I was just beginning to grasp the nuances of gender politics when I acquired my cats. And from then on, it has been a journey of endless learning and unlearning for me.
Lupooh Singh came into my life with half a nose and no lip. I found him in a gutter, hiding from his assailants, trembling like a leaf. I had him stitched up, disinfected and baptized right away. He reminded me of a lil’ pooh, and Lupooh seemed befitting, although in retrospect I think I should have worked harder. The Singh part came from a certain strapping young surgeon in my life at that point, but the nomenclature didn’t go well at all — he felt let down, sharing his last name with a cat. Told me he felt ‘emasculated.’ I thought it was time to let him go. Not the cat, the surgeon.
Millie Kutty is another story. When she was the size of a spoon, she wandered into the electricity meter enclosure in my friend’s apartment, beckoned and stared beatifically at him, seducing him into taking her home. She then attacked his three robust and rather well endowed cats one by one, ate up their food, and then preened, perching over his shoulder. His wife immediately called, asking me to take her away. “Lupooh needs company,” she said. “And besides, she looks like you!” And that did it.
Off I went and got her home in a bag, and off she emerged from the bag as soon as we reached, handing Lupooh one tight slap. Ah! The powertics had just begun! My life was soon going to be a riot of cat (mis)adventures between an alpha-woman and a beta-man. She had to be a Kutty; she was just too antipodal to him, besides being a sultry siren (Iyer would have reeked of vanity)
The next few years were the most insightful ones of my life in more ways than one, and my feline off-springs had a lot to do with it, with their layered personalities and the sub-text within.
Of course, they do have something in common. In that they both suffer from an identity crisis. Lupooh thinks he is a dog, and Millie is most certain she is a panther, or some higher member of the cat family. She spent the first few months looking hungrily at the forest overlooking my earlier apartment block, disdainful of the life she had condescended to, by her own seeking. She scaled walls and crossed balconies, and every time she went missing, the first thought that came to my mind was—she has disappeared into panther-land. But she would be found in someone’s ledge or balcony, snarling at being lost. She hated defeat.
He, on the other hand turned out to be a faithful, waiting for me at the door, obeying my commands, getting restless whenever I packed a suitcase (He wanted to be in it)
For months, he tried to get an edge over her. Sure he was older, bigger, better looking, but often referred to as ‘she’ by ignoramuses. May be he felt emasculated too. He tried towering over her in an act of masculine aggression; she sneered at his obvious show of physical power, and chose to ignore him.
Till one day, in one of her ledge escapades, she slipped and fell. And ended up in a pool of blood with a fracture. The next month-and-a-half broke her completely, as she hobbled in her awkward catwalk, very unbecoming for a lady of her stature. She survived, needless to say, and the perched bum soon became sexy. As she convalesced, he turned into the alpha-male— the man about the house, taking charge of all her favourite spots, marking his territory.
Today, after six years, they have attained some equilibrium. She no longer attempts ledge tricks, but he gets into calculated adventure every once in a while. They still lead together, yet separate lives. Makes me wonder why humans always make a big deal about ‘not having anything in common’ with each other.