Let me tell you my pet peeve…

Friday - - HUMOUR - Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

For some years now, I have been try­ing to con­vince friends and any­body will­ing to lis­ten (not al­ways the same people) that keep­ing a pet at home is not a good idea.

“You can’t travel at the drop of a hat,” has been my most pow­er­ful ar­gu­ment. It is usu­ally coun­tered with, “You can al­ways find a ken­nel or a dis­tant rel­a­tive to leave your pet with.”

I have a dis­tant ken­nel and a nearby rel­a­tive I haven’t spo­ken to in a decade. So that’s out.

“They chew the fur­ni­ture, mess up the liv­ing room and (if they are snakes or bears) frighten away the guests,” is my sec­ond ar­gu­ment.

This is usu­ally coun­tered with a shake of the head, a steadily curl­ing li­pline and a shrug. This prob­a­bly means some­thing, but I don’t know what.

In re­cent years, a cat has adopted us, and now I have an­other rea­son. But in­stead of telling you what it is right away, let me ap­proach it in a round­about fash­ion.

Ev­ery time I leave the house and meet a neigh­bour or two, I’m sub­jected to a look full of pity. The penny didn’t drop un­til I heard my wife ad­mon­ish the cat. “Get off the sofa you fat, lazy, so-andso,” she said, and it struck me that our neigh­bours think she’s talk­ing to me.

Pet lovers speak to their pets in a lan­guage that al­ter­nates be­tween a coochi-coo and a stern com­mand. The prob­lem is, the for­mer is usu­ally softer and doesn’t carry to the neigh­bours’ ears. The lat­ter, on the other hand, is un­mis­tak­ably what it is. And can be heard a street away.

So now you un­der­stand what hap­pens when the cat scratches the fur­ni­ture, jumps on books or brings its din­ner (half-eaten) home. The neigh­bours think I’ve been do­ing these things.

Some years ago, when we first moved into this house, it was in the wilder­ness, and I was oc­ca­sion­ally known to bat a mouse over the head to en­sure it didn’t get in among the books. These

Some­how, I think my wife en­joys all the con­fu­sion the cat con­ver­sa­tions cause

en­coun­ters usu­ally ended with a cry I had bor­rowed from Tarzan. “Take that you so-and-so!” was usu­ally how it be­gan. We didn’t have too many neigh­bours then, but the ones who could hear prob­a­bly con­cluded that I was a foul-mouthed wife-beater. This is my come­up­pance.

Some­how, I think my wife en­joys the con­fu­sion cat con­ver­sa­tions cause. She re­fuses to end em­bar­rass­ing sen­tences with “Tiger”, which is the cat’s name. How much clearer would it be if she said, “Stop eat­ing so much, Tiger”?

One look at me and the neigh­bours would know it couldn’t pos­si­bly be the name friends know me by.

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