Polite or Pushover?

I try to be polite. I will hold the door open if someone is walking behind me, I smile, I say please and thank you and I try to have an aura of politeness floating around me in public. My husband told me this behaviour is not wise, you should have an aura of “leave me alone”. I really thought that was rude, it’s best to be polite and continued to polish my politeness.

Now, sadly, I have to tell you about a recent event which made me throw that polite aura out of the window.

When we moved here, one of the guards helped us move in and I thanked him profusely and from that day onwards, I always said hello to him and he would stroke Alfonso. I thought he was a really nice guy. Several days ago, after days of being in bed with dysentery, I decided I would take Alfonso for a short walk, hoping it might make me feel better. When Alfonso had been to the bathroom, we returned to our apartment building through the secure entrance. We were about to walk into the building when a man I had never seen before came from behind a wall, he was dressed in the security guard uniform all the guards in India seem to wear and he was walking straight towards us. We looked at each other and I smiled as he approached, thinking he would walk straight past us.

The man snatched the lead from my hand and in a monotone and nervous voice he said, “how much money?” in Marathi. My limited Marathi understood what he was asking because I hear my husband saying the same thing when we go to the market. I tried to get the lead from him, he was now holding it with both of his swollen hands, his face covered with sweat and his eyes darting towards the main gate where the other guards were sat, in deep conversation. “Let go of my dog”, I shouted with a huge tug. He grabbed my arm, which seemed to shock him, allowing me to get Alfonso out of his grip so I could run to my apartment in hysterical tears. 

My husband arrived home from work soon after, finding me in a state. I had never seen him so angry as he stormed downstairs to confront the new guard. I really didn’t realise my husband could shout so loudly. I was shaken up for hours. It turns out that this new guard was the brother-in-law of the guard I had been polite to and this had been planned. I assume they thought, like many people do, Alfonso is imported and worth lakhs of rupees (thousands of pounds). In fact, Alfonso was born in Nagpur and the same price as many other breeds of dogs here in India. To the guard, I am certain my politeness was seen weakness and so coerced his nervous brother into taking Alfonso. They have suffered the consequences of their actions, and so have I.

I feel so much empathy  and compassion for those who are struggling, like I am sure those guards are, but I am going to have to step back if offering a smile makes me look like someone who can be taken advantage of. This doesn’t mean I would ever be unkind to a stranger, just means I will try to remain neutral. 

I had always tried to live by the philosophy “give a stranger a smile because it might the only one they see that day”, but now I feel deflated. So, if you happen to see me out and about and I look unapproachable and guarded, don’t be offended. I’m now going to take my time before trusting someone new. I firmly believe that politeness is a virtue, but it seems that politeness is too easily misinterpreted as weakness. Or maybe it’s just because I am a foreigner? Or maybe it’s just because I am a woman?

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‘Brits Love Dogs More Than People’

When we first ‘adopted’ our baby Alfonso, a family friend saw me cradling the little wrinkly ball said “the Brits love dogs more than people”. When I see people throwing stones at street dogs for no apparent reason, in that moment, I do prefer the dog. But, the simple fact is, in India many people are scared of dogs.

It’s the fear of rabies, the fear of being chased and the fact most domestic dogs are trained as guard dogs. When we walk Alfonso, people generally admire is unusual look but avoid him. Poor guy, he wants to play with everyone but he’s not very popular around here. There will be occasions when someone will spring from nowhere, pick him up and cuddle him, but that’s rare. Many domestic dogs in India spend most of their lives tied up outside their owners home, barking at anyone who comes too close. There is a very cute Pomeranian in the house opposite, very small and fluffy, he spends day and night tethered to a short rope, yapping his little head off.

In Britain, dogs are seen as a part of the family, there are no wild dogs and it’s not often you’ll find someone who is scared of them. Alfonso is part of our family and walks around the house freely, I have noticed we have fewer visitors these days, but that suits me just fine. Before Alfonso came to live here, our house was as busy as Grand Central Station.

I’ve realised people generally visit without prior notice in India, while in England you need to book an appointment at least a week in advance before showing up at someone’s house. If you turn up randomly in England, it’s considered  rude! India has a much more casual approach.

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So, what inspired this post?

Between my mother-in-law’s yoga hall and our apartment, there is a restaurant. The restaurant had two men come to our house to hang lights from our terrace, to decorate the restaurant below for Diwali. Alfonso and I left our room to go and get some tea, not knowing there were strangers in the house. One of these men kicked my Alfonso across the living room, Alfonso yelped so loudly, he was really hurt. The man was caught off guard, scared of him and was ‘defending’ himself. I was livid!

If we were to complain to the restaurant, this man may not have been paid and he probably has a family to feed. And, who knows, he may return for revenge? My in-laws had to sack our driver and he threw a brick through our back window! Still, I was so upset that I could not hold back the tears. My poor Alfonso, totally bewildered, he was just greeting him. Extra cuddles for Alfonso and a sharp glare for the criminal!

Emergency Vet Trip

Just as I was getting over the shock of my husband being rushed to hospital, I woke up this morning and Alfonso couldn’t walk properly, limping around. Absolutely beside myself, we had to rush him to the vets. 

My husband has been working in the desert state of Rajasthan for over a week now, we don’t know when he will be able to come back home. It has been such a difficult week, I have been missing him so much. The uncertainty of when he will return has driven me crazy! Alfonso has helped tremendously, cuddling me at night and waking me up in the morning. We’ve been having lovely little walks around our neighborhood, all the children out playing  absolutely adore him (even if most of them are a little nervous).  Alfonso and I have become the piped pipers of Nagpur, groups of children follow us around,  hypnotised by his cuteness.

Alfonso has really been my rock, my comfort blanket and my clown. This morning, he wasn’t smiling or creating his usual mischief and he wasn’t pulling my hair because he was eager for his breakfast. As soon as I saw him limping around, unable to put any weight on his foot, I panicked, cried, held him so tightly and then cried some more. I wished my husband was home, I didn’t want to get bad news without him.

A very sick little pug! Time to go to the vet!

My poor little baby…

I really worried that there would be no emergency vet hospitals around, I kicked myself for not finding out sooner. Luckily we found one and now know where it is, he has all the facilities a human hospital would have, it’s great!

Thank God, he is okay. The vet reassured me that it is a muscular problem which will sort itself out in time. He had an injection and some tablets. No more mischief for him, strict rest and relaxation for Mr. Alfonso.

Throughout the day he has started putting weight back on his foot, I thank God a thousand times that he is fine. He has become such a huge part of my life, I love him so dearly, his little face and adorably quirky personality. I am still a little nervous that this problem will return, at least now we know where to go. Don’t scare your Mummy like that again, Alfonso.

Pugs Love Sarees

Several failed attempts, a few safety-pin injuries and a couple of swear words later, I can now successfully drape my own saree (this weekend we attended an engagement)! Along the way, I had a little helper… Alfonso. Scared that he would damage my saree, I stood on the bed. Desperate as he is to do it, he still isn’t tall enough to get himself up there yet.

Alfonso has a naughty habit of trying to hitch a ride on our maids sarees and was absolutely delighted to see that I was now wearing one too. Now what to do? I stood stranded on the bed with my lovable little piranha looking up at me with his doe eyes.

So, I had to carry him around whilst wearing it (he was not amused!). I will have to wait until he has grown out of his hanging from saree pallu habit before being able to wear a saree around the house. 
pink and orange saree, holding my cute pug. Also wearing sindoor, mogra and a smile

Hasn’t Alfonso grown so much in the last six weeks? He is growing everyday, in size and in mischief! Alfonso is such a good boy, he knows his name, knows where to go to toilet and he can now get down from the bed by himself (still cannot get up yet, thankfully). He is always so cuddly to anyone he is feeling upset, an absolute sweetheart.

Unfortunately, he still enjoys hanging from sarees. Alfonso is going to have to gift our maids (his best friends!) new ones if he carries on like this! 

Our pug family photo! Our intercultural, interracial, international, interspecies family!

Family photo