The incredible story of the missing mongrel

This is something that appeared in “The Hindu” here. It is an incredible story that is unbelievable. But apparently, true. I am copying the whole text here for the convenience of readers, though you should probably see the original site to convince yourself about its validity or if you feel like finding the author or writing to her. So, here is the story:

This is a magical story about my lost dog.

I have three mongrel dogs, around 18 months old. Two brothers came straight from their mother to us when they were a month old. As pups, they looked like huskies with their blonde coats. The third, Prince, a month or two older, had survived the harsh street life of Madras. My cook found him and brought him to us. He has a faint resemblance to an Alsatian’s colouring but with a very curly tail. A handsome dog wearing a red collar with a nametag attached. He fitted in but his experiences had scarred him and he would not take a daily walk on the road. The gate could remain wide open and he would not put a foot outside. He was frightened of the street.

One night, my careless watchman left the gate open. Prince and one brother, Apu, chasing a cat, raced up the 50-metre earthen lane that leads to my house. Moments later came thunder, lightning and heavy rains. Apu raced back, Prince vanished into the storm. Dog experts tell us that the first 48 hours are vital in finding a lost dog. It hasn’t gone far. After that the odds mount – a month is ‘forget it, you’ll never see it again. He’s moved too far searching for his home.’ Prince isn’t friendly, he is xenophoic and doesn’t allow strangers to touch him.

I searched for him, whistling and calling, but he was nowhere in sight. The next day, Maureen, my staff and I walked the streets looking for him. Two days later, my gardener saw him half down my road by a teashop and tried to catch him. Too frightened, Prince ran. It turned out he had been hiding first in a building site and then down a lane. It was raining again but we searched all the roads and lanes. Like every road, we have our share of street dogs, always in the same spot, looking well fed. No Prince. I created a poster with his photograph and offered a generous reward for the finder. These were distributed throughout the neighbourhood and stuck on walls. A woman called, she’d seen him at 4 am nearby. Maureen and I went out at four the next day, walked and called. Then someone said he was seen at night and we walked at nights. He had vanished again. The Hindu, in its Pet’s column, had him with his photo as a missing dog. Two weeks later, the paper ran it again. A local paper also ran a story of him, with his photo. He was also on two Facebook sites. I must add that people do respond and call in, but this time – silence. No one had seen him. If he was a pedigree, someone would have stolen him. He’s a mutt, a street dog, a mongrel with no monetary value.

Two good friends, Angelika, a German woman living in the city, and Kiran whose mother is German, suggested we consult a dog psychic living in Germany. A German dog psychic!! And living 10,000 miles away! As two weeks had passed since his sighting, I would try anything. I knew the odds were stacking up against us finding him. I Googled ‘dog psychic’ and found a few in America, and very expensive. Germany was closer, for what that was worth. The psychic needed his photo, our photos, staff photos and shots of our house, the lane. Obediently, we sent them off. She lives in a village in pristine Germany and I wonder how she’ll penetrate the Indian chaos. Three days later, she emailed in German (translated for us by Angelika). She wrote that he was very frightened and desperate. That stressed us further as we knew he hated the streets. She continued that ‘Prince showed me that he was hiding under a blue tarpaulin in a building site.’ She added that it was near us. There are seven building sites on my road alone, and we visited every one. In one, there was a blue tarpaulin but he wasn’t under it. How on earth, sitting in Germany did she see that through his eyes? How are they ‘talking’? She speaks German, possibly English, he has a dog’s grasp of English, Tamil and Telugu!

A week later, in the evening, the “ironing” man down the road, called saying Prince had just run past him very fast. I raced over. He and another man gave chase on their scooters but lost him when he turned a corner. Everyone now searched up and down roads, lanes, houses. Again, he had vanished. Kiran texted us to leave our gate wide open 24×7 and at night we placed a couple of his toys – my chewed Nike tennis shoe, a plastic ball – in the hope that passing by he’d recognise his toys. No further word from the psychic.

It was now four weeks. I had 15,000 flyers printed and slipped them into two major newspapers distributed in my area. Surely, someone would see him now. I did get a call and went to the place but none had seen him in that area.

It was nearing five weeks and we felt desperate for Prince, frightened, alone, hungry, thirsty. Was he alive? Kiran offered to contact the psychic again who emailed back a day later and thanks to Angelika we got the translation in the evening: he is still alive, lost, frightened, and confused. Searching for food, a human had thrown a stone at him. (I felt almost ill). She wrote on: ‘He’s showing me an arc or arch, a house with outside stairs leading to the roof, a muddy field, a dirt road, a broken wall, an old house, a sloping road. It could be on the edge of town. I told him to stay where he is as Maureen and Tim will find you. Don’t move away.’ It was confusing.

At dawn, we are out on our hunt. Not far is, not an arch, but a pillar, a possibility. We scour the area but there are no old houses or broken walls, nor stairs. Later, we cruise and I spot a metal arch over a school entrance and nearby a broken wall, with a muddy area behind it. We walk all around calling and whistling. No response. For five weeks, I’ve been stressed, and cannot work in my worry for him. It sounds hopeless.

In the evening, we get a SMS on Maureen’s dying phone from a friend, Devika. We’re in a mobile store trying to revive it. The psychic’s mail had been forwarded to Devika, an animal lover. Devika’s friend, Shatru, knows that there are some old houses and lanes near the local telephone exchange. That is about a mile away, along very busy, noisy, chaotic roads. It’s a zigzag route too. We drive over, park and see a muddy lane beside the exchange. We walk down it, calling and whistling, the lane curves sharply to a dead end.

But, at the end, is an old house with an outside STAIRCASE leading up to the roof. We hurry into the muddy compound, calling and whistling. No Prince. The watchmen on the lane, shake their heads when I show them his photograph. Watchmen are not observant persons.

When we get back to the road, we stop and stare. Right opposite, there is a splendid ARCH spanning the entrance to an apartment block.

We check with that watchman and an autorickshaw driver. They are helpful but, no, they haven’t seen the dog.

Next to this grand arch entrance is a dark lane about 100 yards long. We walk down, calling, whistling. At the end is an old house, a half broken wall. The watchman there says he hasn’t seen any dog. We walk back, feeling more depressed, calling and whistling. Parallel to this lane is another dark one, just as long. We turn into it.

I am a few feet ahead, Maureen’s behind. She says: ‘There’s a dog here.’

I turn. There is a bundle of something at her feet. It’s silent; its tail flickers. The light is so bad, it’s only a shape and I bend down. It’s a muddy colour. Prince has a darker coat. But it looks like him. The dog has a collar and hanging from it is a glitter of metal. I scoop him up. It is PRINCE. His tail now a windshield wiper. It is my happiest moment when he rests his tired head against my shoulder and nuzzles my neck, and then nuzzles Maureen as we hug and kiss him. I know he is as happy to have heard our calls and my whistle.

He had come in from behind us, so it meant he was down that first lane and followed my calls. He had been missing 37 days. Though we’re holding him, we can’t believe we have found him. He looks as dazed, all three thinking we’re dreaming.

When we reach home, the word spreads we’ve found him. He is heartbreakingly thin, very dirty, dried mud on his coat and has scars on his forehead and cheek that look like dog bites. He had been in a fight. He had lost two kilograms but someone, somewhere, had given him scraps of food to keep him alive. He drinks a large bowl of water as if he has not had a drink for days. He is traumatised, still afraid though in his home. The two brothers sniff him suspiciously, and keep their distance. For the five weeks they had a monopoly of our love and attention and now Prince is back home. Fussed over by us all, fed, washed, brushed.

That psychic is unbelievable. How did she see through his eyes? I cannot explain it or even understand how she does it. I gather she is well known too. She will visit Chennai in January and we will have her over for a grand meal. We have to see how Prince reacts to her in person.

http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/the-missing-mongrel/article5357814.ece

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Design with the blind in mind

Every nation has a number of people who have some kind of disabilities, be it right from birth or acquired later in life through an accident or illness. But nations differ in the way they treat their less fortunate fellow citizens. I admit that I became more aware of the problems of disabled (or, “differemtly abled” to be more politically correct) after I had a stroke and myself became partially disabled. Perhaps because of that, I was really attracted by the words of this American who went blind after a surgery in his best years. I heard this in a TED talk, but let me just copy the transcribed speech here:

So, stepping down out of the bus, I headed back to the corner to head west en route to a braille training session. It was the winter of 2009, and I had been blind for about a year. Things were going pretty well. Safely reaching the other side, I turned to the left, pushed the auto-button for the audible pedestrian signal, and waited my turn. As it went off, I took off and safely got to the other side. Stepping onto the sidewalk, I then heard the sound of a steel chair slide across the concrete sidewalk in front of me. I know there’s a cafe on the corner, and they have chairs out in front, so I just adjusted to the left to get closer to the street. As I did, so slid the chair. I just figured I’d made a mistake, and went back to the right, and so slid the chair in perfect synchronicity. Now I was getting a little anxious. I went back to the left, and so slid the chair, blocking my path of travel. Now, I was officially freaking out. So I yelled, “Who the hell’s out there? What’s going on?” Just then, over my shout, I heard something else, a familiar rattle. It sounded familiar, and I quickly considered another possibility, and I reached out with my left hand, as my fingers brushed against something fuzzy, and I came across an ear, the ear of a dog, perhaps a golden retriever. Its leash had been tied to the chair as her master went in for coffee, and she was just persistent in her efforts to greet me, perhaps get a scratch behind the ear. Who knows, maybe she was volunteering for service. (Laughter)

But that little story is really about the fears and misconceptions that come along with the idea of moving through the city without sight, seemingly oblivious to the environment and the people around you.

So let me step back and set the stage a little bit. On St. Patrick’s Day of 2008, I reported to the hospital for surgery to remove a brain tumor. The surgery was successful. Two days later, my sight started to fail. On the third day, it was gone.

Immediately, I was struck by an incredible sense of fear, of confusion, of vulnerability, like anybody would. But as I had time to stop and think, I actually started to realize I had a lot to be grateful for. In particular, I thought about my dad, who had passed away from complications from brain surgery. He was 36. I was seven at the time. So although I had every reason to be fearful of what was ahead, and had no clue quite what was going to happen, I was alive. My son still had his dad. And besides, it’s not like I was the first person ever to lose their sight. I knew there had to be all sorts of systems and techniques and training to have to live a full and meaningful, active life without sight.

So by the time I was discharged from the hospital a few days later, I left with a mission, a mission to get out and get the best training as quickly as I could and get on to rebuilding my life. Within six months, I had returned to work. My training had started. I even started riding a tandem bike with my old cycling buddies, and was commuting to work on my own, walking through town and taking the bus. It was a lot of hard work.

But what I didn’t anticipate through that rapid transition was the incredible experience of the juxtaposition of my sighted experience up against my unsighted experience of the same places and the same people within such a short period of time.

From that came a lot of insights, or outsights, as I called them, things that I learned since losing my sight. These outsights ranged from the trival to the profound, from the mundane to the humorous. As an architect, that stark juxtaposition of my sighted and unsighted experience of the same places and the same cities within such a short period of time has given me all sorts of wonderful outsights of the city itself. Paramount amongst those was the realization that, actually, cities are fantastic places for the blind. And then I was also surprised by the city’s propensity for kindness and care as opposed to indifference or worse. And then I started to realize that it seemed like the blind seemed to have a positive influence on the city itself. That was a little curious to me.

Let me step back and take a look at why the city is so good for the blind. Inherent with the training for recovery from sight loss is learning to rely on all your non-visual senses, things that you would otherwise maybe ignore. It’s like a whole new world of sensory information opens up to you. I was really struck by the symphony of subtle sounds all around me in the city that you can hear and work with to understand where you are, how you need to move, and where you need to go. Similarly, just through the grip of the cane, you can feel contrasting textures in the floor below, and over time you build a pattern of where you are and where you’re headed. Similarly, just the sun warming one side of your face or the wind at your neck gives you clues about your alignment and your progression through a block and your movement through time and space. But also, the sense of smell. Some districts and cities have their own smell, as do places and things around you, and if you’re lucky, you can even follow your nose to that new bakery that you’ve been looking for.

All this really surprised me, because I started to realize that my unsighted experienced was so far more multi-sensory than my sighted experience ever was. What struck me also was how much the city was changing around me. When you’re sighted, everybody kind of sticks to themselves, you mind your own business. Lose your sight, though, and it’s a whole other story. And I don’t know who’s watching who, but I have a suspicion that a lot of people are watching me. And I’m not paranoid, but everywhere I go, I’m getting all sorts of advice: Go here, move there, watch out for this. A lot of the information is good. Some of it’s helpful. A lot of it’s kind of reversed. You’ve got to figure out what they actually meant. Some of it’s kind of wrong and not helpful. But it’s all good in the grand scheme of things.

But one time I was in Oakland walking along Broadway, and came to a corner. I was waiting for an audible pedestrian signal, and as it went off, I was just about to step out into the street, when all of a sudden, my right hand was just gripped by this guy, and he yanked my arm and pulled me out into the crosswalk and was dragging me out across the street, speaking to me in Mandarin. (Laughter) It’s like, there was no escape from this man’s death grip, but he got me safely there. What could I do? But believe me, there are more polite ways to offer assistance. We don’t know you’re there, so it’s kind of nice to say “Hello” first. “Would you like some help?”

But while in Oakland, I’ve really been struck by how much the city of Oakland changed as I lost my sight. I liked it sighted. It was fine. It’s a perfectly great city. But once I lost my sight and was walking along Broadway, I was blessed every block of the way.

“Bless you, man.”

“Go for it, brother.”

“God bless you.”

I didn’t get that sighted. (Laughter) And even without sight, I don’t get that in San Francisco. And I know it bothers some of my blind friends, it’s not just me. Often it’s thought that that’s an emotion that comes up out of pity. I tend to think that it comes out of our shared humanity, out of our togetherness, and I think it’s pretty cool. In fact, if I’m feeling down, I just go to Broadway in downtown Oakland, I go for a walk, and I feel better like that, in no time at all.

But also that it illustrates how disability and blindness sort of cuts across ethnic, social, racial, economic lines. Disability is an equal-opportunity provider. Everybody’s welcome. In fact, I’ve heard it said in the disability community that there are really only two types of people: There are those with disabilities, and there are those that haven’t quite found theirs yet. It’s a different way of thinking about it, but I think it’s kind of beautiful, because it is certainly far more inclusive than the us-versus-them or the abled-versus-the-disabled, and it’s a lot more honest and respectful of the fragility of life.

So my final takeaway for you is that not only is the city good for the blind, but the city needs us. And I’m so sure of that that I want to propose to you today that the blind be taken as the prototypical city dwellers when imagining new and wonderful cities, and not the people that are thought about after the mold has already been cast. It’s too late then. So if you design a city with the blind in mind, you’ll have a rich, walkable network of sidewalks with a dense array of options and choices all available at the street level. If you design a city with the blind in mind, sidewalks will be predictable and will be generous. The space between buildings will be well-balanced between people and cars. In fact, cars, who needs them? If you’re blind, you don’t drive. (Laughter) They don’t like it when you drive. (Laughter) If you design a city with the blind in mind, you design a city with a robust, accessible, well-connected mass transit system that connects all parts of the city and the region all around. If you design a city with the blind in mind, there’ll be jobs, lots of jobs. Blind people want to work too. They want to earn a living.

So, in designing a city for the blind, I hope you start to realize that it actually would be a more inclusive, a more equitable, a more just city for all. And based on my prior sighted experience, it sounds like a pretty cool city, whether you’re blind, whether you have a disability, or you haven’t quite found yours yet.

Here is my last post from blogspot (chithariyachinthakal.blogspot.com):

Why do we wear clothes?

 
Some years back, some time in 2008 I think, I had posed a question in my blog, “Why do we wear clothes?” and requested for responses from people. I think I received just two responses. Both were sensible, though not complete. Later, I gave an answer based on some studies reported in the media, which also may not be complete. The reason for the present post is that I find several web pages that discuss the same topic, including an interesting YouTube video. I just thought that some of my readers might be interested.

Here is another blog that discusses the same question: http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/so-why-do-we-wear-clothes-again/ Don’t forget to read the comments also.

Here is another web page, from answers.com this time: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_do_people_wear_clothes

The YouTube video I mentioned can be seen from here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4HGfagANiQ In the video, the gentleman explains how the reason for humans wearing clothes is closely related to his relatively large brain.

Hope you all will enjoy this investigation into one of the most important things in our lives.

Tiranga Bangle: Another fraud in the offing

I used to blog at blogspot and one of my blogs was called “chithariyachinthakal.blogspot.com” Recently, I decided to migrate to wordpress due to two reasons. One, I believe that we are moving towards a new society where people will do things through collaborative efforts, best exemplified by Free Software and Wikipedia. and, two, I understand that wordpress is a better site for blogging in many ways. But, I thought that since I am migrating from blogspot and that blog will continue to be there, but unupdated, I thought I will start with the last couple of blogs that I had posted there. So, here is the last but one blog:

This is just copied from the web site of Rationalist International because this is another instance of trying to cheat gullible Indians and at least some of them may be saved if I post this here. Read the original here: http://www.rationalistinternational.net/ 
So, here goes:
Patriotism is highly respected and widespread in India. Seen as a positive and constructive force to create unity in a country of great diversity, it is close to everybody’s heart.  It is not old fashioned, on the contrary. It is flourishing today among young and future oriented Indian achievers. In times of rapid developments and confusing globalism, they find stability and security in the pride to be Indian.
Superstition, neatly dressed up as science and linked to patriotic feelings is an unscrupulous new business plan. It is aiming beyond the shrinking traditional circles of incense smelling psychopaths to delve into untapped markets with great future potential. To make it sustainable, customers are asked to register their bangle on the Flag Foundations website and get reminded when it needs to be recharged.
As Indian as Jindals’ Tiranga campaign may look, it has international roots. The idea is imported from South Africa, where the energized copper bracelet is selling as “46664 bangle” like hot cake since years. It is sold by one Dr. Anton Ungerer, who popularized his business by advertising that its proceeds were to benefit the Nelson Mandela Fund.
Jindal refers to Ungerer’s elaborate scientific research on the Tri-Vortex technique that is described like this: In an electrical chamber, a powerful field of complex energy is generated “including properties of sound, light and geometry”. Within 24 hours, it creates “flowing molecule structures” in the copper bangles (or in anything else that you put in the chamber, like wood, food or water). By way of “biomimicry”, the energized items improve the “cellular coherence” and the flow of energy in plants, cows and humans, causing all kinds of beneficial effects. Sounds great, but is unfortunately only pseudo-scientific blahblah. Renowned scientists have dismissed such claims, and neither Jindal nor Anton Ungerer could so far present any evidence or independent scientific research supporting them. In South Africa, a respected consumer rights organization stood up against Ungerer. Meantime, the Advertising Standards Association of the country has ordered his company to withdraw their “unsubstantiated claims”.

Ungerer did not invent the Tri-Vortex technique. He took it from Japan. The murky source of it all seems to be the work of one Dr. Mararo Emoto, who specialized on energizing water. Emoto presented his sensational “scientific” findings in 2003 – and was immediately challenged by James Randy. Randy offered him one million dollar if he could reproduce his claimed results in a controlled double blind test. Emoto was not ready to accept.

Marato Emoto’s claim he could create healing water by transforming molecule structures and energy flows is far older than his Tri-Vortex technique. Before 2003, he used to propagate simpler methods: meditation and prayer. Or he would affix scrips with magic words on water tanks. Jindal’s Tiranga Bangle has come a long way!