Catwalk to a friend

Catwalk to a friend

The last exam was done and over with. Now the two-week long Dussehra vacation loomed up before him. It wasn't that Rishi disliked vacations, but the longer they were, the lonelier he felt. His two closest friends usually left town to visit their grandparents. And there were no children his age in the neighbourhood with whom he could spend time. The only companions he had were his hobbies, and even those got boring after a while. How much time could one spend reading books or cycling in the colony?

Rishi shrugged off his thoughts and breathed in the scent of rain. It was indeed refreshing! He suddenly remembered the mint sandwiches he had in his bag. His mother had packed them to munch on on his way back home. Rishi did not like the taste of mint, but he did not want the food to end up in a garbage bin either. So, he unpacked one of three sandwiches and began to nibble it uninterestingly.

Rishi was about ten minutes away from home when he realised that about a dozen small children were scattered about him, some giggling, some wearing an amused smile, all looking at him.

"Rishi beta, just see who has been following you!" cried Biswas Babu from his confectionery shop.

Rishi turned around. A funny, heart-warming scene met his eye. Closing up behind him were four tiny kittens, their eyes fixed upon his backpack.

"Whoa!" cried Rishi. "Where did you kitties come from?"

He walked up to a jet black kitten in the lead and picked it up. The other kittens meowed softly. "Who do you belong to? Surely, I have never seen you before in this neighbourhood!"

Rishi passed a questioning look at the children in case the kittens belonged to one of them. But nobody came forward.

"Go home kitties," said Rishi, with a wave of his hand. But the kittens were in no hurry to go away. Instead, a particularly mischievous-looking spotted-brown kitten made a grab at Rishi’s bag and clung to it stubbornly.

Rishi was surprised, then gave a meaningful nod. “O, I get it! It’s the scent of my sandwiches that has attracted you, isn’t it?”

Rishi knelt down on the side of the street beneath a shady gulmohar and unpacked the remaining sandwiches for the kittens to snack on. They had barely begun when he felt a sharp peck on his wrist. Rishi yelled in pain. The sandwiches fell to the ground. When he looked again, a pigeon had joined the kittens in their midday meal, pecking greedily at a large bread crumb.

Rishi turned to leave, amused at the unusual happenings of this rainy afternoon. But the chapter was not over yet. He had taken only a few steps when a girl, panting heavily, rushed past him.

“Komal, Komal! You bad, naughty pigeon!” she cried. In the confusion that followed, the kittens scampered back to Rishi meowing plaintively and the pigeon perched itself atop the gulmohar tree. The girl tossed back her hair, adjusted her eyeglasses and spoke to the pigeon in a low but stern voice. “Komal, come down and perch on my shoulder at once. It’s only been an hour since we moved and you’ve already tired me out with your mischief!”

“Including the peck on my wrist and the scare she gave the kittens,” rejoined Rishi.
 
The girl looked at Rishi’s wrist, an apologetic look in her eyes. “I am so sorry! Please come with me. My home is just three streets away. I’ll request Ma to bandage your wound.”

“No, that’s okay! My home three streets away too,” said Rishi. Then, after a moment’s thought he continued, “Have you, by any chance, moved into Gopalan Uncle’s house?”

The girl nodded. “Unbelievable! You are just four houses away from mine! O, I’ve been wishing and praying for a family to move into that empty house ever since Gopalan Uncle returned to his hometown.”

The girl smiled. “And I’ve spent weeks worrying if I’d find children my age in a new neighbourhood. But I think that’s sorted itself out too.”

“All thanks to Komal, your pigeon,” said Rishi

“Not to forget the kittens!”

“Or the sandwiches, haha!

“By the way, I’m Sophia.”

“Rishi,” said Rishi with a smile picking up his backpack. He glanced at the strewn bread crumbs on the ground. He would always remember this day when three mint sandwiches, four hungry kittens and one naughty pigeon helped him find a friend.

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