That summer we had gone for our annual holidays to our grandparents’ place. The farewell with the cousins and the extended family, once the holiday season was over, was always tinged with sadness and pathos. The return journey was a blur, all we could think of was the impending exam season that awaited us once the schools opened.
It was in this state of mind that we reached Patna in the end of June. What awaited us was something of unimaginable proportions. Patna was flooded There had been incessant rains the last two days and the road from the Patna station to our homes lay inundated with knee deep water and we had to pay exorbitant fares to the rickshaw puller and implore him to help us manage the commute with our heavy luggage. We were drenched by the time we got home after a long wait at the station and an even longer journey through those pot-holed, mud and filth filled roads.
There was no electricity once we got home. Those were the days when power cut in smaller cities during summers and monsoons were an everyday occurrence. Out came the torches, candles and the rush to change and make ourselves dry and presentable. No sooner did we open the bathroom door, a creature jumped at us from the dark corners and we let out a yelp that could be heard for miles. Once, we gathered our wits, we managed to direct the torch and saw a gleaming pair of grey eyes twinkling at us, frightened and scared.
Mercifully, the power was restored and it offered us achance to glance at the feline little creature that lurked in the corner, mewing so very softly. It was the most beautiful black kitten, who had somehow built a refuge in this house in these couple of days of heavy downpour. Now that we were back he wasn’t sure of his refugee status, any further.
The mother cat must have abandoned him soon after since we never saw her once we came back. At this juncture, let me be very clear that our family was never ‘catpeople’. We were loyal to the range of pet dogs we seemed to have, one after another and cats were something tobe kept at distance and shooed away, if need be.
But this little one, caught us unaware. The rain showed no sign of abatement. The mother had disappeared. Ousting him out at this juncture did not cross our minds. So we decided to let him stay the night and take a decision in a better frame of mind next morning. Since, he seemed to be hungry too, mother immediately offered some biscuits and dry foods which awe had with us and he seemed todevour it hungrily.
The next morning saw him sleeping on the shelf beside our bed. It was an unspoken agreement that he never stepped on our bed even once during his entire tenure but the moment we got off the bed, he would rub his entire body against us for a pat or a cuddle or food. That was the cue and off, we went to do his bidding and never realised how that little creature carved his special place in our heart with all his understanding gestures. He was very fond of good music and the moment the tape-recorder was put on, he would remain very silent and be fully absorbed in his introspection, for hours on end.
He was with us for two other monsoons. The third monsoon saw him slipping away one evening, never to return. No matter how much we searched, we never again found him but till today the mewing of a cat, reminds us of the one and only cat we loved.