Pudgy dear girl,
To be honest, when you appeared with Kittu Master, wanting a share of his food, who was already so skinny, and you, well, Pudgy, I was not very pleased. But we soon brought two bowls as that’s the only way you both got to eat. We wondered whether you were abandoned as we had never seen you around. Soon your pregnant belly became obvious, and there was no going back on feeding you. Though you ate anything served, rice, roti, curd, we also bought cat food.
This went on for few months, and then Kittu crossed over. You were all by yourself, lonely and looking lost, resting most of the time. We accepted Kittu left you in our care.
Early morning, you found a spot where we could see you as soon as we sat up on our bed, through the balcony grills. Your breakfast was the first chore of the morning. When we had to be at the hospital for two nights, your food was with our security guys. On our return we were told you were often near our door, enquiring.
It was soon time for your babies and you found a ledge in the basement. I would feed you three times a day at least. You will jump down from the hiding, thud… as soon as you heard my footsteps on the staircase, come meowing and wipe everything clean. That unfortunate night when your ledge got flooded, you had to bring out the babies and stack them up on a corner of the staircase. Each time we took them to the basement, you carried them back upstairs to what you thought was safer. The babies found their homes. Remember Pudgu, that same disturbing day you walked into a storeroom in the basement and got locked in? How much we looked for you in the evening, where all we went searching. The next day, searching again, Dilip heard a feeble meow and traced it to the window. He till date sees that look of relief on your face!
With no experience of raising a cat, I checked when to get you spayed. Apparently it’s a three week window to your being on heat again and there is at least one tomcat around. I started talking to others, sharing your picture. That’s when we are told you are a rare Calico, a three colour cat. When after the surgery I was going to bring you back home, I looked up on the internet and made toys for you, a scratch pad, and so happy when you used them.
Pudgyka, when I first took you to the vet, I did not know whether you had ever been taken earlier. I had never taken an animal to a vet either. First for both of us. I was told it could be traumatic for you. You amazed me with the ease in which you went. Got inside the carrier. Sat quietly in the car. Only few meows on the way. No reaction to the syringe or the needle prick. Not even a whimper. You almost slept off on the vet’s table as I paid the bills.
Post-surgery, because you had to be on medication for an infection, you stayed home. That’s when our bonding grew. You soft collar was too big. You often tripped on it. When the wound looked healed we removed the collar. But you licked the wound with your sand paper tongue and it looked raw again. So I quickly stitched you a collar from an old applique cushion cover. You looked so cute in blue!
You would let me hold your face in both hands and wipe the corners of your eyes with my thumb. Cleaning your litter was my in-house covid test. After I watched someone’s video on cleaning the ear that was planned next. You let Dilip comb your whole body, purring away, giving the comb a bite. You liked to smell. We would offer and you would come close, phone, ipad, remote, newspaper, salad…anything, smell and turn away. Or smell deep when you liked it. You liked plants. Gave them also a pat every now and then. You had an interest in pens, picking them up from the many pen stands in the house. A literati cat, Dilip will say.
Padgushree, remember the snake in the yard? You got so excited! You wanted to go near it. I had to forcibly bring you home. That was also the day when my father was very unwell. I had to do a video consultation with the doctor. And I had to also make several calls to find a snake catcher. What a blessing that you were around!
How funny when you hounded Alexa for playing those animal noises! All others were okay but cat sounds did not please you. And the new vacuum cleaner for your hair everywhere? You hated the noise it made.
Remember Pudgy the night when you insisted on your post dinner going out despite it looking rainy. Well, you got caught in the rain and sprinted back as soon as we opened the door, screaming at us as if it was our fault! And then you let Dilip dry you nicely and went back to sleep immediately after an extra serving of wet food as a treat for your hardship!
Its rained…will she find her way back, I would worry. When we stepped out even for a little bit, you will be in our mind. Any cat screech late in the night will wake me up and I will run to check on you, though you were sleeping inside in the nights. I could only think of you forgetting your route, or the vehicles, or the tom or your fights with mother cat…never did I see the bigger danger standing right there.
You loved to bask in the sun, the blissful sleep. As your health got better, you ran around more. Always on the windows longing to go out. Off late you began to climb. When you climbed on the internet booster, perched precariously on top and meowing away. Such relief on your face when Dilip carried you down. And one slap you got!
There was something feral about your climb, like an adrenaline rush, like you were a different cat in that avatar. You liked a view from the top, not what was offered at the ground level of your eyes.
Around the time you came to our life, my brother was getting a dog. You and Oreo became part of our family phone conversations.
The free spirited, not to be cuddled and not clingy, Puntu kuntu, you did not on your own came and sat on our laps. You came close to give a rare pat, a “hey you” kinds. You favourites were the bum up body rub by Dilip and a near the ear and neck scratch by me when you were mellowed with sleep. Dilip will annoy you once in a while, a soft tug of your tail, keeping his hand near your tongue when you are grooming yourself. You would come almost close to bite his finger but let go.
The feral in you showed in your love for outside. So many days and nights, you would ignore our calls and turn your back to us. We had to literally grab you from the boundary and you clung to it with all your claws. Remember that one night you came back late with two leaves stuck on your whisker which you could not shake off and I had to get a comb, so funny you looked!
You were like a different person when you wanted to stalk a prey, climb, chase, run. You came back in for a bit of human contact, the poo, pee, food and sleep.
Besides the clay pot and the stool, you loved to sleep on the rocking chair and the dining table chair. In fact playing in circles under the table, walking from chair to chair became a game for you. Though you liked your TV, looking for the birds and squirrel behind it, if we were watching and you were sleeping and the TV had a loud noise, you showed your annoyance. “lower the volume guys” . Diwali, noise scared you. You went and slept on top of one of the dining table chairs. We wondered if you would sleep with us that night. But as noise reduced you became okay.
Pudgy Kutty, I saw you walk deftly on the front boundary, catch a pigeon and run straight to our yard. It made me happy that you have got your skills, you would not go hungry and you know your home. I had to scare you with the hose pipe as the girls upstairs got distressed seeing a fluttering pigeon in your mouth!
Pudgu, you remember few days ago you came back with a superficial wound on your leg? I bothered so many people with its picture, got the ointment. We will clean it twice every day and apply ointment. An attempt at bandage for the night was removed by you in half a minute!
You filled up the mind space freed up because of the covid restrictions. Fear, apprehension, worry marked this space. Dilip manages hospitals and I work for rural communities. The news from both was of difficulties. Parents, families, friends, colleagues in faraway places, not being able to meet physically, not being able to travel had confined us both physically and mentally. You took over that space with your presence. You became our “here and now”. You became the positive distraction. Our phones filled up with tales of you, pictures and videos, numbers of pet parents, vets, cat groups.
I kept saying you came with many guardian angels. How else can one explain your survival? Appearing suddenly from somewhere, pregnant, finding a regular source of food and a safe place to sleep, all your kittens found homes, all the advice came on time, and the connections for your surgery, boarding to heal post-surgery, friends who came every day to give you medicine for ten days without fail. We figuring out everything with the help of others, from the litter box, to food, to toys, how to take care of you, you healed so well. This house worked perfectly, ground floor with a door to the yard and a space marked for you to look out into the open. It seemed perfect.
Just that one moment when may be all your guardian angels blinked, you climbed that transformer. We had feared the tom cat, the mommy cat, dogs, vehicles, but never thought of the permanent monstrous danger so close.
In the sudden shock of losing you, my convoluted thinking went on a rampage, dissecting your loss, attempts to find out the reason why a harmonious, peaceful, happy family of three had to go through this grief. Tears roll down from my eyes and heart bleeds in silence.
In over twenty-five years of knowing Dilip, am aware of his special quality where birds and animals come to him very easily (except that one time when a male goat tried to headbutt him 🙂 ). With you, what I saw up close is this language of love in all its intricate details. Soothing you, talking to you, combing you, the tone, the gestures, I had never seen anything like that before Pudgy. You brought it all out.
If anything is of solace, you did not die loveless, not a stray, begging for food on the road, uncared. You died happy and healthy. As I speak of how we lost you to more people, I am told of the sufferings of other electrocuted cats. I say a prayer inside that you did not suffer. I did not have to see you suffer.
There was something very kind about you. Even at the end, you left us on a Saturday. So that we were both home to say good bye. Not alone to face the parting and an empty house. As I describe your passing over to others, and how so many have suffered worse because of electrocution, I realise how blessed you were, and how fortunate we are to have had you in our lives. You lived deep in the short life.
Let her go, friends tell. I am thankful for the human consolations. We express as we have known, understood, seen. For all those who do not communicate like humans, speak a different dialect, care in a very different way. To care for them and love them is a kind of its own.
We wondered if you will be safer and happier in a farm house, or as a house cat. Consulted many and finally the conclusion was to keep you in your territory, an inside and outside cat. Best of both worlds. Sadly it did not work.
The grief is for you, for many conversations that we could have had and much love that remained to be showered. Your deworming medicine scheduled for December is unopened. A carriage is in the waitlist in my amazon cart as it was not available. Just that day I opened a large packet of dry food for you when back. You only ate a mouthful that day as if in a hurry to step out. And never came back.
Friends bring up adopting another and giving a home. We don’t know which one will prevail. The love you filled us with or the sorrow of losing you. There was just one Pudgy who walked on that path and sat near our steps. Love and joy can spring from unexpected sources in unexpected manner, you showed us. Whether we have the strength to submit ourselves to another being again? The huge void left in us by a tiny cat with a big purpose. This was our closest grief together.
Pudgudi, as I parallelly tuck you away and seek you out, clean the poo, throw the litter, pack your toys and medicines for donation, pick your hair from almost everywhere, tears rolling down my eyes the whole time. I sit on those very steps in the yard, which you took, several times every day, to come in and go out, I look for a message from you. Are you in the newly sprouted leaves? Are you in the Indian robins merrily playing in the yard? Or the magpies back again as they tend to hop on the ground and you must have scared them away? The rats are back as well, I see their destruction in the nights.
I dust my kindle after months. With nothing particular in my mind, I tap on something. It takes me to another page, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a book I have never even heard of appears
“The Cat that Went to Heaven”….
So the old woman put down the basket and opened the lid. Nothing happened for a moment. Then a round, pretty white head came slowly above the bamboo, and two big yellow eyes looked about the room, and a little white paw appeared on the rim. Suddenly, without moving the basket at all, a little white cat jumped out on the mats and stood there as a person might stand who scarcely knew if she were welcome. Now that the cat was out of the basket, the artist saw that she had yellow and black spots on her sides, a little tail like a rabbit’s, and that she did everything daintily. “Oh, a three-colored cat,” said the artist. “Why didn’t you say so from the beginning? They are very lucky, I understand.”
“May I humbly suggest,” said the housekeeper, “that we call this cat Good Fortune?”
In came Good Fortune, the moment that the door was slid open. She ran to the picture, and looked and looked as though she could never look enough. Then she gazed at the artist with all her gratitude in her eyes.
And then Good Fortune fell dead, too happy to live another minute.
PS: (the story in brief) IN ANCIENT JAPAN A STRUGGLING ARTIST IS ANGERED WHEN his housekeeper brings home a tiny white cat he can barely afford to feed. But when the village’s head priest commissions a painting of the Buddha for a healthy sum, the artist softens toward the animal he believes has brought him luck. According to legend, the proud and haughty cat was denied the Buddha’s blessing for refusing to accept his teachings and pay him homage. So when the artist, moved by compassion for his pet, includes the cat in his painting, the priest rejects the work and decrees that it must he destroyed. It seems the artist’s life is ruined as well—until he is rewarded for his act of love by a Buddhist miracle.
“Oh, the Compassionate One!” For where the last animal had stood was now only white silk that seemed never to have felt the touch of ink; and the great Buddha, the Buddha whom he had painted reclining with hands folded upon his breast, had stretched out an arm in blessing, and under the holy hand knelt the figure of a tiny cat, with pretty white head bowed in happy adoration.
The reality is, you adopted us. And we are so full of gratitude for your presence in our lives. For the endless conversations you have opened us to. You were the only best thing that happened in the pandemic. Yours would be the fondest memory of this otherwise wretched time.
Universe came together to bless your life.
The little girl asked me to tell a story. Like the earlier one of you. This is my cathartic out-pour.
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