A good-luck charm called ‘Harry’! – Diary of a 21st-Century Housewife

It’s Friday night and Hubbyji and I are both sitting on the bed with our dinner plates, watching a new war drama movie- Hacksaw ridge. It’s a warm night and I have opened the bedroom window that opens to our balcony, to let the gentle breeze in.

Halfway through the movie, I am in the middle of asking hubbyji if he wants seconds of the food, when we hear a loud rustle at the window. It is covered partially with the curtains and I grab hubbyji in fright, thinking that someone is breaking in.

“It’s 8:30 pm on a Saturday” Hubbyji says but gets up to investigate.

We tip-toe to the window and are surprised at the sight. It’s a tiny kitten!

His head is poking through the open window door and he is struggling to get in. I take a step back and hubbyji  opens the window door a bit more. The little fellow immediately jumps inside the room. He’s a gorgeous cat! With an amber colored coat with swirly markings, he has a pink nose and a face as cute as hell.

“Is he a stray?” I ask hubbyji, standing behind him with my hands folded and looking over his shoulder at the kitten.

“Doesn’t seem like it”  he says, scratching the kitty behind the ears “Seems to be someone’s pet! Wonder what he was doing out in the dark.”

“Be careful!” I warn hubbyji, “Don’t get bitten.”

“Come on!” he says, picking up the kitten and placing him in his lap, “Does he look dangerous? He’s a sweety!”

“ You never know..” I say, unsure, “cats aren’t like dogs. They look so standoffish and unconcerned. It’s here only that I have seen people keeping cats as pets. In India, no one does that. You do know that back home, it’s said that cats..umm… bring bad luck….”

I whisper the last sentence and hubbyji looks at me with daggers in his eyes.

“WHAT RUBBISH!” He scolds me, “ You know better than to believe all the silly superstitions that we have grown up hearing. We don’t even know the origin behind these silly tales. Still we believe in them. Cats are unlucky, rabbits are inauspicious, ghosts live on peepal trees…You are an educated person. I never knew you would be the one to believe in such idiotic illogical things.”

“I don’t believe-believe” I scowl, defending myself “Just that we have grown up avoiding cats. All my life, I was told to steer clear of them. So, maybe that’s why I don’t feel that much pull towards them as I do towards dogs, that’s all!”

We are still bickering when we hear someone calling out a name outside, paired with the sound of a clattering sound.

“Harryyyyyyyyyy!” the voice says, “HARRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!”

The little kitten’s ears prick up and he runs towards the open window. We rush outside to the balcony and see a young blond woman sigh in relief as the kitten runs into her arms. She is holding a little box with kibble and was obviously calling for her cat.

“Oh, did he enter your house and scare you? I am so sorry!” she says to us.

We assure her that it wasn’t a problem, as we exchange polite pleasantries. She tells us that she and her boy-friend recently rescued this four month old kitten and “Harry” loves to roam around outdoors. He must have wanted to return home and ended up in the adjacent identical flat by mistake. We talk for a few more minutes and bid each other good-night. Hubbyji strokes the cat for one last time and I wave at him from a distance.

“I can’t believe you didn’t pet that cute little thing!” hubbyji says as we walk back inside the house.

“I could have.” I say, “He’s sweet…..It’s just that I have never interacted with cats. They scare me a bit and …I don’t know what exactly is it. Just…not too fond of cats, I guess.”

Next afternoon, I am in the kitchen, cleaning the upper shelves while standing on a chair, when I hear a little meow behind me. I turn around to see the same kitten from last night sitting on the kitchen floor, looking up at me with a tilted head. I must have left the living room window open.

“Meow?”

The cat and I have a staring contest for twenty seconds before I jump down to escort him back to his home. I start towards him to guide him towards the door but that makes him think that this is some sort of a game. He begins running around the house, stopping at distances to look back and see if I am chasing him or not.

“Why couldn’t you have been a dog”? I groan as I bend down to look under the bed where he has taken refuge.

“Come on out now!” I urge, “Come out kitty!”

He runs out from the other way and before I can grab him, jumps onto the bed.

“Oh, no no no no no no!” I say, putting my hands on my forehead, “ Buddy, I loved my dog to death and still never allowed him on the bed. Shoo! Get down now. What was your name…Harry! Come on boy. Germs germs germs!”

He looks up at me and slowly, his eyes begin to droop. He curls up into a small ball and covers his eyes with his tail, .

“Perfect!” I think to myself.

I am scared to pick him up and thus, just let him be. Two hours later, hubbyji rings to get buzzed in and I am impatient when I open the door for him.

“What’s the matter?” he asks.

“Your friend is sleeping on the bed. Go and have a look!” I say, taking his lunch-box from him.

“Nothing about that sentence sounds right.” He grins and walks inside.

“AWEEEEE!” hubbyji says, sounding like an excited kid “He is so sweet, isn’t he?”

“I guess!” I say, “ He has been sleeping here for a couple hours now. His owners must both be out for work all day.”

We constantly keep meeting Harry over the following days. If there’s ever a window or a door left open, he would stroll inside and make himself at home on the couch or the bed or the dining table. I begin to soften towards him a little, still maintaining a safe distance.

A couple of weeks later, I am sprawled on the bed with my laptop, when I realize that it’s almost evening  time and Harry hasn’t visited even once the whole day. I shrug and forget all about it. Around an hour or two later, again it strikes me that I haven’t seen Harry all day.

“ I hope he is okay..” I mutter to myself.

I open the balcony door and walk out of the house, looking onto the street outside. I am looking left and right when I hear a hustle from the bushes, a little ahead of our house. Harry is sitting on the side of the street, looking up at the pigeon perched on the bushes. He is tilting his head in puzzlement and seems unsure of how to approach this new friend.

“Harry?” I call out to him.

He jumps on hearing the sound and looks in my direction. Recognizing me, he runs towards me in full speed, his long tail waving left and right behind him.

“Meow! Meow! Meow!”

He jumps into my lap and I grin at my foolishness of ever being unsure and scared about this little thing. Sitting down on the balcony floor, I cuddle Harry to my heart’s content to compensate for the all the days I stayed away from him. I am ashamed at myself for ever having bought the the old wives’ tale of cats bringing bad luck. He is just a little furry ball of joy!

If you’re like most people, you occasionally participate in superstitious thinking or behavior often without even realizing you’re doing it. When was the last time you knocked on wood, avoided a black cat, or read your daily horoscope?  Almost everyone has a set of rituals or beliefs that they follow, to feel more in control and to suppress our anxieties, fears, and nervousness. Most of these actions offer us a sense of security, or some sort of emotional support.

If I tell you that I am not at all superstitious, then I’d be lying. I like to think that I am a well educated, modern person but, the fact remains that I too am superstitious to an extent. I have my very own set of illogical beliefs — the most prominent ones would be touching the wood and ‘nazar utarna’ of my young nieces and nephews to ward away the evil eye off them. Then there’s this religious bangle that I wear in my hand. It’s been there since a long, long time and I feel lost if I ever have to remove it. It has become more of a safety blanket. So, I am a half-believer of sorts but can’t deny that the thinking is very much there.

Superstitions are passed down from generation to generation. They can be good or bad. I guess that many superstitions originated at a time when little was known about how the physical world functions and they were an early attempt at making sense of the world. Speaking of the current times- though our society is fast progressing, there are many of us who are still superstitious and have a strong faith in the local beliefs. We try to believe that these are baseless beliefs, but somewhere deep inside our hearts, we are stuck to our roots and still believe in some of them, if not all.  Some of these theories are so deeply rooted in our minds that no amount of knowledge or science can weaken their hold or fully shake them off.

A black cat crosses our path and like a dead statue, we stop and wait for someone else to pass first. Not only in India but this is a popular belief in the west too. It is said that if a black cat crosses your path, then you should let somebody else pass before you do. This way, the first person will have all the bad luck and you won’t. Poor black cats! Why would they be the bearer of bad luck solely because of their color.

There’s more! It’s inauspicious to cut hair and nails on Saturday because it angers planet Saturn, which then brings bad luck. Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Twitchy eyes maybe good and bad, based on whether it’s your left eye or a right eye or whether you are a boy or a girl or a man or a woman. When game day comes, ardent fans may insist on wearing a beat-up old cap or making sure to orient themselves in a particular way in front of the TV. Lucky pennies, unlucky number 13, four leaf clover…the list is endless… Phew!

It is especially in the moments of vulnerability—when we feel we have done all that we can do and the matter is out of our hands—when the pull of superstition becomes almost irresistible. A family member fighting for the country in a war-ridden land, a loved one suffering from a prolonged illness or simply things not going on well on personal or financial front. It happens with all of us at some time. Has happened with me for sure! Whenever we are unable to get the answers that we seek, we look for them in stars and moon. Basically, we all constantly crave structure and security, and superstitious beliefs fit right into that. Simply put, it can be a soothing control mechanism.

I’ll just say this- As long as these beliefs help us acquire emotional support, provide confidence, and generally are influencers for bettering ourselves, I think that they’re fine. THEY ARE FINE, as long as all that doesn’t turn into madness or obsessiveness. If carrying a lucky object makes you feel more confident, in control and secure, then this is a good thing. It acts as a placebo affect — if you think something will help you, it may actually help you.

Lucky charms and touching wood is all okay but If you believe too much in superstitions, you can become a slave to them. You might begin to make decisions based upon superstition, rather than on fact and that is not a healthy way to run your life. The fear can become so real for some people, that it can cause serious anxiety. Also, If you believe too much in superstitions, then you might be leaving too much to fate, and not making enough of your own luck. It messes with you mind. If you really think about it, there are many occasions where your superstitions have failed you, but you probably only remember the times that they have come true.

Consciously or unconsciously, superstitions are a part of everyday life for the most of us. We’re aware of the fact that what we believe in as superstition, cannot change or affect the course of events to come. Still, we hold on to those beliefs; often justifying them as a “doesn’t hurt” kind of a thinking. Even hard-core skeptics can occasionally fall prey to superstitions and many of the present generation of youngsters are also not prepared to take the risk of ignoring them.

Draw a line between harmless and limiting beliefs in your mind. Enjoy, work hard and make your own fortune. Do not let baseless theories influence the beautiful moments of your life!

It’s Saturday evening and I am playing with Harry on the floor of our living room while hubbyji is working on his laptop, at the dining table.

We all look up at the sharp rap on the window and hubbyji waves as he runs to open it. It’s Harry’s human daddy G, probably looking for him. I pick up Harry and walk towards the men, just in time to hear hubbyji saying- “..that’s such a shame!”

“What is?” I say, smiling at the two of them.

“They are moving away!” hubbyji says, putting an arm around my shoulder.

My smile fades away and I hug Harry tight. He senses the change and looks up to lick my chin.

“When?” I croak.

“Coming Wednesday!” G says, smiling kindly at me, “Harry will miss you guys a lot! You have spoiled him so much.”

“We love him.” Hubbyji says, squeezing my shoulder “We have gotten so used to him being around the whole day. We will miss him a lot.”

“He will too.” G says, “We will bring him around to meet you guys before we leave.”

Wordlessly, I give Harry back to him and manage a smile before he walks away with his kitten. Hubbyji closes the shades just in time, as I start bawling away into his chest.

Harry will always have a piece of my heart. I know that each morning when I’ll open the window or the door, I will see him running inside in a hurry and listen to his meows in my head. I will miss him snoozing besides me on the bed for hours every afternoon before waking up dramatically with a huge stretch and climbing onto my lap. I will miss him announcing his arrival with a loud meow before jumping inside the house and heading straight to the kitchen to get his treats. I will miss his rubbing his face against mine that is the best expression of his love for me. He was our little good-luck charm because he brought us so much of laughter and fun times these past few months! He was lucky for me because he inspired me to get off my bum and take up writing again after months of almost giving it up. How could he be anything but a positive influence? We didn’t fall in love with Harry because of his cute face or soft fur or pretty mane. We fell in love with the nutty character that he was. Loving, warm, expressive, naughty and adorable. Whatever you do….don’t hate cats. They are the best!

Wednesday morning saw us standing outside the house as Harry’s family got ready to head to their new place. G handed him to me and I hugged him tight for the last time.

“Meow?”

“Bye sweetie!” I kiss him on the head. “Miss me, okay? ”

Hubbyji took him and cuddled him for a long time, before handing him back to G. They got into the car waving and soon drove off towards their new adventure.

We will Miss you Harry! So so much.

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