Never thought this day would come. Life is not eternal so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. We all know this. But we don’t pay attention to the immediateness of mortality until it touches our life in some way.
It happened to us last week. Pixie, my babe, the light of our home, the vanquisher of Gohils, the queen of our palace, left us without giving us a second’s notice. And we are left in this awkward space trying to figure out how to deal with this loss now.
Gohils are Cat people
Almost a decade ago, we found 4 kittens writhing in Bombay winter in the corner of our building compound. Apo, the alpha of the pack, was the first to step out to find a better shelter. He shrieked in his kitten voice and caught my sister’s attention. She followed him and found the rest of the litter. She played with them, gave them milk and water. She made a small hut for them, away from the construction work that was going on. A few days later, my brother and I were introduced to this joyful bunch.
I’ve always loved animals… from far. I was neither a cat person nor a dog person. These kittens would climb on our shoulders and roll around in our laps but I wouldn’t want to touch them. The germophobe in me could barely withstand human contact, unvaccinated kittens were another ball game altogether. But as days went by, we didn’t realize how a few minutes of playtime turned into a loving friendship. One fine evening, when we were resuming with our regular playtime with the kittens, one of them was missing. We searched and searched. All around the house, the society complex, even on the road. But to no avail. And that’s when we decided, we couldn’t let that happen to the rest of them.
Mom and Dad weren’t super pet-friendly. Though, we did have a pet dog, a parrot, love birds and adopted a street dog at different times in our childhood. Cats… we never had those. So, we smuggled them in a make-shift cardboard box tent into our rooms. The plan was that we’ll take care of them in the night, away from our parents’ sight and the day would be easier since they would be off at work. We thought this could go on forever but the more enterprising of the lot couldn’t be contained in that room. Apo was super excited at the versatility of his new playground and Garu followed suit. Pixie, she was still judging us.
Within a few days, Mom found out and she was really mad. She was concerned because now, she had 6 kids to take care of instead of 3. But we promised that we would take care of them, in every possible way and she wouldn’t have to spend a joule of energy or an extra penny on them. The ball of mush that she is, she agreed to keep it a secret from Dad. Naïve, like us. There are no secrets in a family. Everyone knows and can pretend not to know. But they know. Dad took the longest to warm up to them but when they purr at your feet and look at you with googly eyes, there’s not much you can do to resist.
Pixie and me in a Cold War
Apo won everyone’s heart with his dog-like warmth and sense of adventure. Garu mesmerized everyone with his cuteness and simplicity. Pixie, on the other hand, we were struggling to earn her trust in us. She found the warmest corners to cuddle up and stayed as far as she could from any sort of human contact. She’d be up in arms with protruding claws the moment anyone attempted to get near her. Deva was the only one who would dare to deal with this force of nature. I tried, a couple of times, but she would gnaw at me. So, we got catty with each other. She wanted to be treated like a princess but she didn’t know she was dealing with one of her kind when she was with me. I iced her out of my circle of affection after she left a deep scratch on my thigh.
Well into a year of their residence at our home, she came into her own. All 3 of them started to develop distinct personalities. Like how all 3 of us did. They were growing up along with us. My beef with Pixie was well-known to everyone. Deva found it funny. She’d throw Pixie at me deliberately since I would do everything to avoid her. It wasn’t long before Pixie noticed it too. She couldn’t let that go on for too long.
I was sitting in the study one day, stuck to the phone in a long conversation. Deva came in the room along with her. She sat on Deva’s lap while continuously eyeing my lap. And she made a leap for it. Without any concern for my wishes, she tried to make herself comfortable in my lap. I pushed her out, still not forgiving her for the deep scratch she left on my thigh. She climbed back in. This struggle went on for a bit.
Deva lamented -” Why are you being so difficult with her? She just wants to sit with you for a bit. Let her.”
Pixie meowed back in unison, almost trying to resonate with Deva’s sentiments. I kept the phone down and gave in.
“Alright, you little, Furball. You can sit here as long as you don’t scratch me. Kapiche?” and we ended our cold war. Her fur was the softest of them all. I lightly scratched her under her ears and smoothened out her velvety fur in one direction.
And we became friends.
She's not a regular cat
Who would’ve thought that the one small decision of giving them shelter for a night would lead to a life-long bond of unconditional love. She was different from the other two. I don’t think she knew she was a cat. Mom loved her like she would love me. There was something so regal about the way she carried herself. She’d sleep in the best corners of the house and the boys wouldn’t dare question her stake on those territories. She commanded respect and attention from everyone in the household at her terms.
Mom made some basic rules for the cats. They could sit anywhere except in her room and definitely not her bed. But somehow, Pixie managed to convince my mother that those rules cannot be applied to her. From not being allowed on the bed to having a special blanket for Pixie so that she could sit alongside the other ladies of the house, the transition was seamless and imperceptible.
She’d join our evening gossip sessions and learnt that she could get herself heard by talking to us in her own language. The boys would scavenge for food outside but Pixie, being the sharp one, she knew, it was better to just keep herself in good books with the humans. She’d source food for all 3 of them from us. She learnt to knock on doors when we kept her out. How could we dare to leave her out without her permission?
Afternoon naps were spent in sun bathing and giving company to Mom. Supper time was spent in talking to Dad. Nights were meant for the girls to hangout. We’d leave her with Pranav in his room, with the other two cats to rest in the night. But she’d find a way to sneak out and find cover in our warm blankets. She’d be the first one to get out and give company to Mom while she was doing her morning chores. I’d be half awake listening to Mom and Pixie talk to each other, while the smell of freshly brewed tea wafted through the corridors.
I don’t know if it was a gender thing or it was just her but Pixie managed to have an individual relationship with each one of us in the house. In 2014, when I left home to study abroad, I was worried about Mom and Dad. Who would spend time with them and give them unconditional love and care? Whenever I’d call, she would be with Mom ready to talk whenever she was addressed. She wasn’t just a cat to my parents, she was their daughter.
Pixie was magical
How did we live before these beautiful creatures came into our lives? I can’t answer that with confidence. You don’t expect them to care or know what you’re going through. But Pixie, always knew. She’d come sit on my chest when I was going through a pang of anxiety. She’d laze around and lick my fingers or toes to comfort me when I was down. I’d call her out with different names indefinitely, till she would lose interest and figure that I was just pestering her.
She taught me how to love from a distance without crossing personal boundaries. She taught me how to love with actions and not with words. She taught me that you need to take care of yourself even when you’re taking caring of others. She made me realize that it’s okay to be difficult to love because those who get you, will get it and love you nonetheless. She could be silly and full of grace at the same time. She’d fight with you one moment and then lick your wounds later. She’d be in deep pain but still have the heart to be there for you. She gave us nothing but simple moments of joy.
Our home is slightly empty without her meows echoing through the stairwell. She’ll always be the queen of our palace, my mother’s 3rd daughter and my psychotic feline friend.
We miss her. Always will. My babe… Pixie.
“When I am feeling low, all i have to do is watch my cats and my courage returns.” - Charles Bukowski