This is a eulogy to someone whose warmth cheered us all, who was more than a companion, more than a pet. With his twinkling bottle green eyes, baby pink paws, alternate strips of flax and mustard yellow fur, a white underbelly, an always swishing tail, playful, joyous, naughty, haughty, quite a hunter, Chocos had charmed us all. My grandmother, a cat-person, who usually preferred her cats in their boxes, made a pleasant exception to Chocos. He slept like a little baby in my grandmother’s lap clutching onto her. My sister, terrified of cats usually, made an exception to Chocos, spoiling him with cookies and muffins and sweetmeats. My mother, whom Chocos knew as his fish woman, made sure he was always wrapped in everything warm and the orange flavoured biscuits were broken into bits in his bowl while he sunned himself on the windowsill each morning staring at nothing, staring at everything.
I would see him at vacations only and surprised, I would be, as he would happily recognise me after a hiatus of months. He seldom meowed when he was a kitten and as he grew into a handsome tomcat I could hear his loud meows over the phone every time I called home. He had spots where nobody was allowed to sit when he was around and he would nudge you and push you if he found you at this spot, by the phone, in one of the chairs in the dining room, or by the pillow in my mother’s bed. It was uncanny to see him responding, behaving, so much like a little child rather than a cat. Were you to laugh at this failed manoeuvres, he would hang his head and leave the room. Were you to scold him, his ears would droop, his eyes would shut to a wink and he would not near you unless you cajoled him with kind words. He was tremendously swift with his claws and we still have the faint tattoos of his claw on our arms. A stuffed tiger and a stuffed dog were his archenemies and they had to be kept out of reach. As a kitten he was terrified of the stuffed tiger. Later, however, when he found his strength, we needed intervention from the Lords to save the hapless tiger! We would watch him play endlessly, run around, run about, stare out of the window, swishing his tail, snooze in yogic positions, arms stretched, on his back, on his belly, curled into a ball. I remember his first experience of the rains. How amazed and surprised he was, unable to fathom why does his fur get drenched every time he ventures out. His milk had to be boiled over and over unless it was just the perfect consistency to his satisfaction. Sweets he loved. Cereals for breakfast. He was joy, he was happiness, he was warmth.
My family had decided to go out of town for a while this winter. They had to coax my grandmother who was dead against the idea of leaving home, leaving Chocos alone. She would cry on the phone telling me how miserable she felt to leave him alone. My aunt was staying back and that was an assurance, they said. Yet Chocos found it difficult to not see my grandmother, my mother or my sister. And soon after my aunt left Shillong to join the rest of the family. The tenants were there, so I was told. When I was visiting my family I remember my grandmother mentioning can we call home and call out to Chocos over the phone to assure him that we are coming back. Who would receive the phone, we laughed. And then came the news, that shattered us all. He was found dead. I don’t know when and who found him. I did not ask, angered, embittered, annoyed at their nonchalance for not bothering to return home sooner and staying away from home for two months! I heard the gory details from my cousin. He was mauled to death by another cat. He was too weak to fight back, to protect himself. I heard later that he had stopped eating, he would go from the front door to the back door meowing helplessly for someone to open the door, someone to answer to his call. Yes, cats go through depression. Chocos was starved, he was upset, weak, heartbroken. The depths of his pain are unimaginable. Rushing from door to door, devoid of any strength, physical or mental, chilled by the torturous Shillong winter, giving up altogether, defeated, he, I imagine, silently and painfully gave up his life to nothingness. The physical pain must have meant nothing to him. It breaks my heart to imagine him dying alone, devoid of anyone to care, anyone to pat his receding bodily warmth. My mother told me that the hollow left on the blanket where he curled to sleep still remains. My grandmother is distraught. My sister inconsolable. And I find it hard to forgive their callousness. I had imagined how happy he would be when they returned last Tuesday, rubbing his head, nudging them all, purring away in all his glory. What remains is silence, painful, hollow silence.
I hope you have a happy life in your next Chocos. You shall always be missed.
To all of you who are reading this, please, do not leave your pets alone. They need a home and they need your presence. And it is a misconception that cats can survive on their own. They cannot.