Blimey, I leave to the land of the limeys in the wee hours of tomorrow. By the evening, I should have moved home and hearth to Edinburgh, Scotland. But because of all the activities concomitant with arriving at a new place, I may not be able to post anything for a few days. Till then, I put forth to the general populace a story I had written a long while back. It's not the kind I usually write, but (for all those people who appreciate Gandhi's machiavellian machinations) Gandhi features here (though not prominently).)
The heat was stifling. The boredom - even worse.
The lecturer droned on, unfazed neither by the heat nor by the plaintive pleas of the students. I chewed my pen meditatively as I shifted my gaze from the blackboard to the window. There was nothing spectacular about the window in the least.
As I stared at the window, thinking deep, dark thoughts, I suddenly noticed a cat, who was clearly into adventure sports, jump on to the window sill from the corridor, clearing the chasm between the two with aplomb.
I watched it, as I could think of nothing better to do. And besides, the cat appeared to me as one capable of performing far more interesting feats than the lecturer could ever hope to.
The cat was sunning itself on the window sill. But this cat did not seem to have that arrogant, holier-than-thou expression that is the hallmark of cats around the world. This cat looked every bit a personable, suave, young cat. The kind with which it would be a pleasure to chat idly on world affairs.
The cat’s expression almost looked sympathetic. I began to wonder if it actually felt sorry for us humans, who - by virtue of being higher up on the evolutionary ladder - had to sit in confined classrooms and suffer from boredom, claustrophobia and god knows what else.
A couple of minutes later, the cat sprang into action. It jumped off the window sill and began running towards the lectern and across the lecturer’s legs. The whole class was stunned. The lecturer dropped the piece of chalk she had been using as her chief instrument of mass torture and began to scream.
Her scream spurred us natives into action as well. Half of them, led by the backbenchers, began to egg the cat on, cheering and clapping.
‘Go CAT!!!’, screamed somebody, making himself heard over the din.
The first bench squatters, on the other hand, saw this as a golden opportunity to squirm their way further into the lecturer’s good books. Around five of them rushed to the lecturer’s aid and began chasing the cat around the class.
The cat ran over desks and benches displaying a degree of athleticism that would have put Marion Jones to shame until it reached the window sill, where it stopped, turned its head and stared for a moment at its supporters in the last bench. Then it jumped out of view.
The lecturer regained her equanimity and smiled sheepishly at the class. With some difficulty, she managed to utter a few broken words about how the ‘damn cat’ had made her forget what she was talking about.
‘I’ll deal with the rest of it tomorrow, class….,’ she said brusquely and rushed out of the class looking highly embarrassed.
A huge sigh of relief ran through the entire class. Everybody began to look for the cat who had by then been proclaimed a hero.
There was no need for a prolonged hunt. As soon as the lecturer left, the cat came back onto the window sill to receive his dues. The whole class (including the first benchers who had displayed strong anti-cat sentiments a few minutes ago) rushed to where the cat had positioned himself.
Everybody began fawning over him – some squealing ‘cho chweeeeeet’ (which the cat didn’t seem to particularly like) and some more practical chaps offering him rotis purloined from somebody else’s lunch box (which the cat seemed to appreciate).
When the question of naming him arose, requests by certain frivolous wastrels to name him after our principal were ignored. (As one chap aptly put it – ‘for a spider, maybe; for a boa constrictor, definitely; but for a hero like this, NO WAY!!’)
After prolonged deliberation, the whole class decided to refer to him simply as Cat.
From that day on, Cat became an integral part of our class. He held durbar at the window sill every recess where he graciously accepted food from his loyal subjects and allowed a select few to stroke his fur.
He was a ubiquitous presence at every lecture, staring at the lecturer from his window sill as blankly as we did. Whenever he felt that a lecture was going on for too long or that it was just too plain boring, he would do something to attract attention. That was the sign for all of us to begin shouting, screaming and generally wreaking havoc until the lecturer gave up attempting to take class.
Most lecturers tolerated Cat. Some of them even liked him, in spite of the fact that he instigated more than half the disturbances in class. But my electronics lecturer - the woman whom Cat had scared half to death the day he made his first appearance – positively detested him. From the look on Cat’s highly expressive face, we knew that the hatred was most definitely mutual.
Another day a few months later, another terribly tortuous electronics lecture. The electronics lecturer was attempting to do us to death by lecturing to us three hours in a row. All of us were either asleep or in a deep stupor.
Placing my head on the desk in despair, I looked at my philosopher and guide, Cat. Cat seemed to have a greatly resentful expression on his face.
As I kept staring at him, I unexpectedly noticed that his lips were moving. I strained to catch what he was saying.
‘Do not despair for I am here…’, said Cat, softly.
I was awestruck. I turned towards my bench-mate to draw his attention towards Cat’s sudden loquaciousness! But he was too fast asleep to take any notice.
I turned to the cat and begged,
‘Cat, do SOMETHINNNNNG!!!’
‘I have made the choice. I think the time has come…’
Cat looked and sounded like a feline version of the Oracle, what with cryptic statements and prophecies on choices.
Before I could ask him to quantify his argument, he had left for places unknown with a swish of his tail.
A few minutes later, a glint of metal caught my eye. I turned in the direction of the glint. What I saw left me dumbstruck. Cat had decided to go in for the final solution.
The glint of metal that I caught was from the scope of the sniper rifle that Cat was fondly cradling in his paws, perched on the window sill of the class opposite ours. Cat seemed to have powerful friends in rather unlikely places.
I continued to watch in silent admiration as he methodically loaded cartridges into the rifle, inspected the sight and clicked the safety catch off. He gazed upwards in the direction of the great feline goddess up in the sky for a few seconds, and took aim. This cat was a pro, I thought. He’s even better than those two sniper dudes in America, I whispered to myself, as he pointed the rifle in the direction of our lecturer.
Nobody in the class was looking at Cat. Even a convention of druggies would have been more observant than my classmates when Cat placed his paw on the trigger.
But I did not notice the principal. I should have. I did not see him until he was almost directly behind Cat. The principal, realizing Cat’s malevolent intentions, attempted to grab the gun from Cat’s paws. In the ensuing struggle, Cat accidentally fired the rifle. Exactly when the rifle was pointing right at me…
I prepared myself for the death that stared me in the face. I could see the path traced by the bullet with great clarity, rather like those bullets in the Matrix.
But I wasn’t the One. Though I attempted Neo-esque moves to avoid the bullet, I couldn’t do it the way Neo could. The bullet struck me on the temple. I did not feel it going into my brain, shattering it into tiny pieces.
All I could feel was terrible, piercing pain. All I could hear, apart from the monotonous drone of the lecturer, was the raspy voice of a classmate of mine popularly known as Gandhi.
‘Dai…Stop staring at the cat! You’ve been looking at it with a glazed expression on your eyes for ten minutes! Are you stoned?!’
‘Er…did you by any chance fire at me…I mean…’
‘Yeah, I did snap a rubber band. Hit you right on the temple too…’, he said, grinning grotesquely.
‘Erhhh…ok…guess I just fell asleep for a few minutes, y’know…’, I said, and turned towards the teacher. My eyes passed by the window, where Cat was perched.
Did Cat just smile at me then...?