Friday, August 29, 2014

'Cat'astrophic memories on this blog's seventh birthday!

Today marks seven years of this blog's existence! I know it has been sadly neglected of late, but let me assure you, dear readers, that I constantly have good intentions of posting, and so much to share, and the hope that I will pull up my blogging socks really soon. The following are stories which have been ready to share for quite some time, so here goes:

When we moved to Lucknow in the early eighties, we had to manage without a fridge for a few days.
During those few days, the biggest problem was making sure that the milk did not spoil till the next morning, which meant boiling it a couple of times, and keeping it safe from whichever stray cat decided that it could get into the kitchen. We were slowly acquiring some worldly goods including furniture, as we had moved from a furnished flat abroad. The cat was smarter than we were, until my younger daughter actually stuck a notice in the kitchen, requesting Billi Mausi not to drink our milk.
It worked, and then the fridge came, and that was the end of that particular problem.
                 A few years later I was visiting my cousin in Allahabad, and learned that her house was plagued by an even smarter cat. If she ever forgot to lock the fridge, the visiting cat would put her claws into the rubber gasket lining the door, and pull it open, and raid whatever she could. My youngest child had just started talking then, and would narrate, with big round eyes, the story of his maasi, fridge, cat and taala.
                 Many years later, at the behest of our youngest son, on several mornings the spouse and I  would take a bowl of milk down to our building garden and feed the stray kitten he had found there, until she was strong enough to leave the shelter of our garden and fend for herself in the great wide world. Cats were also wonderful to read about: Paul Gallico's Thomasina comes to mind, as does the more recent The Dalai Lama's Cat, by David Michie.
But cats invading my home were another story..........

                   When we lived in a small township in Tamil Nadu, our house was fitted with Netlon screens, a nylon mesh attached to the window frames with Velcro tapes. Good enough to keep out household pests, we thought, when we moved in to the flat. Little did we know........

                    My oldest sister-in-law and her husband were celebrating their golden anniversary that year, and so we travelled to Jaipur to attend the celebrations. My parents stayed alone for the couple  of days that we were away, knowing that it was a short trip, and that we had good neighbours who would help them in case of need. Our township was a couple of hours away from Chennai, and my return flight was a late one. I was sure that my parents would be fast asleep when I got home. (The spouse had to travel on work from Delhi, so I was returning alone). However, both of them were awake and anxiously waiting for me, and all the internal doors were tightly closed, and the house was stifling. There had been an influx of kittens, three or four of them, and they had managed to keep them out of the bedrooms by keeping the doors firmly shut. We finally retired for the remains of the night. I was quite upset that all my arrangements for my parents' well being in my absence were not fool proof, or should I say kitten proof?.

                    The next morning I investigated the matter. The sitting room windows were kept open for ventilation, ostensibly safe from pests with the Netlon screens. The bottom of one screen was completely loose, the mother cat must have pushed it open. I remembered wondering how the lid of the pan of ghee I had made some days earlier had mysteriously fallen to the floor........
The bedrooms and the kitchen were kitten free. Which meant that the kittens were hiding in the drawing room, behind the sofas or floor length curtains. I opened the front door and one escaped.
I chased the remaining two into the second balcony, but how to release them from there? I couldn't leave them there to starve either. I scooped one up into the handle of the walking stick and tossed it onto the lawn below, hoping that it would survive the one-storey drop. Seeing it land safely on all fours, I quickly despatched the other one as well, and then went in to make tea for us all.