The Story of Rosie
As I was growing up, we had a cat at our home, and we called the kitten “Rosie”. She has lovely, long smoke-coloured fur with a white patch around the legs. Her coat was like silk. Her eyes were large and round -jewel green — they shone like peridots. She had a long and slender tail with a small white patch at the end. She was loving and affectionate but was very much “her cat”. Rosie was cute and cuddly, but she was aggressive and unpredictable. She had a daily routine and would be unhappy with any change. My mother agreed to keep the pet because of the rat menace in the house. Without cat food, I fed a ‘milk meal’ daily, though I was aware that Rosie was feasting on the rats in the house. I never knew that milk is a ‘no’ for a cat. Rosie was an entertainer, and kids from the neighbouring houses adored the kitten.
My family assembled yearly to offer prayers to our departed elders on a specific auspicious day. The day is akin to thanksgiving in the west. The day was very pious as we believed our elders come down from the heavens, partake in the food, and bless us. As a customary practice, my grandmother brought a cat from outside before the event. She tied the pet to the leg of the large table in the dining room. The kitten meowed and made a high pitch noise as my grandmother held her in his hands. The pet was restless and uncomfortable. She placed some milk and water in two separate bowls before the pet. She did not know that the cats were lactose intolerant and the kitten would have a problem soon. The kitten started lapping up the milk as the others were watching. There was pin-drop silence in the room except for the kitten’s purring. The kitten sound stopped, and the prayers began on time and ended in thirty minutes. We sat down for the special meal cooked by my mother. All of us maintained silence during lunchtime, except for occasional comments on the deliciousness of the food. We helped our mom clear the table. My grandmother untied the cat and let her go, and the cat rushed out of our home at great speed.
But I had to do the honours in a specific year as my grandmother was not around. I could not step out because of widespread cholera in the town. My eyes fell on Rosie. My sister was reluctant for Rosie to go through the ordeal. After a long debate and convincing, we agreed that Rosie could help us with the ritual. Rosie was delighted when I took her in my hands and petted her. Rosie thought that I would take her outside for some fresh air. To her surprise, I inserted a small rope loop into her leg and tied the other end to the table leg. Rosie was happy with the new experience when I let her on the floor while I looked at her. After a few minutes, Rosie became restless and started making sounds. As per tradition, I kept two bowls of milk and water in front of Rosie. Rosie gulped the liquids quickly, asking for more. In the meantime, we got busy with the prayers while Rosie was moaning loudly. I untied Rosie after the prayers, and Rosie ran out of the house quickly. I never saw Rosie again.
As I learnt later, the cat tieing during the prayers had become a tradition in our house for generations. While no one knew when this ritual started, this had become a regular affair. It seems a cat jumped into the assembly in a particular year when these prayers were in progress and created a stir. Hence the ritual.
Rosie helped us to get out of the superstition, and I remember Rosie every year on the ‘annual’ day.