Cyrus Broacha And Srishti Dixit Attempt To Settle The Eternal Cat Vs Dog Debate
It’s one of those mornings when Mother Nature can’t decide what to do with herself — the sun is a dizzying yellow one moment and the sky turns to a gloomy grey in the next. And so, I reach an airy studio in Khar, half-drenched, half-dry — thanks to weather that is as capricious as our two furry friends that are the stars of today’s shoot. A sullen feline, whose white fur is broken by black patches scans me with eyes that look like they hold the answers to cosmic mysteries, while an exuberant biscuit-coloured Caravan Hound gazes at me with what appears to be all the love in the universe. I look at their respective owners, Srishti Dixit and Cyrus Broacha, patiently waiting on them and chuckle quietly to myself. As someone who spends a lot of time around friends’ pets and my own cat, Arya, I am fully aware of who the masters really are, and I can confidently say that it’s not the humans.
The first hour goes by in getting Broacha’s dog, Mary, acclimatised to her new environment. She has a morbid fear of boat rides and is ostensibly on edge because the drive to the studio — over the Bandra-Worli Sea Link — has reminded her of their frequent journeys to Alibaug. Broacha tries to placate her with belly rubs and treats (which she eats straight out of his mouth) and I realise that the original funny man of television and his high-strung hound have a symbiotically calming effect on each other. The steady stream of wisecracks you’d expect with a comedian around or the incessant barking of a dog surrounded by new people are both absent. The 47-year-old podcast host is best known for making unsuspecting celebrities into victims of his cheeky pranks as part of MTV Bakra (1997-2011), a candid camera show that opened the door to a new brand of comedy on mainstream television. Equal parts slapstick and facetious, his jocularity was a runaway success — something Dixit may relate to given her overnight turn into a viral comedic sensation. Getting back to the topic at hand, I try to figure out the root of Broacha’s canine fixation and he elucidates, “Dogs have been a constant presence in my life. We brought Figaro, our first beagle, home in 1979 when I was seven years old. My father would take us to the Hanging Gardens to demonstrate how to train the dog and confidently shout, ‘Figaro, fetch!’ Figaro wouldn’t fetch. This went on for quite some time until a crowd started gathering every morning to watch the old Parsi man who would fetch his own ball. It was rather charming. After Figaro, we had a couple of German shepherds and then a string of strays. Suffice to say that dogs have always been the cornerstone of the Broacha family.”
Mary is just beginning to warm up to me and extends her paw as a sign of trust when my ears perk up at the sound of a soft purr originating from the other side of the studio where Dixit and her cat are getting ready to face the camera. The 26-year-old Buzzfeed employee shot to fame two years ago when she starred in a video titled If Real Life Was A TV Serial that went viral on Facebook. Dixit went on to assume various personas — she recently improvised a hilarious parody of director Karan Johar — and millennials love her laugh-out-loud funny, yet relatable content. Especially endearing are her online segments with Patches, a portly cat that was gifted to her four years ago when she left Kanpur to study journalism at Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai. “Growing up, I considered myself a dog person because I owned one when I was in Kanpur. When I moved to Mumbai, I lived in Colaba and noticed that there were cats in every nook and corner; there was no option but to get used to them. Eventually, I found myself petting the strays and told a friend that I would like to own one at some point. On my next birthday, he presented me with a little tick-infested kitten — the size of a giant Colaba rat — that he had found wandering around Regal Cinema. We took him to the vet for a check-up, and I thought I would see how living with a cat worked out for the first few weeks and play it by ear — I would either put him up for adoption or give him away to someone else if I couldn’t look after him. That clearly never happened because we immediately took to each other and I soon realised that I would keep him forever. So here he is four years later, weighing eight kilograms, all because I fed him too much.”
It doesn’t take too much time for Patches to get ready — a little red bow tie with the word ‘Patchy’ is fastened around his neck and he is escorted to the room in which Broacha and Mary have been shooting. There is an audible gasp from all of us when Mary cowers in Patches’ presence as the cat hisses balefully at him. Broacha consoles Mary; Dixit chastises Patches.
The next hour passes in a comical blur as we spend half our time trying to tie Mary to the couch and the other half goading Patches into coming out from under it. Dixit rolls her eyes. “He is a brat; he knows his name is Patches, but anytime you call him, he’ll look in the opposite direction.”
Broacha and Dixit look on helplessly as I attempt to speak to them over the cacophony, so I veer off course and envision a pet-swap instead. Broacha humours my mental experiment and playfully responds, “People get cats because they are lazy. There isn’t really much to it, is there? All they have to do is check the cat’s pulse every now and then. I can’t get one for an entirely different reason altogether. I simply don’t want to be the 90-kilogram man who walks around with a three-kilogram cat — especially when I don’t even get to be the boss!”
Dixit’s reasoning is more practical. “I’m in the hustle phase of my life right now so my work hours are rather erratic. I don’t think it would be feasible for me to go out for walks three times a day because at the moment, I honestly don’t have enough hours in one day. Cats are super low-maintenance and they give you all the space you need. Dogs are needy and can’t survive without attention. Do the math.”
Recollecting the times I have been called slothful, inscrutable, flaky and snooty purely based on the fact that I own a cat, I am curious to know if either of the entertainers have been recipients of similar prejudices, purely based on their choice of pets. Broacha clarifies, “Firstly, I’d like to point out that I am not an anti-cat person; I love all animals. I’ve seen dog owners who are reserved by nature and I’ve met gregarious people who own cats so the labels are all in our heads.” Dixit shares his views, “I hate the crazy cat lady trope. I don’t live in a musty house with 20 cats; I smell like freshly laundered clothes for the most part and I have a thriving sex life. Humans are idiots in general; even the best of pets won’t make up for a despicable personality.”
By now, the animals are beginning to tire of all the physical activity in addition to the lack of attention and lazily flop down. This is our cue to get all the pictures we need before they wander off again and cause chaos. Broacha is complaining about the state of traffic in the city, and the fact that he had to trek all the way from his home in Lower Parel to the studio in Khar. But the grouchiness comes to an abrupt halt when Mary turns to him and awards him with a big lick on his cheek. The comedian is suddenly all smiles as he recalls a funny incident that took place many years ago when he was still getting used to her ways. “Once, a couple came to meet my wife and when they left, we discovered that Mary was missing. A few seconds later, we received a call from them saying that she was sitting in the back seat of their car. She had scurried out without anyone noticing. She’s got this bad habit of getting over-friendly with strangers. She never growls at unknown people but we hear her snarling every night when she sleeps with my son in his bed. I believe it’s her way of demanding her share of the property.”
Patches, on the other hand, won’t growl or purr at his owner to get her attention but will simply paw objects off a table while audaciously maintaining eye contact. Dixit, who clocks in a full nine hours in the office every day in addition to attending events and doing open mics on her own time, spares a glance at her groggy pet. “I can tell what he’s feeling right now because I share his sentiment. He is thinking of our bed and just wants to go home. It’s nap time for him.” Broacha has to run along for the book launch of a dear friend and he’s already got an obedient Mary on a leash as he packs up her paraphernalia. Meanwhile, Patches has made himself comfortable on the dusty surface of a tall cupboard where none of us can reach him and looks discernibly pleased with himself. Typical, I think to myself as I absent-mindedly pick at the scabs on my arm — the handiwork of my own Arya’s claws.
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