Ponderings on Cats and Their Elusive Lives
by Arvind Sundararajan
I want to start with this Edgar Allan Poe quote “I wish my writing was as mysterious as a cat”.
My relationship with cats started in an unfortunate way: with one biting me when I was a child. After that I never went near cats. However, some years later, when I was living in the United States, all my friends had cats for pets. I slowly got accustomed to being around cats and also began liking them to the point that when I moved back to India I adopted a kitten “Agnes”. Unfortunately, Agnes died very young. This made me wonder if I was a bad pet parent and made me reluctant about adoption.
This changed, when a few months after a close friend of mine, who was moving back to her hometown, left her kitten Pepper under my care.
Now, Pepper lives with me as the loving daughter of my house. I often joke to friends that all my inheritance would go only to Pepper. She is a fur ball of happiness. She is very calm and understanding. She can gauge my emotional status and whenever I feel low, she comes and lies down next to me.
I kiss her goodnight everyday before sleeping.
After she became comfortable in the house I thought it was time to get another kitten--“Nizhal”. As the name suggests Nizhal is a pitch black kitten. She hides in the darkness like the shadow. Nizhal is a hyperactive cat unlike Pepper, who acts like a zen sage. Now I am a happy parent of two cats.
Once I saw an art exhibition in the US about the depiction of cats in the history of art and I was intrigued by how they have been glorified in art starting right from the ancient art of Egypt to the Talking Tom in android apps.
Cats started appearing in my art after the death of my first kitten Agnes. I wanted to make a portrait for the passing away of that little soul. After that I got interested in the mysterious behaviour of the cats and I was making a lot of cat illustrations.
Most of the cats that feature in my work are the ones I see on my weekly trip to fish markets.
I started writing poetry on cats too. At one point I started combining the illustrations and the poetry. I am an abstract painter by profession. Grids and geometry are my subject matter. I wanted to abstract cats and so, cats started appearing on my grids and I saw cats being the mysterious creatures roaming across the predictable mundane grid spaces.
Cats live an abstracted life. Despite having a flexible, acrobatic physique they spend one-third of it sleeping. Science couldn’t explain the mystery behind their purring yet. They don’t have an odour. They live a seemingly quiet, austere life. There are so many instances where I have used this sentence: "I wish I was a cat”.
But this one fundamental question keeps lingering on my mind:
As humans we tend to domesticate things and we call that civilisation but with cats, did we domesticate them or were we domesticated by them?
Arvind is a Painter with a capital P and a full time cat dad who also makes amazing fish curry.