It was 1997. I was a whimsical twelve-year-old, living with my parents and Grandpa in a little house that had its own garden.
Grandpa would sit in the garden every morning, reading a newspaper and listening to old songs on his little radio.
One day, he called me. I was surprised to see a little, grey-striped furball staring at the radio and going “Meow” after every line of the song. Oh, it was love at first sight!! I named him “Radio”.
But Ma refused to let Radio inside the house. “No cat hairs!!”
I was crestfallen – till one day, when the only living being that Ma feared, entered the house. I brought Radio inside. The playful kitten amazingly transformed into a deadly hunter, the moment he smelt the mouse. Within seconds, he’d captured his lunch. Along with Ma’s heart.
Well, not exactly.
Radio took special delight in following an agitated Ma all over the house. “Don’t rub against my legs!! Shoo!! Go!!” And yet, she would feed him. He would chase her more. God, was it hilarious!!
And me? My life revolved around Radio. He mewed loudly at the front door every morning, awakening the entire neighbourhood. He ran helter-skelter, played with anything and everything, rubbed himself against me, jumped randomly onto my lap, slept like a hibernating frog – and continued singing with the radio. My life felt complete.
My painting and reading hobbies took a backseat. Conversations with friends turned into monologues extolling Radio’s virtues. My friends got tired of me. But I didn’t care.
Radio grew up into a huge tomcat with a penchant for exploring nearby areas and fighting other cats. He’d often return with dust and bruises. I’d hug him and Ma would scream, “Dirty cat, dirty girl – go wash yourself!!”
Then one morning, Radio didn’t turn up.
He wasn’t seen anywhere. I roamed the entire neighbourhood, looking for him. I cried myself to sleep at night. Where did my lifeline go?
Radio remained missing. I became introverted and withdrawn. Grandpa said, “He’ll return, my child. Many cats are known to explore far-off places and return after some days, all by themselves.” But it didn’t work. I simply imagined the worst.
Finally, Ma ordered, “Get on with life!!” I meekly obeyed.
Radio remained at the back of my mind. Whenever I saw any grey-striped cat, I would perk up, only to be disappointed.
A year passed. I’d stopped giving Grandpa company in the garden, because his radio stirred up memories. One day, he called me.
I stepped out. And stopped short in my tracks.
There, in front of the radio, was a dirty, shaggy creature, mewing along with the song being played!!
“Radio!!” I squealed, overjoyed.
Radio saw me – and jumped into my arms. I hugged him, sobbing and whispering sweet nothings.
Someone sniffed. I turned around. My “hard-hearted”, disciplinarian Ma stood there, with tears in her eyes. She said softly, “Dirty cat, dirty girl – go wash yourself!!”
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