Her beauty has a mesmerizing quality to it. Those swift, sinuous movements, those large, light eyes…we just can’t get enough of them. She’s given to dramatic entries and exits, flashing upon the scene like an errant thunderbolt at whim, or melting into invisibility like a mirage. Yes, we’re talking about our farm’s resident queen Chandramukhi, the black cat with the reputation of having saved the life of our senior-most worker, Das. How she did this is a story for another day, because today, it’s Chandramukhi’s perfect grasp of the concept of education that takes centre-stage.
Chandramukhi has two kittens, and every moment of every day, she seems to be working at giving them a good education. We’ve watched for hours, as she sits before them, and flicks her tail in front of them, the movements never predictable. The kittens unfailingly and most enthusiastically respond, and pounce on the moving tail. Earlier, they would tumble over in their enthusiasm, and land on the other side, but then quickly turn around so as not to miss the next tail-twitch. But they’ve gotten quite good at catching it nowadays. So now, Chandramukhi has them pouncing on her moving tail as she stands, runs, leaps and climbs.
Once, she made them follow her up the Neem tree near the house, and one of them got stuck there and didn’t know how to climb down again. She stood under the branch with the other kitten, and looked up for a moment, and went up again, with the more agile kitten following her. Then she nudged the agile one down, with the stuck kitten watching. This didn’t work though, and she came down again. Then together, the mom encouraged, exhorted and scolded the little thing into finding its way down. It was quite a chorus, with one strong voice and one little rusty one, and an occasional plaintive note from the kitten on the tree! Finally, when it made its hesitant way down, she rewarded both the students with much licking, cuddling and a sumptuous drink of mom’s milk, after which the whole family rolled into a ball and went to sleep, with only Chandramukhi’s left ear standing up straight and playing sentinel.
There’s a particular knot on the root of this Neem tree where Chandramukhi teaches the twins to sharpen their claws. The first time we saw this was quite hilarious - the kittens trotted eagerly after their mom, and started rubbing their little paws, and their heads and their ears and tummies, all against that same spot!
In the evenings, the kittens follow the jumping frogs, mice, moths and other insects with great curiosity. This makes them go streaking all over the place, while Mom sits and makes it her job to watch over both. There’s an invisible line somewhere, and when either kitten goes beyond it, Chandramukhi calls in a particular way, and they both come running, touch base, and then go hurtling back to whichever creature they had been looking at. Leaves and twigs play a role in this game too. A couple of days ago, we watched as the kittens ‘played’ with a long, curled bit of coconut spathe, attacking it, falling over it, and rolling on it, presumably trying to figure out the trajectory of the movement of one curved end when the other one moves.
In the early mornings, the two kittens play with each other, somersaulting over and over, swiping at each other, stalking and chasing each other. Every few minutes, they pause, and sit entwined side by side for some time, lick themselves, and then continue the roughhousing. During these times, Chandramukhi is usually to the found stretched out majestically on a tree, body along the branch, head resting on two paws, eyes blinking open once in a while and then closing once more. When the sun is up higher, she stands up, stretches luxuriously, and pads along the tree-trunk at an impossible angle, ready to start one more day of getting her kittens ready for the world...
The Kittens seen as blurs as they zip to their mother after some time apart