Monday, August 4, 2014

Dogs, babies, boredom


Bombay Dyeing, for long associated with everything upholstery in Indian households is currently running a new advertising campaign that reflects changing times. The company is obviously doing it to tell people my generation and younger, who largely think their curtains and bed covers are way too stodgy, expensive and are only meant to be wedding gifts for distant relatives, that they've evolved.
So a young girl wants her divorced dad to redo his house with BD upholstery so he can woo women and a young couple is engaging in what looks like towel-shopping for their “baby”, which turns out to be a dog.
The ads have an easy feel-good vibe about them, but the dog ad caught my attention.
Disclosure: I don’t have a pet. I've come close to buying a dog once, but haven’t.
I hear having pets can be extremely gratifying and I've seen for myself the kind of bonding owners get to enjoy with them, where dogs and cats, especially, demand and get equal rights in the family as legitimate members. It really is heartwarming.
When my friend’s dog died he and his mother grieved for days. However, I’d always thought having a pet was more of a family affair, where mom, dad, kids and dog complete the picture. In my defence, that’s all I had ever seen or read.  Timmy  got access to Aunt Fanny’s food and care quite early on, my friend lived with his family of course, and Snowy’s always with Tintin, so never alone. Plus he can talk, and drinks whiskey. No competition.
But this was before I realized that somewhere down the line having a pet had somehow morphed into a pop movement, where every other upwardly mobile single man or woman (and newly married couple, sometimes) would have one -- whom they’d invariably lock up in their apartments the whole time they’re at work or away for any reason -- for the joy of having someone to come home to at the end of a long and tiring day.
Buying expensive dogs had become status symbols for families that can afford to have other people take care of their pets, so they can ruffle their heads once every day in the evening.
By the way, you've got to stop buying pugs and then make them run around. Their noses are bad, and your little show of exercise and/or love taxes them. Plus those people you hire as dog walkers? They don’t take them to the park but only run along pavements, where they dirty it. I am not a hater, but I refuse to understand why your little hobby should be my problem. The pavement is for me to walk on, not your dog to poop on. Use your own damn bathroom.
Ok, that last bit is an India problem, but worldwide, cute dogs are obviously also great wing-men, though  I’d wager that loneliness is a stronger reason behind the rise of the pet pop culture. When I was settling in the US  I suffered a massive fit of loneliness in the first month. My familiarization guide had checked in on me after I’d shifted into my apartment and I thought I’d ask her broker friend if it would be easy to find a roommate, just so I have some company.
“Why do you want to share your space? If you’re lonely, get a dog,” the ladies said in unison.
That threw me off completely.
They knew I lived by myself, was just starting to feel my way around the city and had to travel quite a bit. They were even lecturing me on how I need to set my kitchen up ASAP, because I'd been eating out every day. How did they think I could take up the responsibility of another living being at that point?
Then, just out of curiosity, I repeated the same question at work. Not so vehement, but more or less the same response. And I slowly recognized the trend.
My next door neighbor had a small puppy, which would claw at the door and bark itself silly every time it’d hear my footsteps or the sound of me turning the keys, expecting me to be its owner and no doubt wanting to be let out.
When that happens all the time, it’s hard not to wonder if it is not outright selfish to get a pet to comfort yourself, but one you’d obviously have to keep chained/shut up for long parts of the day where it’d no doubt be miserable in varying degrees. In effect, subject that pet to loneliness to make sure you don’t have to go through the same.
I've no doubt the owners are extremely fond of all their pets— it would take a monster to not grow attached to another life that is so caring and also dependent on you. But I still can’t agree to the reasoning behind it.
And since we've already made the child-and-pet-are interchangeable-today point, let me say this too: boredom and loneliness also sound like really strange reasons for people to have children.
Oh, I get the logic. I've heard my women friends say “I’m not doing anything right now, so this is a good time to have  baby,” too many times to not understand what they mean.
But since I’m at it anyway, let me get it out. That reasoning sounds right on paper, but feels all wrong.
Surely, your taking charge of another living being has got to have a little more to it than the fact that you are bored and/or jobless? I mean, if you are bored and lonely, you go for a walk. You watch a movie, go get a drink, take up yoga or another hobby.
Surely a pet or a baby is more than that?
More disclosures: apart from not having a pet, I also do not have kids. And unlike in the case of the dog, I've not come close to getting one and then changed my mind. 
All through the past three years I told myself this is a first world affectation— this buying of pets to get company—and then I moved to India. Where I saw the BD ad. And today, I got to know Amazon in the country has started selling pet supplies and related products.
Well, the trend’s certainly catching on.


5 comments:

Chandan said...

Brilliant! Exactly my thoughts :)

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

hah! I knew you'd say that!

R Miglani said...

A nice way to express !

Saiku said...

My family always had pet dog which is indigenous breed instead of fancy foreign-breed ones. They are maintenance-free (No trimming, nail-cutting, regular doctor-checkups, chaining, pet food). All it needs is plate full of rice. In return it gives us joy, companionship and secured feeling in the night.

Only after coming to US, I realized that pet is like a baby member in family. We should refer pet as "he/she", not 'it'. Owners are so possessive about their pets to the extent that they don't allow others to pat their pet. Pets have their own photo album, social gathering, dating places, funeral. It took time for me to understand all this.

My friend in Japan mentioned that Japanese youth prefer to have a pet instead of volatile marriage or relationship. Definitely pets are not made to quarrel and debate. They are groomed to obey commands of their master. Now makes sense.

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

I know what you are talking about, Sai. While talking about fads and pets, look at this. I saw this some time back and was reminded of it right now as I read your comment. Personally, I'd definitely call them crazy, but then again, a cabbage on a leash doesn't dirty streets and has no needs!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/02/cabbages-for-walks_n_5254589.html

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..