How to teach your cat, dog tricks …

We don’t have the space for a dog, so we adopted a cat. It’s called Minnie, for some obscure reason. Not even logical in terms of character origin in a cartoon strip.

What I like about Minnie is when she shows a clean pair of paws (I can only see two when she disappears in the desired direction.) What I don’t like about Minnie is her waking pattern – is up every one hour after sleeping for three. Which means she chooses to surface amazingly close to meal times.

Last week, I decided to bring in a little more activity into Minnie’s life. I enlisted the services of a neighbor who had just trained her dog to FETCH!

Now, “FETCH” seemed like a good first milestone for the cat – you have to start somewhere. The neighbor agreed I think, because she saw in it a future as a cat whisperer. So we had Minnie who was the trainee, and Patchwork who was her dog and training assistant.

So here’s a clip by clip account of our first day at the training program.

Clip 01: Neighbor throws the stick, looks menacingly at the cat, and says, “FETCH!” The cat is more interested in Birdie Num-Num on the mango tree. Anyway Patchwork decides to retrieve the stick this time.

Clip 02: Neighbor dips the stick in cat chow, throws it a shorter distance and screams, “FETCH!!” – this time with looks that could kill. The cat looks at the stick for a micro-second and returns to her bird-sighting. Patchwork thinks he should retrieve the stick one more time.

Clip 03: Neighbor coats the stick with tuna juice and throws it real close, as an incentive. Cat trots up to the stick, licks it clean and decides to climb the tree this time. At this point, Patchwork thinks it’s time quit the training program.

Clip 04: Neighbor retrieves the stick and throws it a good 30 feet. She then glares at me and says “FETCHCHCH!”

Moral of the story: The next time you plan a training program, pick a cat whose name is FETCH. Works better as a noun than a verb. At least you’ll get a meow out of it.

Sharath Bhat
PS : I like cats that are invisible and not heard

Illustration >  IndianInk


Give me three words to describe my mother-in-law? Murda-in-Law. Or “The Squawk Box“.

The squawk box is normally one of those public address systems that can rattle your window panes and make you sound like a foghorn. I’m working on an interesting variation that is small, compact and does a good job of altering your voice. With a little tweaking, I for instance, could sound like Pamela Anderson – though there’s a lot more to Pamela than her sound bytes.

This amazing device can be the size of the mouthpiece on your phone and can be glued on to it. Very useful for telemarketers hiring war veterans and getting them to sound like sensual, husky twenty-somethings.

So let me get to the meat of this story, which stars my mother-in-law. She’s the original squawk box. And a whole lot bigger than the mouthpiece on your phone.

Marie, I think, is now pushing 80 and can do a 20-yard sprint with remarkable ease. I usually don’t want to talk about who comes second. When my car battery is low, she’s the one to roll up her sleeves and lend some brawn.

Read the entire article on Sulekha

Goodness Gracias

When we first met Anita G, we didn’t know about her portfolio of skills.

Anita G is one friend we’ve made through the sharing network. In other words, parents of kids in the same class, in the same school and the same stage of parental evolution : a teenager in the final year at school. Guess this needs a lot more than one shoulder to cry on.

Coming back to Anita G’s portfolio of skills. One of which is the ability to talk
nineteen-to-the-dozen on the phone, for hours on end. “My husband thinks I’m Ms Un-put-downable,” says Anita G, with a look that could imply more than one thing.

But if we picked up the example of the phone, she is “unputdownable”. (If you’ve noticed, I’ve removed all the hyphens.)

“I always thought a ring on the finger was worth two on the phone, till I married Anita,” says John, her doting husband. “Put her in the middle of the Sahara but give her a phone, she’ll stir up a sandstorm.”

“Mom’s a phonoholic,” says Lisa, her daughter. “The kind who will reach out for the bedside phone when the alarm clock goes off…”

I must say I’ve had a good dose of her marathon sessions. Little does she know that I just pretend to be part of the conversation, while I’m doing my own thing. I could be cleaning the bird cage, feeding the fish or giving the cat a colonic. Just as long as I make the right noises.

“Really !”

“Wow, that’s great !”

“Only you can do that”

I toe the line, because I’ve got to be nice to her. She’s a real wiz when it comes to tax planning and investments. And very helpful when it comes to good advice. Last year she gave me some good advice on a floating-point deposit. Know what that is ?

“It’s a deposit that banks offer, but don’t promote,” she had said. “Gives you 12 % interest, with multi-layered returns that are compounded every month.”

To me it sounded like the bank would lose more money than it made. But I was told by Mrs G that it was “gateway strategy”; a ploy to get you in as a customer in the hope that you would then bring in a larger share of your investment pie. And maybe introduce your rich aunts and uncles as NRI customers.

She also told me about a growth plan that doubles your money every three years. “Put in a lakh, now and in nine years you’ll have eight. Put that back into the system and you can start making retirement plans.”

Looking at the bottom line this was good advice – and worth every step I took, laughing all the way to my bank. But there was one small problem : Mrs G also wanted to tell me how to spend the money.

Well, I was actually planning to buy a time-share package by the beach in Goa. What I had in mind was a bamboo-stilt beach house, a well-stocked wine cellar and… some bar tenderness.

In my mind, I could see a trail of thongs gently wafting by.

She’d read my mind, even before I could get to the bar counter. “I’m surprised your wife is not part of this picture,” she said, in a tone that could melt the rocks in my glass.
“Frankly, I’m shocked…”

Two days later, my wife called me from office. “Honey, I’ve got a surprise for you. It’s actually a secret I’d kept for quite sometime. You know Anita G helped me make some very good investments, and I think I’ve hit the jackpot on one. Thought we’d explore the beaches of Goa… “together”, as the travel brochure says. Even Anita G, thinks it’s a great idea…”

Five minutes later, the phone rang again. I sort of knew who was on the line. Guess it was time to feed the fish, clean out the bird cage and give the cat a colonic.

Mr Husband

I’m a freelance writer and I work at home. And that’s where the problems really begin. A year ago, I found the paperwork a drudge, so I asked my wife if she would chuck up her job and help out.

The thought was encouraging. A VP’s secretary when it came to work and a loving wife when you didn’t have work on your mind. But that wasn’t to be. “Why don’t you hire someone from a career school,” she said. “ I’m far too specialised and experienced.”

I took her advice and did just that. I found a pretty little thing, who was good on the job – till the wife mysteriously discovered traces of perfume on my collar. The poor girl was fired even before she could sniffle a goodbye. (A week later the perfume was traced to my mother-in-law who is quite generous when comes to a peck on the cheek.)

So, there I was, back to square one. No secretary, and no wife during “wakey hours”. (She invariably dashes off to work at 7.30 and is seldom back before 10 – that’s post meridiem.)

Here’s a round up on jobs and chores that gives me about ten minutes a day for the kind of work I get paid for, which is writing.

• Making the beds
• Doing the breakfast
• Getting the kids ready for school
• Stuffing lunch boxes
• Picking them up from school
• Looking into homework
• Warming up dinner
• Reading bedtime stories

My mail is never opened for me. Nobody keeps track of my credit card balances. Nobody remembers my birthday Our anniversary is a blind spot on the calendar. I answer the phone on the first ring. I make my own appointments. I bring in my own tea. I pick up my own cigarettes. I even fluff the dust off my jacket.

And just the other day, when we were out shopping, we bumped into the Boss – the other man in my wife’s life – Monday through Friday. The chap gave me a loud thump on the back and said, “Your wife…I don’t know what I’d do without her : my credit card cheques don’t bounce. My tea is made just the way I like it. I don’t run out of cigarettes and my day runs like clockwork. Why, if she hadn’t reminded me about my wife’s birthday, I wouldn’t be out her shopping for a gift.

And then he gave me another thump on the back and said, “Lucky chap.”

South Indian cover story

The average South Indian likes to cover just about anything he owns, with plastic. When I first popped into my new neighbour’s house on a goodwill
mission, I nearly ended up under the wraps.

The TV had a cover, the 2-in-1 had a cover, the table fan had a cover, the mixie had a cover, the fridge handle had a cover, the telephone instrument had a cover. The only thing that didn’t have a cover was the shiny bald pate of Jambu – the fortyish chartered accountant who soon became a very good friend and chess partner.

Coming back to my cover story, I was realy intrigued. I was curious.
Why was practically everything in the house sheathed in a jacket. I did
an elaborate data-gathering exercise in the apartment block and managed to
compile a list of over 200 responses.

This article has a brief selection. Everything between quotes is verbatim.
I didn’t have the heart to edit local flavour.

“If I have to give this fan to my daughter when she gets married, it must look new, no ? ” (I looked around to see a 3-year-old playing with her new desi barbie; I saw the doll going back into its original pack after a brief 30 minute

” Look at my fridge, I say…can you guess its age ?” (I must be honest, here – the fridge was in mint condition. And I was told it was 15 years old.)

” When I went to buy a buy a new TV under exchange, I simply got 3000 rupees extra for my ‘well-maintained’ rumbo old piece…” (I discovered a whole new model on valuemetrics…)

“The remote has cover, because cockroaches attack the rubber buttons.” (Lesson learnt : When you eat a laddoo and operate the remote without washing your hands, some of the sweetness gets on to the keys.)

” Please note the point – in my father’s house they have cloth covers to cover the plastic covers…” (No argument here: this was value added,)

I must say, all this background research did have an influencer effect on me.
Because, not much later, my wife and I locked horns at a TV showroom on
which TV to buy. There were two brands and we were not exactly on the same side.

The tie-breaker ? One of them came with a free TV cover that could also be placed on our microwave oven..