Traveling is a task in itself for me. I hate to move. I am lazy. I travel once in a year to my in law’s place. Like most married men, its not an event I look forward to. Being with in-laws and their extended family always give me nightmares. This one was not going to be different for most part. Like every year, we get together for dinner or lunch, talk a lot about profession, money and sometimes politics. There is little in common between me and my in law’s, and when the factor is common, we don’t really carry forward with the conversation. We simply agree and forget.
At a point of time, there was a short visit to my mother in law’s sisters place. It’s a cramped place which reminds me of the shacks. I am not a person who lives in a mansion but living in a place which can accommodate no more than 2 person at any point of time in any of the rooms is not a place I would want to be for a family reunion, considering the fact that the family consists of over 5 members! The bathroom is no more than 4 feet wide and 6 feet long. A person who is obese would be stuck! the toilets were separate and was not any different. The hall was moderately bigger than any other rooms. 2 bed rooms and a kitchen which doubled as a dining was not uncommon in most Indian homes. This is not a place a married couple would want to stay with kids around. Privacy is impossible here.
The thought that I would have to spend the entire weekend here was not making me happy. What made things worse was the sleep. Its hot and humid in this part of town. Situated near the seashore makes it all the more uncomfortable. The smell of the sea would have been so welcoming if I were to stay in a holiday home. I had to remind myself that this was not a holiday getaway. There was not going to be romantic encounters with my wife or enjoying the sea late in the evenings. This was indeed one of the night mares.
“I have seen worse” I say to myself. It will pass. The first evening was more or less easier than I thought. The long drive of over 300 Miles had already made me tired. I could sleep on a rock. And I did. I was asleep for less than 3 hours when I heard it first. The “Meow” from a cat actually woke me up. I thought it was an alarm from my wife’s cousin’s phone. It did not stop . It was in perfect timing. 1 meow every 5 seconds. I couldn’t be wrong. It had to be an alarm. I couldn’t see a phone near by. It continued for a few minutes. And the few minutes were actually over 15 minutes. I couldn’t get my sleep back from that point. I wasn’t tired anymore. I had lost my sleep.
Tossing and turning with light sleeps and breaks in between every hour got me to daylight. I knew this wasn’t going well. The day started off with my host waking up at 5:20. I did not have a clue as to what to do at 5:20 am at someone else’s house. Was I expected to wake up? Was I to shut up and go to sleep? May be I should just get up and go for a run.
Around 6 Am I did what I thought was right. I woke up and hit the bath. Brushed and wore a pair of sneakers. Fortunately the place was easily accessible to the beach and a wonderful park. I picked up a few cigarettes and headed to a tea shop. Its sometimes a great experience to sit around at a local tea shop sipping a tea and smoking. It actually gets my head off many problems. Not that the problems would ever be solved. Its just that, for a few moments, while the tea and the smokes last, the problems cease to exist. It disappears into thin air. I liked to believe that the problems weren’t there. But with the end of the tea and the smoke, everything floods in back. Sometimes slowly but mostly in a rush.
It was around 8 am when I returned back. Fortunately the host was going out for work, Which happened to be an ICE factory. Morning deliveries of ice to fishermen and food processing units wouldn’t wait for anyone and there was no weekends for them. The host and his son were out by 8:30. They would be back by 11 am. The day is usually slow for the ice businessmen after mid day.
I got a quick shower and was ready for breakfast with my inlaws and that’s when I heard to meow again. Right below my feet was the cat. Gray with black stripes. Thin but not very starved. Short hair and not shiny. It looked like a stray, but I was told that it stayed at the storage area at home. The storage area was a dark shabby place on the top floor, which was rarely visited. Kids feared the place because it was dark. Adults had no reasonable business to go up there except for once in a year to clean the place.
The cat had recently given birth to a litter of 5. None of the kittens were around now. They had left home, But the mother stayed. After a few incessant “Meow” I was starting to get annoyed when the lady of the house introduced me to the “CAT” . They hadn’t named it! The “cat” was at home since 2 years. No one knew where it came from. It just happened to be there. Someone fed him with snacks made of rice and the animal ate it without complaint. Like most Traditional Hindu Brahmin family, there was no meat at home. No eggs either. The cat would sometimes bring in a stale fish from the nearby homes or the streets. At times it would be a rat or mice. Sometimes it would be parts of animals which were hadly recognizable without a DNA analysis. This happened once in 2-3 months and it was not uncommon for my mother in law;s sister to go crazy at the “Cat”. Tantrums were thrown and vessels were shattered. Sticks and rolling pins flew at the cat. The cat disappeared for a few hours and would reappear later.
They say a cat had 9 lives. This one had too many. It wouldn’t leave and it wouldn’t die. When night fell the second evening, I wasn’t tired nor sleepy. I tried to sleep but then the cat’s meow rang in my head. I realized after a few minutes that it was not in my head. The cat was actually there. And it was doing its “MEOW Thing”.
When the weekend was over, I returned back to my mother in law’s place and then back to work. It was a busy day. I worked and kept myself busy. It was late in the evening when I got home and picked up a book to read that I realized that I needed a good nights sleep. I had not slept well over the weekend. I was tired, but not sleepy. I was not ready to sleep yet. With a book in hand but not reading, I was just sitting on the couch. The mind , like usual, drifted. The past few days, the people I met and the sea. The tiny bath rooms and the uncomfortable beds. Then it stuck me. Of all the things I really missed was the cat. I missed that creature which never had a name. it had not let me sleep the entire 2 nights. Today I was alone. No one by my side. My wife was with her parents for a day more and I was alone here. Thinking about a CAT!!!