Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Deadline

"The deadline is approaching, have you written anything?" inquired my editor over the phone.
"And what deadline was that?" was my counter response as I frantically searched for the missing design specification documents on my desk.
"My dear fellow you tend to forget everything. I am surprised that you even remember who you are.."
"Well I've these few hundred business cards with my name on it or at least I think it is my name", I countered facetiously. "What was it that I was supposed to remember?"
A silence over the phone line told me that either the line was disconnected or my editor was having a silent heart attack.
"The deadline for the magazine article, that you promised you would hand in by the end of last week"
"Ah! You mean that deadline" I replied as I frantically racked my brain for excuses to offer. Hmm the dog ate my article, but I probably need to buy a dog first to corroborate that one. Or how about I have been having a problem with mice lately - which was not entirely incorrect considering the number of electronic rodents that my computer was going through. Maybe I could blame my kids, they would probably blame me for something when they grew up, so how about I got a headstart on them instead. But before I could dream further I was awakened by the spluttering noises coming from the phone. It sounded like the poor chap was having seizures of some sort.
"So what do you think I should write about" I said keeping it nice and conversational.
Something informative, something about two columns long - that was the gist of the conversation. A tough ask but someone had to do it. For an older audience too, darn it that eliminated the "A for Apple" scenario so cunningly envisioned for the younger readers. Informative, now that's a word, gives me license to cover a vast number of topics. Easy enough to find redundant facts and get them printed. A quick search on the internet was enough to gather the information. Maybe that deadline could still be met. Half an hour later and the article was winging its way towards my editor. So when I got the call from him soon after I was looking forward to hear the superlatives.
"Please, there is no need to thank me, though I know you must have been impressed"
"What's this?", was the terse reply.
"Information, facts, everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask".
The deep breathing over the phone told me that the man was obviously getting emotional again. Must have be overwhelmed by the beauty of my prose.
"I'd just like to read to you what you have just sent me"
"Please I was just doing what you had asked for - information. Just plainly presented in a clear and concise manner."
"Well this is what it says and I quote 'There are no wild deer of any kind in Australia, and the small red deer is the only one found in Africa..."
"True", I interrupted, " and I was really proud about that red deer fact. I don't think too many people know that one".
"Let me continue with what you sent and I quote 'There are some 50 different species of sea snakes, and all of them are venomous. They thrive in abundance along the coast from the Persian Gulf to Japan and around Australia and Melanesia. Their venom is ten times as virulent as that of the cobra. Humans bitten by them have died within two-and-a-half hours..."
"Pretty scary huh? And informative".
"You further write 'The black swan is the only species of swan to be indigenous to Australia. The black swan can be found in all of AustraliaÂ’s states.'"
"You think I can write about the Sydney Swans, get it Sydney Swans..".
"Continuing with this thing that you have submitted 'the burrowing boodie of Australia is the only kangaroo in the world that lives underground.
The emu is AustraliaÂ’s largest bird at a height of 7 feet tall. It canÂ’t fly, but it can swim and has the ability to run up to 40 miles per hour.
The dingo is a wild dog living in Australia. They were brought to the continent by the Aboriginals and are thought to be pests because they attack farm animals.
The dingo, a wild dog of Australia, plays dead when threatened by attackers. It can endure being beaten mercilessly for a long period of time before it seizes an opportunity to escape.
The duckbill platypus of Australia can store up to 600 worms in its large cheek pouches.
Australia's box jelly is the world's most dangerous jellyfish. Its toxin is more potent than cobra venom and can kill a person in minutes.' end quote".
"You know you missed the one about the Koala Sanctuary", I said, "I still have the facts with me. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary opened in 1927 in Brisbane, Australia, and it was the first, and is still the largest, koala sanctuary in the world. Tourists can cuddle one of 130 koalas, hand feed kangaroos and emus, and see a large variety of Australian native wildlife in the 50-acre sanctuary, such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, and dingoes. Koala cuddling has been banned in New South Wales since 1997, but cuddling is still permitted in Queensland, and especially at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. In Queensland, koalas can only be cuddled for less than 30 minutes per day. They must also get every fourth day off. At Lone Pine, koalas are timed for "clock on" and "clock off" when they go to the koala cuddling area."
Something told me that he wasn't really listening. "Are you there?", I asked.
"I am. And I have good news and bad news for you today".
"Bring it on, what about the good news first"
"The good news is that you will never be missing a deadline for us again."
"And the bad news?"
"You are not writing for us - ever again" as the phone line got disconnected.
That actually sounded like good news and good news to me. And if anyone is in the market for Aussie trivia just ask them to give me a call.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Reasonable Dog

You ought to be ashamed of yourself", said Nawab nibbling away at the bag of chips.

"ME? Now what have I done?" I asked, cursing the day this opinionated hound came into my care. That's right "hound" was what I had said and I am not going into it again, the whole story is somewhere out there on the net if you care to find it. In short Nawab my talking dog given to me by my Pakistani friend Ahmed now resident in Canada (the friend not the dog unfortunately).
"You shouldn't have got the cat. You know I am allergic to them".
"Ridiculous. You are only sulking since the cat started sleeping in your basket".
"Am not, I only want the cat to acknowledge that this is a dog's household. That cat has to learn that we live here by doggie rules. All it needs to do is respect my sentiments, why can't a cat be more like a dog?".
"Come on, you are being unreasonable. Its a nice cat, surely there is something about it that you like".
"Well some of that cat food is not bad and I do watch Garfield on TV. Why some of my best friends have been cats. Just let the cat know that I came to this house first, return my basket and all my toys. The cat can then stay if you like".
And upon that he promptly made for the fridge nudged open the door and started nosing around.
"So where is the cat going to sleep now?", I asked.
"Oh put it in the kennel outside, I said I am a reasonable dog", said he munching on the chicken as it started to pour outside.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Truth About Cats & Dogs

"Its time we got more cats in the house" said Nawab one day as I tried to read the newspaper in peace.
"Did you not have a major issue with the last cat we tried to keep?" I asked wondering where this was leading. A talking dog may sound like a wonderful thing to have but an opinionated hound who talks only to you can be frustrating, in fact I have often wondered if he was the real reason behind Ahmed's hurried migration to Canada.
"Well that’s not entirely true,” said Nawab "I think Cat food is really yum. I had my first taste of fish steak when I was 8 months old & have loved it since."
"But don't you dogs have a complex system of socialising. I mean in any gathering of pets the dogs & cats socialise separately."
"Well I particularly hate it, because I am made to feel 'left out'. All these dogs will talk about biting postmen and chasing car tyres & sometimes will revert to scratching themselves in mid-sentence, even when I am there".
"And you think that a cat will make the difference?"
"Well its better to socialise with Cats, who don’t have that kind of 'hang-ups'. In my personal experience, it’s a fallacy to think 'ordinary Cats wont accept you'. If you adapt to their culture & respect their value system, they are some of the most unprejudiced animals I know."
"Well I thought you wanted me to get another dog?"
"Do you think I am like you people who prefer to interact with their own kind & congregate in 'desi diasporas'...& project their prejudice on Americans & claim 'Americans are prejudiced!' In the particular diaspora of the kennel that I grew up in; all dogs regardless of breed, interacted with both sexes, socially. That’s why I am part Hound, part German Shepard, part... oh you know the rest. Its time for us dogs to reform ourselves and start interacting more with cats....."
Unfortunately I don't remember what Nawab said next as I was fast asleep. Pious lectures by holier-than-thou creatures have that effect on me.

The Hand of Dog

"Do you mind not talking on the phone", said Nawab, "for I am expecting a call".
"Who's that?" asked my friend on the other end of the line.
"Err..nobody", said I wondering how I could explain the interruption. "Just some program on the TV".
"Owwwuuu" went Nawab.
"Got to go, my dog's troubling me" as I hung up on my friend.
"I wasn't troubling you" said Nawab indignantly. There you go my secret is out - Nawab my talking dog. Got him free from my friend Ahmed who was leaving for Toronto. A great big loopy shaggy dog. Part this, part that, a bit of everything, in fact a cross breed to beat cross breeds. God only knows how many different kind of breeds claimed him as their own - a sort of a canine Tiger Woods. And he could talk. Bet you didn't know that. I didn't either. Well not until he said his first words to me (no not papa you demented people). Actually the only person he was talking to earlier was my friend. He refused to speak to anyone else in Ahmed's household, which did strain relations a bit. Not too many people were happy with my friend's choice of a pet dog and what really made them angry was his insistence that he could talk. If it hadn't been for Nawab's uncanny habit of picking out the winner during the race season Ahmed would have dumped him long ago. The family wanted the dog to be dumped at the RSPCA dog shelter when they all left for Toronto, but he decide to give him to me knowing I was looking for one. This was around three weeks before they left. Every day I got a call from Ahmed asking the same question "So what did the dog say?". "Bow wow" was my standard response. To tell the truth I was a little worried about my friend. This business of leaving a dog whom he was fond of had clearly unhinged him or so I thought - little did I know.
It was one week after he had been with me Nawab speak. Right when I was cooking dinner, the Dal stains had to be professionally cleaned later, all because of the fright he gave me.
Ah yes those first words - "Go easy on the heeng matey". I tell you in the days gone by, the amount of dietary changes I have had to make because of that dog!
But I digress, I was talking about what Nawab was telling me. "I need the phone to be free" said Nawab "I am expecting a call from the Prime Minister".
"Don't be dumb" said I rudely "the Prime Minister is not calling you".
"Yes he is. He had called me before the election asking for my vote".
"Umm actually I don't think you are the registered voter in this house, being the wrong species and all that".
"True but I make the decisions around here, so it has to be for me". Its at time like this when you realize that talking dog may sound like a wonderful thing to have but an opinionated hound who talks only to you can be frustrating. In fact I have often wondered if he was the real reason behind my friend's hurried migration to Canada.
"You do realize it was recorded message. In fact for all you know it came from a call center in Gurgaon India".
"The Prime Minister is a busy man, you probably won't know much about that. When you are busy then voice mail is a convenient option. And PM is a patriot he wouldn't use a call center".
I don't believe it, a dog is explaining voice mail and call centers to me.
"Well the election is over, so no more messages for you my canine friend".
"Surely he has to thank me for my vote?"
"A talking dog you may be but a politician you are not. Do you realize the next call for you will be at the time of the next federal elections.." at this moment I was interrupted by the knocking ath the front door.
"That will be the Postman" said Nawab "Can you open the door I don't feel like chasing him right now".
"Yeah how would you know?"
"Nature of the species buddy boy, you do tend to forget that I am dog". So would anyone facing with a talking hound. So I went to the door instead and yes it was the Postie indeed. A big packet from Canberra addressed to certain Nawab. A big heavy packet, I wondered if the dog had been ordering stuff from e-bay. I signed for it and took it inside.
"A packet for you. Hope you have not been using e-Bay?"
"E-bay me?"
"You know I am still paying off the last bill. Another order and its the dog pound for you my friend".
"Hey trust me" and the hurt look that only a dog can convey.
"Oh alright open the packet then".
"You do it. After all you are the one with a opposable thumb".
So I opened the big packet for him. The contents you say? Well if you really want to know it contained a large hamper of doggie treats and one big thank you card. I am sure you can guess who sent it.