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He never loved me, and I was always a disgrace for him, didn’t speak well, didn’t dress well. I was a ‘country bumpkin’ as he called me and much to his relief, I stopped going out to parties with him.
2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for March 2019 is these lines from Indian-British poet Nikita Gill, who has inspired millions of young people with her words, from her poem poem, Lessons From The Cosmos #2
It would take one million of him
to make even a single you.
The second winner of our March 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Preethi Warrier.
The alarm rang at four am and I put it off immediately. Without switching on the bedroom lights, I slowly moved to the kitchen and heated up a bowl of milk. Still dressed in my nightgown, I gently opened the main door, making sure the door didn’t creak. I didn’t want to wake up Arvind. This early morning adventure downstairs was our secret, a secret which I shared only with her.
She was fast asleep in the parking area. I called out to her softly, and she came running to me, mewing and purring. I gently stroked her little head as she licked the milk. This short, clandestine meeting with a stray cat was the best time I had in the whole day, the only thing I eagerly looked forward to.
I returned back home, tiptoeing into the drawing room, gently closing the door behind me. I still had two hours to start my day a day which I was sure was going to be as boring and monotonous as any other.
I got up late, Arvind had already left for his morning walk. I collected the milk packet and the newspaper, made tea and idli. Arvind returned, and without even acknowledging my presence, he finished his bath, got dressed and had his breakfast. He always left in a hurry and never bothered to wave me Goodbye or tell me what time he would return. I didn’t bother to ask too, I was done with all the married women duties I didn’t care for anymore. After some cleaning and dusting, I now had the huge three bedroom flat all to myself. Having nothing to do, I resigned myself to reading the newspaper, reclining in the balcony. All I had to do was watch TV, chat with some classmates on Facebook, order grocery, walk, have dinner and go back to sleep.
My life after marriage had always been the same. After two failed attempts at passing matriculation, my father decided all I could do, was get married. So when a young, handsome but poor Arvind had married the supposedly plump, dark and illiterate me, all had known the obvious. Arvind had brought me to Mumbai from Kerala and started his business, investing a large part of the dowry.. He did well and soon we moved to this huge plush flat. My parents often reminded me about how lucky I was to get Arvrind as my life partner.
As far as love was concerned, it had never been there. He never loved me, and I was always a disgrace for him, didn’t speak well, didn’t dress well. I was a ‘country bumpkin’ as he called me and much to his relief, I stopped going out to parties with him. He was handsome and a big hit among the ladies, and more often than not, I knew where he spent the nights when he didn’t return home. As for a child, we had tried, but two years after our marriage, we consulted the doctors and Arvind turned out to be the one who needed treatment. The sexist that he was, he refused treatment and here we were, two strangers living under the same roof, living different lives.
That’s when the building stray cat walked into my life. As I always liked animals, I had started feeding her. She would purr, sit on my lap and our friendship grew. Soon she started visiting my flat in the afternoons and at times, when Arvind wouldn’t return by midnight, she would spend the night with me. And for once, I would feel loved and comforted. She never argued with me or judged me, she never found me illiterate or ugly.
My happiness had been short lived because in a few months, the building secretary complained that a certain resident fed stray animals and the animals were now climbing the stairs and toppling the trash he kept outside at night. He put up a notice which read that residents couldn’t feed stray animals and strict action would be taken against people who didn’t comply. I knew his actual problem was different, in fact he had a problem with everybody who didn’t pay him much attention which included animals and me. It was surprising how some people could be so egoistic, how they couldn’t tolerate seeing somebody happy. And that’s exactly why I fed her secretly, early in the mornings, when people were fast asleep. I was too afraid to confront the hot tempered secretary or other pompous residents, it was easier this way.
Like any other day, I had dozed off, but then I heard some commotion downstairs. Our flat was on the second floor, so I could clearly see what was happening in the garden. What I saw left me horrified. The sweeper had tied a noose around my cat’s neck and was pulling her along the hot rough concrete slabs. The cat was trying her best to resist but the burly sweeper was pulling her by its neck. The more she struggled, the tighter the noose was getting.
I screamed. It was the most gruesome sight I had ever seen. With all the strength I had, I shouted, “What are you doing?” The sweeper looked up for a second, and paying absolutely no heed, he started pulling again.
I ran downstairs not bothering to wear a neat dress or do my hair. I reached the garden, snatched the rope from the sweeper, lifted an almost unconscious cat in my arms and ran to my flat. I frantically searched for the kitchen scissors, found a knife and cut the noose around her neck. The poor cat was too traumatised to react, she just collapsed on the floor.
The next minute, the sweeper was upstairs, telling me rudely that the cat was a big menace to the residents and had to be disposed off. I looked at him, he was talking about killing her, an innocent animal. I don’t know what came over me and from where I gathered the nerve, but I looked at him straight in the eye and shouted, “You might not know but killing an animal is a crime. I have many NGO numbers and there are police help lines in newspapers. I just need to put it up on the internet and see what happens. All I have to show the police is the cctv footage of you pulling the cat and I don’t know how much they will fine you or for how long they will put you in jail. Tell me, how much did he pay you?”
The sweeper was stunned, he had never expected a ‘dumb cow’ like me to speak like this, after all, I was one person to whom he could show off his little attitude. His expression changed at once and he said, “Secretary paid me two hundred rupees. I didn’t want to kill. Please don’t report me. I have two small kids. I promise I will never touch the cat again.”
I banged the door at him, but not before giving him a parting shot, “If something happens to the cat, I will report to the police. You attacked an animal for two hundred, wonder what you would do if paid more.”
By that time, the cat got up and weakly walked to the bedroom. She drank some water but refused food. I let her be, she had walked on her own. That was a good sign, so I decided to wait till evening to call the vet.
But I wasn’t letting this go so easily. The newspapers these days were flooded with articles about how brutally stray animals were being treated, some even mentioning dogs being burnt or lynched to death.
But when I witnessed the savage act at close quarters, I realized I had to do something. I logged on to my Facebook account, posted the cat’s photo and shared the incident with all my friends. I also logged on to a few animal welfare organization websites and reported the incident.
The support that she received online was immense. Within minutes, many of my friends responded with help line numbers and few of the organizations wanted to know the names of the people involved. I sighed, there were still some people who sympathised with animals, there was some humanity left on earth.
Meanwhile, I browsed the Municipality website, looking for rules laid down for housing societies. I found what I was searching for, typed it into a notice, printed it on a paper, and carried it to His Highness, the secretary’s flat myself.
He answered the door bell, I slapped the notice on him. Very calmly I said, “I am going to put this up on the notice board whether you sign or not. But this is for your information that there is a rule in the municipality guidelines for housing societies that residents are not supposed to leave trash cans outside on the staircase. Leaving trash on the corridor overnight could cause infestation of pests and it spreads foul smell, causing inconvenience to other residents. Failing to comply could result in strict action. You can check the content on the internet.”
He was dumb struck, he never expected a village bumpkin like me to speak fluent English. Watching American sitcoms and reading had helped. Moreover, he hadn’t called me after the sweeper and cat incident, which meant he was a bit shaken and wanted to stay out of trouble.
Reluctantly, he signed and I didn’t leave till I warned, “If your trash is dirty for you, it’s dirty for us too. You don’t expect an animal to read your notice and stop coming upstairs, do you? I hope at least the other residents have more common sense.”
He didn’t close the door immediately, he took some time to recover. I went downstairs, pinned the notice on the board, returned to my flat, and made myself a cup of tea. I checked my social media accounts, they were full of congratulatory messages, applauding me for being brave and saving a life. Meanwhile, the cat had started eating a little, I was glad she was going to be fine.
Arvind returned that night looking all furious.
“That secretary called me up, complaining that you argued about a stupid cat. He says you challenged the society rules he had set. What do you know about anything, why did you..”
I cut him short, “Arvind, I am adopting the cat, it is going to stay with me. From tomorrow I am going to work for an animal welfare organization and do whatever little I can do for them. I don’t think you will have any objections. As it is, we have always been living separate lives. You are living yours to the fullest, I guess I will start living mine too. Good night.”
Leaving a shocked Arvind rooted to his spot, I carried my cat to the bedroom and put her to sleep. In one day, I had won over three chauvinistic men, with my will power. I was way better than them as a human being, they still had a long way to go. I had a kind heart, I never lied, never cheated and turned out, I was courageous too. After all, I had saved a life that day, challenged the most powerful person in the building, officially set a new law and stood up for whom I loved.
In the morning I would visit the animal welfare organization, I would work with them and contribute for the cause of animals. If I could sympathise with them, why couldn’t I do something for them as well? I was going to live all over again, this time for myself. If he could, I could. And I was far superior, in many aspects.
Preethi Warrier wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: shutterstock
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Beautiful story that depicts that if need be a woman can have courage which knows no bounds.
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