April 28, 2017

Nature

Early in the morning as I made coffee in front of the kitchen window, I heard a bird call. The window opens on a narrow low gallery, beyond which there is a vast plot of trees and shrubs. Was it a bird, greeting spring, in April? I already had a brush with spring a few days back – with my eyes and nose streaming, sneezing as if there were no tomorrow etc. But then, it did not sound like a greeting. It was a plaintive call for help, more like a mewling of a starving cat. I said to myself: whatever it is, sachin, you cannot delay your morning walk. So, I put on my shoes and walked off in the tea gardens next to my home.

After morning walk, it was a hectic schedule of shower, quick breakfast, cleaning the car, getting ready for the office etc. All this, while my ears continued to pick up that faint mewling. I drove off to the office and returned nine hours later- and heard the same sound- but fainter now. I had seen enough of birth and death. I had euthanized four dogs personally. I had entrusted everything to Almighty now. I had no desire to get involved with one more life form. I thought it would be dead soon anyway.
But when I heard the mewling in the evening, I could not keep my curiosity in check, went out in the back lawn and carefully peered into the back gallery: There was a ball of fluff tumbling around at the farthest end, with slow and unsteady gait of a newborn. It was small- just like a little rat- weak, trembly, almost blind. Why did its mother leave it here? If crows saw it, they will finish it off- I thought with alarm and a deep ache.

I opened the other access door to this gallery and tried to give it some water in a bowl. It was not interested. It just stepped through the bowl and tumbled on. Then, I thought, let me give it a little milk. But even that did not work. I knew one woman who could rescue this premature abandoned kitten: Marian, my partner! She was sleeping upstairs. She came down. She picked it up- for the first time, I guess anyone had done so. It crawled up to her chest and began licking the lobe of her right ear. She held it as if it were a precious diamond ring or an egg. And I was looking with wonder at this immediate rapport across two species.

Finally, Marian said: It wont drink water or milk- they may even be harmful for it. I am sure her mother visits it and feeds it. Don’t worry. Cats are known to move their kitten 3-4 times, from place to place…

I wondered why did they do that? It seems that even well-meaning human attention to kittens is seen as an invasion by mom cat- and therefore she may move her kittens 3-4 times in search of privacy, in the first 6-8 weeks of their life. Since we could not do anything, we just left it there- in the safety of that gallery, with a silent prayer.  But I kept on thinking: has the mother died or what? I haven’t heard or seen her visiting this kitten. Do other cats ever adopt such foundlings? How would the kitten know, if mother is dead?

In the night, I did not hear any sound. Same in the morning. I thought, it must be dead by now. Should I check? I kept on dithering. Finally, I thought let me remove the dead kitten, if nothing else. But when I reached the gallery, it was still tumbling along in circles unsteadily. I could not believe it. How can it survive almost 72 hours with no care and food? I picked it up carefully and raced up to Marian, almost screaming: You must do something now or else, it will die. It has survived 72 hours… Let us give it a chance. I appealed. Marian needed no appealing.

She had grown up in a household which boasted of many pet animals- dogs, cats, birds, tadpoles and even a stork. The stork had injured its leg. Marian’s father rescued it, plastered (“desi style”) its leg and nursed it to full health.

She picked up the kitten, lifted it up to her chest, peered at its eyes and face- which had all the markings of a glorious cat. Then, with a surprise, she said: Feel its tummy. It is full… Its mother is visiting it and feeding it. Don’t worry. Let us put it back before mother comes looking for it…
I was very happy- and relieved. We put it back in the gallery, on a piece of rag.

Until the other day, I was hating the entire race of cats for being so careless… Nature has birth and death; But it also has nurture and caring. A cat must be scrounging around for food somewhere - to feed herself so that she can nurse her baby - I thought with wonder. Wow! Nature has thought through everything.  Humans just have to stop encroaching on other species’ habitat and be a little more thoughtful and considerate. 

A great problem had been resolved and I went back to Boccherini’s string quintet…

2 comments:

Ravi Kant Sharma said...

Nature has solution for all the needs but not for greeds...

ABHISHEK KUMAR said...

We humankind in our folly think that we are owners of this earth.. We "buy" land and evict other creatures from their home..We destroy their habitats in the name of growth and development.. Our obsession with self-aggrandisement and encroaching other creatures lives may prove to be self-destructive..sooner rather than later..