It was a humid monsoon afternoon in June in Kolkata six and a half years ago. The drizzle was warm but soothing and something positive was in the air. A week was still to go before my birthday and I wasn’t anticipating the happenings of the day, which was going to be the most memorable day of my life.
After my class got over, my friend asked me if I would like to visit an acquaintance, whose health was not particularly well. I thought over the matter and finally decided on the positive. The drizzle had stopped briefly and we took a local bus to our destination. As we got off and walked through the labyrinth of narrow lanes that constitutes this area in central Kolkata, I saw numerous kittens and puppies playing happily. The little faces glowing with cheerfulness. I wanted to pick one up and cuddle it (as I usually do) but we were running late. We reached Edwina’s place in another fifteen minutes. At the gate, we were greeted by a sleeping little kitten – the fur was golden, not very fat and seemed to be dreaming of rats. “So cute!!” was what I said when I saw it. As this was my first visit, I was pleasantly surprised to see a team of cats in the house – on the table, under the chair, on the cupboard, sleeping on the television, a few on the bed and underneath too! It was a real treat for a cat lover like me.
After having inquired after Edwina’s health, we were ready to leave. Suddenly someone tapped on my shoulder. It was Edwina’s sister, Flory, who had by then, placed an orange colored basket beside me. I looked at my friend in bewilderment and then at the basket. Inside I saw the same little golden kitten I had seen at the gate. It looked at me with wide brown eyes. I was in loss for words and on looking at my friend again, I was told that the kitten was my birthday gift!! I couldn’t believe my birthday gift could be so beautiful – a kitten named ‘Sandy’.
Perhaps she was unhappy that day, having to leave her birthplace and home – I will never know. But I was happy – incredibly happy. She was my first pet. Although, I had longed to keep a cat in the house, ever since I was little, my wish was granted only after all these years. It was a blessing brought to me by the little drizzle drops from the heavens above. I had always been so lonely, being the only child of parents- with no siblings to play or quarrel with or no pets to hold close. My loneliness found a way out and in came a feeling so joyous, brought by my little Sandy.
She cried and cried and cried all the way to my place. I didn’t know how to console her, didn’t know if she would ever like me. I bought some milk and hoped she was like it. Accompanying this feeling of happiness was a thought of the unexpected. I dreaded the reaction of my parents, as they never wanted a pet. “It is too much of a responsibility”, they would always say. At last, I reached home and showed my new gift to my parents, who were astounded. As I opened the basket, Sandy leaped over and ran to the balcony for her first poop in my house. My parents were angry at the unexpected turn of events, but still were amazed to see that Sandy was trained already for her toilet requirements!
We spent hours observing her as she spent her hours looking around, trying to get familiar with everything new. I knew she missed her home – “It would take time”, I told myself. She cried and meowed relentlessly and when I tried to cuddle her, she would jump off my lap. Perhaps she didn’t like me! That night I made a bed for her beside mine, but around mid-night, I could not find her anywhere. I was scared, very scared and wondered if I lost her or she has died. The next morning, I searched everywhere with a torchlight, and there she was – behind a cupboard – snoring!! What a cute sight that was! Wish I had my camera ready back then. She had little food that morning. Around afternoon, she started playing with everything small – paper balls, strings and bells – anything she could find. She explored the house and began climbing up to the bed, on cupboards and on the T.V. Then she would slip and fall and roll over and jump up again. We could not stop ourselves from laughing our hearts out, trying to keep up with all her mischievous ways. I could not help myself from adoring her – her tiny soft paws, her pink nose, her large brown eyes, the golden sand-colored coat, and the little white socks on her hind legs and the white triangle on her neck.
That night, as I sat on the bed combing my hair, she came close with a tiny soft “Meow” and climbed up on my lap for the first time – sitting and purring with her eyes half closed. I was truly, most happily surprised. She had accepted me – as her friend and companion. She gave me a new life away from my loneliness. Sandy came to me as a bundle of joy, taking a little step at a time into my deserted heart. Then she lay on my lap with her face toward me – her paw playing away with my curls and slowly dozing off in my arms wrapped with my love. Now, all the curls remain, paws that played with them are missed terribly in so many ways.
Time went by and she grew in size … she was my child and I was happy to see her grow. My lap was where she preferred to sleep – my lap it was that gave her peace in pain during all those terrible nights of illness. She looked at me with her ever wide eyes to know if I understood what she felt. She understood that I knew it all, the very moment she looked at me. For nights together, I would hold her close, to let her know that I loved her and needed her no matter what; to let her know I knew her pain and something cut inside of me every time she cried.
I saw my little Sandy growing up … from a toddler into a beautiful teenager. She had her fan following too. It was a scene right out of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Sandy would sit at the window, while beneath the window, on the terrace of our neighbor sat her beau – a fat white cat, who sat their all night singing sweet songs of love, admiring his beautiful lady. We were much like any conservative family and would never let our pretty princess step out of the house. We did now know that the wooing of her lover was too much for our beloved princess to resist. One early morning, when all were sleeping, my Sandy eloped by jumping off from the window of our flat on the fourth storey. We spent sleepless nights and agonized days searching everywhere for her. But we did not get any trace. After 10 long days, my dad spotted Sandy on a nearby road and when he called out for her, she ran to him, jumping onto his lap at once! How merciful God is, we all thought and thanked heavens for bring our Sandy back to us.
A few months went by and she looked healthier and prettier than ever before. One evening, as she sat on my lap while I stroked her, I noticed something strange. Something was moving inside her tummy!!! I was awestruck when I realized that my baby was pregnant with her babies!! I could not hold back my joy and declared it to the world. My friends told me they were eager to take the kittens once they were born. Sandy grew closer to us those days, never stepping out of the house, preferring to sleep on my lap. She was only 10 months old on 4th February 2007 when she gave birth to a litter of four kittens. I had missed witnessing the birth as I was on my way back from office. When I entered the house, the proud mother came out of the corner where she had just given birth and called out to me. I was amazed as I realized that she wanted me to go close to her and see her babies – we could read each other’s mind so well!! I did as she wanted me to and I saw them, little pink kittens too delicate to move. Sandy looked at me with love and extreme pride as I stroked her head and purred to her heart’s content as the babies fed.
My new job as a granny began as I, with my mom’s endless assistance, started to take care of the babies of my baby. They grew so fast and healthy – playing, rolling, screaming, loving, eating and sleeping. My world was centered on them and nothing else in the world mattered. This is when, we realized that Sandy will always get pregnant and our house was too small to keep more than one cat at a time. Her vet advised on neutering Sandy and one day in May, she was taken away to the hospital, while her kittens – Jelly Belly, Bitty Kitty, Popcorn and Bon Bon – were given away. It was one of the saddest of all the sad days that were yet to come.
Sandy stayed at the hospital for about 4 weeks, during which, she did not wish to meet any one of us. She was heartbroken – her trust in us was broken perhaps. She refused to eat well and only slept quietly and in sadness. She did not know, till then, that all her kittens were gone. When she was brought back, she looked scared, sad and lonely. Had she taken away my loneliness into her life? Perhaps, yes. She searched everywhere for her kittens. She cried for hours and refused to eat. For the first time, I was unable to read the hollow expressions of her eyes – she came to me and cried, she called me and took me to all the corners where she had lived with her babies. I was helpless and did not know how to console her in her time of utter agony. There was an untold madness about her as she began going out and staying outdoors for hours – sometimes for two to three nights at a stretch. I could not believe that we had done this to our baby but this was a point of no return.
Things started deteriorating from this time onward. Sandy would come home on certain nights bleeding from paws as her claws had got ripped off. The bloody and painful nights seemed endless. Suddenly she started losing weight alarmingly. She would cough and sneeze and get terrible breathing problems. The wheezing never stopped and I spent several nights giving medication and holding her close. She would look at me with those same hollow expressions – now with touch of profound sadness and pain. But despite it all, she never forgot to give me company during my bad times, heartbreaks and illness. She would sleep with her face close to mine when I cried; she let me hold her for hours almost taking in all the fears inside; she licked my cheeks when they were wet with tears. She was always the truest friend – knowing exactly what I felt, comforting through the gravest of times, when the world turned its back on me.
One night she could not breathe or eat or jump or walk. We rushed her to her vet the next morning. She was diagnosed with acute dehydration and the worst form of asthma along with a condition of the heart. He said, “Had you not brought her at this time, she would have died within 3 hours”. I was shocked to know that my baby’s condition was so serious. She had to be put on saline and numerous intravenous injections for a week, before she got up again. Her health made her unhappier and she stopped playing. She looked out of the window for hours and slept for most of the remaining time, although, she was as affectionate toward us as she always had been. We could not stop her from going out, and this made matters worse.
After a year and a half of the diagnosis, my wedding date was fixed and somehow, Sandy realized that I was going to leave her. She would stay close to me as she tried to convey something that I could not understand. I knew my parents would be able to take care of her. But, I had to leave her and this was something I could not evade. Then at last, the day was there and as I was being adorned with ornaments and my face was being painted with make-up, Sandy never left my side even for a moment. She looked and looked and looked at me, sometimes staring strangely. She could sense the importance of the day and it made her sad and aloof. The look in her eyes I shall never forget. When we left the house for the venue, she cried for a long time. But I could not turn back. I could not look at her. It was too painful a moment for any of us to bear.
From that day onward, for each day that went by, Sandy waited for me at the door – waited for me to pick her up and love her like I did. She looked terribly sad and extremely happy at once, every time I went home. She felt my absence every moment, and my mom used to say – “Sandy doesn’t go to your room any more. She stays with us all the time. It’s only when you come back does she go with you to the room to be able to be close with you”.
I prayed for her and health every day. On the Christmas Eve of 2010, I had decided to attend the mid-night mass with my husband. That evening, Sandy behaved strangely – she sat beside me all the time and meowed continuously. She kept looking into my eyes. Again, I failed to read those expressions. I got ready to leave for the Christmas Mass and then, suddenly, Sandy wouldn’t let me go. She stood at the door, pulling at my clothes, as if to drag me inside. She longed to stay in my lap. But unfortunately, I had to let her go, I had to put her down and leave. As I sat in the Church as the clock struck 0000 hours and the Reverend announced Christmas and wished us all, I prayed for my Sandy’s good health and long life and companionship with me.
Two days later, at 00.30 hours on 27th December 2010, when I was at my in-laws, my phone rang. It was my dad on the other side. All I heard him say was, “Sandy has left us forever”. I could not believe my ears then, I cannot believe those words now after two long years. I could not come to terms with the brutal fact that my best friend had left me at the age of five, without having me by her side; without letting me hold her one last time. Sandy went away leaving me forever in the deepest sadness and loneliness of all. The everneverness of this emptiness can never be filled by anyone ever.
As we drove to the cemetery the next morning, with me holding Sandy on my lap – her eyes no more wide with wonder, her paws motionless, her nose not so pink, her body no more soft – I could not help but feel guilty – utterly guilty for not having been able to do anything for her; for having left her to deal with her loneliness when I married; for not having understood her completely; for not being able to be the best friend that she always has been and forever will be even in her absence. The loneliness I feel now is the punishment I deserved for, perhaps, not loving her enough.
But I know she will be with me, in every breath I take, in every beat of my heart, in everything I do, at every turn and every step. Sandy will shine forever through all the darkest nights, and stay with me till the end of my time. I will wait every moment and all the lifetimes, for her to return, to come back to me – not as anything else, but only my ever sweet Sandy.