Mogambo was not a dog, nor was he a pup. He was a teenager. And like most human teenagers he was cocky, confident and ‘cool’. He was a tough fellow and did fear anyone or any thing. Oops! Did I say Mogambo feared nothing? I am sorry. How could I forget that Mogambo had a phobia? He was dead scared of cats. Cats! A dog, and that too a tough, not so little dog, being scared of cats!
What rubbish!!’ I can almost hear you saying with a contemptuous shake of your heads. But believe me. Mogambo was terrified of cats. Every time he saw one – whether it was the fiery Phoolan or the pretty Zinta, the brash Kareena or the alluring Ash – Mogambo would slink away, his tail tucked between his legs.
He tried everything to get rid of this fear but failed. One day an advertisement in the newspaper caught his attention: ‘How to stop fearing cats in thirty days! From fright and flight to fight and fight!!’ beside that was a picture of a mouse in a superman costume towering over a cowering cat.’ Below was the text, which explained how in a dozen easy lessons a mouse could not only conquer his fear of cats but also terrify the felines. The lessons could be taken in person from one Bruce Armstrong – who himself was a mouse - or through correspondence course. Mogambo decided to go in for correspondence course since a dog joining classes, which were essentially meant for mice, would look funny.
He sent the requisite amount and a week later a neat package arrived. It comprised thirty chapters which very inspiring headlines such as – “You can Win!” “Don’t count the kittens unless they come out” and “What they don’t teach you at Disney Land?”
Mogambo read through the chapters and assiduously practiced the tips. A month later fully fortified, he decided to try his hand or rather paw at making friends with a feline. Sometime back a new cat had come and settled in the neighborhood. Her name was Umrao Jaan and she was considered very quiet, dignified and reserved. Mogambo went in search of her and found her enjoying a catnap on the windowsill of his neighbor's house. He stood below the window and invoked a ‘warm confident smile’ as had been suggested in Dr. Bruce Armstrong’s lessons. He then barked – a short, friendly bark that was supposed to bring out the best in the person it was addressed to – once again a prescription given by Dr.Armstrong.
Umrao Jaan woke up with a start. She had been dreaming of a saucer full of milk being offered to her by the Nawab of Billinagar. Just as she bent her head to drink the milk there was a bark – a loud, vicious one and a huge monster of a dog had appeared out of no where and was bearing its fangs. Umrao Jaan opened her eyes. ‘Woof’ – this time the bark was louder and nearer. Umrao Jaan looked down and almost fell off. The monster of her dream had come alive and was standing below her, howling his head off. He seemed to have shrunk a little bit and his brains too, it looked, had been affected. He was grinning at her like a half-witted ape. A ferocious dog was bad enough but a rabid one was worse. Umrao Jaan felt cornered. And when a cat is cornered (or feels it is cornered) it does only one thing – it attacks.
Umrao Jaan shot out of place she was resting and landed straight on top of poor Mogambo who was still struggling to keep the ‘warm confident smile’ in place. The next five seconds Umrao Jaan’s claws and Mogambo’s eyes and nose and ears did a bhangra. At the end of the fifth second Umrao Jaan flew east and Mogambo flew west and continued running till he was out of breath. When he reached home he removed Dr. Armstrong’s lessons from his study table and threw them in the fire.
A few days later he was resting under the shade of a neem tree and dreaming of a utopia without cats when he heard a meow. He opened his eyes but did not as you would expect jump up and start heading for the horizon. The producer of the sound was Bheegi Billi - the only cat in the universe Mogambo was not scared of. BB and Mogambo had grown up together under the care of their common master Raju.
“How’s life?” BB asked. She had just returned from a trip to her aunt Zubeida’s place.
“It’s horrible,” Mogambo said and recounted the sordid episode of Umrao Jaan.
BB was about to laugh but seeing the hurt expression on Mogambo’s face converted the would be laugh to a coughing fit.
“Mogambo, I have the perfect solution to your problem. My aunt Zubeida’s great-grand aunt Madhubala was the pet of Salarjung –III the Nawab of Hyderabad who was famous for his passion for collecting things. In face his collection, which is the largest by an individual, is housed in the famous Salarjung Museum of Hyderabad. When the museum was being shifted from its original site to its new one, many things got lost. One of these was a magic mirror, which reached Madhubala and was handed down to Zubeida.”
“Yes. If you stand in front of the mirror, you will see the image of the person thing you fear most in life.”
“Yes. If you show this mirror to the Indian cricket team they will see in it the image of their Australian counterparts.”
“But how will this help me?”
“The mirror is activated by a simple button. We will sew this button on to your collar. Any time a cat comes in front, all you’ll have to do is to press the button. The cat will run for its life and your confidence will increase. Gradually you will stop fearing cats altogether.”
Mogambo thought for sometime and then nodded. “I think it is worth a try.”
The strategy was put into practice and soon the tables were turned. Rather than Mogambo running away from them, the cats were now turning tail. Gradually Mogambo lost his fear of the cats. And with his phobia gone he became a true-blood teenager – even more cocky, confident and ‘cool’. However he did not return the collar, he kept it with him just in case….
A few weeks later BB came to him with a request. “Mogambo, in the house next door, an army major has shifted. He has a dog called Dara Singh and believe me I have never seen a more fearsome creature.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to use the magic mirror and scare the daylights out of Dara Singh?”
“I’ll give you the mirror why don’t you do it?”
“To activate the mirror I need to go reasonably close to the monster, but I don’t have the guts to do that. I surely faint much before that and Dara Singh will chew me up.”
Mogambo at that moment was chatting with his newfound girl friend Rani and didn’t like the intrusion.
“Come on Bheegi, don’t disturb me now. Can’t you see I am busy? I giving Rani a lecture on ‘how to overcome fear and succeed in life’ and she is simply loving it. Aren’t you dear?” he asked.
Rani batted her eye lashes and simpered, “Yes, my pet.”
BB couldn’t take the scene any longer and left seething with rage. She decided that she would teach the ungrateful Mogambo a lesson he would never forget.
That night Mogambo was dreaming of floating on a cloud of juicy bones and singing a duet with Rani. BB very silently removed the collar and put it around her own neck. She then quietly called Rani. “I am going to demonstrate to you how brave Mogambo is. Even he is not aware of the depth of his intrepid nature. Just stand and watch.”
Now the magic mirror had another function, which BB knew but hadn’t told Mogambo about. If the button were pressed once a normal size vision appeared and if it were pressed twice the size of the image in the magic mirror doubled and so on. BB tapped Mogambo on his head. He opened his eyes and blinked. BB pressed the button not once or twice but ten times in quick succession. As Mogambo looked he saw a hideous image of a ten-headed cat snarling at him. Behind this monster were several more deadlier ones trying to tear each other in a hurry to get to him.
Mogambo’s legs seemed to turn to jelly; his tail was in a frantic hurry to get back to its source. He squeaked, he whimpered and with one last ditch effort turned around and scampered in the opposite direction. He kept running tell he collapsed in a heap. A few minutes later he heard peals of laughter. His Rani was standing there laughing at him and beside her was BB. He stared from one to the other, an expression of utter stupidity on his face. Suddenly he saw the collar around BB’s neck.
“So it was you who was behind this, is it?”
“Yes, Mogambo. I scared you to teach you a lesson for your ungratefulness. I helped you get over you fear. And yesterday when I came to you for help you treated me like dirt.”
“BB is right Mogambo. You behaved like a heel yesterday.”
Mogambo sat with his head between his legs.
“I…I am sorry. I’ll go right away and teach Dara Singh lesson.“That’s the spirit,” BB said.
Rani came close and planted a tiny kiss on Mogambo’s nose.
“Mogambo, khush hua,” Mogambo said.