‘My mother always used to say that Billu came with fortune. When he was there, we never faced any problem.’
I was at my friend’s place, when the call came. The voice on the other side was numb and shivering. It took only a moment and I saw my world crumbling down to dark abyss.
That morning I tried to reach home as fast as possible, but I could feel the distance getting longer. With a shortened breath and a heavy heart, I was welcomed by my sobbing mother. The tears were evident to what had just unfolded.
Throwing down my bag that contained the key to my dreams, I went upstairs. The door of his room was ajar. He was lying on his bed, in the same position as he slept last night. The only difference was that, instead of raising his head and opening his eyes to see me, I saw a stiff body, with motionless eyes and soulless Billu.
I gathered some courage and held him close to my heart, because I knew it would be our last moment together. I scratched his chin just like I used to, but this time around, I couldn’t hear a purr or feel a paw on my hand. I tried to assure myself that all this is a lie, but in the end, reality hits hard.
My father came and cried over the separation of his beloved. Every member of the family had developed an unbreakable bond with Billu and at this moment, nobody knew whom to console.
When I brought him home, two years ago, he was a 3-month-old kitten. For me, he was my child—who I would pamper and pet to sleep in my lap. Unknowing of the new family, he acted completely opposite and from the very first day developed a bond with other members of the family. He developed a routine for life and followed it until he breathed last.
After I would finish my Fajr prayer, he would wake up and lick my hair, demanding some scratching under his chin. Then he would climb up the windowsill and look at birds. This he used to do for hours. And finally when I would open the door, he would run all the way to the ground floor. The first thing he would do was to sniff Bittu’s (my parrot) cage.
Sniffing was followed by a tour to the kitchen, where mother would have already placed his water bowl and boiled egg yolk. He was very particular about eating yolk from my or mother’s hand.
He would follow me everywhere till I leave. And before I could reach near the main gate, he would go back to the kitchen, climb the window and would bid me a goodbye from the glass. That would be my perfect start of the day.
He used to spend the next hours of the day with my mother. During this time, he would get super active — intentionally scratch pillows and carpets to irritate mother, so as to get a good time in her lap.
Billu came as a blessing in our lives. Although I couldn’t spend much of the daytime with him, still he would be waiting for me at the door. Just listening to the sound of my bike, no matter what, he would come running at the door and after opening it, he used to be the first member of the family that I would see.
In these 24 months, we’ve witnessed everything together. From his paralysis to his extraordinary bondage with my parents, from giving him up for adoption for one day because I was diagnosed with a severe infection to getting him home as all of us couldn’t stop crying in his absence, our relationship had come a long way.
There was a time, if I had to go somewhere for a night, I would keep him at my friend’s place. But within a couple of months, I had never imagined that my father would develop such a relationship with Billu that he would clean his litter tray, his water and food bowls, and would give him treats.
This was very unusual for me as we never had a cat before and father was afraid of his tribe. But, after Billu came, everything changed. He taught us what compassion really means and what love can force you to do.
When Billu had a partial paralysis in his hind legs, I came to know how these voiceless creatures express their feelings. With every moment of pain, he would bite my hand as if telling me, “I’m in pain!”
My friend, who lives 50 kilometers away from my home, showed up with his car, and we took Billu to the hospital. That incident made me feel and think like a parent. It taught me how my parents would be feeling when I’m unwell.
My mother always used to say that Billu came with fortune. When he was there, we never faced any problem. It was not always easy for me to keep two pets. People used to say different things, but with him, facing all the negativity was so easy.
Now that he has left all of us, my mother still calls his name, as if he’s listening somewhere. The pain of separation is clearly on my father’s face and my brother cries every time he sees his photo.
For them, he was a family member, who is no more and will never come back. But for me, Billu is an emotion that I will always carry with me.