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.



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