Chaki, short for Charcoal, was born one cold February mid morning on my favourite T shirt inside my cupboard. Her eyes were tight shut and her miniscule tail stuck between her legs. Minutes before, her brother had taken his place in the world and had already found the source of the milk. Mimi, the mother was tired and she slept as her two precious offsprings snuggled against her belly and drank.
Of the two kittens, the brother was more handsome. He had bright beady eyes, a pert little nose and perfect tabby stripes. He had personality and suaveness. Chaki, on the other hand, had a strange, undecided hair colouring and also was ill mannered and screamed all the time, scrambling up the sides of her cardboard box, falling on her back, then clawing up noisily, then falling again. I knew then that it would be easier for me to find a home for the handsome, well behaved brother. Soon, some close friends of mine adopted him and named him Baichung after the famous footballer.
Today, Chaki is a feisty eleven-year-old cat who loves to push open her cat door and loiter around the colony. She sometimes returns with a string of cobwebs from ear to ear and some hanging from her whiskers indicating that she has explored some dusty, dank basement. She has a way of announcing her arrival home – a long deep meow begins at the foot of the stairs, then there are shorter meows for every step and then a blood curdling yell outside her cat door just before she pushes her head in. As soon as she is in, there are a few more loud yells demanding that we notice her arrival and with one final loud cry she leaps up on the table and is the queen of all she surveys.
Chaki is my closest friend. We share a bond that I cannot describe. It is deep and mystical. When she looks with her yellow eyes straight into mine, I feel the primordial closeness of two creatures of the jungle, human and cat. When she snuggles into the crook of my arm and I hear her purr, I know there is no sound sweeter than this. She shares my moods and my bed in winter. She smells of baby – milk and vitamin syrup after I have syringed some into her mouth. She is my queen and queen of the territory over which she presides, letting no dog or other cat come anywhere near. Chaki is Tao, she is Zen and embodies the mystery of cat as she sits up, paws under her, tail swishing gently and eyes far away into another dimension altogether.
(Rukmini Sekhar lives in Delhi with Chaki. She runs an NGO called Viveka Foundation and is part of a group called Citizens for Animals.)