Kush came in quietly and shut the door behind him. He tip toed into the drawing room and dumped his laptop on the sofa. It was 9:00 PM. Chitra must be putting their cute little 5 year old, Jiya to bed. He felt bad that Jiya had gone to sleep. He had left his office late today and also made an extra stop on his way back. He had called Chitra and told her that he will be late and that he will pick up the dinner on his way over. There was a restaurant near his office which made excellent Khao- Suey and their dumplings were really good, Chitra had said in the morning that she wanted to eat from there tonite. Too bad they were quite far away from their apartment for home delivery.
He went into the kitchen and put the packet of food on the counter. He then very carefully placed the other box he had in his hand on the small kitchen table and went back to the living room to get the large bag he had left by the door while coming in. Kush then tossed his shirt on the back of the dining room chair and went about setting up the new paraphernalia that he had brought with him. He had already chosen a spot. They lived in a 3 BHK flat and the 3rd bedroom was almost bare and quite spacious. He put the soft, round basket bed on the floor and placed the bowl near it. He then took out an assortment of small toys he had bought at the pet store and kept them near the bed. He also had to think where to put the litter box. He went back to the kitchen and took the small kitten out, It was a furry little thing, 16 weeks old, White and Gold in colour with deep brown stripes running all over its body. The kitty purred and stretched in Kush’s hands. Kush knew how to take care of cats, there were a lot of cats at his granny’s place while he was growing up. He went about filling the bowl with water and then went and sat on the sofa with the little kitten lying on his lap. It was the cutest little ball of fur. There were bright yellow specks in its eyes that looked like they were glowing. Kush couldn’t wait to show it to Jiya and Chitra. He knew Jiya would love it but he will have to wait till the next morning to show it to her. He was as excited as a school kid.
Chitra walked into the drawing room while rolling her hair up into a bun. Kush shoved the kitty towards her, “ Look what I got for Jiya.” Chitra jumped back startled, “ What is that?” “ Jiya’s new pet.” “What do you mean Jiya’s new pet Kush?” “I got it for Jiya, look how cute it is.” Chitra stood there looking fixedly at Kush. He felt his excitement drain out and he sensed this was not going the way he had imagined. “Well, I thought I will surprise you guys with this…” he stuttered off.
Well, there you go, in his excitement to get a cat, he hadn’t thought this through. He had sauntered into the shop on a whim two days ago when he had gone down for a break and immediately fallen in love with this cute little kitten. Love at first sight. Now that he thought about it, it was really stupid of him not telling Chitra about it and just dumping a kitten at her at 9 in the night, albeit a cute one, when clearly she was only expecting Thai food. Too much excitement for a Friday evening.
“ I am sorry honey, I should have asked you before getting a pet. I thought I would surprise you. It is an added responsibility taking care of a pet. I don’t know what I was thinking.” He looked at Chitra with his best doggy eyes imitation. “I will help with cleaning out the litter box etc and take care everything. I promise.”
“Kush, I don’t want a Cat.”, Chitra turned around and went inside the bedroom. “But look how cute it is. Come on, hold it once Chitra, look it is so soft.”
Kush went after her and tried to pull her back. Chitra jerked her hand away forcefully, “ I mean it Kush I DO NOT WANT A CAT.” Chitra stomped off. Kush spent the evening trying to cajole her, he said he will return the cat the next day, but Chitra sat there silently for awhile, then got up and went out in the balcony closing the French windows behind her. “ Please Kush leave me alone.”
Chitra seemed too mad, it was unlike her to react this way. Kush was the short tempered one, the childish one. Chitra was the calm and mature one in their marriage. Had he really made her that angry, he could not understand.
Hot tears welled up in Chitra’s eyes. “Why did Kush have to do this? He did not even ask her. She hated cats.” She felt mad at Kush. Angry tears kept rolling down her eyes. She stopped crying after some time but sat there staring at the road outside.
Her mind went back to a summer vacation when she was 9 years old. They lived in the railway quarters colony, where her father worked. Chitra was their only daughter. The house quarters had 2 flats on each floor and their were quite a few houses in each block. It was 4 in the evening one hot summer day, Chitra went down to play with her friend Rasna. They played in the park below their housebut Rasna was not there today. Chitra went to Rasna’s house which was 4 houses down her own house. She went to the second floor and rang the bell. Getting no answer she rang the bell again and banged on the door impatiently. The door on the opposite side opened and a man came out. Chitra had seen him many times before, she knew he was Ramesh Uncle and worked in the same office as her father. “Beta, are you looking for your friend? I saw them go somewhere today morning. “Oh!” Chitra’s face fell. As she stood there feeling disappointed, she saw a cat sauntering inside the house. She looked at it and smiled. “Do you want to play with the kitty?” She nodded, but kept standing there. “Come, Come, Aunty has gone home to her parents and I am getting bored, we will play together, Come Inside.”
Chitra went and sat beside the cat. It was an orange tabby cat, Chitra slowly lifted her hand and stroked its head. The tabby purred. Chitra kept giggling and playing with the cat. She didn’t notice when Ramesh came and sat beside her on the floor. He handed her a chocolate and asked her about her school and friends. He put his hands on her shoulders and kept talking to her while Chitra played. Slowly his hands slid down the little girls chest, Chitra instantly felt scared and uncomfortable. She tried moving away but Ramesh kept talking to her and caressed her thighs. He kept rubbing his hands all over her for 5 minutes. Chitra was white as a sheet by then. At last he let go of her. She instantly got up and ran towards the door. “ Come back tomorrow to play with the kitty again”
Chitra ran back home. The little girl was scared and traumatized and had no idea what had just happened. Her mother saw her and asked her what was the matter, but Chitra did not say anything. She felt unhappy and scared but her little mind was too young to understand why it was that she felt bad. She stopped eating properly and did not go down to play the next few days. Her mother and father kept asking her and took her to the doctor, thinking that she was unwell. Few days later her mother took her to her grandmother’s house. The child became normal again when she went there and forgot about it. It took Chitra years to realize what had happened that day. She had pushed it into some corner of unhappy memories. When she was younger she would feel ashamed and dirty everytime she remembered the incident. It was not until years later, she understood that she should not feel ashamed about it. It was not her fault, but somehow the little girl had kept feeling responsible and ashamed for the incident. She felt it was her fault and she felt ashamed and dirty. That was the reason she never said anything to her mother. It was only when she grew up that she realized that it was exactly this vulnerability of a child that sexual predators and abusers use as their weapon. The incident had left a deep mark on her even if she had almost forgotten it while growing up. She was always cautious about Jiya and watched her like a hawk. She did not let her out of sight for a minute. She did not realize it, but she was always scared about her daughter. Seeing the kitten today it had all suddenly come tumbling back to her. She sat there silently.
It was almost dawn, Chitra was still outside, Kush went out and sat beside her. He took her hands in his. Slowly Chitra recounted the incident to him. She had never told anyone. Kush listened to her patiently while she poured her heart out, he then hugged her tightly, and they sat there watching the sun rise. “I am so sorry Chitra, I had no idea. My God we will never leave Jiya alone or let her go to anybody’s house without us, not even her friends. The world is full of such sleaze bags.”
The Sun was coming up in the horizon, Chitra looked at the beautiful clear sky and said, “No Kush, we can’t stop living because we are afraid of something bad happening. It is no use living in fear. The world is bad, but there is a lot of good in it too. We will teach Jiya about these things. We will make her aware and teach her not to be scared and what to do. We will look after her and keep a watch on her always, but we have to let her live freely too, we should prepare her on how to get out of such a situation. We will not teach her fear but we will teach her how to fight.” Kush looked at her and nodded.
Chitra got up, “Where are you going?” “To feed the poor kitten, I hope you have brought cat food, I have no idea what we are supposed to feed kittens. I think the name ‘Tipsy’ suits her, she looked quite drunk to me.” Kush got up, “Drunk? She is so cute, I am coming, I will feed her.”
A short story by Smita Pal Sinha
I am participating in the #AtoZchallenge 2017 AtoZchallenge with Blogchatter wherein I will be blogging on 26 topics from A to Z. My theme is short stories with the alphabet, the most common word for that alphabet, and a social issue. Here in the story above it is C for Cat and Child Abuse
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