by Civa Bhusal
It was raining outside as Anish heard a cat’s voice but couldn’t recognize where the sound was coming from.
‘ Anish, Bhat khana aaija ta, ’ mother called him for lunch.
It was Saturday and his school was off. It seemed Anish didn’t hear his mother’s call; he was rather fascinated with the cat’s Miao voice, which fortified him to search inside the cupboard, inside the cloth rack, behind his reading table and also inside his school-bag.
He heard his mother speak loudly-
‘ Aaija na bhaneko bhat khana!!’
She was a bit angry.
‘La La aayan aayan,’
Anish nodded that he would come.
His mother had already served daal, bhat and tarkari in the plate. Anish sat down in the mat and started taking food.
Mother noticed shyness in his face and asked what had really happened to him.
He told her that the cat had suddenly vanished.
‘Hyaa. Don’t worry about it. It’s the cat’s nature to hide itself somewhere and threaten you. He will come back soon. You also heard his voice. It’s just a game of hide and seek‘
He finished his food but wasn’t still convinced with the argument made by his mother. ‘The cat might have fled to Ramesh dai’s backyard,’ he thought. But the sound came from inside his house. He might have been hiding somewhere inside.
Anish had found the cat behind the Banyan tree just beside his house about a year ago, in a gloomy day of April. The creature was trembling with fear and cold as he carefully caught him, brought him to his house and hid inside the doko where the animal soon fell asleep.
Initially mother didn’t like the idea of keeping the cat but as Anish insisted over the matter, she could do nothing.
The fate of the family too, surprisingly changed after the cat’s arrival. Her husband won a lottery of twenty five thousand Nepali rupees in the city and the money was used in buying a new cow. They reared the cow and sold milk to people of the town and started earning some more money.
The land yielded more crops and the broker of the city bought the crop in a better sum of money than the previous years.
Meanwhile, Anish searched for him even inside the Bhakari, which was filled with the rice grains and but the search was also in vain too.
He finally went to the neighborhood the lady of his neighborhood-
‘ Aama, did you see our pet ?’
The lady replied –
The rain had stopped. He looked at the sand pile where the cat used to play but he wasn’t there too. Ramesh saw him and asked-
‘What are you searching for, little boy? ’
‘ Biralo harayo k dai, ’ He said that he was in search of the cat.
He even started searching for the cat in the fields and also behind the tap but couldn’t find him. Being disappointed, he returned home and napped in his bed.
He heard the inviting Miao! Miao sound again- the sound of his best friend. He rushed to the Bhakari and saw the animal playing inside just like the way he used to play in the sand-pile behind Ramesh dai’s house. He caught the cat in his hand and started playing with him. No sooner he touched the forehead of the cat, the creature groaned, bit at his fingers and ran away.
Anish exclaimed in pain and fear and suddenly woke up. As her mother came and touched his forehead, she discovered that her son was sweating and was possibly caught of seasonal fever.
‘How many times should I tell you not to go outside while it’s raining, ’scolded his mother.
Anish was quite. He had nothing to answer.
The sun set in the west. The night grew dark like a charcoal, the cat didn’t return and the boy fell asleep after a while. Mother asked everyone she met that day but nobody saw the creature.
Next day, Anish was taken to the nearby clinic and the doctor prescribed some tablets and the syrups which actually didn’t work and he rather started losing his appetite, grew thinner and thinner and was always worried of the lost cat.
Anish sobbed during the sleep too. Mother suspected of the evil force and she took him to a dhami the third day.
The dhami took a glance at him, placed his long, thin fingers at his wrist, closed his eyes for a while and told that Anish had been caught by a masaan (an evil force resembling the spirit of a dead person ) when he had been near to the village tap two days ago. Mother nodded that she was right with her suspicion.
Father said in a gutsy tone-
“You are never wrong”
Meanwhile, dhami added that a ritual had to be done which required a black cock and about one kg of black lentil. The rituals were scheduled for the next morning.
That day, she searched for the cock and didn’t find it. In the evening she found it in Bire’s house. The cock weighted just over 3 kg and Bire sold it for mere three hundred Nepali rupees.
With that money Bire went to the nearby bhatti, got drunk and came back to his home making noise and lamenting with vulgar words, over his wife who had eloped with a young gharti lad few years ago and slept in the barandah the whole morning.
The next morning, his mother stroked him with a broom, woke him up, took a glance at his drunkard face and uttered-
‘ Hijo pani jaad dhokis aais gadha !! ’
As usual, he made a drunkard’s promise that he would never taste the liquor again and would soon go to work and earn some money.
Meanwhile, as she didn’t see the chick around, she took no time to discover that Bire had sold it. It was the ninth one to have been sold within the interval of two months- just for the sake of getting drunk and six others were counting their fate- the fortune ( or the misfortune ) that entirely depended upon Bire’s conscience.
Bire’s mother had warned him not to sell the black cock by any means. Bire looked unknown of the warning and he rather asked-
‘ When? When did you warn me, aama?’
His mother wasn’t in a mood to argue with her drunkard son and she rather went inside, sobbed alone and probably cursed her own fate.
Meanwhile, dhami had already started his rituals at Anish’s house. The small kid was sleeping near the matha and the dhami was using his knowledge of witchcraft reciting mantras to bring back the massan, talk with him and ask him what his wish really was.
Sometimes he would dance like lord Shiva and sometimes he would take a round around the matha- the structure where lived the holy Tulsi plant and at one moment he started talking alone in a language that the couples didn’t understand.
Mr. Sharma told her wife that he was talking with the evil spirit. Mrs. Sharma nodded-
‘Oh! I see. ‘
The legs of the cock had been tied with the white ropes. Dhami worshipped the cock for some minutes, took a knife from his pocket and cut the neck of the innocent bird and offered the blood and the trembling body to a duno which, according to him, was for the evil spirit. The black lentil was offered in the next duno, in the name of the ancestors of the family.
Finally, he squeezed all these things inside his own sack and declared that the rituals were over, the spirit was happy and the boy would be cured in few days.
Anish took food that night. His health seemed to improve but the next day he was same. He didn’t take any food. His mother squeezed daal and bhat inside his mouth. He pretended of chewing but soon spat it out.
She threatened her child after which he took few spoons of food. But he soon announced that his stomach had already been filled and he wasn’t hungry at all.
Mother gave it up.
She slept with him whole night touching his forehead and sometimes kissing at his cheeks which were no more red and bumpy. He had grown lean and thin and the doctors couldn’t decide what his problem really was.
Next day, he was again taken to the clinic and the doctor wrote a letter for the blood test.
‘The boy might have been suffering from typhoid,’ he exclaimed.
Blood test was done which didn’t prove that he had typhoid. The doctor then told that it might have been a viral fever and recommended some antibiotics for the boy. The couples took the medicines and came back house.
But the antibiotics for the viral fever didn’t work too. The child never recovered, stopped taking food, grew weaker and weaker and one day he fell so ill that the doctor at the local clinic gave up and referred him to one of the biggest child hospital of the nearby city.
The couples took the child to the hospital but the boy died midway.
He lost his life perhaps because of the fault in his own stars, the fate- which once-upon-a-time brought a series of fortunes in the family and which after a year became a series of curses, misfortunes, hard times and struggles for existence, particularly for the little boy, who was later on buried in the nearby jungle.
The cat never returned.
The fate of the village too, never changed.