Wednesday, October 25, 2023


When was the last time you spoke to a stranger?

Perhaps today or yesterday; but generally speaking, we are willing to heap troll and lavish praise on random folks we follow on social media, but hardly ever pause to wave a ‘hi’ at people that cross our paths in our everyday lives

By Suzy Fontes

Friday, October 20, 2023

I stand guilty to the above (not the troll part).

I have learned to press my gaze to the ground, to have unbroken chain of thoughts during my every venture out of home. That stance is more comforting than making eye contact with people who quickly avert theirs or see through them in their haste or otherwise to reach their destination.

That was until a pet dachshund named ‘Noodle’ came into our lives, three years ago.  

We are no more strangers to the people – mostly children – we meet on our evening jaunts. 

Loud calls for ‘Noodle’, ‘Noodles’, ‘Newdhal’, ‘Nu-dal’ (also ‘sausage’)…trail us as we walk around the neighbourhood. Little groups of kids playing outdoors pause to smile or volunteer to pet ‘Noodle’, who is eternally seeking any massage on her back or belly, her tail wagging like a clock pendulum on a hyper mode. And then there is a sweet little kid who believes I need to be petted just as much as Noodle does, and so I get to share her hugs with Noodle. 

The ‘I love you Noodle’ choruses are vigorously acknowledged by my dachshund’s tail; there is also a ‘Bye Noodle’ thrown in before the game picks again.

Once, a passing car even halted briefly on the service road in the neighbourhood, impervious to the cars braking behind, to check the tiny dachshund and her cute weenie walk. The driver had a pressing question to pose; he lowered his window all the way down to ask: “Billi ya kutha (cat or dog)?” 

I have also encountered random people requesting information on formalities to bring their pets from back home to their lives here in Muscat; some politely seeking permission to take her picture on their mobile, to show it to their family; others wanting to know the breed, and more… And then there are a few who are petrified of dogs, they simply dash across to the other side of the road, despite ‘Noodle’s miniature appearance. 

But they are far and few in between.

Noodle has earned us popularity, nay familiarity; a sense of recognition that was completely unknown to us until three years ago. 

Today, I enjoy the visible signs of recognition that greet me when I lift my gaze and unflinchingly scour my horizon. But sigh, this is reserved only for the evening walks with Noodle. Beyond that routine, eyes continue their furtive exercise at every outdoor operation, sans the leash in my hand.

I stay shackled by the boundaries that dictate distance in human communication. We are all, presumably, a part of this reservation; the reservation we have about strangers. It goes beyond the boundaries that we as a society have erected around us, our homes, our friends and those close cliques. Oftentimes, we are wary of even a chink in the bounds we erect with barbed irons of prejudice and discrimination. That explains our indifference, even a sense of foreboding that we nurse against things that are different from us, from our language, region, country…

Perhaps we all need a pet to break these everyday boundaries – the unshakeable ones need a mindset change.

Until then, I will look at the time when a pet shifted our status from ‘strangers’ to neighbourhood comrades.