Nadia died on the morning of 3rd December 2013.
She was not my first pet. But for the first time, I am going to allow myself to grieve openly about a pet, because I think I owe it to her. We have all grown up on various notions of how stoicism is the way to go when we are bereaved, and how we must not allow ourselves to break down each time love scars us. Time heals everything, we were told.
For as long as I can remember, cats had always been a part of our life, although we had seldom officially ‘adopted’ them. They had given birth on our feet, in our cupboards and balconies, they have nursed their babies, they have died in battle, they have died in infancy, they have been kidnapped, run over, bitten by snakes, died in our laps. Each time we lost a pet, we cried silently, or didn’t speak for days, our parents pretended to be brave, we went on about our lives and we thought we had healed. But all it took was one memory, one visual reference that reminded us of the one that left us, and the bandage would come off a very painful wound and emotions would come gushing.
So I am sorry, Tipu, Simba, Kimi, Kallu, Chinky, Pushpi, Kuttu, Vinci, Brownie, and various yet-to-be-named kittens who died and found a place in various patches of land that made for our habitat and turned into chikoo or lemon trees or rose bushes as my father deemed fit at the time. Before long, we had forgotten who was the chikoo and who was the rose.
So I have been spending the last few days visiting every memory, every picture, every place that reminds me of Nadia and finally I found the coherence it needs to write a blog-post about her. Because I don’t want to get over her. Because I don’t think I can.
Nadia was my first black cat. She is also the first pet I have cremated. It is the first time I collected the ashes of a pet, and labelled it. So it stays, even if memory goes away.
Nadia is also special because she represents my transition from woman to mother. She came into my life just a month before I found out I was pregnant. She was home in an instant.
It was a new thing for the husband, as he was never allowed to have a pet in his life. He didn’t know then that cats don’t do toys. Neither do they do as told.
But Nadia felt sorry for him and decided to adopt his favorite place.
She soon realised that she had to get on my good side too, hence:
A month later, I found out I was pregnant, and we decided to get Nadia a playmate, just in case she felt left out. We got home Bravo, a three-legged piece of art. It was the best decision we ever made, much against public advice.
Of course we never thought it would go so well.
And sometimes we were jealous too. What about us, we thought?
Soon, Re arrived, and they were a threesome.
Of course, Nadia also took on additional responsibility, so I could get some sleep. I can never thank her enough for all those free baby-sitting hours.
But then, she was always rewarded.
Well, sometimes in ways she didn’t quite approve of, but always took in her stride.
When she wanted to hide, she blended with the landscape, so no one would bother her. Except me of course.
Sometimes she even took to my least favorite spot, just so I would stay away.
Nights were of course, reserved for he-who-must-turn-into-a-potato
Sometimes, she rewarded him too. She gave the best pedicures, and chances were, if you were a man, you had a better chance earning them. We actually thought of turning it into a business model, but then thought she might like to pick her candidates.
He-who-must-be-guarded soon turned out to be a good playmate. Sometimes getting into forbidden territory too.
But then as long as she got her fair share of sun-play, she was happy to play along.
Plus she liked people who broke the rules.
Never mind if sometimes she had to take no for an answer
Plus there was also places she could get to where he couldn’t.
She had her weaknesses. Yellow melons. Tomatoes. Yoghurt.
And she always managed her alone-time. A very valuable life-lesson for me. When you want it, go get it.
Sometime last year, a suitable boy made an appearance. She knew she couldn’t make babies, but what was wrong with a little window fling? Especially when it was always in her territory?
He of course started playing hard to get. Like most idiotic men.
And soon it was Christmas again and he was ‘so last year’.
She had the art of creating space out of nothing. A lot of space.
She even endured Re’s stories on loop. Although she knew that Bravo, being the more mushy, clingy one would always get Re’s attention more.
And sometime last month, she stopped eating. And started throwing up. And there began an unending journey to the vet’s clinic. She didn’t like it one bit, but she did everything she could to not make it harder for us.
Her kidneys were badly damaged. She had numbers on her report card that would put any school kid to shame. All values far exceeded anything that was deemed normal. And then one day, she told me, “Enough of this. Leave me alone.” And I did. She left for cat heaven early next morning. She had a full house at her farewell.
The next morning, her boyfriend reappeared. I told him it was too late.