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The other day, I was making shrimp curry. Curry leaves plays an important role in the making of our dishes. Shrimp curry is no exception. So I walked out to the backyard to get myself a fresh sprig from the the young tree growing there. Nothing like freshly broken off leaves to enhance the aroma of shrimp curry. While sauntering back I noticed someone on the back wall. It was a cat.

Cats usually keep away from our home, though there are a couple of daredevils who like to tease Luci by sprawling royally on the cushions on the chairs in the verandah, running away only at the last minute when she walks out. This one though looked like it had been inadvertently led here by its nose with promises galore. Even as I looked it stretched its neck and tried to peer into the kitchen, a trifle warily it seemed to me, for inside the kitchen, in front of the refrigerator, lay Madame Luci. She had not seen the cat as yet, but the cat had seen her and was being careful.

Kitty, kitty, I chirruped to the cat. Usually the neighborhood cats run on seeing me. To them I am not human but an honorary dog. Not kidding. They let the L&M touch them, but not me. What’s more, they stare wide-eyed and make themselves scarce whenever they see me. But this cat did not run. To the brave cat I said, ‘Come here kitty! Sweet little kitty! Cute kitty!” and more on those lines, trying to make it feel welcome.

There was a time when words thus spoken would have electrified Luci into action. She would come bounding out to find who mom could find cuter than her, That sort of nonsense had to be nipped in the bud, was her philosophy. Mom fraternizing with the cats? No way. She would then run after the cat chasing it off the compound. Sometimes though however much she looked she wouldn’t find a cat anywhere around. It took her time, and wisdom of age, to realize those were times mom was being ‘mean’, making her run hither and thither so mom could click her in action.

As an older and much wiser dog, Luci refuses to be tricked into chasing non-existent cats now. So she just lay where she was when she heard me chirruping, keeping a close watch on me, just in case. The cat though seemed pleased I had spoken. Miaow, it said, and then again the same thing but drawn out much longer, Miaaaaaaaaow! Luci lifted her head. This was no mean mom act, this was the real deal. But what’s this? Again the nonsense of cats being cute! Not happening on her watch, she decided.

Luci walked out majestically. The cat crouched down lower. Where was the cat? It took Luci a while to locate it on the wall, behind all the greenery. ‘Go away, Cat!’ Luci said in no uncertain terms. ‘You cannot sit on my wall!’ The cat tried to hold its position, the smell of the shrimp curry making it stubborn, but gave up when Luci became too insistent for its taste. It jumped off the wall in a huff.

Meanwhile it hit me that I had completely forgotten about the shrimp curry cooking on the stove. What if it had got burnt? I couldn’t very well serve the story of the stray cat and dog, however well told, or even the pictures, along with the rice for lunch. I rushed in to find ….everything was fine. I was just in time to add the final touch, curry leaves and a spoon of coconut oil.

Cat hoping Luci would not see her behind all the foliage
“You cannot sit on my wall, Cat!”

© Shail Mohan 2021