Fifteen years ago, a kitten was found under the car parked outside our house. The animal was puny, unable to even walk. I let Kutti (meaning small, in Tamil) become a part of our family.
Whenever thunder struck, Kutti had a habit of running to sit on my lap. I was displeased, to say the least. (“Will someone take this thing away from me?” I would say.)
“It considers you as its mother, Ma,” my daughter pleaded.
Our maid said with disgust, “You can buy beautiful cats in shops. Why bother with this?”
It took five months after an initial trip to the vet and regular meals with mineral water and lots of love from the grandchildren for Kutti to become normal.
“Kutti is so beautiful now!” exclaimed the maid and the kitten rushed from one end of the room to another with great joy.
(I use the pronoun “it” as we use in Tamil for all beings other than human beings.)
The vet revealed that it had the genitals of both sexes. So the mother must have abandoned it.
One evening after eight months, Kutti jumped with great joy and ran from person to person.
“Something is wrong,” I surmised, confused. The next day, it went missing. Whether it was involved in an accident, or someone stole it, we will never know.Then came a mother cat with three kittens. She stood near the gate and let out a plea.
We gave her some biscuits with no oil or sugar. After two days, when the cat family decided to stay, we brought pellets to feed them with. Only one kitten remained, and soon, it too went missing.
Mummy cat wailed, circling my legs when I was seated.
“Your baby will come back!” I assured, patting her back.
Soon, she had more kittens, of which I remember a black one very well.
At the same time, a brown kitten came through the back gate leading to the main road. Soon we could only hear its meows. It was mummy cat who led us to the kitten’s hiding place – under a huge reservoir!
Being a mother, she let the kitten suckle her. In return, the brown kitten – now named Manja (for his affectionate behaviour) – would teach the black kitten to walk on narrow tubes. They were inseparable.
When I was teaching my granddaughter classical music, I advised, “Take a deep breath and let it out slowly as you sing.”
Imagine my surprise and pleasure when the black kitten, also called Kutti, sang a musical note just the way I had taught!
“So clever!” I praised. “Once again!”
He let out a short note and closed his eyes.
I decided to teach all the seven notes – sa, ri, ga, ma, and so on.
When the kitten could not manage the second note ri, I realised that he could manage only the aah sounds. I changed my style and, slowly, Pattu Kutti could sing all the notes in perfect pitch and in a sweet voice. (Pattu means song.)
He was very interested in music and never missed a lesson. Once, he placed his head on my feet and licked them – a gesture to thank the music teacher!
He was a proud exhibit to our visitors.
When not eating or singing, his two loves, he loitered around the area. “Typical male,” I would say, as he came home only to eat and sleep. Often, he got so wet in the rain that his lungs suffered.
Once, I heard Manja lecturing his ward regarding the dangers of loafing about. Pattu Kutti could no longer sing – and soon disappeared. (Cats go away from their loved ones before they die.)
Then came another kitten, hiding on the tyre of a parked car. It was so sensitive that she would slap me with a paw whenever there was a fighting or a sad scene in a Tamil film I was watching on TV. Every film had both these elements, so I was beaten often!
In the last 15 years, there have been 14 kittens in our care. Now there are three, including the senior Manja.
The present one Chinna calls me Awnga, meaning Amma in cat language, I presume. She never left my lap, until she grew too big for it and slid down!
I have come a long way, from someone who was averse to cats and could not bear to touch them.