On the 5th of March 2014, Dad was at Landmark Hotel, drinking out with his colleagues. It was getting late, and Dad really needed a smoking break. There was no smoking room in the hotel! He grudgingly stepped outside for a smoke. A pair of brilliant green eyes looked up at him. Dad swears he does not recollect what happened next, but the next moment he found himself back home, a pretty kitty on his lap, and everyone in the family staring at him in shock.
Our family was a sight to behold at that moment. Maa, who was bringing food from the kitchen, froze. Grandma, who was sitting on a chair, was now standing on top of it, cowering in fear. Grandpa started protesting vehemently, “How can you bring a street animal into our home?” All these reactions broke Dad out of his stupor. Clearly aware he was in unfriendly territory, he scrambled to his room, the kitten held firmly in his arms.
The kitten started meowing in Dad’s room but now that she was no longer present in the scene, Grandma regained her voice, “You are not keeping that cat in this house!” Maa’s maternal instincts had kicked in. Despite her reservations, she ran to the kitchen and poured some milk into a bowl. I sat right next to the kitten, observing her keenly.
"My name is Dora Cata. But you can call me Dora."-
Growing up as a single child, I had always wanted a dog as a pet. Just like you, I too had begged my family to allow me to have a pet dog. Just like you, I too had been told off with the usual reasons: “Who will take care of him once you’ve gone to college?”, “They don’t live long; why live with the emotional burden?” and “Who will clean up all the mess?”. You can imagine my excitement at the prospect of finally having a pet! All my primary school, I’d written essays about “Our Pet” where I had faked having a pet dog, obviously named Rover, who was loved by our entire family. Admittedly, this kitten was neither a dog, nor loved by anyone in our family, but she was a living thing in Dad’s room meowing back at me every time I meowed at her!
While we watched her lap up the milk hungrily, we thought of naming her “Dorakata”- the Bengali word for “striped”. She was christened Dora Cata Chakraborty. And given a towel to sleep on for the night.
I went to sleep, dreading what would happen the next day.
I woke up to my Grandma giving Dad the ultimatum, “Either I’m going to be in this home, or she is. You better find someone to adopt her, and fast.” Dad assured her he’ll try his best, and asked me to see if I could find someone nice on the internet to adopt Dora. I lied and said that I would.
I thought the dust would settle down in a couple of days, but it got worse. Apparently, it is an inexcusable crime for a cat to sneak into the kitchen looking for fish. “You’ll need to give this cat up,” and this time, Grandma meant business. Dora had already tried once to get up on her bed, and she had been scared out of her wits ever since.
Dad knew there was no getting out of this situation. He made a few phone calls, and one kind gentleman agreed to keep Dora for a few days before someone could adopt her. I was depressed. She was going to be given away the next day itself.
I stayed up late that night studying, but all I could think about was Dora being given away the next day. I got out of my room at around 3am and went straight to the veranda. Dora was sleeping peacefully on the rocking chair. But when she heard my footsteps, she woke up and looked at me. All my resolve broke down, and I started weeping. Dora kept looking at me, eyes wide open.
As I made my way back to my room, Dora got up from the chair and followed me. She usually dislikes my room for its air conditioning, but this time, she followed me into the room. I sat down on the floor, looking at her and not knowing what to say. She went around me, brushing her body against mine, and then climbed into my lap and sat there curled. It was a moment of peace.
I stayed up all night like that.
The next day, I recounted this story to grandma. She probably understood how much Dora meant to me, and did what makes grandmothers the most lovable people ever. She made a sacrifice. Dora could stay.
It did not take long for Dora to become the apple of the eye for my family. Other than my little cousin Rommel of course, who was now somewhat jealous of Dora’s elevated position in our family.
When dad first brought Dora into our house, my horrified grandmother (Ammi) jumped ten feet. "I'm not going to allow…
If you visit our house today, maybe you’ll find Dora knocking down furniture, chasing crumpled paper balls. Or maybe you’ll find her sitting regally at the window sill, amusing herself by watching the neighbourhood dogs quarrel among themselves. Maybe you’ll find her nibbling at Maa’s heels, reminding her that it’s lunch time.
Or, if it is a lazy Sunday afternoon, maybe you’ll find her sprawled on the bed right next to the matriarch who just would not have her in the family.