For years this is what I told friends and other people who love animals, that I am not a cat person at all, but I love dogs and I LOVE puppies to the point of smothering them with my love. But this changed yesterday when the cutest kitty spent a couple of hours in my lap and, oh my, she was so lovely and warm. She sensed that I missed and needed that kitty warmth and she gave me just that. And I think I love kittens now. Thank you! I think I am going to call her Cedar ( Si-der). The master, of course, calls her ‘QToon’. He is a cartoonist who goes by the name, Dintoon.
Pets from my childhood
I once had a kitten for about two days when I was a little girl. I think it was my neighbour’s kitten. They had a big tom cat visiting them and they thought that our shed in the backyard would be a safe place for their kitten. I had never had a pet to take care of before that. I didn’t know what to do with it! It was so tiny and delicate. I could feel the insides of it when I held it in between my palms. I was afraid that I would crush its ribs or make a dent in its heart or something. And it had this strange acrid smell that I didn’t like at all. But I did buy a meter of pink satin ribbon and tied it around its neck. I think it looked pretty in pink. We put her inside an old carton box and for the next two days my and mys sister took more breaks – and longer breaks – in between our home work to visit this tiny, smelly guest.
Beyond that I have no memory of this kitten. We must have given it back to the neighbours. My father was allergic; rather he thought he was allergic to any pet and he wasn’t too pleased with the prospect of having a kitten in his house. Well, that ended there – my first pet, a kitten who was with me for just two days. I hope that you grew up to be a real bad-ass cat and no tom cat ever bothered you again.
I had better experiences with dogs though. When I lived in the hills we had a few animals living near our house and visiting us. My favourite pet back then, and will always be, Bonzo. Two decades later, his name is my key password to a few important things that matter.
Bonzo was a lovely German Shepherd who was left behind when his master left the city. He was very well trained and would follow all the commands, kids in the neighbourhood had for him. ‘Bonzo sit down, stand-up, jump, hand-shake’. He would visit us every day, hand-shake with us little girls and we would in return give him left-over food or a loaf of bread. He was very friendly and loved kids. If he were to visit me today, I would give him a home, my love and care and cook for him – I wonder what he enjoyed eating most when he was alive. I hope you found a home later in your life, Bonzo and I wish that there were a few who cried when you passed away. Flowers for you Bonzo, I love you! I wish I had a photograph of you. I hope you would remember me – the little girl with silken hair, fat nose, star-trek eyebrows, who loved to wear her favourite white and blue frock with lots of kittens on it!
The unfriendly bitch
My other neighbour (the Dhingras) in Dehradun had a bitch I don’t remember very well. She was tall, jet black – I don’t remember her being friendly at all and the story that I remember about her is quite unpleasant. Apparently, when her master was traveling once, she gave birth to two puppies and because there was no food for her, she ate them up! We were so horrified, almost angry. Bitch, I hope you gave birth to more puppies and you all had enough food for yourselves.
Godu and Laali
Godu and Laali’s story is from Mr and Mrs Laal’s house that evokes many feelings and memories – the smells and flavours of which are as pleasant as that of a newly baked plain cake. Mr Laal’s house was the last house in that lane and there was a forest behind it, which was lit up every winter night as if creatures in the forest were invoking their forest spirits. It was magical! And so, this is where I had my first magical encounter with fireflies. They would go on and off, on and off, on and off, off and off, and again on and off, off and on, on and on…it was all so heady! Me and my sister, on at least two occasions, caught a couple of fireflies and released then under the bed and watched them glow inside our room. Morning next, we found them dead and buried their tiny bodies in mud. Maybe we said little prayers, and felt sorry for how short their lives were. We gradually learnt that something as beautiful as fireflies is momentary – you can’t capture, own, lock or possess such beauty which was there for us to see and admire but not to own and control.
I also remember Mr and Mrs Laal’s not-so-friendly son; I remember fondly Mr Laal’s lovely niece, Indu who would amuse us by placing caterpillars onto her palm, on top of her head. She seemed like a magician playing these tricks. I wouldn’t dare touch those caterpillars, that had so many legs and were so awfully green! Ew! Indu also made us happy, generous offerings of rock – salt crystals that we licked until the crystals melted onto our palms and then we licked the palms until we were tasting just the salt from our skin.
This was also the house outside which there was a road somewhere in between hundreds of potholes. But we loved potholes because these would collect all the rain water and these became generous spawning pools where we’d soon see tadpoles. We loved collecting them, and once I got a good scolding from my mother because I took our only water jug to collect these tadpoles. We collected these tadpoles and released them in a water tank in somebody’s backyard. Now this water tank seems almost dream-like and mythical to me now – I remember it had bright pink lotuses, boats and planes in it – no I am not smoking weed. Just some childhood fantasy or a dream that I had as a child. I’d like to draw this mystical tank someday.
Coming back to Godu and Laali, Laali (Laal= colour red) was a lovely orangish-brown cow which was my sister’s pet and Godu (that means nothing :)) was her calf who was all white and was my pet. And they came to our house every day. We gave them stale chapatis (bread) and rice. I hope they too lived happily.
My most recent pet is my niece. I call her The Curly Ministry. And this is why? 🙂
So, I do love cats now and here is a cat poem for you,
An Appeal to Cats in the Business of Love
by Thomas Flatman
Who best feel the pangs of a passionate lover,
I appeal to your scratches and your tattered fur,
If the business of Love be no more than to purr.
Old Lady Grimalkin with her gooseberry eyes,
Knew something when a kitten, for why she is wise;
You find by experience, the love-fit’s soon o’er,
Puss! Puss! lasts not long, but turns to Cat-whore!
Men ride many miles,
Cats tread many tiles,
Both hazard their necks in the fray;
Only cats, when they fall
From a house or a wall,
Keep their feet, mount their tails, and away!
Thank you for reading this longish story!
And for you, a Beatles song on Dehradun, which is where I grew up, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Krl—QD5dY