People get attached to various things in life — animate as well as inanimate — and the memories remain long after they are gone. A week ago, one-and-half-year-old Kali went missing. Our home had become hers when her disabled mother, who had a broken leg, left her at our place. My mother kept that baby and nurtured her. She fed her milk, washed the clothes she dirtied, burnt coals to keep her warm, and every evening wrapped her in warm clothes to give her a good night’s sleep. Kali’s own mother visited her a few times but soon disappeared. That was when my mother became her real mother, nursing her in much the same way she nursed us. However, there was one difference between us — Kali was a kitten.
As Kali grew up in our family, she also learned toilet habits. Of course, by nature, they hide their faeces, but she learned where it would be better to drop it. Her favorite bedroom was my father’s lap and my mother’s arms, her hangouts-dining chairs, cushions, blankets, clean clothes and her chair, of her size, on the verandah. She was, in fact, so much loved that we used to envy her at times. She liked meat, bread, fish and milk. But this pampered kid became so lazy that she didn’t even learn how to catch a mouse. However, she used to roam around the garden and vegetable beds, hunting perhaps, though never brought a catch.
I loved taking pictures of her whenever she was in a jolly mood, climbing and hanging from the branches of peach and guava trees. After frolicking in the garden, she would return tired and relax herself by cleaning. Her bristly tongue was a great tool to brush the dirt off her tiny body. Though cats are not fond of water, we used to bathe her time to time. But boy, that was challenging for us. The other challenge for us was keeping a doggie. A student of mine had gifted me a month-old puppy whom my mother named Guntay. The day I brought Guntay home, Kali watched him from a distance. We were afraid as they say dogs and cats generally don’t become friends, but that did not happen. They became inseparable.
They would open the refrigerator together, tear newspaper together; one would bite one end of the doormat while the other chewed the other. None of my family members had to stay gloomy. Kali and Guntay would constantly entertain us. Interestingly, Guntay would wag its tail for Kali just like it did for my parents. When my parents returned from morning walk, these two friends reached the main gate to greet my parents.
My mother is surprised to think that a cat could reciprocate love in that manner. Her eyes fill with tears. My father still imagines Kali sleeping on his lap. Guntay still sniffs at Kali’s favorite chair. Mother still hopes Kali will return someday. Whenever she sees a cat, she stops by to see whether it is wearing the blue band she had put on Kali. They say a cat doesn’t live with the same human family throughout its life. We wish that little sister of ours broke the tradition.