What Chotu taught me

It was dawn when I first saw him. He was sitting at the corner of the wall just outside my home. His eyes were gleaming, his white fur shining. The cool breeze blew his whiskers.
He was looking steadily at the squirrels and birds, wanting to pounce on them. I was attracted to him as I had never seen a white cat before. I tried whistling, clapping and shouting to catch his attention but he didn’t budge.
My school bus had come, so I left hastily hoping to find him at the very place when I came back. It was as if God had listened to my small prayer.

When I came back, he was in my garden – resting, yawning. He looked so cute. As soon as I approached him, he ran. I started seeing him often now, our eyes met but he would run back. Then one day, I felt he was hungry. I ran inside our house, brought milk and lo! He came and drank. I was so near him. I could see the milk dripping from his whiskers. He was adorable.
I named him ‘Chotu’. He would now come to me whenever he was hungry and we became friends. I bought cat food for him from my pocket money.
I used to shake the cat food box and he came running. He would enjoy the food while I took a chance to slowly caress his fur. Chotu didn’t like me patting and brushing his back but still I did it. Our neighbours shunned me for feeding a cat, but by keeping his stomach full, I was saving birds, squirrels and the like. No matter how much food I gave him, Chotu didn’t grow at all. The name I gave suited him the best.

Feeding, caressing him, became a habit. Even he began to wait for me to come home. He could be seen climbing trees, running after squirrels, escaping from street dogs.

Without owning a pet, I became a proud pet owner, a pet who was not tied in chains. Sometimes, when he didn’t come, I used to call him from the balcony, garden, terrace. He used to appear from the midst of nowhere. Me and chotu were happy with each other.
One morning, as I stepped out of the house, I found Chotu lying outside my home. I cried, ‘Chotu Chotu’ and shook him but to no avail. He laid still, eyes closed. I felt I would faint. I could not go to school that day. I wept but he didn’t stir.
We buried him hoping his soul rests in peace. He had been killed by stray dogs the previous night. There was nothing I could have done. But from that day onwards, I’ve pledged to protect all creatures. God might have made a food chain but losing a loved one is so painful. We must be kind and gentle to all stray animals, birds. They too have the right to live.
— Rudra Pratap, Kota, Rajasthan

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