A cold, wet Saturday morning. Despite what Salinger said about the foolishness of taking the weather personally, I was still grumpy as I drew the curtains shut and resumed work at my desk. Wet, grey skies are not a salubrious sight even when one is healthy, much less while recovering from the flu.
And then a sudden sound outside my balcony door that could not be dismissed. A scratching and a call that grew persistent. I opened the curtain and looked into the face of a large white and grey cat with shades of calico, hazel eyes, bushy tail and a little chain around her neck. I had often seen her around the neighbourhood, besides a regal black cat which might have had at least one Persian ancestor, a perky young tabby, and a fat striped cat with a perpetually bored expression that was almost human.
I wiped away the mist from the glass and looked again. My visitor leaned in from the balcony grill and meowed loudly, looking straight into my face. I was delighted. It appeared that she was stuck in the cold and wanted to be let inside. But an unopenable door and a balcony lay between us. I waved to her. Sorry sweetheart, you had better go home, I said. As though on cue she turned and rushed away into the rain.
It reminded me of how during the Chennai floods in 2015 when all of us were stuck at home without electricity and transport, the resident ginger Tom of the complex came to our flat demanding milk and food, unaware perhaps that we were vegan. He looked contemptuously at the organic biscuits that I offered him but nevertheless made himself comfortable on the living room carpet.
In this cold city where dogs of every kind abound, I had watched these cats for long but I never knew that they had caught me watching them. How had my feline friend guessed that a cat-lover sat working behind that thick curtain? I wish I could have told her how much her short visit had cheered me up, like a patch of sunshine that lit up a grey, wet Saturday morning.
Some photographs have a way of connecting immediately with the viewer. Like this photo that was shared on facebook by the group ‘Life with cats‘. I posted it to my timeline calling it a glimpse of heaven, for that is what it seemed to me.
The photo shows a flight of stone steps flanked by a stone railing that leads into a landing where a pink bougainvillea creeper has crept in and bloomed. Sunshine pours into the scene, but there is also the cool shade of the stone railing, the creeper and presumably a tree in the background which cannot be seen in the picture. On each stone step lies a ginger cat basking in the shady warmth. Two of them lie on the landing, near the bougainvillea.
The cats are not exactly ‘cute’ in the sense that they do not have that sweet, communicative expression one often sees in domesticated cats. Nor do they look like feral or street cats. They look placidly content, with that contemplative, stoically blissful expression that is so characteristic of all cats.
The setting is not mentioned. I like to think that the stone steps are part of a temple. As there are no distinguishing carvings on the stone railings, it could be a temple just about anywhere – an Indian temple, a Zen temple or perhaps a Greek temple. The stone steps, the sunshine, the shade, the bougainvillea flowers and the peaceful expression of the cats together elevate the photograph from a picture into an idea of heaven.
The photograph reminds me of things dear. Like memories of school summer vacations, long quiet hours spent in libraries when the chatter within the mind subsides and sinks in the absolute silence, the feeling of walking into the pages of a book which has opened its doors for you, the companionable silence shared with a close friend after a long, enjoyable conversation.
It is incredible how a random photograph of five cats can provide a blissful moment of satori.
Photograph belongs to Facebook Group Life with Cats