Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A feline interlude

A couple of mornings ago, I was awakened at an hour that, by my reckoning, is quite unearthly, by the frightened miaows of a little kitten - inside our house. I jumped out of bed to see K holding a little month-old kitten against him - he had heard the little one's voice from the bathroom, and upon venturing out to investigate, saw it crying piteously while moving dangerously close to the railings on the floor just below ours. He immediately rushed downstairs to rescue it - and just in time too, as the baby was being frightened even more than it already was by a hulking, fat boy who, strangely enough, was just as terrified of it. We knew who the little one belonged to - the mommy cat, a very friendly, pretty young thing, had often been petted by us on our way up. A gentleman who lives on the ground floor, and who clearly likes cats, had told us once while we were talking to her that she had delivered babies 'oi oi dike' ('somewhere that side'), a vague description made even vaguer by hand movements in pretty much every direction.

While trying to comfort the kitten, we decided to troop down and see if we could locate where 'oi dike' was - or find someone who knew where the cat lived. We even considered ringing every doorbell on the ground floor to see if we could locate the cat-loving gentleman, but decided it might not be such a good idea to wake people up just to ask - 'Apni ki beral bhalobashen?' ('Do you like cats, by any chance?'). Our plan wasn't much of a success, though - no one knew where the cat had had her babies, or that there was a cat at all. And all the while, the little one clung to me and cried her/his heart out. So back we came and then the plan was - we shall hunt one more time, and if we don't find the mom, we shall take her to the original mommy of all creatures feline (and canine and bovine and err ... goatine and monkey-ine) - my mom. So back we went. And the little one was still crying, and scared, but was looking around curiously in a typical kitten-fashion - and upon being set down on the bed, s/he ran across to K's pillows, climbed up the stack of magazines that were sitting beside it, and proceeded to go to sleep. S/he opened her eyes now and then warily, began crying when s/he found her/himself all alone, stared solemnly at our maid and maiowed as if to ask what she was doing in 'our' house, and was clearly getting used to us. The trust that animals place in us humans, a trust that most of us do not deserve, never fails to amaze, and move, me.

Manadi - the maid - ran in after a while saying she had heard a cat calling out loudly; K ran out to see the mother cat wandering around, yelling at the top of her voice. The little one was snatched up all over again, and we rushed out and down the stairs - and no mommy cat. But there were helpful people around the lift, the kuda-wala, for instance, who told us, yes, there is a mommy cat and she had been wandering around crying for her baby for a while now; and unsettled by the noise and the people, the baby began wailing in my arms. The next moment, what do we see but the pretty mother running towards us - towards the sound of her baby, that is; I held the kitten out to her and watched the joyful reunion - the delighted mother sniffed her baby all over, maiowing anxiously all the while; the equally delighted baby, back in the security of her/his mother's presence, began showing off tremendously, stretching, scratching its little ears, all the while pretending that it had been on a fantastic adventure; and a delighted me watched the little tableau. The mom let me pet her, but looked at me suspiciously - she probably thought I'd been trying to kidnap her baby. She soon moved away, followed by the kitten, as frisky as a little lamb now - I tried to follow, to see where she'd take the baby, but she turned around and maiowed at me once as if to tell me to stay away. She was a mother protecting her young, and she didn't want to trust any human in her space just yet. Respecting her space, I stayed back.

We felt happy the rest of the day - it was such a lovely sight, that mother and child reunion. It's also good to know that most people out here don't mind cats; in fact, some actively like them, unlike in Delhi, where cats are feared and disliked, and, by extension, hurt. I still don't know how the little thing got up to the second floor, though - someone must have picked it up and brought it up, it's paws were too small to manage the stairs. We're keeping our ears pricked, though, for further maiows, which might signal the return of our much welcomed house guest.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Rooting for Freida

My dad's a journalist, of the old-fashioned kind - he's from the time when journalism really meant the things the word still implies - the pursuit of truth, moral courage, social responsibility, ethics. K's from a different generation, but journalism still meant something during his time, which is probably why he finds it easier to talk shop with my dad than with the young, cocky twenty or thirty-somethings who call themselves journalists these days. The degeneration of journalism into pointless muck-raking; frothy, nonsensical, never-ending pieces about Bollywood and the incomprehensible world of fashion; and partisan reporting has been around for very many years now, but I was reminded of it all over again this morning when I read the cover story published in a supplement of one of Cal's leading - and still much-respected, a respect it's increasingly ceasing to deserve - dailies, on Slumdog Millionaire's leading actress (or should I say one of the leading actresses) Freida Pinto.

Quite unnecessarily spiteful and vituperative, it proceeded to make the point that Freida Pinto is a mere flash-in-the-pan, a nonentity who merely got lucky (and, through barbs and innuendos, managed to convey the impression that she did not deserve that luck - after all, she's just like hundreds of other young women, and hey, all she had was 15 minutes of screen time, in which she was really not given much to do), and is now living it up. Laced at appropriate intervals with nasty comments by people, most of whom happen to be columnists of the paper in question, the article left a rather nasty taste in my mouth, not least because of how pointless it was. Considering that all of India's rushing to lay claim to Slumdog, which is, to all intents and purposes, a British film, and not a very good one at that, one would have thought that the success of one of the Indian actors would have made the country legitimately proud. I guess not, though, at least not while we have vicious, envious people who can write - or get someone to write - scurrilous articles aimed at pulling people who've surpassed them down.

It's undoubtedly true the Freida's got lucky. It's also true that she didn't have much to do in the film, and that the younger Latikas outshone her. But the same can also be said of Dev Patel. Is the reason why Freida's 15 minutes is being sneered at while Aishwarya Rai's 15 minutes in the mediocre The Pink Panther 2 is being lauded because Freida was, before the phenomenal success of Slumdog, a virtual nonentity? And because she's making it to the Tonight Show and has caught Woody Allen's attention while the other Bollywood actresses who routinely talk about their 'Hollywood projects' haven't? Or because, while our esteemed media loves talking about 'feel-good', 'rags-to-riches' stories, they haven't found it in themselves yet to embrace the people who actually make it? How can the same media be so proud of A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty, who it hadn't even heard of previously, but not of Freida Pinto?

I've shot off a letter of protest, which I'm certain will never be published, the concerned newspaper not being too bothered with opinions different from theirs; I do hope, however, that Freida's Hollywood ventures pay off, and she emerges a star - then, when the very same media falls over themselves to court her, I shall take an especial glee in writing them another letter, reminding them of the time when they informed her 'there's nothing to be so kicked about', as her success was merely due to 'luck by chance'.