A Dog’s Life

 

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After a decadent sleep, Babar woke up and stretched languorously on the carpeted floor. Lazily, he walked over to his food bowl. A full plate of shredded boiled chicken meat was waiting for him. He gulped it all down greedily in seconds. He walked around from room to room looking for his owners. They irritated him sometimes by not walking him more often and by not giving him all the tasty food he likes all the time . He hated it that they put him on a strict diet and were too cautious about him getting fat. He was too young to think about all that. He retaliates by biting their feet and hands when he does not get what he wants. He even learned a new trick of barking at them to receive a speedy response to his demands. Grinning, he was pleased to think about how easily he can manipulate them.

The need to relieve his bladder made him restless. Where could his people be? he wondered. Walking towards the front yard he did a double take when he saw the gate. It was wide open. His owners, no where in sight. He hated being cooped up inside the house. This was his chance. He dashed for freedom.

Lifting his right hind leg, he watered the nearest bush with great satisfaction. A female dog saw him and ran excitedly to greet him. After smelling each other front and back, Babar went on his way. It was a Sunday morning and most of the residents in the community were having tea and reading newspapers in their balconies or gardens. A common indolent sight in his neighborhood.

Walking further he came across a white cocker spaniel accompanied by a young pretty girl in shorts and flip flops. The immaculate canine looked too posh he felt shy all of a sudden. He always rushes towards another dog whenever he sees one but at that moment he was overcome with awe at this cotton like apparition . He just stood there mystified. With an arrogant flip of her tail the fluffy dog strutted away. Babar shrugged and walked on.

An old woman in a beige Salwar Kameez suit stopped on her tracks when she saw him. Babar was feeling naughty and thought of scaring the woman even more. He ran towards her as if to jump. The woman shrieked loudly almost shattering his eardrums. He abandoned the idea. The woman muttered invectives towards his owners and with angry steps walked towards the direction of his house. Babar grinned, unconcerned. Not his problem.

His adventurous steps finally led him to the main gate of the housing estate. It was also wide open that day. Should he or shouldn’t he? Excitement tripled the beating of his heart. He has not been outside the gated community by himself before. He decided to go for it. The street was deserted. Before him were long stretches of roads as far as he could see. And only one or two cars passed by with long intervals every now and then. He ran to his heart’s content. He was having so much fun he failed to notice the scenery changing. Gone was the pathway lined with pretty trees and the neatly trimmed bushes. Instead, rotting mangled cars decorated the road. Garbage strewed all around.

Walking slowly now he saw a man and a woman in front of a house made of two blankets tied to a tree forming a tent. The woman wearing a sari clutched a bare bottomed child to her bosom while making tea on a makeshift stove of rocks and woods. Flies buzzing around them. Two slightly older kids were rummaging through a dumpster nearby. Diligently sorting through the trash for any edible scraps they could find. With them was a pack of stray dogs. Babar walked hesitantly towards them. He snipped what they were snipping.  He thought the mutts must be eating something tasty seeing them ate with gusto. He saw an empty packet of milk. He loved milk. His owners always take  the discarded milk packet he steals from the trash away from his mouth when they see him chewing on it. He was about to grab the plastic pack with his mouth when a thin brown dog noticed him.

” Hey you! You selfish bastard! Are you not from inside that place?” He barked, indicating with his nose the row of flats inside the colony. All the dogs were looking at him now, baring their teeth. Babar changed his stance. The hair on his back raised aggressively.

” Look how fat you are! You must be eating all those fancy food. What are you doing here stealing our scrap? We have to fend for ourselves you know! These leftovers are barely enough for all of us.” growled the black mongrel. Walking with deliberate slowness around him with a menacing expression on his face. Babar did not show it but fear was spreading in his limbs. Five dogs with hatred on their faces surrounded him, their postures geared for a fight.

” He must be one of those who even sleeps on his owner’s bed. Look how clean he is. How shiny his fur is.” sneered a white bitch with a patch of black in one eye. They all laughed at him.

Before they could attack him, Babar jumped over the tiniest dog and ran for his life. He didn’t stop running until he was inside the gate of his society. He saw madness on those canines’ eyes. They were going to rip him apart. His heart thundered in his chest.

“Babar!” He heard a familiar comforting voice calling him and he ran towards the source of that maternal sound like a wanderer in the desert seeing a pool of water. He jumped inside the wide open arms of his caretaker. ” You made us so worried. Where did you go? Honey he is over here.” she called out to her husband.

Babar licked the face of his master gratefully when finally his master called him over to him. The master patted his head lovingly. ” I think my boy had learned a very important lesson today.” Babar wagged his tail in agreement.

Sometimes we need a little freedom to make mistakes so we can  value  more the life we are given.

(*Housing estate or gated communities are called colonies or societies around here, well according to my husband.) ©JMKhapra

Red

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” They should thank the ruthless fate that separated them when their love seemed still to be at its height. They might suffer, but they did suffer in beauty. They were spared the real tragedy of love. “

-Somerset Maugham, Red

“You don’t know that. My ex-boyfriend looks just like you.”

I regretted uttering this inane statement as soon as I saw the expression on his face. I saw a glint of hope in his dark cunning eyes.

I still cannot believe that it only takes muttering those few words for someone to be absolutely obsessed with you.

Fast forward to a couple of months, Cris was in front of me crying, begging for me to love him back. I was enraged. I was in love but not with him. He had done all he can to come in between me and the man I loved.

***
It was raining and I was working late. I left my work station to get a cup of coffee from the vending machine installed at the editor’s lounge .

” You too, huh?” Ryan said softly from behind, startling me.

I smiled, shrugging my shoulders . ” Yeah, my deadline is looming. ”

We took our coffee and sat on the sofa facing a large glass window. The rain outside poured incessantly. We sipped our coffee in a companionable silence.

” I like working in the night. It’s more peaceful to work when half of the employees are not here.”

” Yeah, though I don’t like sleeping during the day. It disorients me.”

Ryan chuckled. ” I don’t even notice the difference.”

My heart skipped a beat seeing his smiling face. He did not smile that often but every time he did, it was a ray of sunshine. I reached out to touch a curly lock that escaped from his ponytail.

” I really find these adorable.” I whispered, smiling a little. He took my hand that was holding the curls and gently pressed it to his lips, looking intently into my eyes.

We tried not to make a sound while inside one of the cubicle in the women’s restroom but I could not suppress my giggles when he showed me his underwear, grinning like a little boy . Printed on his boxer briefs were numerous little yellow round smileys. His whole body shook with silent laughter as he pulled me towards him.

****

I was sitting between Ryan and Cris at the cafeteria. Cris invited himself when he saw Ryan and me on our way there. Ryan was whispering one of his stupid jokes in my ear and I was laughing in spite of myself. Cris hated our happiness. But at the same time he was drawn to it. Cris was in love with our romance.

His jealousy was palpable as he looked at me while I was wiping Ryan’s spoon and fork with a paper napkin.

” Ryan, I spoke to Leo, I told him I want you on my team.”

” Wow, that is great man! Thank you. It is a great opportunity to work with you.” Ryan shook his hand enthusiastically.

I looked at Cris, coldly. He looked back at me, smiling with malice.

***

Cris made sure Ryan and my schedule never synched. If I was working at night he would assign Ryan to a day shift and vice versa. But Cris made sure his own schedules matched with mine.

” I know what you are doing. It will not work.”

” You just need a chance to get to know me more. I will also include you in a bigger project than this one. Besides Ryan is just a pretty face. You can do better.”

” That is none of your business and I am doing well on my own. I don’t need your help.” I retorted, staring furiously at my computer screen.

” But you don’t have to work this hard if you are on my team.”

I looked at him with utmost hatred.

” Don’t force me to leave this job. I will, you know.”

He went pale and left my room without a word.

***
” I’m sorry. You know I needed this opportunity. It’s like a regular income for me. It’s like a two year contract. I don’t have to wait for random assignments anymore. And I can learn a lot from Cris.” Ryan told me over the phone.

It sucks to fall in love with a weak man. Why did I even fall for his charms? He was beautiful, I’d give him that. Lack of sleep could really impair one’s judgement.

” I guess we are not on the same page in this relationship.” I paused. ” Oh, excuse me. We are not in a relationship.”

” I am really sorry, Gia. You know I really like you. I am even in love with you but I really need this.”

” So you do not care that he is obsessed with me? ”

” It’s hard not to.” he said with his usual naughtiness. ” A lot of men around here are envious of me.”

I sighed. I thought I had fallen in love with a man. It was heartbreaking to realize I was in love with a boy.

***

” What is wrong with me? Why not choose me? ”

Though my heart was filled with hatred for Cris, seeing him drunk and sprawled helplessly on the ground, my heart softened a little for him.

” I am not attracted to you. I was just being nice when I said those words. You were feeling so low about yourself.”

” You are so cruel. I was a drowning man. You don’t throw a lifeline like that only to eventually hang me with it. ”

” I’m sorry.”

He grunted and passed out. I called Ryan to help me take Cris home.

” What a memorable christmas party, huh? ”

I shrugged.

” He is really a nice person when you get to know him.”

I was putting on the seat belt but my hand stopped in mid air.

” You’re kidding right? Are you advocating for him now?”

Ryan placed his hand on my knee.

” The poor guy is really in love with you, sweetheart.”

I swatted his hand away.

” You have read Somerset Maugham’s short stories, right? ”

Ryan nodded.

” Have you read his short story, Red? ”

Ryan turned his head to look at me. ” Yes.”

” Cris is Neilson and you are Red.”

I heard Cris mumbled something unintelligible from the backseat. Ryan withdrew his gaze and stared silently at the road in front of him.


“The tragedy of love is not death or separation. How long do you think it would have been before one or other of them ceased to care? Oh, it is dreadfully bitter to look at a woman whom you have loved with all your heart and soul, so that you felt you could not bear to let her out of your sight, and realize that you would not mind if you never saw her again. The tragedy of love is indifference.”

― W. Somerset Maugham, Red

Copyright 2013, JMKhapra

The Unbending Laws Of The Universe

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Do you have foresight? Given your current situation, are you able to predict where your life would be in ten years? It is eerie how the vision of the future unfolds clearly before my eyes. It makes me believe even more that life is not random. It moves in a neat, straight path, unbending and sometimes unforgiving. I am tempted to throw physics in the equation again. Please don’t roll your eyes, I know I talk about that a lot. It just that the universe is so exact in all the laws that govern it. It can be very stifling.

There are times my mind would open up. I can calculate human nature, plus a given situation equals the inevitable result. Older wiser people will say, oh, that is just what we call experience. Human actions and their consequences always fall into some kind of pattern that makes it easy to predict the outcome. I guess so. Still, I find that fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Rebels of the rigid rules of life always end up defeated in the end. There is no way to cheat the system. Continue reading

The Guardian Angels Among Us

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I was in my late twenties and had made some very poor decisions in my young life. I was too curios about the complexities of the world ( as I briefly mentioned in my previous post) that I ventured to explore even the dark corners of it. I did not willingly go there but the choices I made led me to unfamiliar paths which opened my eyes to the truth that bad people do exist in real life, not only in movies and books. That they are capable of purposely hurting you just for the fun of it. People born in normal middle class families like myself sometimes suffer from boredom making them crave for the thrill of the unknown. I will not go into the details of what atrocities I had unfortunately witnessed in my life because what ever those were, it is nothing compared to the experience of those who suffered torture and abuse but it was also bad enough to make feel sick and disillusioned about the world and its creatures. And because this post is not about cruelty but about kindness. This is a story of an unexpected kindness from a friend who unknowingly saved me from my self inflicted destitution.

David was a colleague from the second company I worked for. He was seven years younger than me and my female friends in the office. We sort of treated him like a younger brother. We discussed women issues around him as if he was one of the girls. He did not mind it. He was fun to be around and made us laugh all the time. We were fond of him. He went with us on lunch dates and coffee breaks even though he was the only boy in our group. Which sometimes made some of our other male co-workers jealous. And he is not gay as one might assume. He did went out with his own group of male friends when he was not with us. He is married now with kids. Some men are like that, they get along with girls very well platonically.

When that start up television company we were working for went bust, I and my friends in that office including David eventually drifted apart. He showed talent in his work and soon found a lucrative employment for himself. Meanwhile my life went on a downward spiral. After a year, I found myself unemployed, homeless and stalked by an ex-boyfriend gone temporarily insane due to a heavy addiction to drugs. My parents knew my ex and liked him before everything went bad. Protecting my parents from worry and heartache I decided to hide the truth from them. I was already living separately from them since I got my first job and didn’t want to move back home. Another bad decision.

I slept on my friends’ couches alternately for almost a month while looking for a new job until shame overcame me. I was not getting any luck on the job hunt as the country was suffering from a very bad recession that year. Living in the city has become very expensive. Sometimes I ended up sleeping on church benches without a penny in my pocket. There was a week I went without a proper meal when I maxed out my credit card limit. I survived on water and cup noodles. There was a couple of days without nothing at all.

Then I remembered David. He was employed in a big company last time I spoke with him. I called him to ask if there was any vacancy in his office or if they needed a freelancer. He told me he had already left the tv network and was doing freelance jobs himself. Times were tough for him as well.

I had gone very quiet after he told me this. I thought I was going to faint. He was my last hope. I did not tell him how desperate I was. I am just that sort of person. I hate obliging others to help me. I was about to thank him for his time when he spoke again.

” Jofs, I got a call from this company asking me to edit a one hour tv documentary. The fee is good. I need the money but I think you need it more than I do.”

Trembling and silently crying, I noted down the address he gave me. My interview went well the next day and with the help of David’s recommendation I got the job. The downpayment the production house gave me was enough to pay for a two month advance for a bed space I wanted to rent. Then even before the project was finished I was offered a permanent job for a big company with a very handsome salary package. The recession has also ended. The economy was back on its feet. Soon, I moved in a one bedroom apartment and I was able to put my life back in order. But I could never forget how David threw me a lifeline without even being aware of it. We met a couple of years after that phone call over coffee and when I told him how he saved me, he was amused that I was making such a big deal out of it.

” But it’s what friends do. ” He said shrugging.

He even insisted on paying for the coffee!

-JMKhapra

How To Edit A Flashback

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I’m an editor. U-hu. A common reply when people ask me what I do. A video editor. I would elaborate. And again. A-ha. They would hide their confusions by this curt reply. I am prompted to explain. I work for TV. Their eyes would lit up. TV. Finally, a word they can relate to. ” For ABS- CBN.” Their eyes would show interest. Really? Is Piolo Pascual gay? I would try not to roll my eyes. I will not reply so they would ask, ” Yes, but what, exactly do you do there?

What exactly do I do? I edit. I cut. I paste. I fast forward. I rewind. I can slow down time. I can freeze a moment. I can play a song while a woman jilted by her lover sobs in utter desolation. I can put laughter when a boy trips over a wire. I’m a mini-god over the lives of those who inhabit my sequences. That is when my director leaves me alone. If not, he then plays god over me. Continue reading

The Confining Walls Of Our Beliefs

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” I think you should not marry him.” Bonnie said emphatically. I looked at her sadly. She was my last hope. Her opinion being the last sign from which my decision would be based upon. Yes, in days of confusion and indecisions, I too fell in the trap of ” looking for signs ” while contemplating a pertinent problem in want of a solution. Needless to say these signs only led to more confusion and further indecisions.

Bonnie sighed, her face contorted with remembered pain. ” Marriage had not been easy for a Christian woman like me marrying into a family with a different religion.”

We were sitting in her spacious bedroom at that moment but when first I came to her house and was introduced to her in laws I did not sense any tension between them at all. I wondered what she was talking about.

” My father -in-law had beaten my husband black and blue when he insisted on marrying me.” she continued. My eyes widened.

It was unfathomable for me how a grown man can be beaten by his father. But apparently in that country it is quite common.

I met Bonnie when I went for a Sunday mass in a Christian Church in the city. Praying in an empty church has always been my one solace every time my life is caught in a whirlwind. At that time I was in the middle of a milder thunderstorm and like a guardian angel she sat by my side. My face must have been as gloomy as the church interior for she asked, ” What’s bothering you child?” My answer was a quivering sigh. Tears held at bay, brimming at the eyelids where one kind word would send them cascading down my cheeks. She patted my hands and whispered to me that I should meet her after service.

Salty water burst forth like in a broken dam from my eyes when finally I related to her the whole story, sitting in a room at the second floor of the church where she taught Sunday school for children. With a motherly sympathy she told me she will pray for me and my troubles. And she will ponder over the situation and would call me if she has an answer for me. She called after a few days. So there I sat in front of her while she dashed my hopes and dreams over coffee.

Bonnie is a beautiful tall woman from the North. She could easily been an actress or a model in my opinion. She has those perfect cheekbones and soulful light eyes with a curtain of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen. With her beauty complemented by her tender heart, it was easy to see why her husband fought tooth and nail to keep her. Their relationship endured countless attempts of separation from her husband’s family but without success. They even threatened to disown her husband. But nothing fazed them. Against all odds they wed and are now blessed with three kids.

” I insisted we marry in a Christian church. Afterwards I fought hard to remain Christian. I did not convert. My faith is all I had. It is my choice. The only thing left of my independence . I held on to it.” I could feel the passion she had for her faith very strongly. I wondered If they beat her up for that too. She did not hint on it throughout the conversation but I thought it was more than probable.

” But then came the children.” Pain flitted in her eyes once more.

” Though my husband never asked me to convert, my in-laws of course would never allow my children to be Christians. This is one fight I could never win. I could never get them baptized. That tears at my heart. How will I save them from eternal damnation? I had to sneaked them out of the house when they were babies just so I can take them to the church. To know the Lord.”

She looked intently into my eyes. ” You don’t want that to happen to you.”

I was speechless. I could not answer her. She was right. It will affect the children’s lives most of all. Which belief would the children cling to before they can choose one for themselves? I said goodbye to her with a heavy heart. Still undecided and all the more confused. I walked away dazed with questions in my head . Plunged in deep reflection.

At the heights of love everything seems so carefree, even childlike in its wantonness . So what was I doing in the middle of something so serious, an issue that keeps polarizing nations apart? Whose God is the real God? Or if there is one? And which religion leads to everlasting life? And again if that is even possible? Why should we give up one for another? Why does it keep pulling people apart instead of together? It was all so complicated. Besides the culture barrier, there is religious barriers too. Why do people constantly build walls to keep each other out? Is elitism such an inborn trait? If other religions do not want Christians in their flock, some Christian are not any better in accepting others too. My ardent Christian friends back home gave me stern advice against marrying outside the faith. Frowning at me, I felt the sting of their scorn for beliefs different from theirs. How ironic. Jesus himself right there written in the bible mingled with everybody. He was the coolest dude who does not possess on single elitist bone in his body.

Without an answer to my dilemma I was only left with a conclusion that maybe people do feel safe if they belong to one “CLUB” or the other. And they fear that someone who does not clearly belong to one is dangerous and must be avoided.

©JMKhapra

Life Without The Sun

It was already very dark when Sandra woke up. She missed the daylight again. She checked her watch and saw it was already seven o clock. Only two hours left before her shift starts. She opened the water heater while brushing her teeth and prepared the clothes she was going to wear afterwards. She turned on the tv and changed the channel to the station she works for. The evening soap opera which she edits would start as soon as the evening news finishes. She felt the same anxiety every time the program was about to go on air. Worrying if she forgot anything crucial. Sometimes no matter how many times she reviewed the finished product some glitches still get overlooked. She cringed to think of seeing even one error on her work.

She checked the water in the shower. It was warm enough. The same feeling of depression sinked into her again as soon as she stepped under the spray of water from the shower. One year of spending her waking hours at night had distorted her psyche and plunged her existence into a surreal reality. Her life felt like a long dream. Perpetually dark without color. Everything that happens to her, occurs in the shadows or under the bright offending florescent lights.

Going down from her apartment she came across her neighbors who was just getting back from work. She knew none of them. Still, she politely nodded her head in greeting. Their work weary expressions a stark contrast to her freshly scrubbed glowing face. Stepping out of the condominium and into her car, she felt her days constantly moving in reverse. Even as she drives to work numerous cars always filled the other side of the road, all of them rushing to reach their houses in time for dinner. Sarah sighed. One by one she saw the lights in the offices she was passing, turning off. The night street vendors carrying baskets filled with balut, penoy and boiled quail eggs standing in street corners also ready for their graveyard shifts.

Her routine at five o’ clock in the morning after her shift was over also went in reverse against everyone elses. As the rest of the population wake up she would be punching out from work trying hard to shake off her drowsiness. And on the road again while she drives back home the other side would be busier with different vehicles on their way to work or towards what ever errands demanded their attention for the day. Wearily, sticky from midnight sweat she would get off the elevator and bumps into her freshly bathed neighbors. Coffee in hand and chattering cheerfully. She would always feel too morose at this time of the morning to greet anyone.

The sun barely showing its bright happy face as she hurls her exhausted body to bed plunging into a dreamless unsatisfying sleep. Waking up eight hours later the cycle begins again.

Sometimes she thinks she would go mad. She could not shake off the feeling of gloom that follows her everywhere. Day offs were especially hard. When she would wake up almost at midnight, not knowing what to do. Nowhere to go. Restaurants and shops already closed except for a 7 eleven or mini stop.

Going to a bar to drink with friends only aggravates the onset of depression spreading in her whole being. Her boyfriend had left her when she refused to give up her job. Her supervisor had begged her to stay on with the night shift for another year since she was the only one who was still single and had no family to go home too.

She never knew how essential the sun and the bright daylight are for her happiness and vitality until loneliness settled into her being permanently and she found herself crying for no apparent reason. Until she drowned in unknown sorrows just by listening to some random sad songs. Until reason left her and made her act erratically. Until one day she loss the will to leave her bed.
©JMKhapra