Padma sat by the window reading “Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix” for what was probably the fifteenth time. She’d already binged through Goblet of Fire. When she reached the chapter “Silver and Opals”, she looked up for the first time in three hours and out the window. The road outside was empty save for a cat that was scratching the neighbor’s door on the other side. “What if that were Minerva McGonagall?”, Padma thought to herself and chuckled, amused. She decided to give herself a break, leaned against the wall adjoining the window and closed her eyes, her mind buzzing with thoughts of Voldemort taking over Harry’s dreams and wondering if she might fall victim to that too, if she fell asleep just then. She’d just closed her eyes when the doorbell rang. “Now? Really?”, she muttered and made her way unwillingly to the front door. She peered through the peephole cautiously, but there was no one in sight. She slowly opened the door and heard a shuffling noise at her feet. It was the cat she’d seen, trying to nudge past her legs and into the house. Before she could make sense of the situation, it had already made a dash for the living room and paused at the edge of a straw mat by the poojai room. Padma, still bewildered looked outside one last time before she closed the door and wondered who had rung the doorbell. Surely, it wasn’t the cat?! She shook her head. The doorbell mystery could wait. There was a stray cat in her living room. She frowned and stared at her intruder who had by then decided that the mat was an enemy and must be destroyed. Padma meanwhile, had gathered her wits and gently started tiptoeing towards the cat; although what she would do once she approached it, she hadn’t thought about just yet. The cat was still pawing away at the mat, its concentration unwavering. Padma was now within petting distance from it. Now came the almighty question. What was she going to do? What could she do? Shooing it would only drive it deeper inside her house. She couldn’t just pick it up and take it outside her house.. could she? No, that was out of the question. For starters, she had no idea How to lift a cat. What if it scratched her face? No. That was out of the question. As she pondered, she slowly sat down behind the cat. Now she was level with its tail and just looking at it with a vacant expression, head tilted to a side, unable to decide what to do next. Meanwhile, the cat, who had evidently felt an alien presence around it, stiffened and looked around and with a loud and startled miaow backed a couple of steps away from Padma, who was equally startled by the feline shriek. Both looked at each other, the cat with its paws slightly lifted, ready to flee and the human with her hands behind her on the floor, a confused expression across her face. The human acted first. She raised her hands , in an expression of resignment and surrender and mouthed, “Okay, calm down. I am not going to hurt you”, even as a voice in her head said “You are talking…to a cat.”. Another voice in her head said “Yeah, what if it doesn’t know English?”. Padma chuckled for the second time that day having amused herself again. She shook her head again. “This is not the time, Padma.”, she thought and began inching away from the cat. Slowly, she got up and walkedto the kitchen, all the while watching the cat through the corner of her eye. “I might as well get you some milk”, she called out, still aware that her visitor probably didn’t understand the noise that the owner of the house was making. She heated up a bowl of milk to a moderate temperature, took the bowl and placed it cautiously at the edge of the now-somewhat-worse-for-the-wear mat. The cat looked up at Padma with wide eyes and then at the bowl of milk still not moving from its position. She took the cue and backed away. This prompted it to approach the bowl and sniff its contents. Satisfied, it dipped its tongue into the milk and started lapping it up, its eyes initially on Padma and eventually on the contents of the bowl. It must have been really hungry, for it finished drinking within a matter of minutes and placed a foot on the bowl when it found that there was no more milk to drink. It looked up at a smiling Padma, who was glad that her offering had been so well accepted. “Do you want more?”, she enquired, not really expecting a response. Those expectant eyes were answer enough and she went back to the kitchen area to heat up some more milk. This time however, the cat followed her and began poking at the slippers she had left at the entrance of the kitchen. She refilled the bowl and placed it again, this time closer to the cat that did not inch away, but was looking intently as the bowl moved from human to floor. The pace at which the bowl was emptied this time was even quicker, but it evidently sated the cat’s hunger, for it did not look up again at Padma, but moved towards its favorite torn-up mat and lay down. She heated up a glass of milk, this time for herself, picked up the Harry Potter book from near the window and sat next to the cat. She took a sip of milk and opened the page to Silver and Opals and started reading out loud, a gentle palm on the cat’s head – “Where was Dumbledore, and what was he doing?…”. She paused. “What was Dumbledore doing, Minerva?”, she addressed the cat, took another sip of milk and smiled.
(* Doodh is the Hindi word for Milk. The idea here is to convey the ease with which bonds are formed between a human and animal with something as simple as a glass of doodh. There’s no deep meaning here. It’s just a day in the life of a person, that took a minor surprising turn, but ended up being a pleasant experience in the end.)