She did not rule a country nor did a country declare her birthday as a holiday of that country. She was merely a cat that was named ‘queen’ (‘Rani,’ in Tamil). To others, she was only a cat.
It was around midnight on a cold night. I was preparing to close for the night at the veterinary hospital I was employed in, and make my way home, when a cat was brought into my clinic. Queen was a fully pregnant cat that was kept inside a small enclosure, and brought in an ambulance.
Worse still, Queen was a stray cat, looking for a safe place to deliver her kittens. She was found hiding near a house. She did not carry a microchip of a council that would provide a clue to its identity. What would have happened to the Tom cat that made the cat pregnant?. In all probability, the tom cat would have run away after satisfying its sexual desire and the victim was my ‘queen.’
The plight of my queen reminded me of a poem by poet Jayakanthan titled ‘Vesiyin Thalatu’ (A whore’s lullaby) meaning, ‘like god you also don’t have a father.’ Now let us forget about the tom cat that made my queen pregnant.
Rarely does anyone come forward to adopt a stray old cat. Even the ambulance that brought in the cat, left it at my clinic, and departed. The usual practice by veterinary clinics is to send stray cats to the other world by euthanasia. Marika, a nurse attached to the clinic, after deep thought said, “Let us examine the cat first and then decide on the course of action to be taken.” She was, by nature, a kind-hearted woman and, also, a lover of animals.
She used to look after many stray cats and dogs at her home, and, whenever visitors to her home wanted cats or dogs, she would willingly give them to the visitors. She could be honoured with trophies for the compassion she showed to animals. When the cat was examined, the head of the kitten was jutting out of the vulva, but the neck was in a bent position. The cat was in agony with the pain it had in delivering, and the only option was to perform a caesarean operation to remove the kittens.
Although it was around midnight and I was due to leave the clinic, humane consideration made us wait on and serve Queen. Hands that should have taken the keys out of my pocket, instead, took devices needed for an operation.
We sacrificed our overtime payments, performed the operation, and removed three kittens, out of which, one was found dead. Marika and I came agreed that the cat would be kept in the clinic under our care for one week and, then, given to someone, while Marika would take the kittens home and look after them. As agreed, the cat was left at the clinic and Marika took the kittens home.
As for me, my wife, who is a doctor, had a dislike for cats, and her contention was that cat hair causes asthma. She rejected my idea to take the cat home. My wife would not accept Rani, and, as such, I looked after the cat in the clinic for one week. There weren’t any animal lovers keen to take the cat home, so, I was awaiting an opportunity to take the cat home, myself.
It was an agonising wait, but was soon rewarded, when my wife left for Sydney with our children to see her parents. My better half left home, and my queen came home! My wife returned, and on seeing the cat, showed a long face, akin to how George Bush would react at seeing a photo of Osama Bin Laden!
We already had a dog named Sandy at home, who led a carefree life until the arrival of Queen, which resembled the entry of the Taliban into our home. Queen and Sandy declared war against one another, spontaneously, but after a while, it looked as if they had entered into a memorandum of understanding, and hostilities between them ceased for no apparent reason. The dog and the cat started to occupy a bed on the rear side of the house and the front of the house, respectively. Those who engage in skirmishes learn a valuable lesson from these two animals.
When a stone falls into a well, it causes ripples for a short while, and, then, the ripples cease, and the water becomes placid. Likewise, my wife’s opposition to the presence of a cat also ceased. When the cat was hungry, it would rub against my legs, and as if to express its happiness, it would play on my lap. To my wife who had a dislike for cats, I narrated lovely stories told by my grandmother and other tales dating back to ancient Egypt.
Harming cats was the same as harming Brahmins (Hindu Priests) was the message drummed into me by my grandmother, and the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as their God. Cats are gentle in their behaviour but they are violent when it comes to hurting a prey, and my cat was no exception in its conduct. Whenever the cat saw a small bird, it would craftily get near the bird and grab it and eat it. Although there was a bell around its neck, it was adept in getting close to the bird without making a noise, and catching it.
One day, when I was returning home after work, I saw a bird engaged in a life or death struggle with Queen. As I did not carry a weapon, I hit the cat with my newspaper and saved the bird from imminent death.
It appeared that the cat had developed a sense of anger toward me as I thwarted her attempt to catch the bird. Unlike earlier times, it did not come close to me often and the gap between us widened. We left home for summer holidays and came back during the New Year. I sat in front of the TV to watch the New year celebrations on Sydney harbour bridge, and the cat jumped onto my lap. As I was very much interested in the program, I pushed the cat out of the room and shut the door. After the TV show was over I should have allowed the cat to come inside the room, but I hadn’t, as I had passed into a deep slumber and forgotten the cat.
January first had dawned and I looked for Rani but she was missing. I looked for her down the streets and neighbouring houses but I could not find her and I wondered whether it jumped onto my lap during the previous night in order to bid adieu to me. I also announced through posters that anyone who found Rani would be generously rewarded. But I could not find her and it looked as if Rani was lost forever. It was strange how Rani had come to our clinic during a midnight delivery. All that remain are her beautiful memories.