Armchair Adv

Map of India
Taking a break from Mumbai’s mid-day heat, I duck into an outdoor café to find refuge under the canopy of a giant Banyan tree. With 22 ounces of iced-cold Kingfisher in hand, I settle in to binge-watch the sur-reality show of an Indian street from the safety of the sidelines.

Halfway through my brew, a scrappy-looking dog leaps out of a nearby dumpster... (read backside)
The Art of the Indian Head Shake
Known as the Indian head bobble, wobble, or shake, this culturally creative form of nonverbal communication is used all across India to indicate "yes", "good", "okay" or "I understand". But tourists beware, it can easily be confused with the American head shake for “no.”

Check out this video and learn to wobble, bobble, and shake like a local.
Kingfisher beer
He has the indiscernible breed of free-range canines that populate Indian streets. Unlike in the US, where dogs are pampered companions who attend regular vet appointments and scheduled play dates in the dog park, India’s dogs live fast and hard. With unleashed freedom, they happily trot through traffic, nap under the shade of parked cars, and survive by the laws of natural selection and luck. Their fur contains ecosystems within ecosystems of fleas, ticks, scabbies, and God knows what. Petting one may be something you soon regret.

With my Kingfisher somehow already empty, my waiter stops by and asks if I’d like another. I shake my head ‘no thanks.’ (Wouldn’t want to over-indulge). Moments later another bottle shows up. Oops. Not having mastered the nuance of the Indian headshake (a subtle, side-to-side head wobble that, to Americans, looks like a combination of “no” and “whatev”) still gets me into trouble.

I graciously accept it. (Wouldn’t want to be rude).
Dogs laying on sidewalk
Another dog pops out of the dumpster, followed by seven more of his friends. A spotted guy with pointy ears and a long tail notices my grimace and decides to taunt me. Coming close to my table, he sniffs my feet. I brace myself as the pungent aroma of rotting vegetables radiates off of him.

While his buddies swagger off down the sidewalk in search of new exploits, he lays down under my table and contorts himself to scratch some hard to reach places. Ugh.

I finish my beer and decide to head back to my guesthouse before I accidentally order another. The dog follows me out onto the sidewalk. Don’t follow me! Ick— gross!

By block two, he still trots by my side, wagging his tail.

By block three, he glances up at me with a loving gaze.

By block four his sweet disposition grows on me. I can feel we are bonding.

By block five, Piper and I decide we are soul mates. We get each other. I hatch a plan to sneak him into my room and give him a long, sudsy bath.

At the intersection, I wait on the curb for a lull in the traffic, but Piper darts right through it. “PIPER! Be careful!” 

Piper waits for me patiently on the other side, and I scold him gently when I get there. Naughty doggie.

We reach my guesthouse and I tell Piper to wait in the courtyard while I run upstairs to find a makeshift leash. He obediently sits and waits. 

Upstairs I rummage through my backpack and dig out a belt to use as a temporary leash, and fluff up a little blanket for him as a makeshift dog-bed.

Coming back outside into the courtyard, another one of Piper’s canine comrades trots toward him excitedly. He is carrying something in his mouth. It looks like a diaper. Yep. A steaming, dripping, oozing, dirty diaper.

Piper jumps in and the two of them engage in a friendly tug of war until it rips apart and liquid poop splatters all across the pavement.

I press my hands over my face and stifle a scream while Piper merrily scampers off down the sidewalk with his buddy, in search of adventure in a world filled with endless possibilities.

Lucky dog.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.”In 2015, Americans consumed more than 24 billion pounds of beef and spent over $60 billion dollars on their pets, including purchases of live animals, food, supplies, and vet services.How do you think American cultural values rank against Gandhi’s statement in the treatment of animals?  Just food for thought.

Holy Cow: The Collision of Cuisine & Culture

Mcdonalds menu in india
From Big Macs to Whopper Juniors, generations of Americans have been weaned on hamburgers since their first Happy Meal. But in India, juicy, flame-broiled burgers top the taboo list. To the approximately 1 billion Indian Hindus, the cow is more than just a sacred animal— it’s practically family.

From sirloin to sour cream to suede, yogurt, glue and ghee, the generous cow provides so much to make our lives comfortable, yet takes nothing but water, grass, and grain in return. Whether celebrated at festivals, or simply welcomed to stroll through the neighborhood streets without a care in the world, Hindus don’t worship the cow— they honor her like a mother. And honoring her instills the Hindu virtue of ahimsa— non-violence against all life forms.
Historically, the ancient Hindu texts didn’t forbid eating meat, but their regard for ahimsa led many toward a vegetarian lifestyle, as well as food production methods respectful of other life forms. Vegetarianism continued to grow with the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the sixth century BCE, and while Buddha himself wasn’t a vegetarian (his last meal allegedly contained pork), Buddhist teachings also emphasized ahimsa— another major boost for vegetarianism.
Mahavira, a Jain spiritual leader who believed in complete reverence for all forms of life, brought vegetarianism toward even greater acceptance, and in more contemporary times, social activist Gandhi often compared the practice of vegetarianism and the observance of non-violence.

Today, across India’s religiously pluralistic culture, true vegetarians still only make up less than half the population. But when it comes to cows, most of India’s omnivores abstain from eating beef as well.

Perhaps respect for our mothers is one thing everyone can agree on.
(Dogs laying on sidewalk): By Savrose (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

(McDonald's sandwhiches on table): By aramc (Vegetarian at McDonald's) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

(McDonald's Menu): By Charles Haynes (Flickr: McDonalds Bangalore menu) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (] -

(Kingfisher beer): By Jessicagosling (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

(Cow walking in street): By The original uploader was John Hill at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Sign up for more entertaining Armchair Adventures!