Kittens in the Garden

It was a potted hibiscus plant. Its white flowers appeared to appeal for more freedom. ‘I can give you a drizzle of smiles, just give me some more space!’ the plant beseeched. It’s advisable to be considerate and sensitive towards smiles. A smile is a gift. One should simply take it without thinking too much. Overthinking ruins smiles. So the plant was fixed on a larger stage in the flower bed. It simply launched itself into fulfilling its promise of more smiles. A very robust hibiscus it became. Multitudes of big white flowers laugh now in abundance among its glossy, richly green leaves. Once in a while, it decides to spring a surprise and a baby-pink flower smiles among dozens of its pristine white flowers. Is it to spring a surprise to the human keeper of the flower bed?

Yesterday evening I stooped down to pick up the shovel and my left eye got into the space of a soft bud. It’s a direct hit. But a bud isn’t too bad on one’s eyes even at its worst. I felt the impact and moderate pain. As I squinted and looked at the playful bud with the other eye, I found it was the pink bud. The wince and grimace is gone. I smile as a bit of water trickled down. ‘Don’t worry, I’m here to give you smiles, not tears,’ the bud promised.

And today it keeps its promise. It’s a dazzling baby-pink flower among its flashing white siblings. The eye that had a tear now gets a beautiful vision, a kind of nourishing tonic. It shows we can very well choose to play down the involuntary hurts to our hearts and bruises to our egos. Most of the unintentional fallouts on us carry the prospects of good intentions in future, provided we don’t nip it in the bud, carried by our instinctive, compulsive reaction. Patience and understanding turn life wholesome.

Today, the clouds and the sun have an equal say in the sky. Huge loafs of greyish white clouds drift like bulky airy ships. They are scattered on the blue canvas. Monsoon is certainly losing its grip at last. There are many who would say a happy goodbye to the seasonal rains this year. The clouds have been pretty benevolent. They now roll and rumble over the sun. There are shifting shadows on the ground, a kind of busy activity before the change of baton.

shikra, a small hawk, swoops down and plucks away an adventurous lizard from the neem’s trunk. Maybe the lizard was bored with its cornered life among the walls and looked for more of life and living outside the fence. Well, it’s part of the little hawk now and can certainly look at the bigger world through the predator’s eyes. Isn’t it a marvellous recycling, the prey turns into the predator as it gets digested to form the flesh and blood in the new body?

Last evening even the kitten was equally smart in turning a lizard into a cat. It is turning very lazy and finds hunting very boring, especially given the fact that the bowl is there to pacify its gluttony. So why take the trouble to hunt?

I didn’t change the status of the empty bowl with a purpose. It kept on sullenly looking from me to the bowl throughout the afternoon. No wonder, the need to hunt arose. There was this beautiful lizard that passed its days in the roof drainpipe. It led a nice and comfortable life I think. It would crawl out to even sunbathe sometimes.

The kitten has turned so lazy that it won’t bother to even make an attempt at it as the bowl is usually placed near the pipe’s mouth near the ground. It would just do justice to the bowl’s contents and the lizard got more time to get tanned. But last evening, the kitten was steely and resolved to do something about the issue of hunger. The bowl had turned heartless and wasn’t responding to the kitten’s magic trick of staring at it continuously and the pure desi cow milk materialized. It then realized the snack that had been crawling right under its nose. Maybe even the lizard had turned careless after too much of seeing the snoozing and sleeping little cat.

We have our bad days, all of us, don’t we? It had been a bad day for the fasting kitten and now it was the turn for the lizard’s evening to be really bad. The hungry kitten pounced wholeheartedly and ate the lizard in one lot. I could just see the tail twitching as it too went inside to turn silent finally. To tell you frankly, I myself felt as a partner in crime for having abetted this hunt. Is any of our acts free from being a kind of sin for someone else?

The monkeys are still more energetic today. A kitchen seems to be raided in the neighbourhood. The utensils cry at the top of their voice. A very offensive oath is hurled. The culprits run out and jump onto a gulmohar in front of our house, severally damaging the still remaining branches. They just love breaking it down. The tree appears like there was no monsoon at all. I have seen so many rascal simians loafing around with twigs in their mouths as if they use it as a toothbrush.

One of the extra-judicious among them has picked up a white shirt from the house bearing the rattled kitchen. It’s the very same white shirt that the poor farmer uses on all occasions ranging from cremations to marriage functions. I think the shirt is relieved of its duties now. The buttons that proudly rolled through the farmer’s fingers to find their place through the slits to get locked safely are now passing through the simian teeth. The buttons are chewed to satisfaction. Seething with impotent rage, the farmer hurls a full brick into the tree. The missile doesn’t go too far and lands among the dogs who are throwing abuses from the side of humans. The dogs give a nice presentation of a stampede as they go howling, possibly abusing the humans now.

Put the strongest of a man face-to-face against the weakest of a monkey. The latter will at least ensure to mock an attack before showing its red bum as long as the man is standing straight or even has a stick. That much pride they salvage.

The best trick against the monkeys is to suddenly crouch low as if you are picking up a nuclear warhead, even though there is nothing to pick up. It just scares them out of their wits. They forget to feign their customary mock attack and instantly give you the pleasure of gloating over the pink of their bum. With this technique, even the weakest of a human can scare away the strongest of a monkey. I find it more effective than holding a stick and challenge them in a fair and square way. Maybe they take their feigned attacks as victory, so I have to deprive them of it also.

The big neighbourhood news is that another street dog has been slapped by the big simian harem-keeper. But this dog itself is a bully who beats smaller puppies. So I don’t hold anything against the pink-balled villain, at least in this regard. But the rest of his crimes stand with full force against him.

The silverbill seems to have carried good luck with the arrival of kittens in the yard. I have keenly observed monsoon-time globular nestings of the scaled munias and silverbills in the garden trees over the years. There hasn’t been a single successful hatching so far. Mostly the culprits have been the squirrels who just love sneaking into the globular safe house and have nice, crunchy egg-snacks. The cute bird can’t even throw abuses, they just trill almost inaudibly.

As the Mama cat arrived with her little ones, she ensured that all other claimants to the property are disposed off first. So there she squatted patiently among the flowers and expertly turned the striped hunters into preys one by one. The squirrels then turned into the little kittens as the latter gobbled up the soft meat pies offered by their Mama.

The squirrels paid for their villainy of the past many seasons. But then even the cats have to pay for the same. The dogs will ensure that, don’t worry. So the globular, messy nesting has hatching this time. I can hear their happy jingling notes sometimes. The kittens also know that there is great meal over there but it’s placed too high among the top branches. Staring there just gives them some kind of neck and eyes tratak yoga, nothing more. But it’s a good time pass for them nonetheless.

We have talked a lot about these kittens. Let’s go into the beginning of the story for the benefit of our readers. Feral Mama cats are very resourceful in raising their brood. They would keep shifting their kittens across barns and yards till they find a safe one. Then they would take leave of absence for few hours and hunt outside. Meanwhile, the kittens just hide like a mouse. The entire days and nights of the cat Mama are spent in hunting as the boys and girls are a first rate example of unquenchable gluttony. As the kittens grow, the Mama cat’s visits turn to twice a day, then once, then once in a couple of days and then she would forget them once she realizes that they can mind their own business now. What saintly detachment after fulfilling the responsibilities?

She arrived with her baby twins and seemed to say, ‘Your unkempt garden and the shabby barn is ours.’ During the initial days they were scared and pretty subdued. The continuous rat supply by their Mama and the passage of days added to their confidence and now they believed that it is their place just like I take it as my own for being born here. The only difference is that we have designed a registration paper for the property. They but hold it in their heart and with even bigger confidence, I tell you. They seem to be very strong in their conviction about the ownership of the place.

The kittens then mewed with predatory intent. They meant it and raised their fur to look strong enough to defend their right. I had no option and handed over the title deed to these rascally kittens, twin brothers. They were all cuddly love for each other, except when their mother appeared after two or three days with a fat rat. Both of them pounced upon the mother’s pudding. The stronger one dragged the other along with the fat rat. The poor claimant let go of the fat rat and watched from a distance as the bigger rascal had his tummy full. The watcher then sneaked in to claim the leftovers.

The bigger rascal is a very strong southpaw. He expertly keeps kicking at the face of his brother while gobbling down the bigger chapatti pieces. He boxes rather, gives an effective over the top smash. Once it takes burps of contentment and proudly puts its moustache in order, the other one again comes out to do justice to the leftover pieces. No wonder, the bigger rascal is exponentially getting bigger in body also. That’s life at the level of plants, animals, birds and insects. They fight to survive. We also do the same. But we have the extra option of consciously cooperating to create something. That means we are just a bit smarter animals.

The weaker one nurtured its aesthetics, a cuddly cuteness to win human affection. It prefers the doormat unlike the other one who prefers the courtyard and the barn. The bowl-lover finds the bowl a kind of centre of the world. Consequently its stage is very small, which means lesser of life and living. It’s always looking either at me or the bowl. He thinks he has a very nice bowl-keeper, I suppose.

The other one loves outdoors in the yard and looks confidently into the camera as I take a picture. It has a larger stage and hence a bigger and more exciting life. The kitten with fragile, vulnerable aesthetics looks scared and suspiciously into the camera.

Both of them are males and already seem to have carved out their territories. The outdoor type even goes out and tries to catch rats sometimes when he is fed up with lizards, skinks, leeches and frogs in the yard. He shares milk also with his brother but doesn’t drink much. He just moves away midway, stretching his back with contentment. He’s basically a non-veg kind of guy. I’m sure he will come of age earlier and successfully follow a cat girl. Only then he will forget the garden after being whiplashed by the hormonal storm of youth.

I am worried about the other one. It may turn out to be too cute to chase a girl with success. I mean the cat girl may play with it sometimes but I doubt if she will find it worth being the Papa of her kids. This doormat-sleeper has to toughen up a bit. I will devise ways and means in that direction. Scaling down the bowl-magic will help, I think.