The Humor of Melvin Durai

Humor columns, satire and other funny stuff

The polls look good for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president in America, putting him as many as 9 percentage points ahead of President Donald Trump nationally. But the polls also looked good for Hillary Clinton in 2016, yet Trump managed to eke out a victory.

Because America is a democratic country and boasts one of the finest forms of democracy in the world, the candidate who received the most votes was declared the loser.

After receiving almost three million fewer votes than Clinton, Trump got to celebrate at a huge victory party. At his inauguration, quite aptly, there were three million fewer supporters than he expected.

In the upcoming presidential election, Trump is almost guaranteed to receive fewer votes than Biden. But the big question on everyone’s mind is this: Will Trump be celebrating victory again or calling it a rigged election?

Nobody really knows for sure, except M.K. Damodaran, a 68-year-old numerologist from the South Indian state of Kerala. He has analyzed all the significant numbers, such as the date Trump was born and the date of the election, and determined that Trump will be re-elected as Tweeter-in-chief.

As Damodaran told IANS, “November 3, 2020 is the day of the U.S. presidential election, which is strongly lucky for incumbent President Trump. His date of birth is June 14, 1946. As such, his birth number is 5 (1 + 4). Besides, he was born in the sun sign Gemini that is ruled by planet Mercury. Number 5 is represented by planet Mercury.”

What about Biden’s numbers? Damodaran has also analyzed them, determining that the former vice-president’s chances of winning the top office are similar to a random American woman’s chances of going untouched during an elevator ride with Trump.

Someone needs to inform Biden of this, because the poor man is spending millions of dollars on a presidential campaign that is destined to fail. It would be wise for him to concede early and save everyone a lot of trouble. Let’s move Trump’s inauguration to Nov. 3, so he doesn’t have to worry about re-election and can finally tell everyone the truth about COVID-19: “It was a big mistake not to take it seriously from the outset, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved, and I take full responsibility for allowing Joe Biden to mess up like this.” 

Perhaps you’re skeptical about a numerologist’s ability to predict the outcome of an election. If so, I’d like to know whom we should rely upon instead. Achilles the Psychic Cat?

Achilles is a deaf Russian cat who correctly predicted the winners of several soccer matches at the 2018 World Cup. All we’d have to do is put two bowls of tuna in front of the cat, one bearing a Biden flag, and the other a MAGAA (Make America Great Again, Again) flag.

If he picks the Biden bowl, the CNN headline can say: “Psychic Cat Picks Biden to Win Election!” If he picks the MAGAA bowl, it can say: “Another Russian Meddles with U.S. Election!”

But Achilles, unfortunately, is not perfect. He incorrectly predicted that Nigeria would upset Argentina at the World Cup, causing a burst of premature dancing in the African country.

It would make more sense, perhaps, to rely on public polls. The problem with polls is that people don’t always do what they say they will. A voter named John Languid may tell the pollster that he likes Biden and strongly believes in exercising his right to vote. But on Election Day, Languid may decide that he needs to consult a doctor before exercising.

Another voter, Rohit Sharma, may tell a pollster that he’s unlikely to vote. But on Election Day, he may decide that voting is an important duty for every citizen, and it’s incumbent on him to take it seriously, especially since his wife has put a sign on the couch that says, “Non-voters sleep here.”

Pollsters can usually predict which presidential candidate will win more votes nationally, but figuring out who will win the Electoral College is much harder. The Electoral College is a state-by-state, winner-takes-all system that was created by the Founding Fathers of America to ensure that a rural state such as Wyoming would have a significant say in the country’s leadership, despite having a population slightly lower than the average Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Here’s how the Electoral College works. Imagine that three families have come together to watch a Netflix movie on an 85-inch TV. They’re choosing between two critically acclaimed films: the American movie “Moonlight” and the Indian movie “Sairat.” The hosting Joshi family has nine members, including grandparents, and all nine choose “Sairat”; the Davis family has five members and three choose “Moonlight” while two choose “Sairat”; and the Harper family has four members and two choose “Moonlight,” one chooses “Sairat” and one votes for a third movie that has no chance of winning.

Jim Davis gleefully announces the result: “The Davis and Harper families have both chosen ‘Moonlight.’ Sorry, Joshis, you’ve been outvoted. But thank you for your big screen.”

Meera Joshi objects: “But 12 people voted for ‘Sairat’ and only five for ‘Moonlight.'”

“I know,” Jim responds: “Isn’t democracy great?”

It was Mukund’s idea.

“Why are you just sitting around?” he said to his wife one morning during the coronavirus pandemic. “Why don’t you do something? It is good to keep busy. That is what they say.”

“Who says that?” Meena responded. “Is it the people who are unable to relax? If they want to be busy, let them be busy. But I like to relax. Is that okay, Mook?”

As if to emphasize the point, she propped her legs on the coffee table, grabbed the remote and turned on Netflix. “Time for some Nadiya Hussain,” she said.

Mook sighed. “Not her again. You have watched her cook so many dishes, but I haven’t seen you cook even one of them.”

“Yes, it’s true,” she said. “And you have watched so many football games, but I haven’t seen you run after a ball even once.”

Mook smirked, pushed himself off the couch and limped to the kitchen to refill his coffee mug. He had pulled a muscle during his daily exercise routine: searching the front yard for the newspaper. The delivery person seemed to throw it to a different spot every day.

As the coffee machine heated up, he picked up the Lafayette Journal & Courier from the dining table, unrolled it and scanned the headlines. He returned to the living room, placed the paper on Meena’s lap with the “Life” section facing her and pointed to an article at the top. “How to Sew a Quick and Easy Cloth Face Mask,” the headline said.

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Coronavirus-related restrictions have kept many people from meeting face-to-face with friends and neighbors. This has helped curb the spreading of viruses, not to mention rumors and gossip. But experts say it’s important for us—for our mental well-being—to keep the conversations going in whatever way is possible. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just the other day, while sitting in my kitchen, I had a long conversation with a couple of ants.

Me: “Hey guys, nice to see you. Can you stay a while? Would you like a little sugar?”

First ant: “We’d better get out of here. Something doesn’t seem right.”

Me: “Don’t leave so soon. What’s the hurry? Would you like some honey instead? How about gulab jamun? It’s an Indian dessert.”

Second ant: “You’re right: he’s a psycho. Let’s get out of here.”

Me: “Do you two have a big family? You know, if you come back with eight other ants, you could stay here forever. I could be the landlord and you could be my ten ants.”

First ant: “Let’s get out of here before he makes us sign a lease.”

I tried to be friendly, but the ants didn’t stick around for long, and I had to spend the rest of my day chatting with my houseplants. I began with my pothos, also known as a money plant.

Me: “You look very green today.”

Pothos: “And you look very brown today.”

Me: “Are you thirsty? Can I get you something to drink?”

Pothos: “Beer would be nice.”

Me: “Beer? Aren’t you underage?”

Pothos: “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll try to sneak you a few drops from my glass.”

Pothos: “Just spill some accidentally on me. That’s how I got my first taste of beer. One of your guests had too much to drink, and as a result, I had too much to drink.”

Me: “Did you get drunk?”

Pothos: “Yes, I think so. It was really weird.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Pothos: “Well, I started having strange thoughts. I imagined that I had been transplanted into a garden bed outside. And I woke up with a strange plant in my bed. It had its vines and tendrils all over me and I didn’t even know its name. I kept screaming, ‘Social distancing! Social distancing!'”

I spoke to all my plants, but some were chattier than others. If you never talk to plants, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually good for them. About a decade ago, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) of Britain conducted an experiment and found that tomato plants grow two inches taller when they hear women’s voices compared to men’s.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to persuade my wife to go outside and chat with the tomato plants. She hasn’t even shown the courtesy of thanking them when they produce big tomatoes.

It usually falls on my shoulders to ensure that all our plants get enough love and attention. But please don’t get the idea that I talk to them often. It’s usually just a few words here and there. Truth is, being stuck at home during the pandemic has made me engage in all sorts of conversations.

Me: “Hey, why are you so tight today?”

Pants: “Who are you calling tight? I’m the same size I was last week.”

Me: “You just feel tighter.”

Pants: “And you just feel fatter.”

Me: “Watch out. One more unkind word and I’m sending you off to Goodwill.”

Pants: “Sorry about that. I’m just upset that you stuffed me in the washer yesterday with so many other clothes.”

Me: “I thought you’d enjoy the company.”

Pants: “Do you like to take baths with 30 other people?”

Me: “No, I guess not.”

Pants: “You’re not supposed to wash a ton of clothes at the same time. It’s not good for our morale. We’re not like humans—we don’t like to share dirt with each other.”

Me: “Do you prefer to be separated? Some people separate the whites from the colors.”

Pants: “People still do that? I thought segregation was over. I don’t mind a little separation. Not whites from colors, but pants from underpants. Please don’t put me in the washer or laundry basket with the disgusting underwear. I spend enough time with those bozos during my work day.”

In case you’re wondering, I spoke to a psychologist and she confirmed that it’s perfectly normal to have all sorts of conversations during the pandemic, whether you’re talking to ants, pants or plants.

While some men get a haircut every month, I get a haircut every two months or so. That’s partly because I’ve got a big bald spot. When my hair grows long, it covers the bald spot, and I fool myself into thinking that my hair follicles have produced new strands of hair. This delusion disappears the moment I get a haircut and the hairdresser does the unkindest thing anyone can do: puts a mirror behind my head to give me a rear view. The only thing I see, of course, is a map of the Sahara Desert.

Despite such indignities, I was quite grateful to get a haircut a few weeks ago. That’s because the hair salon closed its doors the very next day to follow coronavirus-related rules. Many hair salons and barbershops around the world have remained closed for a month or longer. As a result, the most popular search term on the internet nowadays is “How to cut your own hair.” The second most popular search term is “How to correct a bad haircut.” The third most popular search team is “How to get people to stop laughing at you.”

Health authorities have told us that it’s not safe to leave our homes at this time. This is very true. It’s much safer to stay indoors and not be exposed to hundreds of bad haircuts. If you must leave home, make sure you wear a mask that covers not just your nose and mouth, but also your eyes.

If you keep your eyes uncovered, you will see not just bad haircuts, but UGLY haircuts. Some of them are so ghastly that legislators in the State of Texas are trying to pass a law requiring background checks and permits for anyone who wants to buy hair clippers.

Unfortunately, millions of people are so desperate to get haircuts during the pandemic that they’re reading tips and watching videos online. Some of these people, thanks to the home-improvement craze, are addicted to DIY projects. DIY, as you probably know, stands for “destroy it yourself.” The logic behind it is this: why hire someone to mess up your home when you can save lots of money and mess it up yourself?

Some people are so convinced that they can do anything themselves that they’ve googled such terms as “how to give yourself heart bypass surgery” and “how to have a baby without involving a single man—or a married one either.”

Compared to such endeavors, a haircut may seem quite simple. But it’s important to remember that hairdressers (or barbers) are professionals who have undergone months of training and gained years of experience. They are committed to giving people good haircuts and manage to do so an astounding 8.5 percent of the time. In comparison, when untrained people try to give themselves haircuts at home, their success rate is about 0.85 percent.

If you are one of those poor souls who have given themselves bad haircuts, please don’t despair. There are a lot worse things that could have happened to you during the coronavirus pandemic. At least you have some options. One of the best ways to correct a bad haircut is to shave your entire head. Just tell people that you did it for religious reasons. It’s against most religions, after all, to scare little children.

Another option, of course, is to wear a hat. This may seem obvious, but there are many attractive hats you can wear until your hair grows back. Also, if you have been considering converting to a religion that requires followers to wear a head covering, this might be a good time to do it.

Just a week ago, most of us did not know how to spell “coronavirus.” But we’ve now seen the word hundreds of times, mostly in headlines such as “Coronavirus Infects Thousands in Europe,” “Coronavirus Prompts Governors to Close Schools,” and “Coronavirus Expert Reassures Americans: It’s Safe to Keep Drinking Corona Beer.”

It’s very important to follow safety tips, not just to protect yourself, but to keep coronavirus from spreading to others.

Here are some tips you may to want to consider following:

  1. Avoid contact with other human beings. If someone is not part of your immediate family, avoid touching them in any way. This includes hugging, kissing, shaking hands, rubbing shoulders, and bumping fists or other body parts.

If you must share a motel room with a non-family member, always maintain a distance of one meter. If you need to express affection in any way, please do it with a meter stick. Feel free to draw hearts on it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends that you maintain a distance of one meter between you and anyone who is sneezing or coughing. Step back if you need to. The other person may get offended, but remember: WHO cares.

  1. Frequent handwashing is highly recommended, but you may want to avoid body-washing. This can be quite effective, especially in a week or two, when other people will voluntarily keep their distance from you. Remember: social distancing is an important aspect of combating coronavirus.
  2. Do not touch your face. If your nose feels itchy, get a family member to scratch it. Do not do it yourself. Make sure family members have meter sticks for scratching. If they use their hands, put them immediately on 14-day quarantine.
  3. Practice good hygiene habits. Sharing is caring, as they say, but when you cough or sneeze, please do not share droplets with people around you. This type of sharing is uncaring and may lead to swearing. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately. Do not share it.
  4. Pay attention to the symptoms of coronavirus: fever, coughing and shortness of breath. If you have all three symptoms, consult a doctor. If you have just fever or coughing, take some medicine. If you have just shortness of breath, take the elevator. Avoid the stairs.
  5. Try to minimize travel. This includes trips to the grocery store. Use Amazon and other services to order your food, and leave your front door open, so the delivery person can bring your food directly to your couch. Pay for everything in advance with a credit card, so you can minimize contact with delivery people. If you must give them a tip in person, tell them not to touch the door handle on their way out.
  6. Stock up on toilet paper. Why should you do this? Because in a few weeks, your investment in toilet paper will be worth more than your investment in stocks. Trust me, buy as much toilet paper as you can. Fill your entire garage with toilet paper. If you live in a country where you don’t normally use toilet paper, stock up on it anyway, so you can sell it at high prices to tourists.
  7. Depending on the type of work you do, you may want to take special precautions. If you’re a baggage handler, use hand sanitizer frequently to protect yourself against coronavirus. If you work in human resources, be cautious about meeting anyone who is eager to share their “CV” with you.
  8. Shop carefully to protect yourself. Coronavirus originated in China, so avoid buying items that carry a “Made in China” label. Coronavirus has also spread to Europe, so avoid items made in Europe, too. The virus has also entered North America, so avoid items that are made in North America as well. For now, just to be absolutely safe, please buy only items that carry the label “Made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
  9. If you’ve been instructed to work from home using a personal computer, please wash your hands after using your keyboard, even if you have anti-virus software. Popular brands of anti-virus software have not yet been updated for coronavirus. Even if they had, the risks are just too great, considering how easy it is for things to go viral on the Internet.

The government will not give you tips like these, because smart people work for the government.

Well, it depends on which government we’re talking about.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about the year 2020. There is something special about the number “2020.” It’s partly because perfect vision is 20/20, which many kids enjoy for several years, before trading it for a cellphone.

Hindsight is also 20/20, allowing us to look back on our lives, see all the bad choices we made, and wonder why we were so stupid. But when we made those choices, we thought we were being quite smart. We thought, for example, that we were smart to invest in a social media company called Moogle rather than buy stock in Google. But with 20/20 vision, we realize how stupid it was to believe Moogle’s vision of creating a social media platform for cows.

The year 2020 will hopefully allow us to have clearer vision. I’m going to try to make some important decisions this year, such as whether to have more kids. (At my age, this would be quite a challenge, especially since I have no experience operating a goat farm. Perhaps I should try chickens instead.)

If you haven’t yet made any resolutions for yourself in 2020, it’s not too late. I suggest black dogthat you make 20 resolutions in 20 areas of your life. While this may put a little pressure on you, just be glad you’re not a dog. If your resolutions fail, you have to wait just one year to do it again, but for a dog, that’s seven years.  The pressure to succeed is enormous, especially for high-achieving dogs. I know such a dog, whose 20 resolutions may inspire you to aim higher:

  1. I resolve to floss my teeth several times a day, whenever I get hold of the cat’s tail.
  2. I resolve to take a bath every time my owner turns on the TV news and I hear the words, “Pamela Anderson is getting a divorce.”
  3. I resolve to be pickier about what I eat. From now on, no leather shoes, unless the mailman’s feet are in them.
  4. I resolve to go on the Atkins Diet and stay on it until I’m absolutely tired of eating meat.
  5. I resolve to pay attention to expiry dates and not eat mice and other rodents more than a year after they expired.
  6. I resolve to be choosier about which balls I run after. From now on, no tennis balls or golf balls – only meatballs.
  7. I resolve to never run after sticks, unless they happen to be cheese sticks.
  8. I resolve to leave my mark on the world – or at least on the carpet.
  9. I resolve to aim high and shoot for the top. No fire hydrant is too tall.
  10. I resolve to stop barking up the wrong tree – and start sleeping under it.
  11. I resolve to practice more mindfulness and meditation, especially with my eyes closed.
  12. I resolve to fetch the newspaper for my owner more often, even if the darn delivery man keeps throwing it in the neighbor’s yard.
  13. I resolve to take my owner for long walks, pulling him in many directions, so he’s exhausted and realizes the benefit of driving me around in his car.
  14. I resolve to stick my head out of the car window, so everyone will know who’s in charge. And other dogs walking on the road will see me and realize how much they too can achieve.
  15. I resolve to devour at least one book a week. And tear through a magazine every day.
  16. I resolve to absorb as much wisdom as I can from the tall white machine in the kitchen. It knows the secret of getting humans to put lots of food in it.
  17. I resolve to figure out why, when I’m so warm and friendly, my owner still tolerates the cat.
  18. I resolve to save myself for that special dog and not get tempted by my owner’s leg.
  19. I resolve to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, as long as “others” does not include fire hydrants.
  20. I resolve to sign a peace agreement with the vacuum cleaner. If it doesn’t roar at me, I won’t bark at it.

Grown men aren’t supposed to cry, but sometimes I can’t help it, especially when I’m watching sports on TV. If I’m watching my favorite football team and the power suddenly goes out, I might start crying. But I’m more likely to cry when an athlete celebrates a victory with unrestrained joy. That’s what happened when Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament recently: the tears just started flowing. His tears, my tears, even his opponents’ tears. The 43-year-old Tiger made them cry for different reasons than the young Tiger did.

It was Tiger’s 15th major golf championship, but his first in 11 years. Eleven years is a long time. Most Hollywood marriages do not last 11 years. Some do not last 11 months. A few do not last 11 days.

Tiger won his first major championship in 1997 at the age of 21. He won it by 12 strokes, an amazing margin of victory that he surpassed in 2000 when he won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. Can you imagine winning a golf tournament by 15 strokes? When you get to the 18th hole, you can start playing blindfolded. You can tap the ball into the air and bounce it off your head a few times. You can make the hole last as long as a Bollywood movie.

Until Tiger came along, golf hardly appealed to me. I didn’t consider it a real sport. I made fun of it. Some of the golfers looked out-of-shape; others looked like they had just left Old Country Buffet. They walked around and hit a little ball into a hole. I didn’t mind watching golf now and then, but only if I couldn’t watch a more intense and energetic activity such as knitting.

Then Tiger came along and changed everything. He played like a tiger, displaying a killer instinct that turned his opponents into rabbits. If he was playing his best, all they could do was hop out of his way. When he lost, he stewed; when he won, he had rabbit stew.

Like many people, I became a Tiger fan more than a golf fan. If he was in contention at a major golf tournament, I watched every stroke like my life depended on it. If he was out of contention, I turned the TV off and re-acquainted myself with my wife and children.

From 1997 to 2008, Tiger was in contention more often than not. He won 14 major championships in that span and appeared to have a cakewalk to 18 majors, the record held by the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

But over the next decade, a series of events put his golf career in turmoil. First his marriage crumbled, amid revelations that Tiger had collected mistresses as avidly as golf trophies. Then came a DUI arrest, along with a mug shot that made him look like all those women had visited him in one night.

He also suffered several injuries while playing golf and underwent four surgeries to his back.

Now and then, we saw glimpses of the old Tiger, giving us hope that he’d be able to win another major. But that hope faded as Tiger fell short at tournament after tournament. His days of dominance seemed to be over. The rabbits had put the tiger in a cage, limiting him to little more than an occasional growl.

But Tiger didn’t quit. Teaching everyone a lesson in persistence, he kept pushing against the gate, kept prying it open, kept fighting back. And it finally happened – he won a major championship again. He celebrated by hugging his children, his mother and anyone else who looked safe enough to hug.

I wish I could have hugged him, but all I could do was cry.

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Marie Kondo. So if you haven’t heard of her, don’t worry. She isn’t a popular singer or actress. She is even bigger than that. She is the queen of tidiness.

To be precise, the 34-year-old Japanese woman is an organizing consultant. She helps people organize and tidy up their homes. She has written four books on organizing, but like many people, I came to know her through her Netflix show: “Marie Kondo Throws All Your Things Away.”

Actually, the show is called “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” and in each episode, Kondo marie-kondo_768xvisits an American family and helps them declutter their homes. She has a unique method that seems to appeal to many people. I’ve been so taken by her approach that whenever my doorbell rings, I keep hoping it’s Marie Kondo. But it’s usually just the UPS man, delivering more clutter.

Our home isn’t particularly messy, but we could certainly dispose of a lot of things and not miss them at all. Clothing is at the top of this list and, not coincidentally, it’s what Kondo tackles first when she helps people organize their homes. She gets them to put all their clothes in a single pile. Then, as they take one garment in their hands at a time, she makes them ask this question: “Does this spark joy?” If a shirt or dress does not spark any joy, it gets donated or discarded. If it sparks joy, it gets to stay in the home, even if it hasn’t been worn since 1984.

I haven’t yet put myself through this task, but if I did, I’d probably be left with just a pair of socks. My younger daughter bought me warm, comfortable socks for Christmas and I love wearing them. They certainly spark joy in me. So much joy that I feel like walking outside wearing nothing but socks. But then I’d get arrested – and that would not spark any joy at all.

My wife, Malathi, owns far more clothes than I do. I don’t think she has ever put her clothes in a single pile, but if she ever did, it would spark immense joy in me. I’d take photos and share them online. But then I’d have to find a new place to live – and that would not spark any joy at all.

After helping people discard many of their clothes, Kondo shows them how to fold the rest into small rectangles, so they can be arranged neatly in drawers and other spaces. It seems like a great idea, but to do it consistently takes a lot of discipline and effort. I’d probably give up after a week or two, unless Kondo plans to show up randomly at people’s homes and crack the whip.

The second types of possessions that Kondo focuses on are books. Many people accumulate books almost as fast as James Patterson writes them. My wife owns a thousand books or so. She is an avid reader, but if she plans to read them all in her lifetime, she will definitely set a Guinness World Record for oldest living person. Kondo apparently recommends not owning more than 30 books. But I don’t think even Kondo can get Malathi to downsize her book collection, not without the danger of having “War and Peace” flung at her.

The hardest items for people to discard are the sentimental ones – items that spark warm memories, if not joy. Photographs, report cards, wedding invitations and expired ID cards are among the many items we hold onto. They tell the stories of our lives and tossing them away is like tossing away one of our children, but without the benefit of a lower food bill. (No, I didn’t just read Hansel and Gretel to my kids.)

Kondo forces people to assess each sentimental item and decide if it still brings them joy. “These wedding photos are from 1985,” she says. “Do you really want to keep them or would you rather just keep the photos from your more recent weddings?”

In the end, it’s important for us to realize that if something does not bring us joy, it’s not worth keeping. Better to donate it, sell it or discard it, hoping that it will bring joy to another being, even if it’s just a worm in the landfill.

Categories: Home

I’ve been a parent for more than 16 years and let me tell you, it isn’t easy. Every stage of a child’s life unleashes new challenges on a parent. When I hear that a group of kids has committed a misdeed of some sort, I’m not quick to blame poor parenting. I know from experience that it’s not wise to judge other parents until you’ve determined, beyond any doubt, that one of your kids wasn’t involved.

But even if my kids weren’t involved (they’re good kids), I’m not quick to judge the parents because I know that every parent has unique circumstances and unique challenges. If one of my kids does something terrible, I don’t want to be blamed for it. And if one of my kids does something terrific, such as win the Nobel Prize, I don’t want to take the credit for it. I just want to take the prize money. (Well, not all of it. Just enough to pay for the ambulance I’d have to call when their mother faints upon hearing the news.)

People often think that a successful parent is one whose children have achieved great academic and career success. We admire parents whose children have become doctors or engineers or any type of high-earning professional. All parents want their children to be successful in their careers, but is that really enough?

Imagine that your child becomes the president of a country — any country around the world — but lacks integrity and is disrespectful toward political opponents, journalists and others? I know it’s hard to imagine such a president, but let’s stretch our imaginations for a moment. Would you feel proud if your child became a president, but was boastful and ill-mannered, always belittling people on social media? I wouldn’t. I’d want to grab a slipper and chase him or her around, at least until the bodyguards stop me.

Whether my kids become doctors, lawyers, flight attendants or store clerks, I’d first want them to be caring, considerate and conscientious adults. I’d rather picture my son as a courteous waiter at a restaurant than a rude billionaire at a beach club.

It’s up to parents to teach their children important values. Here are just a few of the lessons I’d want my kids to learn:

  1. Be honest. Lying, cheating and stealing are examples of dishonest behavior. Children learn at an early age what’s acceptable and what they can get away with. I never let my kids get away with lying, except when they’re telling me that I’m the greatest dad in the world. Father’s Day lies are generally okay – and so is telling me that I’m in great shape and don’t need to go on a diet, or that my hair isn’t falling out – my scalp is just asserting itself.
  2. Be respectful. I want my kids to be respectful to their elders, as well as everyone else. It’s easy to show respect to people in equal or superior positions, but how you treat the disadvantaged and underprivileged reveals your true character. All humans deserve respect, even the ones who are crazy enough to vote for the other party. (I’m speaking, of course, about the Libertarian Party.)
  3. Be humble. I want my kids to do well in life, but I don’t want them to be boastful about their achievements. I don’t want them to think that they’re better than others, just because those other people weren’t lucky enough to have the greatest dad in the world.
  4. Be kind. It’s important to be kind to others and not just your own kind. I hope to teach my kids to be kind in many different ways, including opening doors for strangers, helping old people cross busy roads, and handing the remote control to their father when the football game is about to start.
  5. Be generous. I want my kids to be generous with their time and money. I want them to be especially generous when a person holds his hand out and asks for money. I don’t want them to say something rude, such as, “Get lost, Dad!”

The Tata Group recently re-opened Bombay House, its global headquarters in Mumbai, after the 94-year-old building had undergone some major renovations. The most remarkable change to Bombay House is that, according to a press release, “a kennel has been created for the canine friends who have been an integral part of the building for decades.”

Through a Facebook post, Save Our Strays, a Mumbai-based NGO, shared a photo of six dogs enjoying the kennel, along with this message: “This is the area where the street dogs living around the area can have a meal, drink water, take shelter from the sun or rain or just chill out.”

It may seem strange to some people that Tata Group is allowing dogs to chill out in their building, but as a dog owner, I totally understand it. There are many benefits to having dogs around. Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise: If you own a dog, you will probably have to take the dog on walks – or even runs. This gives both you and your dog some much-needed exercise. Even if you don’t own any dogs, they may still inspire you to exercise. Indeed, other people’s dogs have inspired me to run many times, whether they’re just barking at me or chasing me.
  2. Love: Dogs give you unconditional love. They’re considered “man’s best friend,” as I often have to remind our female dog, Legacy, who instead considers herself “woman’s best friend.” She loves my wife, Malathi, partly because Malathi gives her far more attention than I do. Every evening, Legacy looks out the window, hoping to spot Malathi returning from work. When Malathi finally opens the door, Legacy wags her tail so vigorously that if I were an engineer I’d win the Nobel Prize by attaching an electric generator to it.
  3. Companionship: If you have a dog at home, you are never alone. It’s easy to take this for granted when you live with family or friends, but for people living by themselves, especially the elderly, dogs can bring great comfort. Most dog owners enjoy talking to their dogs and appreciate the fact that dogs, unlike children and other family members, never talk back. (They might respond in woofs and yaps, but thankfully Google Translate isn’t that advanced.) Dogs are surprisingly good listeners. In fact, Legacy is a better listener than my teenaged daughters. I can talk to Legacy for 10 minutes straight and not once during our conversation will she feel the need to look at a cellphone.
  4. Therapy: If you happen to spot someone having a long conversation with a dog, please don’t think they’re crazy. Speaking to dogs and being with them is a form of therapy for many people. Dogs are ideal therapists because not only will they listen to you attentively, it never occurs to them to send you a bill.
  5. Immunity: Studies show that children who are exposed to dogs early in life have stronger immune systems and are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. But the most important form of immunity that children get by having a four-legged friend around is when they go to school and are able to say, “Sorry, Miss Martin. The dog ate my homework.”
  6. Security: Whether you’re at home or walking through a dark alley somewhere, having a dog with you can make you feel more secure. Many people own dogs because they bark at strangers and, in some cases, will even bite people who enter a home. Legacy is quite friendly, but when a stranger approaches our door, she often barks, mostly to let them know that there’s a dog around and if they come any further, they risk having their backsides sniffed.
  7. Attractiveness: It may seem surprising to you, but studies show that having a dog makes you seem more attractive to other people. Indeed, if you are a single man hoping to meet single women, just borrow someone’s dog and walk around with it. An attractive woman will stop to pet the dog and it could be the start of a great relationship. Who knows, they may even include you in it.