My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (4)

Part IV: Our Family – putting the fun in dysfunctional

Our nuclear family consists of myself, Ema, Dukie and Eddie.

Ema is a stereotypical dad. She doesn’t do any of the actual child-rearing like bathing, doctor’s visits, etc. Instead, she comes home from work with treats for Dukie and Eddie and wins their affection through her purchasing power.

Dukie is daddy’s little girl. Whatever she wants, she gets from Ema. Ema happily obliges and then disappears to watch the telly, leaving me to trail Dukie to rub antiseptic onto her wounds.

Eddie, on the other hand, is a complete mama’s boy. I’ve stuck his neck in the cone of shame for days, forced antibiotic syrups down his throat, even castrated him – no matter, Eddie still loves me the most.

Poor Ema is a cat person and resents this. Ema does everything to make Eddie love her. She lets him suckle on her clothes, gives him expensive treats – she (even literally) lets Eddie walk all over her. When she finally coaxes him onto her lap and gets him to fall asleep like that, she’s in pure bliss.

Then I come home.

When Eddie gets a whiff of me, he wakes up, walks over Ema like she’s kitty litter and comes to me. I subject him to all sorts of over-affectionate abuse, throwing him around like a rag doll, poking him, squeezing him – doesn’t matter, he’ll just shake himself off and jump right back onto my lap.

Ema can’t stand this.

The problem is: Ema is a cat person. I am a dog person.

But:

Eddie loves me. I pine after Dukie. Dukie loves Ema. Ema pines after Eddie.

 

stick figures

We are all unhappy.

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My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (Part 3)

Part III: Rejection

Dukie is the greatest unrequited love story of my life.

I cannot communicate to you how much my happiness depends on the love of a dog. While I was overseas, missing my pets, I would fawn after dogs in public, savouring the few times I got to pat the doggos while pretending to be interested in their owner’s lives.

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“Doggo? Please love me.”

So imagine what it feels for me to be rejected by my own little one. The one I so carefully selected out of a foster home, making sure to get (a) an older pup and (b) a female, since these two categories are characteristically less adopted. She was the most conscientious decision I’ve made as a pet owner and she hates me.

She’s so sweet, even if a little bit wall-eyed.

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Those eyes are definitely not looking in the same direction

All I want to do is love her and tell her she is safe with me. But because I have been the one to medicate her, bathe her, take her to the vet, trim her nails, do all the unpleasant work in caring for another life, she is frightened of what my presence means. So when I come near her, my heart bursting with the need to love and cuddle her, she is torn between excitement at seeing me and raw, unadulterated fear of what I might do to her next.

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Am I too clingy?

All this tension reached a climax when Dukie developed rashes on three of her legs.

We tried everything at home: ceased using soap, altered her diet, applied betadine. She would just lick the betadine off and it wouldn’t get better. So I took her to the vet, who prescribed a course of antibiotics, an antiseptic cream and…

 

up
The cone of shame

 

The poor thing was so stressed by it but there was no alternative. Her wounds had to heal. And guess who had the honour of putting it on her every day?

After the week of medication had passed, she still associated me with the cone and would run away at the sight or smell of me.

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How I see us

 

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How Dukie sees us

To try and win back her trust, I left her alone completely, only interacting with her to give her pats, back scratches, and treats; in sum, positive reinforcement of my presence. To no avail. It’s been three months now and Dukie still runs away at the sight of me.

On the other hand, we have Dukie’s reaction to Ammi’s treatment of her wounds. Ammi used to ‘treat’ the dog’s wound with chilli powder, following a traditional treatment she had grown up with in her childhood village. She literally rubbed chilli in Dukie’s wounds.

But it’s me that Dukie hates.


Read Part II: How to name a dog

Read Part I: How to name a cat

FAQs – Funeral Edition

I know people mean well when they ask these questions at a funeral. I know it’s a weird combination of genuine concern, not knowing what to say but needing to express care somehow, that ends up in a cocktail of awkwardness and discomfort for everyone. But really, it’s harder being on the other side of the question, the receiving end. The grieving party is still socially conditioned to be more sensitive to the person asking the question than to their own emotions, so you just swallow your bubbling cocktail of grief-anger-resentment-helplessness and respond mechanically, trying not to break.

So I dealt with the pain of managing visitors as I do with everything in life – with a salty sense of dark humour. I wrote down the most frequently asked questions and made notes of what my mind said but my mouth didn’t. I’ve generalized most of the questions and answers so it serves as a Funeral FAQ for all. Hope it gives some insight into what to/not to say and do when approaching a grieving party as snarky as me.


What happened?
S/he died. Did you miss the memo?

I meant, how did s/he die?
Why are you asking me? What do you hope to get out of this question? Stop making us relive the horror of what happened over and over again just for your information. There’s heaps of people around at the wake, ask them before you ask the immediate family.

Was it sudden?
Does it matter? No, of course not. It hurts all the same. So stop making us place some arbitrary value on the timing of it.

Are you ok?
Are you serious? Of course not. Only people who have been with us through the pain of ups and downs and final loss can ask this because they’re asking on the spectrum of how we have been as they’ve stood by us every day.

Were you there when he passed? 
Oh my f–
Really?? I mean, what if I wasn’t? What if I’m now dealing with the unbearable sorrow of not being able to hold his hand as his heart beat its last? Or if I was there and I felt his life ebb away from him, away from me, and I couldn’t let go of the last time I’d have his hand in mine.
Well, were you there when he passed? No? Cool, didn’t think so. Thanks for coming to see his corpse and not him.

Was he in any pain at all?
I’m not sure, would you like to ask my fist?

How’s mum? 
Oh she’s dandy, it’s not every day you get to lose a lifelong partner so she’s celebrating that milestone by throwing this wake.

You know you’ll need to be strong for your mum, right?
Oh! Gosh you’re right, that didn’t occur to me. All this time I thought pixies would take care of her. But thanks for flagging this: swallowing my own emotional needs to take care of others is definitely the healthy way to go.

*hug*/My sincerest condolences. Is there anything I can do to help?
Thank you. Yes. Ask this question genuinely and if called upon, fulfil the request. It means the world when unexpected people offer support and mean it.

So did the funeral directors do everything or did you have to do anything? I need to prepare too, sadly.
… I’m out.

Review of ‘Rag: The Musical’

The Distance between the Wendt and University: A Review of Jehan Aloysius’s Rag … ලයනල් වෙන්ට් රඟහලේ සිට සරසවියට ඇති දුර: ජෙහාන් ඇලොය්සියස් ගේ ‘රැග්’ ගීත නාට්යය

This review of Rag: the Musical is absolutely brilliant and articulates spectacularly (and bilingually) the poor treatment of ragging culture in the musical. Only issue is that it fails to address the absolutely cringey gender politics of the production. The article promises another writer’s article on the subject, though, hope that comes through!

My cat is the best dog I’ve ever had (Part 2)

Part II: How to name a dog

Duke is the dog every affectionate family dreams of having. Loving and obedient to his owners, ferocious – despite his diminutive size – to outside threats, and soft and cuddly to boot. He had eyes that you could read and communicate with. When he was afraid, I’d hold his little face in my hands, stroke his cheeks and I could see his pupils visibly relax, knowing he could trust my love for him. He didn’t know to sit, stay, or fetch, but he’d bound up to us when we came home, wagging his tail so furiously that his little body wagged along with it. Always patient with us and a caring older brother of our other pets, Duke was always there with his unconditional love to make the world feel ok again.

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This is not Duke

My brother and I adopted the dog above to replace Duke when he died. Duke’s death took a real toll on our family. Ammi and thathi refused to love again, saying they could not bear to go through the cycle of inevitable heartbreak again. As impetuous children will do, my brother and I disregarded their wishes, thinking we knew better, and surprised them with an adopted puppy.

They came around pretty fast though, my mother soon cuddling the pup like a baby and not letting her go.

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We let my parents choose a new name for her. They wanted to name her in honour of Duke ‘but it’s a girl, so it should be a female name,’ observed my father.

I started: ‘So Duch-,’

‘Dukie,’ my father continued with finality. I bit my tongue and affirmed, ‘Dukie it is.’

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This is Dukie

Read Part I: How to name a cat

Read Part III: Rejection

Sun-dazed Sri Lanka(ns)

A while ago I wrote an ineloquent rant about a British article that portrayed Sri Lankan cuisine and its people as curious objects of the tropics, the latter of which didn’t understand what a national treasure our hoppers/aappa/appam were and needed a white woman to ‘discover’ it for international/British consumption. A few weeks ago, while eating said aappa at home watching television I came across this advertisement by Munchee for the release of their new (and admittedly delicious) cracker, the Sun Cracker. It shows a white woman tourist who blogs and internally discusses what makes Sri Lankans such curious people, referring to an interminable number of stereotypes about ‘island people’ such as how they’re ‘easy-going’, ‘agree to anything’, and ‘the best part is, they let things go’. She posits that, oh, it must be because of *drumroll* the Sun (cue images of Sun cracker hidden in people’s hands/pockets). I swallowed my aappa in quiet anger, infuriated at this same caricaturing of Sri Lankans as harmless, happy-go-lucky, sun-dazed simpletons who don’t know what they’re worth and need a benevolent foreigner to point it out. Of course, I was even more so outraged that this advertisement came from a group of Sri Lankans them/ourselves. Since when did we start defining our own self-worth by how foreigners see us? OK, I hear you, since forever. But to the point that we are reproducing this Orientalized image of ourselves to market products to ourselves. My disbelief warrants the double bold-italic emphasis.   Continue reading

Citizen Memory and ‘Demons in Paradise’

Demons in the plural

Demons in Paradise is neither the only creative work that provides a critical introspection of the Tamil community, nor the only one that constructs the image of the perpetrators of violence as otherworldly ‘demons’. In 2014, Neervai Ponnaiyan, a veteran Sri Lankan Tamil writer, published a collection of short stories called Devils and Demons. The stories are creative fictions but based on situations and stories rooted in reality. It is critical of violence, as perpetrated by all sides, giving primacy to depicting the suffering caused to ordinary people. However, the fame of Ratnam’s work and recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, the immediacy and easy dissemination of the film medium, and perhaps the aesthetic and storytelling, will eclipse other similar works such as Ponnaiyan’s. This critical introspection is also sure to capture public attention and imagination for a while; there was consternation amongst the audience whether this would be co-opted or cherry-picked to suit convenient political narratives. It is important to note, then, that Ratnam’s movie treats demons in the plural: colonial legacies, ethnic violence, community violence and more. As Ratnam deals holistically with his own critical introspection through the movie, he challenges the audience to do the same.

Our stories

Ratnam’s film is part of a wider trend in the artistic community towards using citizen memory and art to fill in the gaps in our history books and media sources. Radhika Hettiarachchi’s Herstories exhibit used stories from women across Sri Lanka affected by conflict-related violence, drawing upon commonalities in their shared experiences. Ruwanthie de Chickera’s Dear Children, Sincerely…, a play and series of monologues, is based on stories narrated by older generations about happenings in Sri Lanka from the 1930s onwards.

Perhaps the preoccupation of the arts sphere with citizen memory stems from a desire to fill in the silences that we grew up with. Where we do not have clear information or hard facts, we still seek stories. Nearly 70 years from 1948, official sources are still not able to look truthfully at the multiple violences of our post-independence years. Yet, our desire to know motivates us to listen to the stories of our elders, as Ratnam does in the film. But are we then, especially young people, to rely on the arts to fill in these silences? Must the arts shoulder the responsibility of providing to the Sri Lankan community what official sources still refuse to?

 

This is an excerpt from an article first published by Roar Life. See the full article here

Agribusiness undoing the legacy of Fr. Michael Rodrigo

On the dirt road from Wellawaya to Buttala, there stood two little shacks in a small expanse of garden. One would often spot an elderly gentleman there dressed in a sarong and simple baniyan. Peering out at the world from his characteristically oversized glasses, Fr. Mike, as he was referred to affectionately, seemed like any other villager from Buttala, an isolated farming village in the eastern district of Moneragala in Sri Lanka. Yet he was something quite out of the ordinary. Continue reading

Review of Mesh Academy’s ‘Deconstruct the Embody’

(pix courtesy Malaka Premasiri)

On April 1, the crowd at the Lionel Wendt gallery kept buzzing, ‘What do you think it meant?’ They had been captivated by Mesh Academy of  Dance’s Deconstruct the Embody but were struggling to make head or tail of it. Different ideas floated amongst people: some believed the dance had a storyline about escape, others connected emotionally with the frustrated, screaming bodies, others yet remained gobsmacked and chuckled to themselves about the shock of the performance.

Deconstruct the Embody was a multimedia performance combining the choregraphy of Umeshi Rajeendra with photography by Malaka Premasiri. As an abstract, experimental piece, it was a much-needed addition to Sri Lanka’s artistic landscape. It thoroughly disrupted the audience’s expectation of neat storylines or clear messages and demanded instead that you connect with the tensions of lighting and movement. Continue reading