I have always been fond of animals of all kinds. Almost all of them I am still fond of, but some had to exit this list where the tribe of monkeys mark their lead. This is because monkeys and I do not gel very well and share a turbulent history. There have been acquaintances in the past which did not go very well and the mere thought of those send a shiver down my spine.
I still remember my route back to home from school in Nainital. I was that kind of a kid who would usually never eat the lunch I was packed to school. So in order to avoid the risk of getting scolded by Maa, I generally used to take out the food and place it near some tree on my way to home. This route was home to numerous number of monkeys. These ancestors noticed my activities for sometime and eventually realised that we two can live in symbiosis. So everyday they would eat the rotis Maa cooked and I would credit that to myself. Everything was hunky-dory when one fine day our symbiosis experienced its first setback. One day I was told by the school that that day’s lunch is on the school because our institute was participating in an inter-school cultural program. I was playing the role of a soldier and was given a fake plastic gun as a prop. So that day instead of a lunchbox I carried the gun in my bag that would make a noise of trrrrrr-trrrrrr on pulling the trigger. In the evening while returning to home, just when I took the uphill route, I was greeted by the hungry gang of monkeys. I immediately realised that I have nothing to offer them today. But I could not translate it to the group. On observing no activity from my side, the monkeys started getting furious making me realise what Frankenstein Monsters I have created and was scared to death by the site. Just when I saw Yamraj/Shinigami (reference to the famous anime series Deathnote ;)) coming for me while riding on the back of one of the monkeys I reckoned that today I am no regular school girl. For a day atleast I am a soldier and well equipped with a plastic gun. Having established my power and dominance over the monkeys in my brain atleast, I took out the trrrrr-trrrrrr sound making gun and made a posture that I believed was convincing enough to look like that of a charged defender. Both the parties then shared a good length of face-off and finally out of curiosity or boredom from my performance, a baby monkey ran towards me, grabbed my leg and made a chiiiiiinnn sound looking straight in my eyes. What happened to the soldier within me then or to my weapon, I do not recall very well. But I do remember to be paying for two plastic guns by the end of the cultural program.
So I genuinely do not like monkeys. But I love cats. When we shifted to Haldwani, a she-cat which was also stray used to come to our home every day. She neither had a place to stay nor a name. Maybe she didn’t aspire or needed either, but I wanted to give her both. Firstly, it took a lot of convincing of my parents to finally agree and allow the cat to freely come to the house once or twice a day. Secondly, I have always been very particular in naming animals and I believe in giving them a name that matches their personality. So it usually takes some time during which I observe the animal. From my observations of this cat I concluded that this particular cat had a passion of getting pregnant and would have some kittens every now and then. So I thought of keeping her name over this quality of hers. In Hindi overpopulation is referred to as “Jansankhya mein Visfot”. So the cat was named as Visfot. Visfot had a very reserved attitude and was only interested in food. She would never give me a damn and would rather hiss or snap at me if I ever tried to hold her. But I was fine with this relationship of ours and respected her privacy. Visfot had a huge number of kittens, but out of all the kitties she delivered only one of them survived well. Rest were either eaten up by Visfot herself (cats can be cannibals if they think the kitten would not be able to survive), or were killed by other cats/dogs. This was a sad routine but everytime Visfot quickly got out of the mourning phase. The death of Visfot was although very unfortunate but heroic too. She was mauled by a pack of dogs and succumbed to death while bravely saving her kittens. Only one kitten could survive. It was black in color so my daadi (Grandma) named her Kalua. I could never in my sane self agree with such a name that however resonated with the kitten’s personality, but didn’t sound like a gentleman. So I searched for the translation of “Black” in Chinese and from there I kept his name “Haisaa”. Haisaa was a meek but cute cat. He was constantly harassed by his fellows. The poor guy used to climb trees, poles, walls and was all over the place just to save himself from the ferocious other male cats. Living closely with a family that is strictly vegetarian, he was a cat who fed upon milk and roti and was not strong as well as smart enough to catch a prey. Whenever Haisaa would see a lizard, he would keep meowing to it. Ultimately me, Babba or Daadi would have to get the lizard down by hook or by crook which Haisaa would then savour. And all I could say at such instances was “the things you do for love.”
Haisaa died in December 2019. I will miss him always. But he gave me one life-lesson that you need to depend only on yourself for your survival. Too much love and dependency from friends and family will make you paralyzed, lazy and eventually will costs you exhaustively.