Hopes and Memories
Edited by Meghan Dhawan
The day I was adopted
After a scorching summer, the winter came. Every year, I am surprised as to how the winters are worse than the summers, and the next summer is even worse than the winters. This cycle has continued endlessly.
In India, especially where I come from, people are always ready for the wrath of the seasons. In just a matter of 365 days, the weather can take you on a roller- coaster of an adventure, through hot days, rainy days, spring, autumn, and dry, dead, cold days. I remember that specific day, it was one of those cold, lifeless ones.
The new year had come and gone in a blur, and the gloom of the winter still remained. I was depressed. Most People may refer to it as “seasonal depression”, which is caused by prolonged winters and exposure to very little natural sunlight. I was in bed, I hadn’t cleaned my room, my bedsheets were filthy, I didn't care to bathe, and I was covered in layers of rags.
Then, the morning of Friday the 13th in January, the sun God showed me mercy. After those many chilling cutthroat winter days, cold, dry winds, and lifelessness in nature, that morning, I saw the sun come out after hiding away behind the deep, dark clouds for days. I woke up in the morning, the same as usual, so late that it was almost afternoon, and opened the door to my balcony. I stood under the sunlight, hoping that this would cure me from feeling low. I could feel the photons from the sun hitting every part of my body, and I soaked it all up. Then, as I looked around, I noticed that I was not the only one enjoying the sun that afternoon.
A ginger cat seemed to be doing the same. Laying down in the sun, bathing in its warmth, his eyes were closed. “Meow”, I said, asking for attention, and he opened his eyes, looked around, then found me. He gazed at me with his sharp eyes and golden gaze, as if another sun burned inside them. He had a long body, but his voice sounded young. I had no idea where he came from. I did see many cats around my house, but none of them ever noticed me. In fact, they would always run away if I got closer to them.
I looked back at him and blinked. He did the same, and immediately, I felt as though we became friends. I rushed into the kitchen and poured some milk in a plastic bowl. I have to be honest, I was dreading today, as I had been depressed for a long time. I hadn’t been out for three whole weeks, it had been beyond cold outside, and worst of all, it was Friday the 13th. Yes, I am superstitious. I was obviously prepared to have the worst day today. However, that didn’t happen. I remember smiling that day, after a very long time.
I brought the cat the bowl of milk, and just like that, he walked up to my balcony, jumped down from the railings, and started gulping the milk from the bowl. Then, he climbed over my air conditioner, and slept off. I went inside my room, and slept as well. It was as if we both knew we needed to rest. After a long time, spending countless days in bed and still being tired, I was finally able to rest that day, and it seemed like he did the same.
When I woke up, the cat was gone. I immediately missed him, but there was nothing but hope left in my heart, that I would see him again.
The next day, I woke up to see the cat waiting on the balcony for me. I was pleasantly relieved. He was napping in the same place he did last the day before. He had gotten pretty comfortable on my balcony, and would jump around, wag his tail, sit outside my door, watch the birds, and soak up the sun. Every day, the same thing happened. He arrived, waited for me, ate, napped, watched the living creatures dancing in nature, birds, squirrels and flies, and as soon as it got dark, he left.
Then, one night, I remember, I ordered cat food. I had a feeling that I would need it, given that I had just made a feline friend. I used my laptop to find some basic information on what cats need, what they eat, what they shouldn’t eat, and so on. I had always felt connected to cats, but for the first time in my life, I had a cat who felt that way towards me too.
“What to do when a stray cat comes to your home”, my Google search looked funny to me. “What to do if a cat comes to your home”, “What does it mean if a stray cat follows you”, “What to do if a stray cat adopts you.”
Adopt? How can a cat adopt me? Shouldn’t I be the one to adopt?
Apologies to the cat lovers, I wasn’t aware of the proper cat lingo at the time, and I didn’t know they adopted us humans.
For the next two to three weeks, this became a routine. The cat would come, and meow outside my room to get my attention. I’d feed him, he’d nap for a bit, and I would occasionally go out to the balcony to check on him. Sometimes, he would yawn like a little baby when he woke up, and look so precious. Then he would leave in the evening. Every time he left, I wasn’t sure if he would ever come back to visit me again. But every evening, I hoped he would.
One day, I spoke to the cat as he ate, and I said to him, “I think I’ll call you Mark”, and stroked his head as I did so. He said “Meow” in response, so I knew he liked the name. And so, he was christened Mark that day. Pretty soon, he began responding to his new name. I would call him out from a distance and he would come running towards me while wagging his behind, his tail curved up in the air as he walked on the edge of the walls of my building. Man, is he graceful!
One morning, I forgot to latch the door to my balcony. It was shut, but not secured. So, naturally, I woke up to Mark sitting inside my room on my bed. “Meow”, he said loudly, early in the morning, much sooner than the time I usually wake up. I woke up, a bit flustered by this stranger in my bed with the morning sun shining on my face, that I had pretty much forgotten the looks of. I then recognised him, petting him right away. “How did you come in here?”, I asked him. He looked towards the door. Call me crazy, but by this time, I had started to feel deeply understood by him. Even without speaking my language, somehow, through his body movements, gestures or eyes, he responded to me every time. It felt nice being understood for a change.
That day, when he invited himself into my house, and my bed, and woke me up because he was hungry, for the first time, I understood what that phrase on the internet meant. That day, I knew I wasn’t my own anymore, I now belonged to Mark. That’s when I knew that he had adopted me.
One time I was having a bad day, my “seasonal depression” hadn’t vanished overnight. So, one fine day, when I was crying alone in my room, I heard a noise outside my front door. I opened it. You’ll never guess who was sitting in front of it. It was Mark, I was now crying even more. He looked at me, and I cried harder, because I suddenly didn’t feel so lonely after all. I gave him food, and then he left. That was the first time he showed up at my front door, late at night, and I still don’t know how he managed to do that. Even the food delivery partners have trouble finding the way to my house, I always have to tell them which road to take, which door to enter, which staircase to climb. But here he was, a young cat, sitting outside my door, waiting for me.
That wasn’t the extent of Mark finding different ways to show up inside our home. He had somehow found every single entrance to our home, and from one or the other door, he would always enter. He would roam around as if the house belonged to him. One day, he hid under the couch and didn’t come out until I called his name out from the balcony, and then he showed himself from under his hiding spot. We laughed because he had a mischievous look in his eyes, and we knew that we had indeed been pranked. He would roam around, meow loudly, ask for food, and even sit on the kitchen shelf, looking like a pack of unopened brown bread. If it was not for his tail, my mother wouldn’t have differentiated him from the pack. He became good at fooling all of us.
Two months later, we are still friends. He comes around for food every day at his usual time. I play with him in the evenings, and he jumps, leaps, and runs about. One day, he purred at me as I stroked his chin and neck, and that marked the beginning of our friendship.
Mark came into my life unannounced, almost like a miracle. I still consider it a dream, a good dream in which I became friends with a cat. And not just any cat, but an orange tabby cat with stripes, one that largely resembles a tiger. But there is always a constant fear I have, of losing him.
I’ve been told, “Stray cats don’t live that long, it’s better to not get attached to him”, “I had a cat once. I fed him, took care of him, and one day, he disappeared completely, and I was hurt.”
People tell me all sorts of things about their encounters with cats, especially the pain of losing them. Everyone has told me that cats don’t care about us or our emotions. But, every night when Mark leaves, I have nothing but love for him in my heart, and even more, unending hope to see him the next day. A part of me knows that this will end one day. He will either grow up and leave the neighborhood, or I would have to move. There is no way that this is forever, and I know that.
I know that one day will be the last day I see Mark, and after that, I will only be left with these beautiful memories of fun, laughter, play, adventure, love, care, understanding, and my friendship with him. I will grow older, and I’ll meet his sisters, brothers, and cousins around the world, and maybe I’ll become friends with them as well. But all my life, I believe I will always hope to see him again. And one day, when we depart this world, I hope to see him in another. Cat heaven maybe, if they would allow me to visit. Or perhaps, maybe in some other place in another dimension, under a different sky, where he would be sitting on a tree and watching the birds. And I would call out to him, he would turn around, wiggle his ears, recognise me, and run to greet me. And that, I hope, will last forever.