Cats have always been my least favourite animals. I find them proud, vengeful, aloof, with a too-good-for-you attitude always hanging around them. So it came as a rather unexpected surprise when I fell for – yes you got it right – a cat; and not just a cat but three haughty, snooty and I-will-always-ignore-you-unless-you’re-carrying-food mannered cats.
For a brief period of exactly two weeks, they became the very reason for my existence. I would wake up early because I would be worried that they’d get hungry. I would constantly think about what they are eating/doing during the day while I would be at work. I would rush home as early as my erratic work hours would allow me in the evenings so they wouldn’t be hungry till late night.
The first few days, the feeling was mutual. At least it appeared to me that it was. They would rush in the door whenever I opened it (they are not allowed to sleep inside the house because my sister is partially convinced that they turn into blood sucking monsters at night), they would mew and purr and jump around me, they would wait for me patiently till I returned home and welcome me with such gusto, I was actually convinced that they were equally in love with me.
Then one fine day, I returned home, fixed their dinner and opened the door to the balcony which had become their home. But they weren’t there. I called for them. There was no response. I made all the silly noises that I thought would attract them. But they didn’t come. Finally I put the food out and went inside, hoping that they would return at night after completing whatever adventure they were on right now, because after all, this was home.
They never came back.
To say that I cried because they left would definitely be an exaggeration. But yes, I did feel let down. And miserable.
The first few days, I was in complete denial. I kept telling myself that they were probably killed by another tom cat that keeps doing the rounds in the neighbourhood. Why else would they not be back?
After that I started blaming the mother cat. I kept telling myself that she would have gotten jealous of all the attention that her kids were getting and she was the one who had chased them off. So I started giving step-motherly treatment to her. I stopped feeding her altogether.
I kept blaming everyone around me – my sister, thinking that she radiated negative energy which scared the cats away; my brother – because he never fed them; myself – because I didn’t do enough to ensure that they remained with me…
Slowly, however, it dawned on me that the cats, the little kittens, didn’t actually belong to me. I belonged to them. I didn’t adopt them. They had adopted me. And it was always a known fact that they would, eventually, leave. Stray cats never usually stay at one place. And they never belong to anyone. They are fiercely independent, always looking out for themselves.
Have you ever noticed how cats fight so fiercely for their territory? And how there is nothing you can do about it? It’s entirely the cats’ fight.
And then, one evening, I had left my balcony door open and I was busy laying the table for dinner when all three of them just darted in, mewing and purring crazily, like always, like nothing had changed, like they had never left at all.
I wanted to be angry. I wanted to sulk and ignore them. But I couldn’t.
They left that night too. And they didn’t come back for some nights after that. But this time, I wasn’t, well, hurt. Because, in a way, I had begun to respect their independence. And also because I had finally begun to acknowledge the fact that I couldn’t hold them back.
They came back again recently. And I didn’t fuss around them like I used to. I just let them be – lazing around, playing, mewing, purring. And they stayed for the night.
I felt really proud of myself. Not because they came back, but because I could let them go. And yet they chose come back. To me.
That saying about not clasping sand in my palm because they will slip right through my fingers, but leaving my palm open because that is how they’ll stay there never made more sense.