Blanco, young Miriam’s beloved pie dog, was not known to like cats. The last one was a badly behaved kitten that used to tease him. Once, she crept up on him, then suddenly beat a tattoo on his tummy with her front paws and, before he could do anything about it, she darted between his legs and vanished into the house. At the time, he was in the middle of barking at something important going on in the next compound. She gave him a fright which stopped him barking, and made him look foolish. Shame on her! Conveniently, that kitten didn’t stay long. She fell ill and didn’t return home, from hospital.
Now another had arrived to take her place. This one was sickly to start with, and her scanty fur grew only in patches. But, as cats went, she wasn’t so bad, decided Blanco. She didn’t oblige him by running away when he barked at her. On the other hand, she didn’t tease him like the previous kitten, when he barked at others. In fact she appeared most impressed with his carefully contrived displays of ferocity. She would even follow him to the front door when the doorbell rang, and stand beside him watching admiringly, as he threatened the milkman and the vegetable vendor. What more could one ask for, in a cat?
Miriam was delighted to see the new cat which she had named Minnu, getting on well with Blanco. But the real test came when Minnu once approached him while he was eating. Blanco at mealtimes, was truly terrifying, and it wasn’t pretence on his part, as it was towards the milkman and the vegetable vendor. Miriam’s Daddy once remarked that if a full-grown lion were to come near Blanco while he was busy with his food, the lion had better look out.
“God save my cat”, said Miriam to herself, as Minnu stepped daintily up to Blanco who had his snout buried deep, in his large enamel dinner bowl, and was greedily gulping down dal and chappati as if the end of the world were just around the corner. Fully expecting to see Minnu demolished with the same gusto as the dal and chappati, Miriam got the surprise of her life to behold Blanco step back politely, with ‘dinner’ still dripping messily from his jaws, and wait patiently, as Minnu sniffed at his bowl and walked on unruffled. Then he resumed eating with all the old gusto until, as usual, he was licking away at the empty bowl, pushing it noisily, all over the dining room floor.
The high point in Minnu’s short life, came when she was due to have a litter. Which of the nondescript tomcats that prowled the rear staircase, was her mate, remained a mystery. When the great moment came, Minnu, watched over anxiously by Miriam and family, including Blanco, brought forth a tiny rat-like creature, which she immediately proceeded to lick vigorously, to clean up and make presentable. Then she picked it up in her mouth and laid it before each of those present, for inspection and approval, purring loudly all the while. When it was Blanco’s turn, he sniffed cautiously at the kitten, then turned around and quietly walked away. The kitten was stillborn and was promptly disposed of, but Minnu refused to believe it and for days, searched in dark corners and under furniture, and miaowed piteously as she stood beside shut cupboards, pleading that they be opened, so that she could continue her search inside.
Some months later, while Miriam was watching television, Blanco who was sitting by her, began whimpering and pawed at her, urgently. Alarmed, she turned to him to see what the matter was. He got up at once, and walked over to the wall behind the TV set. There, Miriam saw Minnu staggering about, unable to control her movements. Realising that something was seriously amiss, she gathered her pet in her arms and sat with her in her lap. Minnu stayed, breathing heavily then, without warning, freed herself and jumped, or rather fell, to the floor where she lost control of her bladder and made a huge puddle, as she lay there unable to move.
“You poor darling”, said Miriam to her gently, “You really didn’t have to mind your manners and get off my lap. I know there’s something terribly wrong with you.” She picked her up again and stroked her, and felt her purr weakly under her touch. The purr got stronger momentarily, as Minnu looked first at Miriam and then at Blanco, as though memorizing the faces of her two best friends. Then she laid down her head and closed her eyes. She didn’t open them again.
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