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Discover Delhi: Private delights and despairs of a Nizamuddin East mother cat

Sheeba, the cat, gave birth to Momo in March in central Delhi’s Nizamuddin. Though she prances around the room in abandon, she never leaves her kitten, who can’t move her hind legs, for too long.

delhi Updated: Apr 27, 2017 15:01 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Nizamuddin,Delhi news,Mayank Austen Soofi
Sheeba, the cat, gave birth to two kittens in March in central Delhi Nizamuddin. Only Momo (in picture) survived.(Mayank Austen Soofi)

Perhaps the mother knows all is not well with her new born. A desperate-looking Sheeba is kissing Momo all over her little body. For the last few days, the infant Momo is unable to walk on her all fours. When she tries, her hind legs drag behind her as if they are paralysed.

We are watching the mother-and-child intimacy in Nizamuddin East — the well-heeled central Delhi neighbourhood whose wild feral cats were immortalized in author Nilanjana Roy’s novel The Wildings.

Sheeba and Momo, however, are not homeless. They don’t have to inhabit Nizamuddin’s wilds. They live in an artsy park-facing apartment in C-Block. Sheeba can easily see Humayun’s Tomb from her roof but monuments do not seem to excite her.

Sheeba continues to kiss her kitten’s face, eyes, feet, and stomach. She protectively circles the child within her legs. Momo closes her eyes and seems at perfect peace — she is so small, so fragile that one fears she might dissolve on mere touch.

Before she became a mother, Sheeba spent hours lounging on her drawing room sofa. She also liked leaping up to the top of the lamps. She always managed to find her way through the bookshelves (stacked with lots of books by Khushwant Singh and Ghalib).

Her flatmate, a woman — the legal owner of the apartment says that Sheeba used to be a wild girl — and often left the house in the afternoons for “you know what’.

One day she became pregnant.

Sheeba gave birth to two kittens a month ago. Momo survived.

The thoughtful flatmate turned her old suitcase, which was gathering dust in the guestroom, into Momo’s crib.

As a new mother, Sheeba has not abandoned all the free habits of her former days such as sitting on the sofa and prancing around the lamps. Even so, she frequently runs back into the guestroom to check on her child and to feed her.

It is still not clear how Momo’s hind legs lost their movement — the vet has ruled out a fracture. It could be a more serious nerve problem, according to him.

It is possible that Momo’s legs might never regain movement — Sheeba’s flatmate tells us in a low voice. One has no idea if Sheeba herself realizes the seriousness of her child’s situation.

The other day she picked up Momo by her teeth and took her up on the roof and hid her inside a narrow gap between two water pipes. “Perhaps that was her way to keep her child safe,” says the flatmate, sadly.

She offers Sheeba a bowl of milk. Momo, too, dips her mouth in the milk. Sheeba leaves the entire bowl to her child.

A few minutes later the flatmate prepares to take Momo to the vet in Jangpura for another round of check up. Sheeba refuses to let go of the kitten.

The flatmate gently takes away the baby from her mother, putting her into a basket. Sheeba jumps into it. The flatmate takes her out, and gently says, “We are taking your child to the doctor. He will give her medicines and injections so that she recovers quickly. We shall soon be back.”

The baby is gone.

Sheeba sits quietly in front of the door, probably waiting for her kitten to return.

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 14:42 IST