Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Roseeecozy for Roseee

So where do stray cats take refuge when nights turn cold and dark? Darkness, of course, they can manage, but cold?

Though Roseee, like me, is fond of taking long walks during cold, foggy nights, she craves a cozy corner for her nightly catnaps. We know for sure by the way she starts knocking our doors and windows at night. She wants to come in and cuddle up, but she wants her independence too…a room of her own.

“So what do we do?” the Lilliputians ask.

I assume the mantle of a sage. “We can build her a home.”

The suggestion ushers in ripples of excitement that reverberate through the entire Land of Lilliputians. Omar, the master builder, has, as always, ideas aplenty. He immediately starts sifting his brain. “We can use a big box to make a house.”

The idea seems plausible and we set to work.

“What will we call the house?” I am still in my thinking Buddha mode.

We all start brainstorming.  Zainab, an extremely organized little girl that she is, brings a copy and starts jotting down the names we all come up with.

Finally we settle on ‘Roseeecozy.’ Since it is ‘tea cozy’ for keeping tea warm, Roseee cozy will keep ‘our’ cat cozy, so goes the logic.

I like the fact that we have somehow brought in tea in this roseeecozy business.

We make a house. To make Roseee feel special, the Lilliputians embellish the house with her portraits. There is even a little red foot mat in case she becomes too cultured and starts wearing shoes. The house is then furnished with a wall- to-wall carpet, a few cushions are thrown in to make it snug for her snooze.

“She might like it enough to start living here. Then she will become ‘our’ cat and will never ever leave us,” they say wistfully.

The insatiable human urge to possess, to make someone, or something, ours...but can this ever be so…

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Roseee Goes to Vet

Roseee, a stray cat that she is, likes to go for long walks all on her own; she doesn’t hang about our place for long. But one day Roseee stays at our place, eat nothing, and sleeps.  If it had only been her marathon sleeping session, we wouldn’t have been worried. But she coughs a real couch, not once, not twice, but three times. 

Zainab tells me: “Roseee caught it from you.”

Yes, I was down with a protracted flu &fever, so bad that it made my jaws ache as if they were being hammered upon. I think about Roseee’s jaws and announce: “I will have to find a vet for her.”   

Inappropriate medium for transporting cats
There are screams of excitement and they all want to go with me. This uncalled for enthusiastic response to Roseee’s illness feels ominous and I start dreading the trip. “I didn’t say picnic, I said vet.”

There’s a chorus. “You can’t go without us.”

I am good at recognizing commands that just can’t be defied. So we pick Roseee’s basket, it is also her makeshift bed, and set out on the journey. Only the basket in question is NOT meant to hold cats but the realization will dawn on me much later.

We settle in the car, Zainab sits in the front seat with Roseee, Saif extends his hand from the back seat to help Zainab in calming down the cat. While I drive, Roseee takes offence and tries to jump outside. Saif Screams, Zainab shrieks and asks me to control Roseee. I  try to keep my cool, concentrate on driving and  tell zianab that I have two eyes and they should preferably be on the road, and it would be better if my hands held on to the steering instead of Roseee.

After a while, an object comes flying from the back seat and hangs upside down on the front seat. This is Omar. He too wants to hold Roseee.

Now I raise my voice and tell him to behave and threaten to drop him on the road if he doesn’t.

He moves back and makes a few statements that in effect pronounce me the meanest person in town.

I make a silent vow: I will never ever stuff the Lilliputians and Roseee together in anything that moves on the road, and has me at the steering.

Roseee and her vet
After what seems like twenty years we reach the market where we have been told there are vet clinics. Now everyone wants to hold the basket. So this is how we move around the market: six people moving in a circle, holding a basket with a harassed looking cat inside it. We are a spectacle.

I reiterate my vow.

As we reach the clinic, the cat starts jumping around and we all run in that small cubicle to catch her.  The vet doesn’t seem too pleased to see us. However, Roseee is then put on a stretcher, he takes her temperature, injects her with some antibiotics.

 Roseee looks at me, and for the second time in a day I am made to feel like the meanest person in town. Not good for my morale. Really.

And then it happens.

Saif nudges me: “The uncle behind us has a cat in a box.”

I turn around. Yes, the uncle in question has a beautiful Persian cat that has come to have his nails clipped.

The handsome Persian dude
We all start petting the cat who is fashionable enough to come for a manicure. As we are doing so, Roseee jumps and attacks the well-groomed feline dude. There is a commotion. The uncle is worried, the vet tells us to quickly control our ‘stray cat,’ and we try to leave.

The entire spectacle of six people holding a basket with a, now angry, cat is repeated.

“Roseee was jealous because we were petting the Persian cat,” on our way home, Roshan comes up with a likely reason for Roseee’s bad behavior.

Since Mobby always has an opinion on everything, the next possible reason comes from him. “The Persian cat was big, Roseee was scared of him and wanted to attack first while the doctor held him.”

 “No, actually Roseee wasn’t trying to pounce on the Persian cat. She wanted to scratch the doctor for giving her the injection. He gave her two injections, it must have hurt her,” Omar has another take on the matter.

Zainab finds Roshan’s reason more plausible, and Saif seconds Omar, or perhaps Mobby. While the Lilliputians shout, voice opinions and fight over who is right, Roseee again tries to jump out, Zainab again shrieks, I try to somehow drive.

 And I renew my vow for the third time.

We finally reach home safe and sound. We give some warm milk to Roseee, tuck her in her make shift bed, and tell her to rest. When after half an hour we check on her…..she is gone.  

The Lilliputians are dejected. “After all that we did for her!” is the prevailing emotion.

I tell them that our love, our entreaties, our ministrations, our pampering cannot chain her. She is a free soul.

Roseee  is generous in her acceptance of our love. She doesn’t take it as a loan that she has to pay back with or without interest. Nor does she ascribe motives and designs to our ministrations. She takes it nonchalantly like she receives the breeze that caresses her, or the sunshine that makes the terrace such a cozy place for her. 

In response to our love she does what she is good at doing: she basks in it, and she purrs. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Apple’s School

Saif is teary-eyed and has an injured look on his face.

“Aymen has fired me and she didn’t even give me my pay,” Saif tells me when I ask the reason.

“Appple hired you, and then fired you! And she pays you too…to do what?” I am confused and curious.

“Aymen, your Apple, runs a school. It’s called Kids Club. Maheen, Zainab and I teach there, and she pays us 30 rupees per day.”

“There seem to be too many teachers. Are there any students?” I ask.

“Omar, Roshan, and Mohib are the students.”

I learn more about the school. It becomes operational every time Apple comes to Lahore, three to four times a year. Classes are held for two days or even one day depending on how long the ‘principal’ is staying here. The duration of her absence is considered holidays, and the students are required to revise and practice whatever they learn during rigorous school sessions. There are three students and almost four teachers because sometimes Apple likes to take a class or two. Two of the teachers are sixth graders, one is in grade four, and the principal is in grade three.

It seems an interesting institution.  I decide to meet the principal.

Apple is sitting on a sofa with legs crossed, chewing gum. Looking every inch a principal, she gives me a don’t-intrude look and makes a curt speech before I can utter a word. “If you have come to take Saif’s side, then don’t. He misbehaved in the class. He is a math’s teacher, and he was laughing while teaching. What kind of impression will it leave on students?”

“She was also giggling when she came inside the class, though she tried to hide her face,” Saif voices his grievance against the principal.

“She hardly leaves us alone. And she doesn’t let us make the planner or take attendance,” teacher Zainab has her own set of complaints against the principal.

“And she asks me how to spell attendance," Maheen, the big sister, rolls her eyes and laughs.

Apple glowers at her, and I ignore this irreverent comment.

I plead on Saif’s behalf, appeal to Apple’s sense of justice, and draw her attention to the paucity of good teachers. Apple finally relents. After all, good mathematics teachers are hard to find.

What I find really impressive is the way Apple is carrying out the entire school business. So professionally. And she saves her pocket money to pay the teachers!  

“You don’t get anything out of it, and you pay out of your pocket. In fact, you should get a handsome salary, you are the principal,” I bring up the matter with Apple.

“It's because I don’t get any fees from the parents. I am sending them another notice today. But I have to run my school, so I pay the teachers from my pocket money.”

Isn't this how we all begin…by believing in our passion, financing our dreams. Also present in this saga is some kind of power game. Being able to hire and fire, to be able to pay, to formulate rules and make others follow them… power can be intoxicating and addictive.