HERE TO STAY
It all began with Sangha and Meelka.
I called him warrior cat. I called her cat queen. Sangha was a marmalade European shorthair, skilled in cat combat and gentle at heart. Meelka was a stray cat, not just any stray, but an intelligent, pure white, stray cat; a beauty.
And they brought D’Artagnian and his sibling into this world, my world.
How it all began:
It was a wet afternoon in June 2011 when one of my neighbours threw two kittens, a pure white and a marmalade, and a cat, their mother, Meelka, in either hands into our compound. That moment decided the future of those kitties when they came scurrying into our yard, wet and cold, and my mother was more than happy to dry the little furballs and let them into our house. They made themselves at home. They would come every afternoon to play with my mother when I would be at school, drink some milk, and then return to the thickets near our house, a blissful illusion of their homes in the wild. It became a sort of routine. If I were lucky, they would be there when I came back home after school, and that gave me something to look forward to every end of the day. And it so happened that one tragic evening, a man made to reverse the car, the kittens came out of nowhere, suddenly, and in the dark hours of the late evening, right in the way of the tyres of the car. Even as the mother, Meelka, mewed in warning, he steered to avoid hitting one of the kittens, but as a result another kitten got in the way. The tyres ran over the side of the white kitten’s face. It happened so quickly, all I could do was watch in horror. The little one couldn’t be saved. That kitten I later named Leo Senior, passed away.
Meelka and the marmalade resume their play with less vigour:
As we made to bury Leo Senior, it killed me to see Meelka watching over her dead baby, trying to prod it awake. The other kitten, the marmalade, was watching curiously, too young to comprehend what was happening. Heart broken, my father and I buried Leo Sr. and we all came home in silence. The mother cat, Meelka, got over it. But little marmalade kept calling out to its sibling to play. It was heart wrenching, and it still makes me grit my teeth. Little marmalade finally accepted that his sibling was not coming to play, so Meelka and marmalade resumed their play, but with less vigour.
Raining cats and dogs:
The rain poured down and poor Brownie, as we had then named the marmalade kitten, used to sleep over our car tyre. Meelka used to sleep in the rains sometimes. Afraid that our father would be furious if we let the shivering furballs in (my father wasn’t very fond of cats then), my mother and I decided to place them in a cardboard box with some clothes in it, near our doorstep. They immediately huddled in it.
The incident with the dogs:
It all happens for a reason, even the bad things. And it so happens that Brownie got attacked by five dogs while a terrified Meelka mewed for help, helplessly watching. The dogs grabbed him with their jaws and tossed him around like he was a rag doll. My father, hearing the commotion, rushed outside to see what was happening, and he chased the dogs away. He gingerly picked up the marmalade and for the first time in his life, held a tiny furball of love in his arms and stroked the little one’s head. We immediately took him to the veterinarian who assured us that he had only sustained some wounds and a hair thin fracture. But little Brownie was still in shock. What came next changed my life.
What came next changed my life:
My father began to enquire about animal care centres to place him in even as I protested. The doctor talked him out of it. “Why would you do that?” he asked, surprised. “This breed is a rare one. And it seems to me that he has already decided where to stay. He has chosen his home.” My father looked down at Brownie, who was staring up at him with tired, doleful eyes. My father was moved. Brownie could stay. Oh, the joy! I decided to name him D’Artagnian; a new beginning for me and him. And quite the warrior he turned out to be, just like his father, Sangha.
There are many stories, stories for another time.
Currently, at about eleven pounds and still a kitten at heart, it has been six years since the fateful evening when he was attacked by the dogs. D’Artagnian has been staying with us ever since, and everyday, our love grows and the bond gets stronger. D’Artagnian could melt my father’s heart, a man who had a life-long aversion to cats, with the power of his love and continues to do so. My father is so attached to him that he takes to sleeping on the sofa, or the floor, if D’Artagnian is asleep on the bed. And when we do gather the courage to wake him up, we are met with a set of reproachful eyes and we are powerless; we succumb to his magic. His jaunty catwalk never fails to astonish me.
He is D’Artagnian, and he is here to stay.