I can’t remember the first time I met Minu. He was a scrawny, dirty cat with black and whitish fur. He has been a stray in our neighborhood for a long time. The thing I remember the most about Minu is when I came back home from the university or work, he would always be there downstairs to greet me every day. He would walk around my legs while petting me with his body and his tail would be upright with content. And he wouldn’t stop until I petted him back. I never got such a warm welcome even from my pets at home!
We used to give him food every day. My father was against it completely because it dirtied our staircase. We live on the second floor and our neighbor from the third floor also gave Minu rice, curry etc. on old newspapers like us. Several others of the building also didn’t like it since the food attracted other stray cats and they ended up fighting inside out building. Another reason behind people not liking Minu was that he was a sickly cat. He was tiny for a tom cat and it took him a long time to eat. He was pale and had some sort of skin disease. Maybe he was just old? We are still not sure.
My sister and I really liked Minu. He was so friendly to us. He really wanted us to adopt him. We could tell because he never wasted a chance to express his affection for us! But we already had a cat and we were allowed to keep only one animal at a time. We also didn’t have contact with a decent vet at the time. Even my mother and Mashi who stayed with us gave him food every day. But Minu was still a stray. He stayed on his own in our neighborhood and surprisingly he was a thug cat! He got into fights with other tom cats to keep his territory and always managed to dominate them! Even though he was always the physically weak one! Minu had a fighting spirit through and through. But whenever he came to meet us, he became this mushy, cuddly kitty. He was adorable.
One day, Minu did not come and mew outside our door as usual. Morning passed, afternoon came. He still wasn’t there. I started to get worried. I looked around our building from the windows and finally I saw him sitting alone behind our building. It looked like someone had peeled off most of his skin from his back. I was completely mortified. I called him but he couldn’t even look up. Mashi and I went downstairs immediately, walked through the dirty narrow passage between our building and the one next to it and then finally got to the small space behind our building. When Minu saw us he started mewing. He finally managed to get up and followed us from there to upstairs.
We didn’t know what to do. As I mentioned already, back then we didn’t know any good vet; we had to figure something out by ourselves. It looked like someone poured hot water on his back but we weren’t sure. Most of his fur on his back was gone and we could see his red flesh. We finally put some corn flour on his back since it’s supposed to heal wounds. He didn’t seem to like it that much. He eventually managed to eat some food and left.
He didn’t come back for several days. We were pretty sure that he was dead by then. I remember how helpless and horrible I felt for not being able to help this tiny, dirty ally cat who just wanted a home. Unfortunately, this is a feeling I am too familiar with. Every day I see stray cats and dogs on the streets of Dhaka who need someone to look after them. People here rather buy fancy breeds paying a shitload of money who often don’t even live that long anyway since they aren’t local and natural breeds. But to be fair, people who buy exotic breeds just as a status symbol often don’t really care about animals anyway. So strays are better off on the streets than ending up with that sort of people. But people in general, for some reason, don’t see that if you take care of a stray, it can become as beautiful as any exotic breed, if not more.
Miraculously, Minu came back several days later. He still had the horrible wound on his back but he at least wanted to eat. During the course of the next few days we tried different stuffs and finally figured out that aloe vera juice worked best for his wound. We have several pots full of aloe vera plants at home. We would cut a leaf, peel its one side and smear the slimy extracts on his wound. He would protest a little and sometimes lick off a bit of it, but it was working. Mashi patiently put on aloe vera on Minu most of the days for several weeks. His wounds were finally healing. After several months, he was good as new! His wound healed, his fur grew back in patches and he was again the over-loving scrawny cat that got into fights with big tom cats and managed to hold his ground against them!
We fed Minu for a year or so. Then something disastrous happened to our family. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. She is ok now but we went through a period of utter chaos and instability that lasted for almost a year. Since my mother was the one who fed Minu after I started to work, he had to go back from the door of our home in an empty stomach. We finally decided to shoo him off. We were also scared that Minu might spread diseases as he was sickly and shed a lot fur.
We still saw him every now and then in our neighborhood. There was one last time when he petted me when I got back from work one day. After that we seldom saw him. Eventually, he forgot about us and didn’t recognize us anymore. Or maybe he did but was angry with us. I think I saw him sometime this year as well. But now he is a complete stray. Wherever he is, I am sure he is doing just fine because he is a survivor. Because his movie human persona would have been Michael Corleone!