Friday, September 21, 2007

The little ones – III

Moody’s eldest baby, a grey and white male, is also the biggest of the lot – and that was probably why she rather neglected him as a baby, focusing most of her attention on her weaker children. At three weeks, while gazing at me with steady blue eyes (which were soon to turn greenish, and then a tawny yellow), he looked so like a tiny lion cub that I, fresh from my reading of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, had no doubt what his name had to be – Aslan.

Baby Aslan was the loveliest kitten you ever did see – exactly like one of those adorable little guys who adorn picture postcards. He was also the most sickly – a rather bad chest infection when he was barely two months old permanently damaged his vocal cords, because of which his maiows are still rather cracked. Not that that mattered much to our lion king – baby Aslan grew into a gorgeous tomcat, fiercely protective of his little brother and sister, headstrong, fearless yet trusting, and very, very affectionate. He would run to his mother, lick her lovingly, and then have a mad game of roll-me-over with her – and later, he would jump on our laps, butt his head against our faces, and contentedly go off to sleep in our arms. Aslan was always the most patient of the three, and the most accepting. He would wait patiently for his turn to eat (we soon stopped feeding them together when we realised that murder and mayhem would ensue if three mad little kittens were let loose together on a bowl of fish or milk), and would then eat neatly, slowly, and with a gravity that accompanied all his actions.

For all his leonine majesty, though, baby Aslan is the most homebound of the lot. For him, home is where his heart is – he hated the outdoors, and always refused to accompany his siblings on their adventures, preferring to stay in with us instead. He’s also extremely na├»ve and innocent, with a firm belief in the goodness of all living beings – quite like his namesake, the lion king of Narnia. Aslan’s mortal enemies were towels, socks, and trousers – his strong little teeth would soon rip anything flapping in an unseemly manner, or anything furry that didn’t have a tail. Once he realised that we were less than pleased at this systematic destruction of our towels and clothes, he began dragging his prey off under the bed, when he would gnaw peacefully for hours until, much to his annoyance, we would decide to play spoilsport and drag him and whatever remained of our towel out.

Tawny-eyed Aslan is also incredibly possessive and jealous – especially of K. He didn’t mind me petting his little sister, whom he adores, but would always leap into my arms whenever he saw Ariel being cuddled – whereupon Ariel would then be unceremoniously smacked out of the way, and I would feel a reproachful yellow glare on me. But K – he couldn’t even give me a hug without Aslan knocking him over, jumping into his arms, and staying put, growling if anyone dared come close. He periodically gets into these mad fits when he rips up newspapers, and plays like – well, like a mad kitten – joined by his siblings, whose wild, crazy games would send us alternately into fits of laughter, and screeches of horror when they landed too close to something breakable.

Aslan hated the journey to Kolkata, and being the fearless warrior that he is, he let everyone in the airport know just how displeased he was. He has now attached himself to my father, and having discovered the joys of an open kitchen after the strict dietary discipline that he had been under while they were with us, he soon set to figuring out how to open the larder door using his teeth and all four paws – and once that was done, Aslan would get the food out (not steal it – my little ones have no clue what ‘stealing’ is – as far as they’re concerned, food that they see before them is meant for them), and then, like a feline Robin Hood, gather all the other cats around, and proceed to feed himself and his merry men (and women). My parents actually had to get a stout padlock for the larder, much to Aslan’s anger!

Unfortunately, baby Aslan still remains the weakest of the lot – he has fallen ill about thrice already, twice rather seriously – and we spent plenty of anxious, sleepless nights here in Delhi, calling my parents twice every day, asking for daily reports. While he is a big tomcat, he doesn’t see the point in all the male posturing, preferring to eat, sleep, play, and have his head and shoulders stroked instead (did I mention Aslan loves being scratched? K was the only one who could do it well, and Aslan lying with closed eyes, purring away, the picture of happiness, while K scratched his furry head and back was such an adorable sight!). He’s quite the favourite grandchild of my parents’ – but who can resist those grave golden eyes, that silky fur, and that gorgeous face?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The little ones – II

Moody’s only daughter is beautiful, her coat a rich orange, black and white. Unlike her gentle and steadier brothers, this little one, ever since she was a tiny little thing, barely able to toddle on four paws, has been hyper, loud, demanding, and imperious. Had she been a human child, we would definitely have had to take her for counselling sessions for her hyperactivity. She was the last of them to be named, all because we just could not come up with a name that suited her, that somehow was her, till, suddenly, while playing with them, we came across an absurd name, but one that was her – Piglet, Piggy for short.

Babysitting Piggy was a bit like Calvin’s mom trying to tire him out before bedtime – we were exhausted long little Piggy was even remotely sleepy. She was a tiny bundle of limitless energy as a kitten, jumping around everywhere, clambering on our shoulders, running around playing, all the while yelling at the top of her lungs. She had a rather unfortunate penchant for biting people’s toes and fingers – as a friend of ours discovered one night when Piggy, annoyed at his sleeping on what she considered her and her brothers’ bed, decided to get him out by nipping sharply at his toes and his fingers all night. Mealtimes were the most exciting part of the day for our little princess – she would sometimes caper around so madly that she wouldn’t even notice her bowl till she – quite literally – fell into it.

Piggy’s relationship with K is delightful – she is, to put it simply, his daughter. He adores her, spoils her rotten, lets her get away with pretty much everything – and she knows it. The love is reciprocated in full measure, of course – little Piggy would only sleep once K had picked her up, and she was nestled comfortably in his arms, purring loud enough to wake the neighbours. We knew our little princess was sleepy when we saw her come running to K, calling loudly to him – and within five minutes of his picking her up, she would be fast asleep. She’s just as trusting as Aslan is, rushing up to play with whichever human comes before her – she even won my grandmother, who isn’t all that fond of cats over when she rolled on her back, grabbed my granny’s saree hem and began playing with it, all the while watching her with her enormous, liquid green eyes that can melt even the most hardened hearts.

Piggy is the darling of the family – her brothers let her get away with pretty much everything, too, especially Ariel, who even lets her eat his share of the food once she’s speedily demolished hers. It was wonderful watching how Ariel and Aslan always took care to not throw her down too hard, or roll her over gently during their mad games – the ‘rough’ stuff they kept for themselves. Despite her hyperactivity, Piggy is quite the lady – she doesn’t go in for tearing or destroying things around, like Aslan, or eating everything in sight, like Ariel. As she grew older, she would take frequent breaks during their games, when she would climb on to my lap, sit in a proper fashion and groom herself – till her kitten instincts took over and she bounded into the fray once more.

K, always the protective father, lay down eight rules of dating for Piggy when we left Kolkata – no dating, no dating, no dating, no dating, no dating, no dating, no dating, no dating, till the cat age of 45. He threw a fit when my mom told him she was seeing a rather gorgeous black tom called Hyper – but Piggy, good girl that she is, soon broke it off. Now that she’s an adult, a rather unexpected side to her has surfaced, one that we had never anticipated – our Princess Piglet has a very strong maternal streak to her. The once spoiled baby is now adopting all the little stray kittens that my mom regularly rescues from the streets – she’s grooming them, looking after them, even hunting mice and birds for them (and, when she gets lucky, she manages to snag a packet of hilsa fish, or some freshly fried luchis [Bengali puris]). She and Aslan are still the best of friends, and she helps him in all his Robin Hood-like activities. We will be seeing them all soon, and something tells me that regardless of the fact that we haven’t met them in months, Piggy will soon be nestled in K’s arms, purring away, Ariel will come running to me, wanting to be held, and Aslan will be trying to knock them both away so he can have us all to himself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The little ones – I

This is another of those long-overdue blogs – for all those who have been waiting for me to write a post on my cats, here it is, finally.

Moody gave birth to three lovely kittens on 15 April 2006 – not at home, though, much to our worry. She came home for her meals, spent some time with us everyday, and then would run off to where her babies were – till a week later, when, hearing the familiar thump that was Moody jumping in through a window that was always kept open for her, we turned to see her with what looked like a tiny furball in her mouth. She had finally brought the babies home.

We had a huge cardboard box lined with newspapers and an old T-shirt of mine ready, and Moody settled into her new home within a home contentedly with the little ones, who we loved immediately. One looked exactly like her, one was grey and white, and the other, multicoloured (and therefore obviously female). They were smaller than the palm of my hand, and their eyes were still shut tight. As that was 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday, we decided to call one of them, the littlest one, the black and white baby, Ariel.

Ariel, the spitting image of his mother, is a bundle of contradictions – at once gentle and stubborn; the sweetest-natured and the most timid, yet the most intrepid; the most cautious yet the most curious, a born explorer; the most intelligent of the three, yet the most impetuous. At the age of one month, Ariel was the first to learn how to climb out of his cardboard box into the big wide world outside – there was nothing so high that Ariel couldn’t climb it, no place so hidden that he couldn’t find on one of his adventuring forays. K always said he had some mountain goat blood on him – a feeling that was reinforced after he ate our money plant. From the time that Ariel was two months old, he could often be seen at the top of our ceiling high curtains, slowly making his way around the length of the room, while his siblings watched him admiringly from below.

As a little baby, Ariel was the weakest and smallest of the lot, which is probably why Moody loved him the most. He was the one she would nuzzle first, and she’d make sure he always lay closest to her so she could give him the first lick, and sleep with her arm around him. He hardly ever mewed, and was content to cuddle up at my back on the occasions that we took them out of their box and let them play on the bed. A month or so later, though, and all had changed – he became a bright, inquisitive, little thing, whiskers quivering with excitement and eyes bright with delight at the prospect of getting into some more mischief. He never did learn to not repeat the same mistakes ten times – and each time would look so heartbroken and terrified while being scolded that I didn’t have the heart to do so. And he was just as fussy about food as his mother – he was the first to tire of his Lactogen (which was their regular diet once Moody began weaning them till they were around three and a half months old); and he was the first to refuse Mother Diary milk, preferring, like his mother, DMS milk instead. And once they began going outside, we realised that little Ariel was quite the lone ranger at heart – he slowly began exploring the world outside, preferring to stay out by himself for long hours at a time, returning home every now and then with scratches on his nose, or eye infections that we tended to.

Though he is fiercely independent, he loves being cuddled – of the three, he’s the only one who would come running up, and hold out his arms, asking to be picked up. Quiet and thoughtful, he’s also the most sensitive, quick to pick up on moods and emotions. My little prince, as I call him, is also extremely fastidious – he hates getting his spotless fur dirty, or being in messy surroundings. That fastidiousness doesn’t hold when it comes to food, though – Ariel still eats everything around him, including bean bag balls (once he and his big brother had made a sizeable hole in one of our bean bags that never could be sat on again afterwards) and cotton wool. Like a little boy, he often threw tantrums, doing exactly what he wasn’t supposed to, all the while keeping an eye on me to see if I was watching, and playing with a stuffed ladybird that was his special toy. While he loved K just as much, he was also scared of him, and was nothing but beautifully behaved when he was around – and very delighted on the occasions that K picked him up for a cuddle.

Ariel’s in Kolkata now, along with his siblings (and the story of how we all got there will form the subject matter of another blog), and my mom tells me he’s still quite the adventurer, staying out by himself most of the day, coming in only for his meals and to sleep. He was the first to get friendly with the other cats, and the first to accustom himself to his new surroundings. While his nature is as sweet and gentle as ever, my mom says he’s not all that demonstrative of his affection, something that secretly rather pleased me – that means his displays of love were for me only, that he still loves me the most.