Dubai Diaries: Day 4 – A Cat Tale

Before stepping out for my walk today, I threw in a notebook and pen to the pile in my green backpack. The idea was that I must write down on paper the 3 kilometers worth of dynamic content that usually runs through my head-screen while walking. Lest I forget most of it by the time I get back and am done with my cooking and bath.

The shuffled playlist on my phone had decided to be partial to Aamir Khan this morning. It was jee le zara… when I started out, a while later it was chand sifaarish jo karta… (Each time I hear that song I wonder if it is from this Urdu word that the Malayalam word ‘shupaarsha’ evolved.) And somewhere along the way, dheemi dheemi… started playing. Not bad as choice of songs so.

I’d vaguely decided that it’s going to be a ‘taxi tales’ day. Because I have a whole lot of stories gathered during my many rides around the city.

So which cabbie was to be my hero of the day? The one from up the mountains of Peshawar who told me about how, back home, they slept with machine guns by their side? Or the one who wore Ray Ban aviators and told me he was a good cook, a skill that fetches him additional income? I am Gujarati, no, Madam? You know us – we can’t just sit idle!

The machine gun man almost won the day, when, as usual, my left shin demanded due diligence. I headed to the nearest bench to massage it. And maybe jot down stuff.

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He appeared out of nowhere, the elegant black and white cat. Squeezing his way out from between the bars fencing the pond, he headed straight to where I was sitting. He stopped hardly a foot away, but refused to meet my eye, instead pretending to inspect the shrubbery for neatness.

I sat watching him.

Another minute passed before he turned and looked up, hesitantly. I smiled.

That, I guess, broke the ice. He came closer, brushed against my calf. And then, in one swift move, he sat next to me. I moved slightly to make space, but no – that wasn’t enough. He edged sideways, stretching in such a way that most of his body nestled against mine. He was used to human touch, and very obviously craved it.

“Want me to scratch your ears, baby?” I asked him. In response, he edged closer. 

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There used to be a black cat earlier, who would follow the walkers. In typical Puss in Boots style, she had melted my heart into buying her milk one evening. Wonder what became of her!

I have never taken a stray pet home – and I’m not proud of it – except once when we were new to Dubai and found an abandoned tortoise. We named him Oliver – Ollie for short – because he was always asking for more. The amount of lettuce he ate was completely disproportionate to his size!

But the next time we went to India, we had to leave him at the Dubai Zoo.

I have not attempted to keep pets since, though we have, over the years, tried to nurse a couple of baby birds who fell into our balcony. One died, and the other flew away. We have had pigeons laying eggs, hatching and eventually flying away.

But no pets. 

***

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The sun was becoming warmer, and it was time to leave. As if sensing my thoughts, he pressed closer against me.

Another abandoned pet. One of the many you find at unexpected places in the city. Maybe leaving them in the park is better than— Better than whatever else they do with pets they get tired of.

No, love, I can’t take you with me. Not to my apartment which is hardly large enough for the four human beings that occupy it. Plus I am a coward – I shy away from the pain of inevitable loss. Sorry!

I hitched my bag back onto my shoulders and walked on. He didn’t even attempt to follow me.

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