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Petty party

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 05, 2017

BLink_HTE Eps_ 118   -  Manjula

I have finally completed the illustrated children’s book that I’ve been working on for the past two years. If someone had told me at the start of that time that I would take so long to complete it, I would have laughed at them. Yet that’s how long it’s been: a little over a month per page. Like the other books I’ve written-illustrated for Tulika Books it consists of 11 double-page spreads with a slender line of text connecting the images.

I normally complete the final phase of work digitally, on my computer. In some ways it makes it simpler, because it means I can be anywhere so long as I have my laptop. In other ways, though, it’s harder because the glowing screen is tiring to stare at hour after hour. Anyway. It so happens that during this period, my friends Margaux and Michael ask if I can stay over at their house to look after their feline friend Rasta while they are both away on business trips.

Of course I say “yes”. A day later, I move in to my familiar room in their tall, airy house. The only difference between this time and previous stays is that I have my unending book project to work on. Also the cat has a thyroid condition and there’s a new medication routine to follow. Fortunately it’s really easy. First I cut one finger off a bright blue rubber glove and put the resulting little hood onto the index finger of my right hand. This is to protect my skin from the medication, which affects cats and humans alike.

Once protected, I place a tiny squirt of white ointment from a graduated plastic syringe onto the tip of my hooded finger. Then I turn to where Mr Kitty is sitting, looking up at me with an expectant look on his broad, furry face. With a quick motion, I smear the ointment inside one of his ears. And ta-daaa! It’s done. Twelve hours later, the manoeuvre must be repeated.

The first day, I get there in time for the morning dose. All goes well. The day passes in work. At night I am curled up in the guest room. It’s raining outside and the old house, as it always does, starts to creak and groan in a way that sends shivers up and down my spine. I give Rasta his second dose, keep all the lights on and continue working, sitting up in the bed in my room.

At 11 o’clock, in trots Rasta. He jumps onto the bed and proceeds to stare at me. “It’s nice of you to visit,” I tell him, “but I really must finish my book!” Whereupon he puts out a paw to still my hand. “Forget that silly book,” he commands, in a hypnotic purr. “Pet me. NOW!” When I don’t comply, he stares at me so hard that I decide I’d better sleep at once.

The moment I’m lying down, he wants to sleep right on my face! I push him off giggling and spluttering, whereupon he settles on my chest. He weighs 20 kg and purrs like a diesel engine. “When petting is inevitable, human,” he intones, “lie back and enjoy it!” Three days later, the book is complete. My friends return home. And so do I, happy and relieved.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on May 05, 2017
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