Three little kittens lost their mittens.

So I have two cats. They started out as S.'s cats but they're most definitely mine now - ours, I mean. Their names are Zorba and Eustacia. S. named them after some obscure literary characters. Maybe not obscure, Zorba is from Zorba the Greek. I can't remember Eustacia's origins. I think it's because his last cats were called Booze and Snooze. He wanted to move up the ladder a bit.

But this is not about my two cats, this is about their offspring.

Unfortunately, as they grew older, for a couple of weeks, Zorba (who pretty much spends his life eating, sleeping and crying) decided to start bonking Eustacia. I didn't interfere obviously, but it's deeply disturbing. Because I knew them as kittens, as kitten brother and sister, and I guess it's sort of like seeing your children becoming teenagers and having incestuous sex all over the house with no regard for propriety.


The result of this was Eustacia got pregnant.

Two weeks ago, S. and I were sitting in our room talking about something, and all of a sudden, I heard this sound.

"I bet Zorba's stuck in your cupboard again," I said.

But then I realised that there were multiple meows in there. And for three seconds, the universe came to a stand-still while I struggled to cope with the fact that my cat had given birth to kittens in my closet.

Well, S.'s closet. (Thank god.)

I opened the door - I was terrified in case I'd see a stillborn, or blood - but I saw three little clumps of fur. I cautiously poked them one at a time. They moved. I breathed.

And then I became hysterical. (The joyful kind of hysterical.)

We didn't move them. After a couple of days, Eustacia moved them to the top shelf of the cupboard.

I can't even begin to describe how tiny they were. Too tiny to even pick up. We left them to their mother.

But I would rush to the cupboard every morning as soon as I woke up. And every evening when I came back from work. And every couple of hours whenever I was at home. The first thing I'd do was to check that all three were there (all the same colour, all sleeping in a pile, difficult to tell.) Then I'd check to see if they were all breathing. Occasionally I would poke them to make sure. And then, reassured, I'd stand there, beaming like an idiot.

And this was despite the fact that they were boring as hell, mind you. They weren't even particularly cute. They looked like blind and ugly lab rats that turned orange in an unfortunate experiment. Which I actually found quite endearing but I was clear-sighted enough to realise it was one of those delusional parent things. (You know - how most parents think their kids are beautiful despite all evidence to the contrary.)

And throughout, I was terrified they'd die. Because, as I have repeatedly mentioned over the years, I am extremely morbid.

And then, about ten days after they were born, their eyes started to open. Beady little black eyes. One lagged behind a little - it looked like a squinting pirate for a couple of days. That was funny.

I couldn't really tell them apart. But during the first week, one of them kept giving me heart attacks, because it would refuse to stay still unlike its sleeping siblings. I spent most of my time worrying that it would fall out of the cupboard. But I didn't want to move it either. So I piled some of S.'s shirts on the floor as a makeshift cushion. And I piled the rest to make a sort of fortress at the edge of the shelf.

"Have you seen the way you dress?" I said, in response to his feeble complaints. "Like it matters."

Later, when they were over two weeks old, we moved them to a carton on the floor of our room, after cushioning it with, er, cushions.

That's when I noticed that one of them had an abnormally large head - although, to be fair, he was larger in general. Just like his father. (Who, I might add, remained blissfully unaware of the existence of his progeny.)

Were the restless one and the big-headed one the same? I didn't know. But soon, it wouldn't matter.

Exactly a week ago, I went out with Jenny and some of the Indiranagar gang. S. and I met up around 10 and came home together.

As soon as I entered the house, I noticed that kitten noises were coming from behind the UPS in our living room.

"Eustacia must have moved them." I said, rushing towards it.

Two of the kittens were huddled together. One of them was lying on its back.

I have had many nightmares come to life. Here was another one.

I didn't touch it. I just glanced at it and started screaming and rushed into the bedroom. While I was curled on the edge of my bed, sobbing and shrieking, completely hysterical, all self-control abandoned, S. came in and, attempting to snatch some hopeless hope, I said, "is it definitely dead?"

It was. We thought that it had drunk acid from the UPS - it had been leaking some a couple of weeks previously.

I brought the other two into our bedroom and kept them on our bed, kneeling on the floor, with my arms around them, as if that would somehow help them to live forever, to never die.

We buried Kitten 1 the next morning.


The next day was Friday. I rushed home after work to check on the remaining two, but even though I was obviously nervous, I'd be lying if I said I was expecting anything to have happened.

I went to the carton - and there was the nightmare again. One kitten was okay, the smaller one. The other was on its side, not moving. I tilted the box and the smaller kitten tumbled gently towards a corner of it, looking up at me reproachfully. The other didn't look up. It didn't move.

I didn't have a phone. S. was at work. I couldn't afford to be hysterical. So I rushed to the computer and messaged him on gchat but he wasn't online. Neither was my mum. So I Skyped Zaev and gave him S.'s number. S. came online five minutes later and said he'd come home as soon as possible.

I rushed back to the carton to take the last kitten out. And I realised Kitten 2 wasn't dead.

Just dying.

And there was nothing I could do.

I've never watched a person or animal die before. I picked Kitten 3 up and held it against me. With the other hand I just softly stroked Kitten 2, and talked to it. It died a gentle death.

Hysteria was starting to set in by now. I noticed the remaining kitten had fleas and I went online and everyone was saying fleas can kill kittens. So I washed it as best as I could in the sink (it protested vehemently) and put it in another carton and sat in the kitchen talking to it inanely.

I also started singing to it. Mostly because my voice is so terrible, I was hoping if Death was hanging around nearby, it would flee in disgust.

S. came home bringing syringes and milk; he guessed that Eustacia, because she's so young, had probably stopped lactating. We called a vet who snorted at the flea story and said that yes, the mother had stopped lactating. He told us how to go about feeding the kitten.

We buried Kitten 2 that night, the same day as its sibling.

There is a coconut tree near our courtyard and coconuts often fall in the corner where S. was digging. I was torn between sadness and an unreasonable fear that a coconut would fall on S.'s head and kill him.

Sadness and the ridiculous intertwined as always.


I spent the next three days feeding the third kitten. It was not afraid of voicing its displeasure when milk went up its nose. We'd get a few ml down and then it would wriggle away and go exploring - on a pillow, extensive territory for it - and occasionally roll on to the floor before being picked up and subjected to more milk.

Despite all the warnings that came my way, I began to feel I could save it. In my more optimistic moments, I fondly pictured my kitten and I, taking naps on the sofa together, sitting around in the courtyard (away from the bloody coconuts), being best buds. I let myself hope.

On the third day, I noticed it was weaker. It became more passive, it didn't object to the milk, if I put it down for a minute after feeding it, it would fall asleep instantly. S. didn't think it was a bad sign. It was resting, its heart beat was steady, its mouth was turning pink. But for me the fear returned.

I went late to work on Monday after a feeding session. S. stayed back for an afternoon feeding session and then went to his office.

One of us needed to go check on it early evening, but I was too scared to. I'd found the other kittens, I didn't want to take a chance with this one. So S. borrowed a colleague's bike and went home.

He messaged me an hour later, telling me it was dead.

He had to work late and I couldn't stand to be in the house alone so I went to my brother's after work and stayed there until S. and I could go home together.

We buried the kitten, the last one, the next morning. And I cried least for the one I loved the most.

I'd even given it a name, that Friday night, when I sat cradling it in the kitchen.

I called it Muhammad Ali.

Big fat help that was.

But to be honest, I like to think that it was appropriate. Because Muhammad Ali was the smallest and the weakest. And it fought. Really fought. Maybe not death - I don't know what fighting death entails. But definitely that damn syringe. We even had to switch to a smaller one. And Muhammad Ali lived for three extra days. Lived long enough to lick my chin. Long enough for S. and I to glimpse the beginnings of an individual personality.

And then Muhammad Ali retired, that's all.

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