Till We Meet Again

Perhaps when I die, I shall get a warning or a notification of sorts: your time has come; please prepare yourself. And how shall I get that warning, you ask? My cats will come to see me. My cats who are no longer here, that is. Till now, I used to think it would only be my first cat, the beauty in black-and-white, my beloved friend, the wonderfully mature, intelligent and warm one. Now I think: perhaps I shall be lucky enough to see all of them. The one who was white with orange spots, who scratched me in play and made me take an anti-tetanus and understood that she had made a blunder; the one who would simply come and fall asleep behind the statue in our veranda; the one who would begin with a snappy ‘Meaow!’, and after some milk would take it down a couple of notches and respond with a mild ‘Mew.” The same one who, while passing outside the window of our kitchen one day, called my attention to herself with a “Hi,” and after I had expressed my pleasure to see her and asked her to come in, replied with a ‘Nope. Bye,” and walked on.

If I am lucky, the one who has gone away now to join these others, the one who left most recently, shall also come to see me again. She’s the one who looked a bit like a tigress – a young and playful tigress. This is how we became friends: one evening, I realised that the dogs in our alley were barking at a cat who had ran up our frangipani tree. I went up to the roof to help her because cats do this: they often climb up to a height and then have no idea how to get down, the intrepid explorers. On seeing me, she greeted me with a subdued mew, which meant as clearly as possible: ‘Oh, hello. Here we are, in a bit of a spot. Bit scared too, to be honest… Anyway, could you lend a hand?’

So I got a small tub and extended it towards the tree so that she could jump into it and then I would bring her inside the roof. But she made the leap directly into the roof herself, and was soon rubbing herself against my feet, possibly to show her appreciation of my moral support. The dogs were still waiting and barking below the tree, so that could not be an exit. I tried to show her a different route out, stayed with her a few minutes till she had relaxed enough to start the all-important grooming, brought her some milk and left her sipping it.

A few days later, during the day on a weekend, she came and sat down on the wall in front of our house, below the frangipani, and I had no doubt that she had come to renew the acquaintance. I also realised that I had met her before, on the park wall, mewing uncertainly. I had taken some milk to her then too, and she had not only had some of it, but had also rolled over on her back, possibly to assure me that she knew my intentions were noble. Rolling over on her back was her mannerism, actually; we came to see that in the following months.

And today, she has been missing for a week and someone who takes care of cats tells me two of them have been killed recently by dogs near our house. Two plus two = our playful little tigress (perhaps also the timidish tom who would sneak in to lap up the milk she would leave undrunk) is gone.

So long then, love.

 

Chance Meeting

railway track

Chance meeting in a rail compartment,

I hadn’t thought it would be possible.

I had seen her many times

In a red sari

Red as the pomegranate;

Today, she’s wearing a black silk,

She has covered her head

Bordered her face — fair as the white ginger lily.

As if, with the black colour, she has wrapped

A deep distance all around herself,

The distance that is in the last limit of mustard fields

In the blue depths of the saal forest.

My whole heart halted;

I saw a known one in the unknown’s solemnity.

Suddenly, flinging down the newspaper

She greeted me.

The way to social norms was opened,

I started the small talk –

How are you, how’s the family

And so on.

She kept staring out of the window

As if in a gaze that has crossed the touch of intimate days.

She gave a few, very brief replies,

Sometimes none at all.

The impatience of her hands implied –

Why this talk,

So much better than this to stay silent.

I was on the other seat

With her companions.

At one time she asked me with her fingers to come close.

I thought she was rather brave;

I sat down on her same seat.

In the cover of the train’s noise

She said softly,

“Don’t mind,

Where is the time to waste time.

I have to get down at the very next station;

You will go far,

We shall never meet again.

Thus the question whose answer has paused for so long,

I want to hear from you.

Will you tell me the truth?”

I said, “I will.”

She kept her eyes on the sky as she asked,

“Our days that are past

Are they utterly past,

Is nothing left of them.”

I kept quiet for a while;

Then I said,

“All the stars of the night remain

In the depths of the day’s light.”

I wondered, did I make it up?

She said, “Never mind, now go there.”

Everyone got down at the next station;

I went on alone.

 

Translated from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.

(Image: Pexels)

Straw

There was this girl in a TV show who could not ‘get over’ (detestable parlance) her ex, and was being pathetic enough to entertain all his nonsense, to the extent of giving him a lift when he was going to see his current girlfriend (with whom he cheated on this one) and so on. But then, in the midst of this suspension, she happened to realise that the ex had not watered her plants. And suddenly, all at once, she was ‘cured of him’.

And there was this guy in a film who had lost his love to all intents and purposes, fought with his best friend… but he kept the upper lip stiff. Till the hour when he meant to call one friend and ended up calling another. By mistake. (Except that there are no mistakes, as he says.) And then this guy broke into tears.

Suspension is when the dust has settled and you realise that the bomb was dropped on your floor. Or perhaps your floor fell when it had no business to fall. Stupid, selfish floor. Suspension is when you need straws. Suspension is not crossroads because crossroads suggests two or more roads to choose from. Suspension is a lack of anything resembling a road, a path, a track, a route. That is why straws indicate the possibility of a way. Or. They may at least indicate which cannot be the way – which is the no way. To break the donkey’s back or to clutch and survive hangs upon a straw.

But straws are also unreliable – even treacherous. Too often (or is it always?) they move the way the wind blows. You cannot feel the wind if it is too light, but straws being straws will take even a breeze’s direction. And hence. When you have to go towards, every straw will usher and urge. And when you have to go away…

When you have to go away, even straws acquire the audacity to shove you. Or at least pinprick. And pinpricks may well break your back.

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Image: pixabay.