fly by, day after peaceful day, starting with early morning hugs, caresses, kisses and eternally full food bowl, I am starting to wonder: are humans really the superior beings? Are human closer to God than animals? Are we, indeed, born as humans in this life because of our past good deeds? Or could it be that we are born as humans in this life because we have committed sins in our past lives? Had I been good, and kind and compassionate and loving and grateful, should I not have been born as someone as peaceful, as serene and as happy as my cat?

I think Subbu’s life. more than mine, resembles that of the revered Indian sadhu (ascetic), whose meditations bring him close to God.

I’ll demonstrate with a run-down of his typical day:
5:00 am: It is wake-up time. If the ones who are fortunate enough to serve Subbu aren’t awake, no problem, he is happy to go the extra mile to wake them up so they can finish up their chores of taking care of him, before heading out to work to earn money to feed Subbu. He does that by crouching low by the side of the bed and pouncing on their toes jutting from under the bed cover. He does this repeatedly, all the while making mewing sounds until they wake up. Then he promptly flops on their feet and does a few somersaults to show them that he loves them. Because he looks so sweet when he flops on his back, Subbu’s owners forget to scold him for waking them up at an unearthly hour, in this fashion, and he gets a belly rub, many strokes and lots of kisses instead.

5:10 am: Stroking and petting done. It is time to refill Subbu’s food bowl which has been licked clean during the night. Subbu doesn’t mind having to lead them to his food bowl. He does this by walking a few steps, sitting down facing the direction he wants to lead them, and looking back at them, with his unblinking stare and eyes speaking volumes. As they follow, he’ll walk a few more steps and repeat performance, until he leads them to his empty bowl. Then, an indignant meow will let them know that while they have been remiss in letting his bowl get empty, he’ll forgive them if they refill promptly.

8:00 am: Time to see off the guy who goes out each morning to bring home the moolah! That’s the least Subbu can do. He does this by running down the stairs to the door to say bye and then running up the stairs and racing to the deck to wave goodbye from upstairs.

8:30 am: What is this other person doing? Shouldn’t she be petting Subbu, rather than being stuck in front of that screen? Oh well, Subbu drapes himself on his favorite black chair (the one that attracts the most fur) and looks bored. He spends the next hour or so, staring unblinkingly at the back of her head while he meditates on how wonderful his life is.

9:30 am: Time for a nap. Subbu retires upstairs to the master bedroom. The comforter is a dark red one so it is a perfect foil for an utterly indolent, beautifully soft, gorgeously gray and white fur ball. Subbu settles down for a nap, so his owner can come by and admire his killer looks and take pictures.

9:40 am: Subbu is now on his back, hind paws airborne, fore paws covering his eyes, pink little tongue sticking out, flesh reposing in utter stillness. Life is good.

4:00 pm: Wake up, stretch on the wall, fling oneself on human toes for more petting.

5:00 pm: Time to go out! Run down the stairs and mew loudly by the door until it is opened. Peek out, watch out for dogs, and run outside into the wilderness. Ah! the freedom to chase bugs, climb trees, watch birds and root around nature!

6:00 pm: Here is a strange human who’s walking towards Subbu. Subbu promptly does his “damsel in distress” act! Runs towards the stranger, flings himself at her toes and rolls on his back, all the while watching the human’s reaction out of the corner of his eyes. Predictably, she coos, ooohs and aaahs, stoops down to rub his belly and exclaims loudly about the cute cat! With one more feather in his hat, Subbu gets up, dusts himself off and walks away, tail in the air to resume his wilderness foray, while cruelly leaving behind a damsel in the throes of Subbu love!

9:00 pm: Subbu’s owners are being pests, scouring the neighborhood for him, calling his name loudly and disturbing the peace. Subbu comes bounding out the darkness, his beautiful eyes gleaming and promptly flops at their feet to indicate that he has no plans to go back inside.

9:30 pm: Back home. Its time to play. Subbu races up and down the stairs, pushing the torn cloth mouse and trying to get the lazy owners to work up a sweat. He tries valiantly for about 15 minutes and then gives up and runs up and down on his own, chasing many imaginary mice.

10:00 pm: Time to grab the foot of the master bed before those humans can come by and stretch out in Subbu’s space.

Life, as I said, is good. Peace, happiness, contentment, love, acceptance – complete acceptance of every situation that life throws at Subbu, and so Nirvana cannot be far away.

Now you tell me, my dear reader: is the cat’s life not one of complete surrender to God’s will? Is it not a life filled with positive emotions of love, (universal love, remember the demonstration of love for the stranger who happened to cross his path?), acceptance and peace?

Doesn’t it seem as though a cat is closer to God than man is?

Woman enough!

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I am woman enough to be curious about Michelle Obama’s clothes, her hair-do and her new international friends. And I am proud enough of America to want the whole world to swoon at Michelle’s good looks, her carriage, her smartness and her organic vegetable garden like we all do here.

While it is nice to hear once in a while about banalities, it seems almost like a cult following – almost every site I visit, writes with obsessive fervor about her clothes, Oscar de la Renta’s disapproval of her clothes (or designer choice?), the kisses she received from Carla Bruni (more than the kisses received by OTHER first ladies, who only got one kiss, while our Michelle was favored with two, so there!…STOP!

Somehow, it seems extremely flippant and juvenile when the media focuses so much on such trivialities. Like I said, I too, like to hear about clothes, and air kisses, and hairdoes once in a while. I am woman enough for that.

But day in and day out? When we are in the midst of so much crises? When we should be talking about how the Obama administration is trying to circumvent congressional rules for bailout recipients? When we should be demanding that the administration honor the rules instead of flouting them? When we should be asking how is it that the Obama adminstration can pretend that they are more knowledgeable, smarter, more efficient, more rational, more honest, have more integrity (?) and know best what is good for our country and tax payers than the whole country, its people – (who have voiced in no uncertain terms that handouts must be accompanied with straitjackets), and its congressional representatives?

When we should be waking up and demanding that our leaders truly represent us, the taxpayers and the voters rather than big corporations and their interests?

STOP already, about Michelle’s clothes. Get serious. Get real. Enough of the superficiality!

Fat cat squeezing under the fence – AIG, Bankers squeezing into our yard with Geithner’s active help!

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Easy does it! Slow and steady.

First, an itty-bitty subprime fiasco.

Then, a housing bust.

Next, a  bailout  of AIG on the quiet. Tell the public AFTER you’ve given them the money.

How about some spice?  Sprinkle a bit on  Fannie and Freddie.

Say it aint so, Lehman’s.

Now, pour $700 billion down the Bank drains.

Oh no! it’s time for AIG once more.

How about some theatrics during the intermission about the Auto industry?

Ah! Time again for AIG!

Not enough?

Let’s put together a TRILLION dollars. It will go to buy the same toxic assets that have been bought again and again, first directly from the banks themselves, then again from the banks via AIG, and now once again…

Like the fat cat squeezing under the fence, we have Corporate bigwigs squeezing into our yard – thanks to help from politicians (like Christopher Dodd) who rewrite the law in the dark of the night to provide loopholes, and a Treasury Secretary who is anxious to please the bigwigs by freely giving away our money!

Oh, look! The head came through!

Oh no, the fat cat is half way in!

Whoops! He’s all the way into our yard!

Jeez! He’s settled in!

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