By Nury Vittachi IANS | 2 years ago

Science tells us that there are many extremely rare and valuable substances on earth, such as platinum, diamonds, gold - and dog pills.

Yes, the medical bills for the beloved mongrel I got from the dog rescue shelter are almost 10 times the size of my own medical bills, apparently because of the "high cost of tablet ingredients". I spoke to a scientist friend who said the most expensive substance on earth was anti-matter, and added: "If your dog's tablets contain anti-matter, could you steal a few for me?"

I pointed out my dog, as well as being a hypochondriac, was extremely intelligent, numerate, possessive, sharp-toothed, and dangerous when angered. No, wait. That's my wife.

While grumbling about this at work, a colleague suggested I switch from Western to Asian dog medicine. She showed me an article about a dog that recently took the famous Bathini Fish Remedy.

Once a year, the Bathini family of Hyderabad puts "a secret recipe of herbs and spices" into the mouths of live fish. The unfortunate fish are then slipped down the throats of patients. The patients report miraculous healings. (The fish don't do so well, but nobody asks for their opinions.)

This month, there was a bit of a problem when a man turned up with his dog. The dog owner explained that he and his pooch were strict vegetarians but he had persuaded her to consume the fish just this once.

Staff duly administered the live fish to the dog, I read in the New Indian Express. The man said thank you. The dog said "arf, arf", which the staff assumed meant: "I am delighted to endorse this wonderful product" but I think probably meant: "Thank God, protein at last."

I was trying to compare the cost of flying my dog to Hyderabad against the price of anti-matter dog tablets, when a Western visitor reading over my shoulder made one of those "Asians are so weird" comments.

These annoy me. We're not weird, I argued, but my assertion was undermined because at that very moment a reader sent me a photograph of the latest Asian flavour of Krispy Kreme donuts: Green tea with red beans. You can buy it in Japan, and wash it down with a yummy can of Salty Watermelon Pepsi, followed by a dessert of horsemeat ice cream. These are all real products, the Tokyo reader said.

I conceded to the Westerner that Japan was weird but the rest of Asia was normal, which isn't really true since cucumber soda and octopus pizza are sold all over the region these days.

But later I read a report that made me sympathize with Westerners trying to adjust to life in Asia. A report on the Chinanews website said a Frenchman was found weeping in Nanjing on June 10 after failing to find his flat, even though he was at the right building. He lived in an apartment in a block which was part of a complex of 91 identical towers (yes, 91, that's not a misprint). Police organized a search and found his home for him at 1 am that night. Assuming eight flats per floor and 20 stories per building, that's 58,240 people sharing one address. Sounds like Saturday mornings at Charlie Sheen's place.

Well, there are a LOT of Asian people on this planet. And hundreds of millions of middle class people in India and China are becoming dog-owners at high speed. Now if you'll excuse me, the dog's looking a bit bilious. I need to go remortgage my house.

(21-06-2013-Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via He can be contacted at

(Posted on 21-06-2013)