How does one mourn some people?

How many times has he dropped me and picked me from the railway station? I have had a long, both amazing, yearned and also difficult association with trains. The good first. I love a train journey. Nothing compares with sitting near a clean, glass window, or on the steps and watch a forest, a hillock, paddy fields, goats, waving kids pass by. What has been hard, is their timings, and the delays. My train to Mumbai for studies was at 03:45 am. When I started working, train to the coordination office involved taking the last bus at 12 am, to reach the railway station to catch the train at 6am. Later, when I started connecting to an airport, the connecting train was at 5am. It also meant after an early morning flight, the train journey was close to 10 hours with delays. The day would start at 4 am and end around 11pm. I have been subjected to 10-to-24-hour delays. I can go on, but I know you get it.

Since we found him, at least a decade ago, his auto was our designated transport at home. my parents do not own a vehicle. Pick ups and drops, and also to visit others in the city was always by autos which are easy to get. No uber etc those days but once cell phones came, it was easy. He had come to know the houses of all the friends and relatives. So you only needed to tell where to go, relax and stare at your city with nostalgic eyes. His was a big Piaggio auto rickshaw. Lots of space, so much so that I could never sit without holding on to something for the fear of being shifted around like popcorns in a machine. If you shopped, you could leave it in the auto. If you wanted something specific to buy, he would take you there. He would wait. He would hold the hand of my father and bring him to the auto rickshaw, drive slowly considering his age. He would even do some post office work, bank work and any other you needed done.

When he drops me to the railway station, he would wait. Help me with the luggage. Meanwhile chatting away about his children, a son and a daughter, how he wants them to study and find a job. About his relatives living in other cities. He would say with pride how he takes his entire family of four on the auto for as long as 200 kilometres!

Then the pandemic embarked upon us. And nobody could travel or stepped out. So after March 2020, when I last visited, there was not a need for auto rickshaw. I called his phone few times to run some errands for my parents long distance, but could not connect. I wondered if he had to look for an alternate profession and is doing something else. But why would the call not go through at all?

He had mentioned while chatting away, that he sometimes does some work for a post office. I looked up on the net, found few numbers, took a chance and called. I asked the gentleman, hesitantly that I am looking for a certain Balaji who used to be an autorickshaw driver and was related to someone in the post office.

“He was not well and did not recover”, said the gentleman on the other side. I don’t know what illness, where he lived, no information on how to reach his family.

Always helpful, always soft spoken, never an argument.

How does one mourn some people? A face only in the memory.

The cats in our lives

Having taken care of Kittu and Pudgy, two street cats, who both came with very little time on earth, we were hesitant to get involved again. Momila fought with our Pudgy tooth and nail, terrorizing with her growls and power.

I first saw Momila when we were moving to this house. She was sleeping in the yard. Momi and Tom are the primary cats of this area. In these four and half years, there has been at least two pregnancies each year. Like a ritual, Momila (so the name, always mothering) will deliver somewhere, keep moving and then most of the kitties would disappear, or one or two show up when they are older. Momi is a disgruntled, frowny, grouchy cat who fiercely protects her territory. I ascribe all this to her life on the streets, her survival shields as a female cat.

We started feeding Momila since November 2020 because she looked pregnant again, only a fat belly, rest was all skin and bone. We had just lost Pudgy, and were grief stricken. Momi would wait for us at a designated place on the road, a fussy eater for a feral. Thanks to the pandemic, we were not travelling, and it became a mutual habit. We will sit with her, pet and cajole, coaxing her to eat.

Long ago, I had chanced upon the stall of People for Animals (PfA) in the Lalbagh Flower Show. I gave a tiny donation and took their number. Later when Pudgy came to our life, I reached out to the cat community for advice. Once she was spayed and vaccinated and preferred to be an inside outside cat, that’s when I had first spoken to Colonel Dr. Navaz at PfA. I wanted to check if Pudgy can be a farm cat, moved to a vast space with less threat from vehicles, humans, other cats and dogs. He had thoroughly explained the significance of territory and how shifting may not work at all. Since then, I have been in touch with PfA. The rescued owls stole my heart.

January 2021, Momi delivered a litter of five. Adorable, cute two orange and white, two black and white and one calico. I built a nursery with cardboard boxes and brought all of them home. While the kitties had a blast, playing, sleeping, jumping, Momi whined and cried and cried to be let out. The yard was full of scaffolding, and having lost Pudgy when she climbed up a transformer, we did not want to take any chances and left her at her hideout. Fortunately, all kitties got human slaves and happy homes waiting for them. However, on the day of adoption, Momi got an inkling and escaped with two kitties to another campus. Three of them got adopted.

In the next three weeks, once her mammary glands dried, I planned for her spay. Colonel Dr Navaz at PfA made special consideration for Momi and sent for her pick up. Momi refused and sprinted at the sight of the carrier and that was that, end of story.

Come March, Momi was pregnant again! Early May, four more kitties, all white and brown this time. They would come out cautiously when we went to feed Momi and started licking the wet food and biting the dry food. I had started taking the carrier and keeping food inside to lure them inside. Momi was still suspicious but ventured inside the carrier at times. She preferred sitting on top and dozing. In about a month, one of the kitties was not there. And suddenly, the rest three kitties went missing. Just for a happy ending, I want to believe all found homes.

Momi looked lost, lounging here and there, with her mammary glands full. Suddenly one day, she followed us, entered our house and got all nervous. Neighbours have complained earlier if cats come into the building. She kept coming back to our yard that day, where in many years of making it welcoming for birds, finally a warbler had made a nest and there were three eggs.

That day during her lunch, Momi got inside the carrier and I could lock it. I saw that I was in the position to be a conduit. This was the one chance to get her spayed. I had to take a call quickly as she was on heat and Tomcat was stalking her again.

I called Dr. Navaz. He explained it is a difficult attempt but he will try. I veered between opening the door and letting her out or getting her spayed and bring an end to the endless cycles of child birth and torture of rearing and adoption. I sat near the carrier while she settled down inside and occasionally mewed in such sad tones that I was already pained even before she went to PfA.

The team had a tough time restraining her for surgery. Post surgery, Momi refused to eat. I suggested all that I know that she loves, raw meat, raw fish, whiska. The doctor tried broth, milk, cooked meat. But she just refused to eat.  Dr. was absolutely certain that she needs to be released in her territory. Her wound was clean and she was given pain killer and antibiotics. He was sure she needs to be back to her familiar surroundings to recover, else if she continues not to eat, it can be fatal.

She came back looking stressed and haggard. Scratched a known tree, climbed a boundary wall and walked around a bit. She continued to not eat anything we offered. I was worried sick, with anxiety gnawing my insides. Guilty and sad, I tried every two hours with all kinds of food. She sometimes drank a little water, came when I called, but just did not eat.

Then one day, having refused chicken, curd, milk, paneer, wet whiska, dry drool, she moved to the garden and pooped. I have never felt that happy to see poo! Immediately called Dr Navaz and he said “this means she is eating from somewhere else, and something she likes”. She will recover, he said. That evening Momi licked a little wet whiska form my husband’s finger and I had tears rolling down my eyes.

Over ten days of anxiety, praying for her recovery, of reasoning with my guilt but failing, of trading any good thing I have ever done for her life to be saved, Momi is galloping again! She is socialising, talking, and caught a snake recently, garnering some support from the otherwise unkind unconcerned urban neighbourhood.

Deep gratitude to Colonel Dr Navaz and PfA.

Ma’s Ambila (ଆମ୍ବିଳ )

“Will you please make Ambila?”, a request often made to my mother. Nieces, nephews, co-sisters, pregnant women, almost everyone irrespective of gender and age, has the same craving for Ambila. In fact, if your travel distance is within four to six hours, she will wake up early morning, cook it and pack it for people. Pronounced with a tongue twister ଳ (Laa, found in Odia and Malayalam language), it is made throughout the year, not as common as a weekly mutton curry but at the same time not as rare as a seasonal jackfruit curry.

While I am amazed by the variety of cooking across our country, am also totally bowled over by dishes that are made using ingredients that are older, little late from being fresh but not to be thrown away. Like the ladoos from leftover chapati, stuffed paratha from old curries and the ubiquitous mixed vegetable curries.

Ambila accommodates many vegetables in small quantity, curd that is older and sour. It’s also interesting that one of its signature ingredients is bamboo shoot, which can also be optional.

Those who know Odisha, will agree with me that Western Odisha cuisine is simple. It never required a lot of oil or spice. And is largely made with what’s available around you. The taste of the vegetable stays predominant in the curry. You can taste its distinct texture and flavour. That’s one of the reasons why I never liked raw banana curry. It tasted like mud. Until I started living in south India and discovered many delicious ways of cooking raw banana.

While the coast had its fish, the inland communities depended more on agriculture. Every family grew few vegetables in the kitchen garden. And when they travelled to nearby cities in search of jobs, they tilled the land around them. My fondest memory of growing up in Rourkela was eating many varieties of fruits that came from neighbour’s gardens. We kids will take a consensus, “today we should get guavas from this house” and proceed to climb the tree. Yes, the same Rourkela which many were not aware it existed, till the steel plant started supplying oxygen to other States in India to help bridge the supply crisis.

Ma, otherwise a purist about how things are done, no short-cuts, in poojas and customs, will candidly admit that cooking has always been influenced. Under the larger umbrella of recipe, everyone has a different touch. Few pieces of garlic, a little asafoetida, sprig of curry leaf, many such small tweaks give a completely different aroma and taste.

Process:

In a deep wok, take two big cups of water, about 500 ml. Bring it to boil. Add turmeric powder and salt. Add the small brinjal cut in length to the boiling water. Let it cook for two minutes. Then add the cut yellow pumpkin. Followed by the sautéed ladiesfinger. Cover to cook.

In another deep pan, add two tea spoon oil. Add the big chunks of tomato cut into four pieces and cover. Here is what I do since I do not like to eat big chunks of tomato. Leaving behind only two pieces in the pan, I take out most of them after cooking it till soft, let it cool, and then puree them along with the curd and wheat flour using a mixer.

To the two pieces of tomato on the pan, add the bamboo shoot. Let it cook together on low flame for few minutes. Add two table spoon water if it’s too dry. Increase the flame to high. With a spatula, stirring in quick circles, slowly pour the whisked curd and keep stirring.  This is very important to keep the texture of the curd intact in the heated process of cooking. The other vegetables would have cooked by now. Slowly pour them into this mixture and combine them together by folding in. Cover and switch off. In a separate seasoning pan, take one teaspoon oil, add panchphutana, let it splutter, add curry leaves, one each of green and red chilli, pour this into the liquid and put the cover back on top.

Served with rice, though this is not a replacement for daal, often times, when there is Ambila, many of us skip the daal and other curries, and begin the meal by drinking one bowl full of this heavenly broth. You can take a fragrant green chili and crush it in for added flavour and spice.

Ingredients:

Two big ladiesfinger, cut into 2-inch pieces, sautéed with tiny drop of oil to remove gooeyness

Two small brinjal with stem, cut into fourpieces in length

Yellow pumpkin, peeled, 2-inch pieces

One radish (if you like the pungent smell, cut in length, totally optional)

Two big red sour tomatoes

One big cup, about 200 grams of three or more days old curd, whisked to flowing consistency

And lastly, optional but one ingredient that changes the flavour dramatically, one big table spoon bamboo shoots

Water

One tea spoon turmeric powder

Salt to taste (about three teaspoons for this quantity)

One table spoon of wheat flour

For seasoning:

Panchphutana (an equal mix of black mustard, cumin, fennel, black cumin and fenugreek seeds, pre-mixed also available in grocery stores)

One dry red chilli, one green chilli

Curry leaves

One table spoon mustard oil (vegetable oil also works)

What would life be without Liberal Arts?

Many years ago, in a conversation with academic oriented acquaintances, someone said “what would life be without Liberal Arts”? I, an eternal student of humanities, inclined always towards Arts, wondered, do people really care? Is it the Brick, or the Wall or the Mural or the Graffiti or the Terrain or the Crafts or the Communities? Is Eiffel Tower the Lattice or the Height? Do people marvel at what’s buried under the serenity of a reservoir or at the dam? What is the footfall in a Mall as against a Museum on any given day?

The Berlin Wall

I know. It is not necessarily either or. It could be both. But if one were to pick? Where would the numbers be?

I re-visited this and many of my other notions in 2020. Pandemic induced reality check on Life’s goals, travel plans, bucket lists, assumptions.

And I concurred. “What would life be without Liberal Arts?”

George Town, Penang

Most of us have been grappling with the last ten months. No matter how often we travelled before the pandemic, where all we went, on work, on leisure or to run errands, that has changed for everyone. So, what filled that extra Time, besides the household chores?

Let’s begin with the memes. One a day, keeps the blues away. Plenty and you are forwarding the whole day! Have you noticed how creative they are? One image, few lines, two words and there, you cannot stop laughing!  Some spoons and plates, some poetry, quotes and jokes and I have to admit the air darkened with worries clears up to let some sunlight inside our heads. Not to forget the lifesaving OTT platform. Regional films, Hollywood, Bollywood, old forgotten films and serials. Films made during the world on pause. We were not just randomly flipping channels but searching, finding, watching and sending out recommendations. The complete process of savoring the investment in watching a film.

The books, unputdownable stories of history and romance and struggles. Between the lines are our current realities with the deep sighs.

To really wait for the newspaper. Not like a quick glance over breakfast or to kill time at the airport, but to really relish G Sampath and Santosh Desai, to chew every word, every idea and every conclusion slowly for its taste and aftertaste.

Did you get to read the poem by Kitty O’ Meara, “And the people stayed home…”, in the roots of a tree laden with stars, a human and animals living in peaceful coexistence? Won’t that be one of the best images to hold on to?

And the People Stayed Home

Music, the soul soothing nostalgic faraway land. When a song reminded you of a friend in college and you actually picked up the phone and called her to say “you recall that guy who went up on the stage in our college festival and dedicated this song to you?” You both rediscovered and dusted the friendship which you thought had gone redundant over the years. The old albums, or the pictures folder in your laptop, flashback to a family wedding, black and white images.  

Karaoke singing Heal the World or closing your eyelids to Andrea Bocelli’s Amazing Grace, listening to T.M Krishna or humming along Woh subah kabhi toh aayegi, while we waited for Science to deliver the vaccine, what has kept us going are these tiny little sparks of creativity that lifts the soul from despair, inch by inch.

Remember when the Titanic was sinking, and the band continued to play? (from a meme)

Anamika’s Birthday

She has been anxious. Not been able to travel, especially to see her parents worry her. This is one hope that most children in faraway lands live with, that all it takes is few hours. The pandemic has changed that. One can never take travel for granted.

She said a prayer for the day to be a happy one, doing her eye and neck exercise, a practice for over a decade. The long evening walk at Cubbon park has been split into two small ones in the morning and evening on the by lane in front of the house. The added benefit being they have come to know and interact with people who are in the neighbourhood, children, security guards, drivers, dogs and cats. A wave of hand as mask makes smile invisible, a treat for the dogs and cats, a look at the birds, buds, trees and colours weave into their walk. Ever since Pkutty the cat has inserted her demands into their schedule, walk or not, they awake to oblige.  She likes her first meal between 5-5:30 am.

She goes about her day of choosing products made ethically, honey extracted by traditional tribal communities of Kotagiri, reuse and recycle, the lemon peel to make bio enzymes, the tealeaf for her garden, so that only little goes into the landfill.

As a continued ritual since childhood, she always wears new clothes on her birthday. This year it’s also Onam, and homebound, she decides its special and there needs to be new clothes. One for birthday (a saree bought from a friend’s store), one for Onam (a set mundu bought in 1994 when she worked with an organisation in Kerala for a month)  and one to just chill ( a dress bought from Porgai, a handmade initiative in a tribal area). An ode to handloom and handmade.

She thinks of the year that has gone by. The trek to Dudhsagar falls with friends, walking on the railway tracks, soaked to the bone, sipping tea sitting near a rivulet, the moss, the lichens, the bracket fungi, the celebration of joyous earth in pouring rain, is one of her most cherished memories.  She accepts non-closure as a form of closure, for things that have not been what she had thought them to be. She feels good about writing, one focus is on helping artisans.

The lockdown has been hard. Much of her work involved travel which has stopped. But she realises it has been harder on many others. People have lost jobs, lost their cities, troubled by how to meet critical health needs. The corona saviours, running health care,  seeing that hospitals function despite the risk to their own lives, domestic helps, people who keep the city clean, keep the essential infrastructure running, stepping out every day, who do not have the luxury of work from home, for families who have lost their members to the disease, for friends and family unable to say a proper goodbye, she says a prayer for all of them.

A full day in a beautiful way, from video birthday wishes, group calls, family narrative of childhood memories, pictures of owls, flowers, books, food have kept flowing.  

A Brahma Kamal stem, Queen of the Night that had travelled from one friend’s home in Bangalore to another friend’s home in Pune, bloomed tonight (Epiphyllum oxypetalum is a species of cactus, rarely blooms and only at night, and its flowers wilt before dawn). A rare connect.

With a deep sense of gratitude. And hope that this paused life is making us think of our responsibility to our community and the earth, and that some things need to change.

“I can’t see it Lord, but I Know You can.”

Remembering the Lal Bagh Flower Show

Not surprised but disappointed. August 2020 would not host the Lal Bagh Flower show. Twice every year 15th August and 26th January, large sections of Bangalore waits for this event lasting for ten wonderful days,  to witness its flowers, trees, moss, lichen…Nature in its full glory.

I certainly attend one of the two if not both. Gradually, over a decade of living in Bangalore, finding my way around the city, I have come to form a pattern. I often take public transport to reach The Lal Bagh. The last trip was a pleasant ride in the new Namma Metro with a change from purple to green line at the Majestic station. I then walk to Lal Bagh and buy my entry ticket. I particularly like the bougainvillea canopied path and reach the entry area near the rock.  Having visited many times, I first use the facility of the buggies and take one round of the entire garden, filling my eyes with the resplendent sights. The tree’s eye view of the world beneath.

The oldest tree at Lal Bagh

I listen to the commentary of the bogey driver who double-up as guides, passing on oral history of the garden as they have heard, same every time, pointing out rare and old trees, the lawn clock, the bandstand, the lake and finally stopping at the glass house. I get down near the ancient rock formation and climb till the Kempegowda tower, pausing to get a view of the city from the top.

The rock formation and the Kempegowda tower

Descending I enter the bonsai garden wondering at this concept of dwarfing the magnificent trees! I then walk as I feel like, choosing paths that are empty.

Commissioned by Hyder Ali in 1850, completed by his son Tipu Sultan, The Lal Bagh passed through many hands, and each added to the garden what they thought would make it more beautiful or useful. From rare plants and trees, horticulture species, even vegetables have adorned the soil of Lal Bagh. This two hundred and forty acre garden has over a thousand species of trees some being more than hundred years old. Thankfully, despite efforts at commercialising this space, the changing leaderships influencing its character, it has managed to remain conservation inclined.

These shows also became an occasion to meet friends. We would sit on one of the benches or the grass and talk under the trees. Then eat at the stalls, or someone would have packed a snack and tea in a thermos or we would walk to MTR for a coffee or a meal. Both my parents and in-laws, sharing either an interest in walking or gardening would love the visit and talk about the flower shows years later.

The central glasshouse where the flower decoration is held was constructed in 1889-90 with cast iron from Glasgow, and was later extended in 1935 with steel from Mysore. Many schoolchildren from all age groups are brought in droves by their teachers. They obediently fall into a line, hands extended on the shoulder, walking in the midst of giant flower arrangements and sculptures.  Supposed to be an exposure to nature, plants, ecology, history, you name it, but most children walk by quickly as soon as the teacher clicks few photos and head to the food stalls. Such a wasted opportunity, I feel. The stalls are of all kinds giving fillip to local produce, I head to check out plants, planters, seeds and garden care.

Bangalore despite everything still has relatively kind weather, gentle to the trees and pleasant to its people. I have always come back with a feeling of gratitude for this amazing visual extravagance of nature and the simple but rare joys in an urban city.  Confined to home for over five months, unable to access most community spaces, theatres, musical evenings, malls, physical fitness centres, travel, I cannot wait to go for a walk and stand in queue to buy tickets for The Lal Bagh Flower Show 2021.

Hoping Nature has healed a little bit during this time.

I am Pudgy

I am Pudgy.

Or so they think. Just because the fellow I hung around with was skinny, does not mean I am pudgy. And mind you, I came pregnant. So it was just the tummy. And of course I was hungry. So I ate more. So..so they have right to body shame me? That’s why I don’t respond to them when they call me by that name. I respond to those silly sounds they make. And between us, they look very silly as well, making those schunp schunp schunp sound , twisting their lips. 🙂 🙂

So my friend, the white and black Kittu brought me here. I was in some other campus. But he was very fond of me. He said, come, there is food, two friendly humans, and quiet area, good places to nap. So I started following him. The two friendly humans, let’s call them D & A, live in the house next to the staircase, They were feeding Kittu. They got food for him once in the morning and once in the evening, one bowl of curd and one bowl with few spoons of rice, small pieces of roti, some fish smelling bits of brown. He didn’t eat any of that but they will try to feed him with a spoon. And when I was willing to eat anything, they would stop me till he finished. Just because he was skinny.

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Then they started bringing two bowls of everything. Still I could not help feeling discr iminated. I always wanted to first see what he got. What if they were giving him something tastier?  Then D would lift me from the bench and put me down. I will again try to get back as it made me even more curious and more determined. Kittu did not mind. He was just looking here and there always. Very fickle. No concentration.

Overall, it was all right. We managed to catch a mouse every now and then. A & D had a yard with plants, few lizards, and insects, which was ok to sniff and catch for a snack. The boundary of this yard had few good sleeping spots. In the evening, we hung around on the road, as there were another set of humans (M & S) who gave us food. They had cat smell on them so maybe there is one in their house. The small in size  humans also said hello to us. Some of them are very fond of us and some are scared. There are many cars parked on that road and Kittu was making a habit of chewing the cover of one, making smaller tear into big holes. I told him he should not do that. But he was very stubborn and playful. He would also go here and there without informing. He will come late for breakfast. I always told him to be on time.

But one day he did not turn up for breakfast, again. D kept his food on top of the windowpane, away from me. But when he did not come for quite some time, they gave it to me. I ate and waited. I roamed around looking for him in our common places. I rolled on the sand to get attention from the humans, to ask if they have seen him. By evening, I saw D & A looking heartbroken. They were listening to a human sitting on top of two wheels that move. He was saying something to them about  Kittu Master. I gathered he was not coming back. I was very sad 😦

The babies were growing bigger inside me. I moved slowly, slept most of the time. For two mornings D &A were not at home. They  left my food with Rana . But I went near their door nonetheless. Then they came back. For many days after that only A stepped out. Then D also started walking again but with a stick. Sometimes when he brought the stick too close to me, I bit it. Those things make me nervous.

I figured one car was not moving at all, just parked there on the basement. And right on top of it was a ledge. Perfect for hiding! I gave birth there one rainy night. A kept looking for me. I could not eat much though I came out and circled around her legs so that she does not worry.

That big fat ugly tom was beginning to get an inkling of my babies. So I moved them to another ledge when everyone was sleeping in the night. It was good place again. But one night when it rained, there was water everywhere. I had to bring them out. They were exactly a month old.

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Just as I was bringing the first, D saw me. I placed him on the first landing. But both D & A went berserk bringing out brown boxes of different sizes.  D picked up my baby and put him in the box. I followed him. He placed the box in a dark corner in their house. I went inside the box and it was a fine box with a soft cloth. But I did not want to stay there. I went down and took the other two one by one to the same corner on the first landing of the staircase. Stacked them there and parked myself next to them.

D then brought out the box and Rana lifted all of us into the box. It was all right. Babies got comfortable and started drinking milk. Some humans took our picture. But some humans looked angry, their eyebrows knotted. Our box was moved to the car park. D gave me lunch and as I was eating, they put the box back on the ledge where I was earlier. It was a dry ledge but I did not like the basement anymore. Babies were bigger, crawling and they might fall. There also was the tomcat. And all these big cars with big wheels. I picked them up again in my mouth and brought them back to the corner and stacked them there. Again some other humans took the box back to basement. But in the night when everyone was sleeping, I moved them back again. I was exhausted climbing up and down so many times.

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Oh the next day was so awful! It was going fine. I got breakfast. But again they took the box and kept it next to D&A’s car. The stupid babies crawled out and climbed into the engine space of the car and did not know their way out. It took three drivers to bring them out. I watched horrified but they kept climbing back. For some time I also went and sat on top of the tyre.

Then, I saw two new humans come close so I ran and hid under another car.  One of them picked two of my babies and kissed them and put them in a box. I was scared. The third child had crawled deep  inside the red car. Again there drivers took him out with lot of difficulty. Just as he was out, a smaller size human came. A gave him another box and he took the third inside. A was saying next week but everyone told her let him go.

I could not understand what was happening. I was petrified and incoherent. This another human who usually pets me was talking to A. she soothed my whiskers and patted my head. So I followed her. I did not know where she was going, but I did not know what to do either. I followed her and sat down. Then I heard the sound of a door being shut.

O hell! I was locked in.

I tried to find a way out but there were none. Guess nobody could hear me. I could hear the schunp schunp schunp of D & A but my cry was not getting heard. I heard A’s footsteps.. schunp schunp schunp then D’s footsteps schunp schunp schunp. They were looking  for me where I am usually, but I was not in my usual places. I was locked in a strange room with strange things around me.

So from 12 o clock in the afternoon and the whole of the night nobody heard me. No one even came close to my side. I did not know what to do. I could not even cry loudly anymore.

And suddenly D appeared! I don’t know how but he was there. He brought his hand next to the mesh on the window and I felt relieved. But he still could not open the door and let me out. A came. More humans came. Two small size humans came. But nobody was opening the door.

I kept hearing A, footsteps, humans talking. I thought something is going to happen. I sat quietly mewing softly.

Voila, the door opened! D called me and I slowly emerged and stepped out. A had my food ready in that corner. I ate a bit and ran up the stairs looking for my babies.

Then, all hell broke loose. One human was shouting at A. I heard words like germs, infection, no pet policy, do not feed, not inside campus…were they talking about me? Cats and germs? Isn’t there something called Corona everywhere?

I had messed inside the room. I had pooped. A went and got broom, and some other things to clean the room. But this other human continued to shout. Then I heard A shouting back also. And I could not contain myself and kept running up and down the stairs which seemed to infuriate the human shouting at A. All in all, there was lot of shouting.

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Later D&A let me inside the house. D gave me a nice back-rub. He kept saying poor girl, traumatised and some such words. I was feeling a little better.

 

 

 

 

 

It has been a week. I now come to D&A’s garden to eat. Sometimes they let me take a tour of their house. When they do, I like to stand near the window and peek at the outside world. How does it look for the people inside, with a safe roof over their heads and continuous supply of food.Screenshot_20200801-200105_WhatsApp

I sniff at their bookshelf…it has the smell of James Herriot, Gerald Durrell, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and my favourite, The Dalai Lama’s Cat.

Most of the time am sleeping. The tom is stalking me again and there is another new cat. Even Grouchy, the multicoloured she cat is trying to corner me.

I hear D&A discussing the V word and the S word. I won’t go. But then yesterday D combed my body and tail and it felt so good that I may end up going where they take me.

We cats are like that.

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The water hyacinth

cropped-20200707_093324.jpgInvasive and often covers an entire water body. It’s a weed, water hyacinth(Eichhornia crassipes). Very difficult to manage or get rid of, like Lantana camara, Prosopis juliflora. One does not know how they have journeyed across the globe and found suitable areas to flourish.

If you have ever travelled by train between Ahmedabad and Anand in Gujarat, which I did very frequently, in many occasions and circumstances, when my husband and I played hide and seek between these two places in pursuit of jobs based in these two cities. We choose the jobs or the jobs choose us in such a way that we ended up living in both these cities. They seemed a comfortable commutable distance though if your work did not get over on time to catch the train, you would be looking at a much-delayed arrival at home. I did only weekend commute and a friend with a management degree was quick to point out that I was clever to get a monthly pass and I break-even with only four back and forth trips a month. So money was well invested. I got the quarterly pass as I was never sure I would be out of office with time to stand in the queue to buy a ticket.

Back to the water hyacinth. There is a station just before Anand, Kanjari Boriyavi. Even if you are sleeping, you will wake up here because of the stench from a marshy pond near this stop, full of water hyacinth as far as eyes can see.

On some days, the lake will be a sheet of purple with the blooming flowers of the water hyacinth.  And the meditating pond herons.

So when my friend Enakshi, who holds Art introduction classes with children, inspired by the artistic beauty of this flower, brought one plant with her in a take-away plastic box from a trip to Mumbai and shared pictures of the first bloom, it brought back memories.

She modelled the flower for her students in the art class and the result was fabulous.

The flower is so peaceful for an invasive species. The rose and the thorns? The cactus and its bright blooms?

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I got the plants from her and they took almost exactly a month to give me the first bloom.

Enakshi says the flower lives just for one day.

Sights and smells and our memories, twined and tangled…