Grey skies, on 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 and grey 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 cold, grey, wet Saturday morning.
One of the pleasures of attending a literary event is serendipitously meeting authors whom you have admired in the audience. Last month, I had gone to a talk by Devdutt Pattanaik at Apparao Gallery where I was delighted to find that I was sitting next to Ranjitha Ashok, the author of ‘Chennai Latte: A Madras Brew’ – a small treasure of a book filled with vignettes of the many faces, old and new, of the city that I love. This book was one of my comfort reads during the days when I was working in a nondescript little town, missing Madras terribly and trying to fill the hometown shaped hole in my life with books.
Listening to Devdutt Pattanaik’s talk was taking a glimpse into the days of the wise bards and minstrels of yore who communicated verbally to their audience. I have read many of Pattanaik’s books and articles. I have used some of his mythological – management tips in my team meetings with great success. I have enjoyed listening to his conversations at literary festivals. But it was a different experience listening to him talk face to face to the audience who stood informally around him, as he explained how myths help to understand the meaning of life and business using his esoteric paintings of the three goddesses – Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga on background of the gallery walls.
It was a presentation that reached out to the audience at various levels – I came away inspired as a reader, a writer, a corporate professional and a seeker.