Kajal was thrown out of her home and into a dustbin on my road when she was two months old. Not knowing much about the world anyway, she played among the garbage until she became hungry and screamed for her mother.
The afternoon heat and the realization that she was in unfamiliar surroundings made her desperate. Someone came and set fire to the garbage and her mews were lost among the smoke as the garbage slowly caught fire.
That afternoon I was walking down my road and slowed down near the garbage heap because I thought I heard a cat. Looking at the garbage, lit and smoking, I almost walked on, telling myself that no cat could possibly be there. Then came the cries again almost hoarse now. Risking being thought of as queer, I bent down and began to rummage among the garbage that had not yet caught fire and there she was, a shivering tortoise shell kitten shivering with fright. She was lifted out and put into my bag and taken home.
“Look what I found in the dustbin” I announced to my mother as I held up a purring very contented kitten to her. “In the dustbin?” she said with disbelief, “How could someone be so cruel?” I later found out that a family nearby kept a cat for catching rats and regularly threw out the kittens.
With milk, rice and some of my dog Tara’s lunch in her tummy ,Kajal curled up and fell asleep behind the fridge. Life after that consisted mainly of food, exploring and sleeping on my mother’s lap. When she was a year old, she decided that the best place in the house was the garden and began to spend all of her time there. She would come running up to us for her cuddles and would purr and remind us that she had not forgotten us but her wild independent side won over and we would catch her looking placidly at us from among the bushes, content and at peace. She never formed any particular attachments with any of the other cats but never fought with them either.
The years passed and much changed. My mother passed away and the pain and sorrow of her death was felt very much by all the animals at home. I fell into an abyss of despair and three slow years dragged themselves like tired feet deep in inches of snow.
Last year I met the man who would become my husband. He wanted a kitten and someone just a week ago had left with me a scrawny necked ginger kitten with a raggedy red ribbon around her neck “Polly”, he said when I asked him what he would name her. Polly and books and many things made us decide to get married . Kajal and all the other cats, fascinated by him, show a marked preference for him. That is one change of loyalty I cannot say I mind.
Three weeks ago Kajal and Freddie fought and both fell off the roof. Freddie broke his already crippled hind legs and Kajal broke her back. Freddie has made a complete recovery but Kajal is paralysed. I had hope when the vet told me that she had sensation in her hind legs, but it turns out that it is only a reflex that means nothing. Despite fighting against bed sores, she has got them and she is not eating at all. She is growing weaker and seems happy only when she is put in the garden she loves so much.
Right now I do not know what is right and what is wrong. We want to give her a fighting chance but seeing her, shrunken, listless fills me with despair. Yesterday she was infested with maggots. She was in a lying in a pool of urine, helpless.
We wont give up hope but if she is suffering, how are we to know? How are we to know if she will ever walk again? All we want is that she does what she loves doing, playing in the garden, hiding in the bushes or rolling in the grass, getting cooked by the afternoon sun.
I wish I knew, I wish I was braver, I wish I could make her happy again.
Kajal died half an hour after I wrote this post. We were not home, the vet, who had gone to treat a wound called me and told me that she died a few minutes after he arrived. She had complications because of the maggots.
We buried her in her garden, both of us taking turns to dig her grave.
She will be missed in the mornings when she demands her plate of food, she will be missed when we go to the garden and don't see her dart out just to acknowledge our presence. Her beautiful gold on fire eyes will be missed peeping from among the bushes.
She will be happy though. She can run again, sprawl in the grass, let the sun warm her and she can do those many mysterious cat things that humans will never know and never understand.