To the Jalebiest Baby
I was once told by a very good friend that I “speak a lot of being ignored or abandoned”. Which is rather true if I think about it because all my life (not very long but still), I’ve been scared of being left behind, forgotten, deserted. I have a habit of holding on to pointless, meaningless things that would remind me of people who are no longer in my life, small insignificant things like a small pencil my best friend used in 10th grade, or some random note written during lecture in grade 6, or that chocolate wrapper I still treasure and so on (you get the idea). For some obscure reason, I cannot let go of these things. It’s a comforting thought that maybe, somehow you get to hold on to those people or some version of them through these meaningless material things. I have this insatiable hunger in me for the invaluable intimacy of knowing another person, that compels me to latch onto any kind of connection and it weighs me down like nothing else. Day in and day out, I search for the shadows of people I lost, the smudged traces of those I used to know and love. And at the end of each day, I mourn at what I’ve become and what I’ve lost. It’s a vicious, tiring circle to be in. It sucks the life blood out of you and gives you absolutely nothing in return, not even a smidgen of hope.
It’s been 52 days since my cat died and every morning I still wake up with a foolish hope that he’s still around here somewhere, looking for me, waiting for me to give him food and clean out his litterbox. I wake up everyday, hoping he’d come to bite my hand so I’ll get out of bed. Everyday I wake up with a new hope that everything that happened two months ago was a bad dream and I will snap out of it any moment now. But nothing happens, the world goes on, unaffected by anything, on its usual course without even a slight change.
It’s utterly strange how humans are capable of holding so much love and grief in their bodies. And at times, I fail to distinguish between the two because if it’s all love than why does it hurt so much to remember all of it? Where does love end and from where does grief start? There’s no way of knowing. I love that tiny bundle of fur with every fiber of my being but why does it hurt so much everytime I think about him? How am I supposed to just move on with my life? Where do I put all of that love? To whom do I give it now? What to do with that painful void in me? How do I cope?
Sometimes I get so mad at God, the Almighty being sitting in the skies, the One who could do almost anything and everything by saying just one word and even He couldn’t save my cat. I want to beg and fight and do whatever it takes for Him to just listen to me once, listen to what I’ve been telling Him all those nights. Why won’t He listen to me? I know it’s wrong of me to blame Allah miyan for all this but where do I file a complaint? To whom should I cry about it? Jalebi wasn’t even a year old, he was literally just a baby when I lost him. I didn’t even get to spend a whole year with him and You took him from me so soon.
I got him when he would fit in the palm of my hand, he was so small. I watched him grow up from that to a handsome, beautiful boy, right in front of my eyes. He loved to eat everything he wasn’t supposed to eat. He loved listening to qawalis, and he loved rain, and good weather, and birds, and stuffed toys, and siting on prayer mats, and ammi’s dupatta, and he loved biting my hand. He never lived with any other cats or people so he was afraid of almost everyone except a handful of people in our home. And he would sleep in my lap, like actual human babies do and it always made me wonder because well cats aren’t usually that calm. He would recognize my voice when I come back from university. But he wasn’t very talkative, he would rarely meow. Mostly because he would be hungry or there’s something bothering him. In the winters, he loved the sun and would spend all day by the window in direct sunlight. As a kitten, he would jump up and down on me all night and slept at the first signs of light. He was always there when I was sick or feeling down, I don’t know how he knew but this one time I had the worst cramps and he came to me, laid down on my legs and started purring. He loved sitting on top of my books and playing with the pens. He loved the bird channel on YouTube and several times he tried to attack the birds in the screen. He used to sit on my shoulder while I work in the kitchen or cook something for him. And he would accompany me wherever I go while cleaning the house, like he was supervising me or something. I named him Jalebi because I love jalebis but as it turned out, Jalebi loved jalebis too. He was the love and light of my life, and for everyday that he spent with me, my love for him increased by tenfold. Somedays I’d like to think he loved me back.
In his last days, even though he became very frail and weak in just a week but never in my wildest dreams I thought I’d lose him. I watched him go from a completely healthy, perfectly beautiful boy to a sickly, lifeless being in just a week. And I can’t, for the life of me, forget each and every moment of his last days. I cried cleaning up every one of his vomits. He rarely slept during that last week, but on the day he died, he came to me where I was sleeping and dozed off for a while, resting his little head on my arm. Maybe his way of saying goodbye. He died in my arms, struggling, gasping in pain. I heard his heart go quiet. A heartbeat gradually vanishing is my least favorite sound. For a moment it felt like universe held it’s breath and everything stopped, to grieve, to mourn, to say goodbye.
I had a presentation in university the day Jalebi died and I broke down during the first two minutes while giving the presentation. Literally crying in front of a whole class because I kept returning to his last moments. The topic was one of Arundhati’s speeches named “Come September” , in which she says and I quote;
“It’s not a clever enough subject to speak of from a public platform, but what I would really love to talk to you about is Loss. Loss and losing. Grief, failure, brokenness, numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of dreaming. The absolute relentless, endless, habitual, unfairness of the world. What does loss mean to individuals? What does it mean to whole cultures, whole people who learned to live with it as a constant companion?”