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Aditya Bhat | March 11, 2004 17:58 IST

Farshid, a dear friend, woke me up early one Sunday morning a few months ago. "I want help shopping," he said tersely on the phone. He commanded me to join him at our local hangout in an hour's time. Which left me wondering: What kind of shopping advice could I, of all people, provide?

The fact that I have never, till date, shopped for my own clothes should tell you something about my sense of fashion. I am eminently predictable when it comes to gifts; I stick to gift vouchers. My friends think this is boring, but I think it is a hundred times better than the teddy bear a girlfriend gifted me on my 19th birthday. It has since been my endeavour to never subject anyone to a similar ordeal.

Farshid was on time. As usual, I was 10 minutes late. As usual, I apologised. Then, I rattled off the three questions that were bothering me -- Where are we going? What are we buying? Why me (this, as far as I was concerned, was the most important one!)?

"You," he replied, "are the only friend I have who owns a dog."

I could not believe Farshid wanted a pet. He wasn't too fond of my pet Dalmatian and my Dalmatian disliked him just as intensely.

I thought it was better to crosscheck. "Do you want to buy a Dalmatian?" I asked him hesitantly, sure he would burst out laughing.

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Farshid wasn't even listening.

"Hey man!" he breezed. "Have you seen the Hutch ad?"

Who hadn't?

"What did you like in the ad, dude?"

The little dog, the pug, obviously. He was the talk of the town ever since the ad first aired. Everyone was passionately in love with him.

For those of you who are still confused, a pug is a pint-sized dog that looks like a cross between a boxer and a bulldog.

It was then that I realised we are truly susceptible to the moving picture. A few years ago, thanks to a similar phenomenon, I actually became a local celebrity. Dalmatians were all the rage after the movie, 101 Dalmatians, released and I was the proud owner of one. Now that I think about it, though, it was my Dalmatian who was the celebrity; I was merely an appendage.

The sequel, 102 Dalmatians, was a success as well. 'Arre, dekho, 101 kutta ja raha hai [Look, that's the 101 dog]!' was the whisper that followed us whenever we walked down the road.

Now, it was time for the spotlight to focus on someone else. And here was Farshid routing for a new star. "My sister and I just love the breed. I need your help to select one," he said in great excitement.

We made our way to the Mathew residence at Bandra (a Mumbai suburb). Mrs Mathew was the proud owner of a female pug, Florence, who had given birth to eight healthy puppies two weeks ago. She told us five of the puppies were already booked. In fact, thanks to the Hutch ad, three of them had been booked even before they were born. Farshid settled for the unsold black male pup.

Unlike the strays you see on the road, branded dogs come with a price tag that can, at times, be quite hefty. "Two years ago, when my Florence gave birth to six sweet pups, I had to request pet-loving families to adopt them. This time, the breed is so popular that I was offered Rs 30,000 by one gentleman. His [the pup's] father is a show breed and has won several awards. My Florence belongs to the highest pedigree. But, as you seem like nice kids, I am willing to give away Stallion [that, apparently, was the name of the pug] for just Rs 20,000," Mrs Mathew told us kindly.

Twenty grand! Farshid froze in shock. Mrs Mathews urged us to decide soon, as people were coming in dozens to check out the pups. If we were interested, she said, we would have to book it by paying her a token amount of -- hold your breath -- Rs 15,000. We could take Stallion home two weeks from now, when he was old enough to leave his mother. Farshid gulped. He told Mrs Mathews he would have to consult his father.

As we exited the bylanes of Bandra, Farshid could not stop talking about Stallion. He kept asking me to pray his father would give him Rs 20,000 so he could buy the pug.

A week later, as I was walking my dog, I met Farshid. He had abandoned his plans to buy a pug. The breed, he said, had had become too common.

Amused, I continued strolling with my best friend, singing to myself, "You and I, in this beautiful world..."*

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

*For all you rediff readers who don't live in India, that is the sign off tune in the Hutch ad

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