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A unique chemistry

Vatsala Kaul delves deep into the complicated art of loving children as well as pets.
None | By Vatsala Kaul (HT Cafe)
UPDATED ON AUG 07, 2013 12:00 PM IST

I once worked for a woman who equated dogs with children. If you had an emergency at home involving the kids, she would declare, flinging her hand in the air with a flourish, ‘Well, I have dogs, but I don’t take time off for them.’ Soon after one such incident, that job wound up and I never got the chance to tell her how wrong or right she was.

For me, I am, like many mothers of my ilk, trying to find a life for myself and my children among liver-eaters, kidnappers, killers, rapists and other threatening subhuman activity.

Like many such mothers, I have given up the struggle to be an alpha-male. Yes, it's deplorable, but I loved Deplorable and married Deplorable. So it falls upon me mostly to bring up children and other pets, while he brings in the half-loaf of Harvest Gold. If he remembers.

Let me establish first, lest dog-lovers protest my lack of experience, that I have had nine dogs at one time of my life — all at the same time. I had tried once to explain to my dog-loving colleague that while the physical and emotional-caring components would probably be the same with dogs and children, there were other aspects — spiritual, social, intellectual and moral — that would be very different.

She had waved me away dismissively as the erring shirker, taker of an unwarranted day-off.

DiaI M for morals Sitting at a birthday party at Eatopia, a weekly Saturday event, I was listening to the mother of K, the six-year-old’s friend, complain that her boy is not falling into line.

The kids have been asked to make a chart of their daily activities and she is ruing the fact that he has nothing to fill in as all he does is play and watch TV, homework not being a big part of their progressive school curriculum that lays more stress on values than vowels.

So she suggests mildly that he add skating and karate to his chart,having been to two skating classes and half a karate class five months ago.

‘I will not lie,’ Krish announces stoutly,' no matter what. We have been taught not to lie. No matter what.' Mother of K has the expression of the British general at the Salt Satyagraha.

Here I will concede a point to dogs. Dogs don't lie either. Their tails always give away the truth.

Lonely planet The truth is, however, that dogs will almost always leave you alone to your social and entertainment devices. But your children won't.

This New Year’s eve, I invited the lonely people of the world over — the divorced, separated, betrayed, jilted singles who may soon claim a nation-state of their own. One of them smokes a lot. It’s cold outside, so he smokes in the kitchen where my above mentioned halfloaf partner has installed the mammoth exhaust fan from the old air-cooler.

Hearing of his arrival, the six-year-old quickly rigs up two signs on (used on one side) A4s: one that says, ‘No Smoking’ with a lit cigarette in a double-circle crossed out, the other with a glass that says ‘Beer’ crossed out — ‘No beer’ either.

She leaps up on the kitchen slab and tapes the two signs to the wall. When the friend comes, she tells him the signs are for him because he always fills the place with 'Gas' and drinks too much 'Booze'.

He retreats to a corner and drafts the preamble to the Constitution of the Lonely Peoples' Nation-State. Then when I sit down with a glass of red, or in less French times, cranberry breezer, the four-year-old streaks around the house on her bicycle, shouting at the top of her voice: 'Khoon! Khoon! Blood! Blood! Mama collects all the world’s blood and drinks it..and watch! All her teeth are going to fall off !'

A dog would never be so judgemental. Swear.

Sunny side up I could go on and on, like mothers of my ilk (a word no dog nor child should use, twice), but briefly: You are unlikely to wonder as you enroll your young dog into an art class whether you are over-enthusiastic about her painting skills and pushing it into Excel or Perish mode.

You are unlikely to ponder over why your six-year-old pooch has suddenly started changing the channel when a smoochiecoochie scene comes on in the precocious pre-teen show it is watching and you are in the room.

You are unlikely to feel like a low-rung rat when your four-year-old puppy hangs to the back of your jacket pleading you to stay home that day.

A dog is never likely to drop pencil shavings into your mug of tea to see if they | will float (homework), or try to do its homework standing on its head on the sofa (perspective), or draw all over the work you brought home to read, saying it looked like paper you were going to throw away (intelligence), or run around the house rolling an ancient dinosaur egg — large spherical river stone painted in metallic colours, or roll 10 coloured beads in its mouth to see if they taste different than 10 same-coloured beads (curiosity), or play ‘meeting-meeting’ with the neighbourhood friend (role modelling)..

Think about that while I take the two brats for a walk along the nearby lake, where they will run around in the wet grass and watch the ducks float and eat peanuts and potato Smileys and listen to mermaid poems about pink shells and blue seas. At the end we will collect the litter and bring it back home.

A dog would be just as good. But in all likelihood, it would leave behind a self-indulgent monument of poop.

Therein, I fling my hand in the air with a flourish, (and hope the ex-colleague is watching) lies the difference.

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