As I walked on the concrete wall which was fragrantly warm in the afternoon sun, I planned my activities for the evening. I would dig the garbage bin in the fifth alley for fish bones. There lived the old lady Mrs. Su-Shi with a mouth that puckered like she had eaten the sourest of lemons. She cooked fish almost every other day. We all thronged restlessly around her house, trying to keep our dignity by not looking as desperate as we really were. Then she would wrap the fish bones in a piece of newspaper with salt crystals sticking to its sogginess and deftly throw it into the bin. And we would pounce shamelessly into the bin. Sometimes I’d stand precariously on the bin’s rim and snarl at the other fellows, my tail bristling. I’d bare my fangs. We bit each other a number of times and made such a din that the old lady threw cold water on us a couple of times.
I was worried about my whiskers. Some of them seemed to be drooping of late. Since when did such human traits possess me? I do not know. I licked myself lazily, considering a nap under the gray car that had just got parked near the side walk. On second thoughts I decided that it would be better for me to do some climbing. In two leaps I was in Mr. Patel’s balcony. It was usually filled with dry leaves. There were a few withered potted plants hanging there like a joke. Mr. Patel never came into the balcony. His balcony had old newspapers piled high. Pigeon droppings were everywhere. The branches of the gul mohur were right into his bedroom. Yet he seemed to be in some kind of a penance inside his house. One never saw him come outside except when he wanted to buy his diabetic pills. He wore sandals that looked older than I am. I always try running between his legs because I love him. His soles smelled like sleepy mice. And he does not mind me at all.
Did I tell you about fat cat Carla Ferguson? She is the meanest, fattest and loudest cat in all of Sumeet Mazumdar Co-op Housing Society (SMCHS). Till the death of Dr. Don, the fat black cat, she was thin as a clothesline and quiet as a mouse (I’d get severely clawed for that analogy). With the unfortunate expiry of his ninth and last life, she acquired power in leaps and bounds. Dr. Don was called that way for his surgical precision in clawing one’s eye out.
I have forgotten to tell you my name. How so typical of me! I’m the official serenader for all of SMCHS and my name is Romeo Rodriguez. I can alternatively sing in baritone, alto and soprano. Some ladies of the Reshamiah household do not take well to my attempts at imitating one of their own kind. They ungratefully soak me in buckets of cold water. I sit high above their kitchen sun shade singing well into the night trusting the forces of gravity to save me from the Reshamiahn receptacles of water and other liquids.
My whiskers continued to worry me as I sat on Mr. Patel’s balcony. I leaped into the next balcony hoping to find some respite in the smell of Surf Excel in Sivarama Iyer’s sun-drying dhoti. He detested me. He had once seen me with a squirrel’s tail in my mouth. He did not investigate into the situation deeply. Had he done it he would have found that I never ate the squirrel. It was the rowdy squirrel that had jumped on my head and left his tail behind as souvenir for his daredevil act. Yet, Sivarama Iyer’s wife with her shining diamond ear rings would always give me some left-overs. She called me Chuppuni. I did not mind her as long as her culinary treats descended down my esophagus. Sometimes I wished she did not call me that in front of Pamela Snow. But she always did. “Chuppuneeeee!”, she would call out loud just when I tried to present some passionately-twitching whiskers to Pam. When I started an ancient crooning in my soprano voice her shrill voice would cry, “Chuppunee” in front of the several thousand admirers jostling around me. Then I would sigh, meow ever-so gently and walk slowly to balcony number 128, to eat yesterday’s idlis. Such is life!
All of a sudden, I remembered the party in C Block. It was Anjali’s birthday. Oh how could I forget! I thought it is not appropriate for someone of my stature to run in front of everyone and therefore I began to walk swiftly. Anjali was 6 years old. She had never once forgotten to give me a huge piece of cake on her birthday. However, I was never sure where it would land when she threw it at me. Sometimes it landed on my forehead making it impossible to eat it with dignity. At other times it was painfully far away daubed between my left shin and my tail. Today I got a fairly large piece of strawberry cake. The only issue was that I had to share it with Carla Ferguson. I waited hoping she would generously be indifferent to insignificant things like strawberry cake pieces at 6-year old birthday parties, but I was terribly wrong as usual. She confronted me with a when-was-the-last-time-you-were-clawed-in-the-eye look. She was huge and seemed to have manicured her claws for the purpose. And I slinked mournfully into the darkness, eyeing the cake glumly. The shin-and-tail predicament was way better than this. I hope Pam Snow was not around to see what had just happened. I once looked back to see Carla licking the cake off her nose.
I sometimes considered a career as a rogue. With a name like mine I could easily get away with it. I already had enough scratches and scars to assist me in my climb to glory as a mean, rough and dont-mess-with-me don. Surely my friends Surly Sriraman, Potty and Wrinkle Tail would support me in this endeavor. Yet this was just a dream. I am of a gentlemanly temparement as I euphemistically put it.
I sadly remembered that the harrowing experience with Carla Ferguson had made me forget to visit the garbage bin. Still I went there for I had nothing else to do. I saw Trinket around the corner. He was the hungriest in all of SMCHS. He would n’t have left a scrap behind. I peered into the garbage bin knowing fully well it had nothing. I purred mournfully as I sat at Mrs. Su-shi’s doorstep. The evening descended like a veil of tantalizing fish scents.