It was almost as if she was waiting for us to adopt her. There she was, perched next to the senior citizen’s corner in the Air Force Naval Housing Board colony where we lived. I think it was the incredibly beautiful pair of transparent green eyes and the captivating ‘meow’ that snared my wife. As a lifelong fan of pets, I did my best to hold back my exuberance. She vaulted into Madhuri’s hands and entered our lives like she belonged.
Pets…and that ‘Palatial House’!
As parents to two young boys, we were often besieged with pleas to adopt pets. Abhishek and Akash would go chasing after any form of life. Even grasshoppers and frogs were produced for parental consent. In the armed forces, having a pet or two was not uncommon, dogs being the pets of choice.
We managed to dodge our boys’ repeated requests by convincing them that we would surely keep a dog just as soon as we move into that ‘two-acre bungalow’ (which comes after several promotions!). Just how we instantaneously decided to adopt this adorable 8-week old kitten while living on the 6th floor in a Bengaluru high-rise beats me even now. Must have been those mesmerizing eyes.
Being Parents Again!
The last time I played daddy was over six years back (2003-04). It was again time to run errands, fetch the essentials, get the baby’s bed ready, and now prepare a litter box instead of looking for nappies and diapers!
She took to our house like fish to water, potty training and all. At last, our children had their first real pet. They promptly classified her ‘Mesopotamian Wild Cat’ from some internet website and were quite disappointed when the veterinarian sagely marked her ‘mongrel’ during the first vaccination!
An Unguided Heat-Seeking Missile!
True to what our boys read from their collection of TINKLE magazines, she would sleep most of the day and night – 80% of the time, to be precise. She was like a heat-seeker – always finding the warmest of cozy places. Her waking hours were mostly spent either whining for food or in over-indulgent grooming.
She would get into the most difficult corners of the house and chase mice where there were none! Give her a crumpled paper ball and she would turn the house into a playfield and, just as suddenly, clamber into her favorite perch by the window to catch forty winks.
Our boys were expanding their feline vocabulary by the day. Poocha (cat in Malayalam), poochex, Miss Meow, Nimmu, Radhi, Radhika….her names changed with the time of the day. Somewhere, I think, ‘Butter Cat’ stuck – for sheer softness.
Our guilt pangs at leaving her alone at home for most of the day was assuaged somewhat by the fact that she would spend most of the day sleeping. The twinkle in her green eyes and her sleepy swagger at the kids arriving home from school marked the joyous reunion of siblings. She welcomed ‘dad and mum’ with the same ‘marjari asan’ later in the day. Her total submission with a perplexed wink when I muzzled her soft belly made the rest of my day heavenly.
Cats Own Their Masters!
Our kids were quick to point out that unlike dogs, cats own their masters. Nimmu surely did. She always got her milk and breakfast before my bed tea. I couldn’t, after all, purr and charm like she did!
She kept adding to her repertoire of charms with each passing week. Snuggling between the sheets at night, cozying up to the boys when they were watching their favorite cartoons or completing homework, playing the rough and tumble with me, clambering up and tumbling down the bedroom grills, she stole everyone’s heart.
Scores of scratches and red scars running down my arms were testimony to her feline approval of the games we played. Strangely, she always made it a point to pull in her razor sharp claws while playing with the boys. She was always buzzing around our two brats and their friends when they came over for sleepovers.
The Innate Desire for Freedom
By the time she turned 4 (months), she was already working on her jailbreak. Any time the main door opened, she would be out like a flash, only to be lovingly bundled back in by doting siblings and parents. Perhaps, we never understood her innate desire for freedom. Looking out for Nimmu before opening the main door became standard operating procedure in the house. Perhaps this only strengthened her resolve to break out from the gilded cage which our house had become for a playful kitten. Infrequent guided tours of the colony and cradled excursions to see off kids to their school bus did little to quench her craving for freedom.
Cat with Nine Lives?
Slowly, her play envelope expanded to the balconies and ledges. We trusted her sure-footed gait and the old proverb ‘cat has nine lives’. She had already wound a way around our balcony into the neighbour’s. Sometimes, she would be ‘returned with thanks’ by our friendly neighbour into whose house she had quietly slipped with the advice ‘maybe you should feed her more!’
Back home, Nimmu’s bowls were usually always full of the most modern (and rejected) cat food. She feasted on bony chicken pieces and the occasional sausage left over by the kids, leaving us to sometime wonder if she was a dog in cat’s coat!
Everlasting Freedom 😓
She finally found everlasting freedom. On one of her usual escapades during the morning rush hour, she did not make it back from the neighbours’ in time. Rushing back into our house to see off the kids rushing to school, her claws not at their sharpest, she slipped off the balcony.
She did everything right, flipped horizontal, braced herself, almost assumed a ‘canopy’ posture.
“Nimmu’s gone”, I screamed!
“Don’t worry dad, he’ll be fine, I have read it in Tinkle”, my son shot back between sobs as he raced downstairs with me.
As we learnt to our dismay, falling six floors is not kind; not even for a cat. God knows how we sped downstairs, hoping against hope that she would shake herself and walk away from the fall.
It was not to be. Her grace in the final moments is something that will stay with us for a long time. In a matter of seconds our short love story with this feline wonder was over.
Enjoy everlasting freedom, Nimmu. We’ll miss you, Butter Cat.
(We lost her in 2010 after a short and joyous relationship of just over six months)
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2010-19. All rights reserved. I can be reached at email@example.com. Views are personal. This story was featured in The Times of India in 2010 (TimesLife, ‘Soul Curry’).