Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pet-ty things 1

Mighty Mau

I’ve filled a dog-shaped hole in my family. While she made do with the loss of her dog in exchange for a kid sister, my sister often reminded me that ‘Tipya,’ was given away because of me.

When we were growing up, apart from Tipya, who insisted on becoming our pet as a stray pup who got into our car and refused to get out, me and my sister were never allowed to keep a dog. Not because our mother hates keeping pets, but because our father never got over the loss of his dog. So a dog was all I wanted, and I tried a great many things to get one, (I even tried psychological blackmail – I crossed out the name of a boy from Enid Blyton’s book ‘The boy who wanted a dog’, and wrote mine everywhere instead!) but nothing worked.
Tai (my sister) with Raja. No, she's not strangling him.

Then one day when I came home from school, I found a kitten sleeping in a box in our house. My father had gone to see off my cousin, when the little kitten which was being chased by a boy came to him. Nana (my father) picked it up and put it in his shirt pocket, where it felt safe, and soon went to sleep.

Media cat

I named the kitten Raja. He soon began leading a royal lifestyle that suited his name. My father brought him fish every day. Tai (my sister) and I loved to paint around his eyes – with a sketch pen as an eye liner. He didn’t mind. Raja played as much as he slept, joining my father in his afternoon nap, or curled up on my grandfather’s shoulder. His favourite place was on the stabiliser behind the fridge. I don’t know about dogs. But I do believe that cats like to be in newspaper offices! Like the beautiful tom cat that hung around Mumbai Mirror and Femina’s offices. Raja also often hung out at the office of the Daily Gomantak in Goa, where my father was Editor-in-Chief. We stayed in a flat on the building’s fourth storey. Raja would often spend time watching my father work in his cabin. He would also walk around the proof readers’ section as they read aloud reports, and elsewhere fearlessly. He visited the office of Gomantak at lunch time to eat scraps from the tiffins of the staff. He also made it a point never to go there on Thursdays, for that was the staff’s ‘shivrak’ (vegetarian) day!

Initially I was scared of him because like most kittens, he too would come running on his hind legs, and grab the first human leg walking by, and pretend to bite it. Thankfully he grew out of this soon and became a calm cat. He loved sunning himself on the window sill, an activity that cost him one of his lives, when he fell down from our fourth floor flat, onto a shed below.

One life used up

Before the big fall, Raja had once fallen onto the parapet of the window below, and my father and grandmother had managed to rescue him with the help of a basket. But despite this, Raja did not learn a lesson and in the next fall, landed on the shed. Once again, my cousin was visiting and it was he who realised Raja had fallen down. We went to rescue him and my cousin climbed onto the shed, where Raja was lying, too scared to move. We picked him up and took him home, where we found the only injury, surprisingly, was a broken tooth. For the next couple of days, Raja refused to move out of the room and sat still in one place, scared. He did recover but was not his usual self when I tried to take him towards the window from which he had fallen. He meowed loudly and jumped from my arms and ran out of the room!

Like most other animals, he was also scared of fireworks and whenever there was a festival and he heard them, he would hide under a bed. He also did not like being alone. Once my parents and I were going out and he probably thought he was alone, because I heard him meowing loudly. I had never heard him cry so loudly. My grandparents were home, and my grandmother later told me that he calmed down only when she said to him, “Raja, it’s okay, we are here. You are not alone.” Strange that a cat didn’t want to be alone! But perhaps it’s a feline thing, because years later, when we were in England for a cousin’s wedding, my uncle said their cat, Miss Wu, also hated being alone. “When we are in the house, once in a while, she comes to check if we are still around!” he said.

There was one thing I hated about Raja though. He had turned into an ‘alarm cat’ for my parents. Every Sunday, my parents had a tough time waking me up. After Raja arrived, things got easy for them. He would join them. I would wake up alarmed, for he would try to wake me up by pretending to bite my toes. I did dread those sharp feline teeth, and always jumped out of bed when I realised that he had arrived.
It’s been years since Raja ran away like most tom cats, one day. Unlike Nana who vowed never to keep a dog again, James Herriott used to say he cannot live without a dog. Lately I’ve been thinking of the same, by keeping a cat again. It’ll surely be purr-fect.