It is impossible to separate cats from Bombay, I’ve discovered. And considering the affinity that the Parsis have towards them, it’s not surprising that every Parsi Colony in the city is haunted by at least a dozen of the Egyptian live gods. The fish and chicken surely keeps them happily settled, unlike the traditional belief that a cat changes at least 7 homes in her lifetime. And of course, nature probably freezes the law of nine lives for them – why bother when they’re having so much fun in just this one!
I’m surprised by the absence of their much-demanded mention in my blog. Here’s a lowdown of four of my most catty experiences in Bombay that got me packing my favourite cat books to bring them back from my last Baroda trip…
I recently made it to an exhibition of paintings by B.B. Bhaskaran. He “loves painting animals, especially cats.” When an art connoisseur complemented and followed it up with “Why cats?!” we both exchanged a look to suggest “ridiculous question!” The paintings mostly depicted poses typical to the domestic felines (another one of our imbecilic assumptions – the pad-footed noiseless creatures have merely condescended to blessing us bipeds with their mysterious presence)… the interesting textures created from oil, chai-n-ink, coal, water-colour and pencil on paper or canvas brought alive the very essence of the felines some of us have grown up...
matronly | piercingly suspicious | strict | painfully bored
waiting impatiently | oblivious to names & commands
The paintings brought back memories of home; of hour-long phone conversations with Sajani about how her cats and mine respond to music, chats, food and more; of visits to Suzan ma’am’s place on breezy summer evenings in Baroda only to discover that some cats can be Gujju enough to enjoy dhokla & gathia & khaman & handvo and demand their share with the most economy in expression and gestures.
Until recently, I often walked up to the end of the bridge to catch a bus (free NSP* at the Porche showroom). There is a ginger cat at Kemps Corner that reigns the turn towards Crossword on the way. Cats evoke the usual onomatopoeic ‘puch puch’ in me, and this one responded like she’s known me forever. And she’d follow up to a point. She’s also attempted climbing onto the cab with me a couple of times!
For a while, I did a break journey from my hostel to work – the first half by any one of the 8- buses that ply on that route, and then a taxi or a 66 to Ballard Estate. On my first day of the series, I found this most amusing five siblings – toms and ladies at Opera House, Girgaon road. Quite apt, considering the sophistication with which they all sit-stand-crouch-lick themselves to glory-bask in the sun-nap near the taxi stand there. Every now and then, when I take one of those buses, I look for the familiar five. If I don’t find a window seat in the ladies’ section, I sit at the back at the risk of inviting some seedy looking pervert to occupy the adjoining seat. I have a feeling I’m going to alight from the bus at that stop to click a few snaps one of these days.
But my favourite sight is the Colaba Causeway, where, beginning a little after Theobrama, right down to the bus depot, cats in many hues and shapes and sizes carelessly sprawl by the road within grilled compounds so fearlessly it makes you wish life was as easy for us humans too.