Monday, October 12, 2009

A moment...a lifetime...

(Here’s another on Onyx-the first animal I was privileged to come close in contact with...published this on TCC on 18 February 2008)
I was like any other child my age. Nah! To say that would be unfair to the children of my time and they certainly wouldn’t agree to it. They loved me and respected me for who I was, but they also appreciated the inherent differences in my nature. I was very different. I used to look for happiness in very non conventional things. For eg. I when I was 12 years old, and my friends would be playing kabbaddi out in the garden, I’d be knee deep deep in the sewer system, rescuing a bunch of drowing puppies.While my friends attended birthday parties, I’d spend time on the roads, chatting up a sombre cow, while she munched at her pace. I was always an animal person, born that way and encouraged all the more by my animal crazy mother, who was in turn influenced by her mother.Suffice it to say, the craze runs in the family.

Both of us revelled in the variety of animals that came our way in the sunny, green little outskirts of Mira-Road. We had a crow visiting us every morning ritually. He was extremely demanding in that he would eat only Wibs white bread, sometimes with butter spread on it. He used to eat right out of my hand. We have nursed injured sparrows and pigeons riddled with fowl pox. We have seen a hawk with clipped wings, grow healthy again. We have had our share of dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes, malnutritioned, abused, or abandoned.We have also had to deal with a fair amount of loss of animal lives. But the first animal ever to touch us deep deep within and leave an impression was a certain little kitten. His name was Onyx.

I was the only offspring of my parents, but I had never felt the urge or need to have a sibling with whom I could share my life experiences. But I certainly wanted to share my personal space and my deepest emotions with an animal of my own. However we had just moved into the new house, and we weren’t in the position to handle the responsibility of an animal. For you see, taking care of an animal, especially a baby animal, is a lot of hard work and requires high levels of commitment.

When we settled in, however, my father decided that it was time, for me to be able to interact one on one with an animal of my own. They both thought it would be beneficial to my psyche and to my growth as a person, and it would be wonderful to give an animal a genuine home. So the three of us drove down to the Bombay S.P.C.A. to look for animals up for adoption. I was twelve at that time and completely in awe as we entered the sprawling grounds of the hospital cum animal shelter. For me it was like being in heaven. There were animals EVERYWHERE!!!

Donkeys, horses, cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, monkeys, elephants and even a lion! Everywhere I turned there were familiar faces and smiling countenances. It was wonderful being there and seeing the good work being done. Watching God’s work in action always gives me goose bumps. This was magnified in the case of the S.P.C.A, since very few people care about sparing second thoughts to animals and their problems.

We headed straight for the office. We were greeted by some office staff, three very fat cats and one painfully lazy dog. They resided in the office itself and their every need, including food, water, occasional treats and medication, was catered to by the staff. They were adored there, didn’t have to lift a paw...In short they were living the good life!

We asked around for the adoption list and were immediately directed to a section of the hospital where a mother cat had just died after giving birth to five tiny kittens. They were up for adoption. I still remember how my heart pounded with anticipation of owning my very first pet. Visions of all the fun time we’d spend together, were floating around in my head. Before I knew it, we were there beholding the tiniest scrawniest, dirtiest little kittens I have ever had the good fortune to come across. Naturally my mother and I were thrilled, though my father with his sharp logical mind was having serious doubts. But we had our hearts set on a little orangish-brown and white little guy and before we knew it, the veterinary examination was done, the shots had been administered, the papers signed, and before I could say “Jumpin Jackflash!” I was the proud owner of the little creature in my hand. We had brought a basket along for him, so we put him in there and drove off into the sunset with joy in our hearts for the newest member of the family. We came home and christened him Onyx, in celebration of his beautiful onyx coloured body. And so began our momentous experiences with our first home animal.

Onyx was sickly when he came in to stay with us. That was expected since he had been deprived of the much needed immunoglobulins of his mother’s milk. However within a day or two he looked healthier and started incorporating himself into the family. He got used to sitting at our feet and rubbing himself against my father’s legs when we sat at the dinner table. Sometimes he would sit on the table itself. He was allowed to, because he was rapidly wrapping us around his retractable claws. J He used to watch my mother in the kitchen while she prepared meals, and she often said she could spend hours watching the range of whimsical expressions on his little face.

He loved his basket and used to sleep in it at night. Sometimes though, he would crawl into my bed and curl up with me while I slept. He also loved to study with me. I vividly remember sitting at my study table one day, trying to learn the names of the iron producing regions of the world and Onyx was sitting on the table right it front of me. He had this brown ribbed piece of cloth that was his version of a bed, and I had to stretch it out in front of me so that his highness would be comfortable. He soon decided to empty the contents of his bowels beside my book, so the rest of my time was spent disinfecting and de odorizing my study area! All the while he watched me, with the famous quizzical expression dotting his face. Needless to say I didn’t learn much about iron or jute of cotton that day, but I definitely learnt a bit more about what makes a cat tick!
Onyx became a source of joy for all of us. He used to clamber onto mom’s shoulder while she walked around the house. He used to watch tv with us, and play games with us. We had never had such a personal experience with a cat before and as such, he opened a new door to our understanding of the feline behavioural patterns. He was a fairly vocal cat and used to hide under the almirahs and meow till we searched him out. It was a funny kind of game for him.
Our dismay and worry therefore became apparent, when he started behaving funnily after about five to six days. He used to skip his meals, and meow into the night sometimes. I remember putting him in my knapsack and driving him on my bike over to the vet’s place. But whatever was wrong with him remained undetected. The symptoms kept getting worse though, and it came to a point where we had to close ourselves off in another room to escape the agonising wails emanating from his basket. It was too much for us to take. He was just a baby and babies shouldn’t have to suffer so much. On the tenth day, Onyx was so ill, he could barely get up from his basket. My father decided to take him back to the S.P.CA. and get him hospitalized there, so that he could receive better treatment.

When it was time for him to go, my mother and I held his limp body close to us for a while and said our goodbyes. We assured him that all would be well and that we wanted him back home soon, up and about with his whims and quirks keeping us in splits again. Then we gently placed him in his pink basket and watched tearfully as my father drove off.

We had a serious dinner that day and didn’t speak much. It was our first experience with parting. And parting with an animal close to you is so much more difficult than human parting. A man can say goodbye and be assured that he is still loved. An animal has no words to express what he feels. He just hopes his humans understand and love him always.

We slept fitfully that night and the whole of the next day we waited for some kind of favourable news from the hospital. It never came. A call did come in, in the evening, informing us of the demise of our beloved baby Onyx. He apparently had some kind of infection and because of his size and lack of immunity, he didn’t make it. They wanted to know whether we would come to collect his body. But his death had broken us within and we did not have the courage to face her soulless body. We asked the hospital to complete the cremation and spread the ashes over a tree in the hospital premises. And that was the end of our journey with Onyx.

The experience taught us a lot though. We became closer as a family, and animals and animal welfare became a common ground of understanding for the three of us. Onyx taught us that it is possible to find fun and joy in the smallest of God’s creatures, and it is possible to feel infinite love for an infinitesimally small life. It may sound cliche, but we learnt from him, that size really has nothing to do with love; it’s the heartbeat within that counts! Though Onyx’s heart stopped beating, we feel his heartbeats in our own even today.

It took time for us to get over the loss of our beloved little cat. My mother cried herself to sleep for three days. My father sat quietly in a corner for some days till things normalized a bit. And I having had my first experience with death, refused to face it for some time. I kept hearing his voice under the almirah and kept seeing his phantom hovering over my geography book-with the same whimsical look that was so unique to him.

We all got over it though, we still remember him with the same love and fondess. We have had a few other animal pets after that. We have been able to deal with human and animal loss with more courage after Onyx and we have learnt that losing one animal, doesn’t mean that we can’t bestow love on another. Yes indeed, we have come a long way since Onyx and his nuances.
But it is incredible! The indelible impression left by a tiny little cat on the three of us will follow us and teach us for a long time now. We were touched by an angel for a moment and will feel his embrace for a lifetime.

-----In fond remembrance, Twinky.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Halloa! I'd be happy to hear from you so please feel free to drop in a word or two about this blog post. Cheerio!