I was playing cricket with a bunch of friends in the building compound when suddenly, “Meow…Mew….Mouv”…and a shrill, “Meeee…”.
Like most children, we all loved cats and especially the cute little kittens who tend to be always naughty.
“Did you hear that?”, asked my neighbour Tanay.
“Must be below the car”, exclaimed Vikram. He was nearing his century but his legendary concentration was broken by the desperate calls, as he sat on his haunches and looked below the car in vain.
I was bowling one of the best spells of underarm bowling but was now ready to exchange the rubber ball with a ball of fluffy fur.
The game of cricket was soon forgotten and everyone was searching for the kittens.
We peered into the ground floor flat of the irritable Uncle Gupte, whom we used to call, ‘khadoos’, as he used to shout at us for disturbing his afternoon beauty sleep. But to no avail.
Suddenly the calls again… I espied a drum near the building pillar and peered inside.
“Vicky, Tanay, Sekhar…come here”, and all came running towards me like moths attracted to lights.
Four heads bent over the drum and gazed inside. In turn, four tiny heads looked up in fright.
“Let’s take them out and play with them”, I said and without waiting for any response, I put my hand in and…scratch, scratch, scratch…
“Ow, ow, ow…”, I howled in pain as my eyes welled up with tears. I was horrified to see straight lines of blood running from elbow to my wrist.
Tanay, being the smartest, tilted the drum while Sekhar and Vicky picked up the kittens, one in each hand. Their round blue eyes were darting here and there, frightened.
Soon I had forgotten my wounds and surged ahead. Vicky took two of them to his house while Tanay helped me to bring home two, one being orange in colour and the other fully white, with small orange patches.
I, my sister and Tanay tried to play with them but they scooted off below the sofa in fright.
“Arre, why have you brought such small kittens home? Won’t their mother worry for them? And give them milk first, let them familiarize with the house, then they will play with you”, my Aai gave her advice.
In our selfishness we had not thought about the kittens mother and I was overcome with guilt.
“Yes, let’s give them some milk and then we will leave them back with their mother”, I suggested.
My sister protested, “But they are so cute! Let them stay with us. I will name this one Orange and the other one…Spotty”. She smiled at her own originality.
However as the evening turned to late evening, we heard desperate meows of the mother. Surely she was searching for her kittens.
Finally four sheepish friends and my sister returned the kittens to their mother in the night and basked in the love showered by the cat on her babies.