In this personal essay, Anu Karippal talks about the various ways in which one’s life changes after a pet.
Six years ago, my brother brought home a tiny kitten. He was at a bakery shop near our small town in Kerala. A kitten came next to him and rubbed on his feet. Every bakery and fish stall in Kerala has a cat feeding on the waste and the generous side of customers. In my brother’s words, “I gave her the mitcher ( Mixture, a popular snack pronounced in Malayalam as mitcher), but she was still rubbing”. My brother couldn’t help seeing the kitten meow and brought her home. He has always been like this, easily affected by the look of a creature. He once named our hens Thadichi ( Fatty) and Melichi ( Lean-y) and was found several times playing with them. Another time, he was playing and tickling our dog Broo to beyond the dog’s threshold that the dog bit my little brother all over. This however hasn’t stopped his compassion. My brother’s extreme expression of love for animals had been compensated by his indifferent attitude to us sisters. It was all a fine balance, I guess, and he excelled at it.
Like the other cats that were brought home by my brother or the ones that conveniently came over and made the tiny corners of our house their home, she was also named Kurinji. Just like all the dogs who came after Jimmy was given the name Broo. We never thought of giving them a new name. I don’t know if it was insensitive to do so. Probably it was our way of handing down the legacy like a last name. Or it was the mere easiness of not having to figure out another name. Like all the cows in Kerala are Ammini pashu (Malayalam word for cow), all cats who came home were kurinji. Kurinji which refers to the exotic shrub that blooms with blue-purple flowers once every 12 years in the Western Ghats, however, had been colonised by the cats of Kerala.