Katrina, the Cat’s s Monologue (Santosh Bakaya)

Santosh Bakaya
My name is Katrina, call me Katrina, not Cat! Veronika has shortened my name to Kat. Everyone is a cat, what I mean is not everyone is a cat, but there are cats everywhere. So, I am Katrina, not just any cat, mark my meows!

I don’t know who, but someone had said, what’s in a name. It must be Shakespeare as I have heard Veronika take this man’s name many times.  He is someone big, I think.  But, I tell you, there is lot in a name. Lot. Meow!
 
 I can smell war in the air, and let me tell you, it does not smell good. Not at all good. You know, Veronika is a very good student of English literature, and she loves books.   If a war were called by some other name, would it smell sweet? What notions! I am a resident of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, which is very much in the news these days. Some days back I was a happy cat.  But 24 February 2022 changed all that. I changed into an unhappy cat. 
 
 Veronika has often told me that I am slothful, well what can I do, if I love to laze?  I just love to look at sunflowers swaying in the early morning breeze, squirrels frisking around and birds chirping. That is my basic nature. A couple of months back I would just lounge on the terrace and look around. Last year, I remember looking at the parapet of a neighbour’s flat.  A bird had made its nest there, would it make it again?
 
 A couple of  mornings back, when I was lazing on the terrace, I gasped when I saw enormous plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky and startled birds flying off. It was as if the sky was belching and roaring and bellowing out smoke. What was up? The days suddenly became so gloomy, and very cold. I started hearing a lot of words like war, conflict, safety, nuclear power, detonation, bombs, tanks and missiles. I cannot even pronounce these words, but am hearing them every day.  I really love Veronika a lot, and I think she loves me too. She keeps saying that it is love that keeps the world moving, and I firmly believe in whatever she says.   
 
  First, there was some strange virus wreaking havoc, now this! What actually was this?  I had seen Veronika watching cat videos and laughing uproariously at their antics. She even watched Stepan the tabby, that online Instagram sensation.   I would often get jealous when she kept saying, “how cute”!  “Oh what a beauty!”Even Britney Spears follows her.” I mean, I can also become a sensation. Give me a chance, please. Meowwwwwwww!

Things changed after February 24. My happy Veronika became a sad Veronika. 
Now I see her watching videos of cats and dogs, in their master’s arms, all of them looking so mournful. I had also peeped into one of the videos to find a man carrying two kittens in a cat basket,  I had seen Veronika  bursting into sobs looking at a young woman clutching tightly to her dog, both looking so sad.

It was March 8, and Veronika’s birthday.

“Katrina, where are you?” She was yelling, against the backdrop of wailing of air raid sirens.  Maybe she was taking me down for cake cutting.

 But she has never shouted like this before. Why was she shouting? If I could speak, I could also out- yell her, but meow was the only word I could utter. 

Meow, Meow,” I purred as I heard her bounding up the stairs.

 She was mumbling something, “I cannot leave you behind.  I just cannot.” 

Her parents had gone out of the country for two months, and she was all alone at home. They are always travelling, and Veronika is always sending them text messages. But for almost two years, they had not stepped out of the house, because of that virus I told you about, remember? But now they were again travelling and Veronika and I were alone at home.
 
Lord, what fools these mortals be!”* She uttered, scooped me up in her arms, put me in a basket, some books, some packets of biscuits, snacks and a few clothes in a strolley and locking  the house with shaking fingers, we headed out of the house, her lips continuously mumbling. Before locking the door, she picked up her favourite family picture, in which all three of them were dancing around a bonfire, in the wilderness.
***
 
I see people holding sunflowers and chanting something, and yes, I remember a couple of years back having gone to a sunflower field, ah, it was so majestic! I hear a hysterical dog barking frantically, his eyes fall on Veronika and me, and he stops barking. I see weeping, creeping, sobbing, bombing, shelling, killing humanity, but the dog has stopped wailing. He looks at me, I look at him. Is it love at first sight?  I notice he has a collar in his neck. Has his family died or has it deserted him and gone to safer shores? I stand up in my basket and crane my neck in his direction. As my eyes follow him, I see that he is following us. Veronika looks in his direction and smiles- a sad smile. Then she bends down, pets him, whispering something, very tenderly. The dog seems to understand, and after that he does not leave our side for even a second. He has found his safe haven, or has he?

We are tired; what I mean is, I cannot possibly be tired, as I was all along sitting in a basket, but Veronika is, so is the dog.
 
“Buzo, let us sit under this tree for some time.” Buzo looks at her quizzically, as though wondering whether it was safe to stop under a tree, but with an implicit faith, in his new friend, he bounds towards us.  Maybe he is also wondering at the new name given to him, but then what is in a name, as that Shakespeare chap had said.   Veronika had started calling him, Buzo just like that.  But I did not call him anything. I just kept glancing at him, eyes refusing to leave him, and he kept glancing at Veronika. It was a triangular love story, I think.
 
 We sat under a tree, and she pulled out a book. I looked at the cover, it was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and she started reading out loud.

The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet, it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.”

But here, there were three people in love and love, Veronika tells me repeatedly, can tackle every hurdle. And I was told, that there would be many hurdles along the way, but we had love on our side. And Buzo.
 
We rested for some time and walked on- at least Veronika and Buzo did. I just sat in my cat basket, looking around curiously. Cats are known to be curious, you know, and I have heard it said,  that curiosity killed the cat, but I had an eerie feeling that it was not curiosity that would kill me, but something else. Maybe a bomb, a missile or a shrapnel.
 
Where are we? The place is something like I have never seen before. It is an underground metro station, I think. I don’t understand all that is going on. Am I going to die? But a cat has nine lives, so maybe I will be reborn.

 I see a man kissing the forehead of his wife, his face tear streaked, and holding his ten year old daughter tight. I hear the words, bomb shelter. I hear bombs.

After some time, the sounds of bombing stop, and we again head out of the bomb shelter. Courage, dignity and resilience, I hear someone say. I wonder what these words mean, but I see Veronika looking around with a sad expression. I feel like jumping from the basket and hugging her tight, my lovely Veronika!
***
 
 We are at a train station. It is freezingly cold.  Where are we going, leaving our snug home behind? Maybe we are going to where Veronika’s parents are… or maybe … Nowhere.

Huddled in a corner sits a woman robotically flipping the pages of her family album, a mother and child wave to a man from the train window. The man does nothing but wipes his tears. Tears of helplessness.  I see a child’s tear- ravaged face framed in one of the windows.

The train moves away.

Maybe we would also board a train soon. The train to nowhere. The train to homelessness. I look at Buzo, and find that he is also looking at me, love rippling in his limpid eyes.  Love is all that matters, his eyes seem to tell me, as I see people hugging each other, lending a helping hand to each other.

I see a three year walking on tiny feet, each little hand held by a grandparent. It is difficult to gauge who is clinging to whom.

Da,” The three year old turns back and beckons to his grandfather who has lagged behind, as his walking stick has fallen to the ground.  I see a young man quickly going in his direction, picking it up and handing it to him. The old man smiles and ruffles the young man’s hair, and walks on towards his wife and grandchild.   Buzo again looks at me.

There is something intense in his eyes. Once again, I am convinced, it is love. I tell you, you can feel love, just as you can feel hatred.

“A twelve story apartment building has erupted in flames”, I hear someone say. “We have become refugees,” another adds, voice choked.

 Refugees? But I am a cat, do cats also become refugees? I wonder. Why all this hatred? I wonder. I am indeed a curious cat, curious about things happening, and also curious about things not happening.
 
 I remember Veronika quoting that great man Martin Luther King jr. ‘hatred is too great a burden to bear, I have decided to stick to love’. I will also stick to love, come what may.

I won’t allow the name REFUGEE to stick to me. There is a lot in a name, despite that Shakespeare chap. I am happy to take refuge in Buzo’s love- filled eyes. I feel very snug here, as snug as the hearth that we left behind.

I see the sun in his eyes, and a lingering fragrance of sunflowers clings to me.
I sigh a cat’s happy sigh. Buzo also sighs a dog’s happy sigh.
 
 Veronika also sighs, wiping a silent tear, her body shuddering with staccato bursts of sobs.

She has just heard that a pregnant woman and her baby have died after a maternity hospital was bombed.

 “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”* I mumble [I never forget quotes, you know!] But my eyes refuse to leave the sunflowers blooming in Buzo’s eyes. 

* A line from the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3. 2 [Shakespeare] Puck, a mischievous elf comments on the folly of human beings coming to his forest.


5 comments :

  1. The sad state of affairs in Ukraine told so beautifully from the viewpoint and mind of a cat. Kudos and best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  2. ������ Only you may articulate the devastation of wars like the way what none could!
    Brilliantly executed, full of actual sad scenarios in such a mind blowing form..Ma'am.

    SONALI

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderfully told! I was gripped from beginning to end. In the words of Bob Dylan, “you can’t be TOO good!”

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderfully realised & gripping from beginning to end. In the words of Bob Dylan, “you can’t be TOO good”!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a Katty story. Love ❤ will win over. Gripping love

    ReplyDelete

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