Young World

Cat of nine lives

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Summer vacations had begun and I was home from boarding school. The first day, after lunch, I settled down with my book in the long enclosed veranda basking in the afternoon sun. I was just dozing off when my mother brought in the tea. My father always had biscuits with his. Then, there was a knock on the door.

My father smiled mysteriously and opened the door. A large Persian cat stood on the doorstep. My father took some biscuits and fed the cat. When it had had its fill, it meowed softly and went away.

“That’s my new friend. He pops in every afternoon for some biscuits,” said my father, smiling at my surprise.

“But cats don’t eat biscuits,” I said.

“Well, here’s a mystery for you,” said my mother. “This one does!”

Hello kitty!

One afternoon, an old gentleman drove up to our house. “I am sure you do not recognise me,” said the man, on entering.

“I am sorry, but I don’t,” said my father.

“I used to be the driver here a long time ago. I worked for your father. I remember you as a small boy.”

“Is that so?” said my father. “What is your name?”

“Aruldas,” said the man.

“Oh! Yes, of course I do. You left rather suddenly, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I did. It is a long story.”

My mother brought in the tea, and, of course, the biscuits too. As right as clockwork, there was a knock on the door.

“Excuse me,” said my father as he took the biscuits. He opened the door and fed the cat. When Aruldas saw this, he went pale and began to shake.

My mother handed him his tea, his hands shook as he held the cup and saucer. My father finished his ritual feeding and shut the door.

“Where does that cat come from?” asked Aruldas.

“I don’t know,” said my father. “He just came up one afternoon and knocked on the door. When I gave it the biscuit, he seemed to relish it. And he returned the next day!”

“M-m-my God!” stuttered Aruldas.

My father raised his eyebrows. “Why?”

“Let me tell you why I had left this place suddenly,” Aruldas explained. “When I was working here, I had a son. When he was five years old, he took a fancy to talk to your father. So, while your father was having his afternoon tea and biscuits, my son would knock on the door. Your father would give him some biscuits and they would talk. No matter what I said, he would land up at the front door for his afternoon chat and biscuits. Seeing my embarrassment, your father had said, ‘Let him be, he is a small child. Don’t put all your thoughts and inhibitions into his behaviour. Children should be free of all that.’” He paused, as he remembered.

“Then my son became seriously ill and he died. Heartbroken, my wife and I felt we couldn’t continue here. We needed a new life. I got another job and we went away. My wife and I have two children now. But, the loss of the first one will always be with us...”

We were silent. We did not want to connect the cat with his son.

“The cat...”

He left soon after. We watched as the car went down the drive. We saw the cat waiting in the driveway. As the old car wheezed past, the cat sat up, and I swear it waved!

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2020 6:06:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/Cat-of-nine-lives/article14500934.ece

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