On 13th February, the day was passing usually, till suddenly I began to hear ‘cat meows’ with my headphones, which were supposed to give only Pro-Timer alerts. (For the uninitiated, Pro-Timer is a workout app).
I was at the shooting range, doing holdings (lifting a pistol in front of a wall and staying there for 15-30 secs, and then putting it down). I thought my brain had gone cuckoo (see, I never go cuckoo, it is always the brain, ALWAYS) because the earlier evening, Abhijeet had unceremoniously dragged me away while I was trying to coax a momma cat and her 2 carbon copy kittens down. (They were perched on an electric pole.) I was so cat-sick, I wished for a cat to appear anywhere I went after that evening.
I asked the neighbour whether he was hearing the mews too? He said that there are cats living beyond the target panels. Huh? How is that possible? Maybe I had not heard him right. To me, it was as if the kitten was stuck in one of the AC ducts above me. Now, how is THAT possible?
Since I am working on self-discipline, I tuned out the alluring mews and went back to holding.
There were sounds of a scuffle at the far end of the range. Someone was shouting ‘Catch her!’ I could hold myself no longer. I set out to investigate.
A kitten skidded in front of me and went straight towards down-range. Heck! It is suicidal, I thought and was about to shout ‘Cease-fire!’ when I realised the bottoms of the tables are blocked and it was too small to jump up on the desks. Phew! I continued trudging towards it, now in the opposite direction, since it ran straight to where I had come from. A lad tried to pounce on it, it swerved deftly and ran straight at me. (Well, diagonally. Diagonally straight at me). It realised that and ran straight towards the stands. (I am going to set a record in using straight in a blog post).
It sat mewing in panic in the corner, trying to figure out if there was a way out if it jumped up. Niet. And it was too small to know aggression common to cornered cats. Meanwhile, I had jumped the railing in pursuit and was looking at it from a distance. (Also trying to soften its state of mind by mewing back soothingly.) I told the others not to try to catch it by force. Let it settle, and I’ll take it out. (Not with a pellet!!!)
An ace rifle shooter from our academy came from behind and caught it when it was trying to run back in the other direction. So much for knowing cat psychology, hmph. He caught it but dinno what to do next. So I offered to drop it outside. The poor kitten was panicked and frightened beyond imagination. All it could do was to wail and try to climb over my shoulder and run for dear life. I assured it by my genteelness in holding it that I am not a predator.
I took the wailing fellow downstairs into the office and at the gate, thinking they would know the whereabouts of its family. Everybody agreed that they live in the space above the false ceiling of the 10m range, but nobody knew how they get there. So the watchman, the caretaker, me, and 2 of the rifle shooting girls decided it best to set it free by the neem tree at the end of the parking lot, where it would be safe from the puppies which are seen goofing around the building these days. Momma cat would come to the rescue there since she had not come to the range.
It was trembling. Its brain had shut down. It didn’t know how to react to the petting it received from me. One second it liked it and looked like it would settle down comfortably on my hand and the other second it remembered it had to call his mother and wailed. If not for the genuinely frightened fellow, I would have found it highly comical. When it could think of nothing else; it hid its face in my elbow, like a true blue ostrich.
The peon got milk from the kitchen. It would not drink in front of company. So I took it at the end of the parking, and set it down. It wanted to run away outright. But I picked it up again and made it smell the milk. It was torn between the urge to lap it up and the instinct to run for dear zindagi. In the end, it decided to stay and have the meal, because in any case, if it were to die, it would be better to die well fed. With tail firmly lodged between its hind legs, it lapped up the milk while I sat beside it, giving it complete freedom after 15 minutes of smothering it with the most luxurious petting anyone could ever receive (and give). It stole looks at me – probably thinking : petting done, feeding done, now the predator is going to eat me.
Unlike the tiger from Life of Pi, it did give me a backward glance after sprinting suddenly, leaving the milk midway. It even ran back to me. So I thought. However, it was only to sniff at the dead giant cockroach lying upside down 2 feet from the milk bowl. It decided that the cockroach dessert wasn’t worth it, especially since the predator had risen on its two legs. So much for gratitude. Paah!
And then it ran straight into the bushes, exactly like the tiger from Life of Pi. It did not vanish and was not never heard of again afterward though; because on 14th, when I walked in to the range, I found the rifle shooter and told him about where we dropped the kitten yesterday. He smiled and said that a big cat had come today. (Thankfully, he doesn’t know the difference between kitten (chhoti billi), cat(badi billi) and big cats (???) otherwise I would have fainted. I am dead afraid of big cats.)
Abhijeet wouldn’t let me pet the cat in the mall parking. So what? GOD sent me a cat right where I was practicing the next day. (Selective atheist me?) Such an amazing Valentine’s Day gift!
Even today, I could hear the distress calls of kittens and the cajoling/scolding calls of the momma cat from the ceiling. Thankfully, they were restricted to the ceiling only and there were no magical apparitions to tend to my cat-sickness anymore.