As far back as I can go in time, my memories are peppered with shades of nature. And by nature, I don’t mean only the trees and the flowers. I mean insects, reptiles, and rodents. They were all my friends. It could’ve very well been one-sided love but it didn’t matter.
Now that one-sided love included my fondness for a nocturnal member of our household with three pairs of legs – Mr Cockroach. I must’ve been about 10 years old then living in the indigo blue city of Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Late in the night, when all went quiet and dark, he’d come out of his tiny den hidden in some deep corner of our kitchen cabinets. As I sat in the hall, I’d wait for Mr Cockroach to say hello.
I didn’t have to keep an eye on him to know when he was out. All I had to do was to keep my ears perked up. The moment I heard the sound ‘Kit-kit-kit-kit-kit-kit-kit-kit….,’ I knew he was skittering in the wooden panels of our kitchen. I’d secretly squat in a corner, and watch him from a distance. I was so intrigued by the antennas on the front of his head! He wiggled them impressive dexterity.
On some nights, when my enthusiasm exceeded me and I went too close to him, he’d freeze on the spot. We’d stare at each other, no one moved, and then all of a sudden, he’d scram for his life! How I wished I could tell him that I was his friend. Under my watch, he was free to grab a bite before anyone else saw what he was up to.
On another night, when my enthusiasm got even better of me and I squatted too close, the edge of my slipper accidentally touched his plump abdomen. What happened next left me shocked – Mr Cockroach flew! I was thrilled to bits! My friend could fly. I was so proud of his hidden talents.
Incidentally, that’s what made him Mr Cockroach and not Ms Cockroach. Keen to understand his anatomy too, I looked up fun-facts and found out that a male cockroach has wings while a female doesn’t. And this fellow could sure take short flights!
The next couple of months saw a fleet of developments. My father got transferred to Arunachal Pradesh. It was the last day in our house. The rooms were empty. The trucks were loaded. I looked upset. Someone said, “She’ll be okay. She’ll miss her friends from school…but she’ll soon make new ones.”
No…that wasn’t it, was it? As I sat on a stray chair, thinking, this time it wasn’t my ears, but by heart that yearned for Mr Cockroach. More than missing him, I was painfully worried that he’d starve. Tonight, when he comes out of his den, and skitters in the desolate kitchen cabinets, what’ll he do? What’ll he eat? No one warned him that he needed to make alternate arrangements. How will he feel?
On our way to the railway station, my mother asked me to take out the food basket she had carefully packed for us. I pulled it out from under my seat. As soon as she held it, she knew something was amiss. It felt way lighter. Furrowing her eyebrows, she looked inside. The entire casserole of a dozen sandwiches was missing!
We had driven too far away. There was no turning back now.
I looked out of the car’s window. The wind wiped away the hot tears streaming down my cheeks. I smiled.
This article was published at Hindustan Times.