Part #5 of the Stranger's Series
Now, let me get this straight. I wanted this to be the dirty story of the century. My twitter inspirations wouldn't have it any other way. But inexperienced as I am, in these matters, I would need a whole web of lies to spin that story. And hello...been there, done that! Besides, I fell in love with my strangers series so much that I wouldn't abandon it for nothing. The last piece was Strangers that are Lovers. It's not my love story I spoke about there. But I will speak about it here. In this little tale.
About how I fell in love with a rat.
"Tarot calling Rato..." and the rat jumps out of nowhere, freaks the shit of me and my roommate and we erupt in insensate shrilly cries of sheer panic and sheer mirth. It's three a.m. in the morning. My roommate says it's the devil's timezone. Rato must be possessed. I had no doubt about it. Of course, Rato is possessed. He is Cult Fiction (another story, for another time).
How I met him?
Previously, that night...
I was walking home at around 11 p.m. secure in my skull embossed grey sweater in a weather that wasn't cold at all. Where I wasn't secure, was in my mind. There was talk of rape that night on Twitter, and I was a little perturbed that no one seems to get it. I knew my fear was inside, so the sweater. Symbol of my rage (Book. Life. Boy. Everything). The shops on Linking Road were just shutting down and there were strange people everywhere. Businessmen who had always been there, but I never noticed the ghoulish looks of before. I hug my sweater, walk rapidly, stumble on something. See Rato sliding past the corner of my eye. Clutch my chest. The ghost theory came first, and then the rat. I had to tell her something! Things just don't fall on their accord. But seeing Rato on the street, I knew that was the solid explanation. Some rats exist to fuck you up. Just as I thought this, Rato jumped in front of me and ran between the tires of a moving car. I shrieked loudly, warning it. I didn't want to do it. I had no reason to. I was probably a split second late. But Rato caught my meaning, made it out safe. Good, I thought. At least, now you won't haunt us in the nights. I saved your life, men!
Naturally, that's when Rato showed his true colours. It was the night of Tarot and Rato. Revelations of my life.
Symbol of my Rage, my fourth book, the one I thought of as culmination to The i Series (before I maniacally embarked on a fifth one), wasn't born at this point. I was still on my second. Curse of the i. I had always wanted to make the animal connection in my stories. My first novel ever (which will never see the light of the day, I'm thinking) is called Clooney Looney. It's about a woman and her dog, and George Clooney. It's a fantastic web of lies. I am very proud of myself. I was living in Hyderabad back then, city of my rage, spinning this story in the comfort of my room. My then roommate Satya and I had adopted a dog, Phoebe. And then a cat, Joey. They were both female. One was wantonly dispassionate, the little white monkey on the other hand was an unimaginable terror. I didn't know how to handle either of them. Everything I did was wrong. There is no shame in accepting that now. I didn't love them unconditionally like Satya. I wasn't immune to their lack of affection, either. I take rejections strongly. It's the bane of my being. A single slip of someone's words will effect me for an eternity. Anyhow, I did extend a measure of affection to Joey. She was too young when we adopted her. Barely twenty days old, maybe younger. Fit in my small palm cosily. So I was writing Clooney Looney, I was enjoying myself so much I lost track of everything. I just had to know I could write a novel, then I can pursue the big dreams. Doesn't matter that the first one was a total experiment, no one would take a second look at. It's a story that stretches over a dog's lifetime, from 1987 to 2003. And in the end, the dog had to die. I didn't plan it that way, but that was the end. When Clooney died, the words just came out of me without feeling. I still hadn't finished my story. I didn't know how to connect the dots.
That was the night Joey died. Torn apart on the street by the very strays I love so much. It was my fault. I let her out in the night when she irritated me too much. I was only thinking about traffic. I heard the brawl, but Joey had this way of keeping me in my tracks when she's with her wildcat friends. I didn't imagine it would be the dogs. I couldn't. Not in a million years. Satya was in train that night. I was torn inside and out, and the grief was nothing like I could ever imagine. I lost pets before, but they weren't my responsibility. I did nothing wrong. And here, everything I did was wrong. How will I face my friend again? The only who really knew how to love?
Anyway...the one mistake I didn't do during Joey's lifetime was letting her play with the rat. It wasn't Rato, not just yet, and I hadn't made the connection until this moment. The rat was young too, but still too big for Joey. She pounced on it the moment we spotted it like it was what she was born to do! I know Satya still remembers this. There was a blog about it somewhere...a facebook post that didn't get many likes. I don't remember what happened to the rat, but I let Joey torture it. For as long as she liked. It is her way of learning. Who am I to interfere?
Back to the present.
Curse of the i. Why was it a curse? I had no idea. I just had to find the animal connection before this need for answers consumed me. I can't give away the story, but let's just say there is this guy called Sunny who called himself the big alpha. "I'm the big alpha bitches. You will do what I say!" he would proclaim to the animals on the streets and they would listen. It happened to me personally, minus the strong words, so don't bother arguing with me. Animals, dogs especially are so attuned to human emotions, there is no better friend if you want to find one. And yet, cats are much different in their role. They were my silent guardians. (The antagonists in my novel are called The Guardians. People, not cats.) Cat came first, in the first novel Unveiling the i, based on a real life experience with a gangrene infested stray. Urdhvi Shah, a pet stylist and animal lover helped me at that time, but I couldn't save the cat. It was too much. There was too ambivalence. I waited for fate to correct it's course and it was too late. The cat would probably have died anyway. Or maybe not. Whatever. It's fiction. It's all just fiction.
So the night Rato announced it's presence to us is the night, everything started to fall in place. I saw hope. I saw meaning. I saw the philosophy I always wanted to see. Having faith in animals. It's not all a concoction of my mind. It's much simpler. Animals watch us. Animals are more self-aware than us. They know where they fit, they know why they exist. They know our bodies inside and out. Who the hell person could ever be wiser than a rat?
Rat that shook my core, jumbled my emotions, sensed my fears, extended it's messy little paws, to chew away the one earring I bought in a million years? My roommate wouldn't believe it, but Rato gnawed away the little metal hook and left the jute bell intact. I'm not much of a rat person, but I'm guessing a rat would prefer chewing on jute to metal.
It's all connected. We're all connected. And yelling our lungs out saying this, is not gonna change a thing. The creatures are the dots that connect us to the world. They move, same as us. They feed on everything we feed on. They make room for other species, other beings, they know how to help each other out. They know our worth, as humans, even if we don't. They don't complain when we feed them rat poison. They wouldn't abandon their task to indecision, over the love of themselves or their self-worth...when they are worth so much more to existence than us, creatures that thrive on misery.
I'm not saying they have all the answers we need. Or they will listen to us, in times of our need. But I know as much. They do listen. They do respond. In their own way. With their own creativity. With their own foolish impulsiveness, no better than us, no less. But the one thing they don't beg for, is love. They know it is free.
Rishi: You're one to talk about philosophies! Do you even know what that means?
Sunny: It's a way of life.
Rishi: It's the LOVE of life! You disgusting creature, how can you ever know what that means?
But of course, this is just another story. And I am just a storyteller.
I think I will upend the Strangers series here. Unless I find the whole story behind nagins and lairs and white crocodiles and blue blooded wolves. Maybe @KarenDcosta and @EmceeGaurav will guide me along this craziness.
Something new. Always something new. The heart wants what it wants, except what it really needs.
I gave Rato the kiss of death. I hope he or she will forgive me one day. I know Rato understands my need to protect my own domain, but forgiveness is probably too much to ask for, from someone who showed me the way by ending it's own journey there.
Strangers that are Gods