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“The Naming of Cats”

The greatest of India’s Mughal emperors reigns with a fuzzy paw in the Yardley home.  Meet Akbar, one of two new additions to our family.  He is six weeks old and ridiculously cute:

The historic Akbar ruled India in the 16th century and probably wasn’t as hairy.  He is mythologized as  the greatest of the Mughal emperors for expanding and unifying the country.  Akbar studied the teachings of Sufi Islam which may explain why he was a more reasonable invading Muslim ruler.  He was fair to his Hindu subjects and he loved to debate faith and philosophy.  Akbar took several dozen wives, some of whom were Hindu and Christian as well as Muslim.  It wasn’t unusual for a Mughal king to have wives of different faith.  What was unusual is that he apparently treated them with the same privileges given to his muslim wives.

The kitty Akbar shares the Yardley kingdom with another fuzzy feline – Durga, the Hindu warrior goddess:

Like many Hindu Gods, Durga has several incarnations but her warrior image defines her most.  Durga is also Divine Mother, Wife of Shiva, Mistress of Destiny and Fierce Protector.  She is often depicted with ten or more arms and adorned with weapons.  Durga destroys, creates and preserves.  She rules Supreme.

The kitties Akbar and Durga playfully acquiesce to the whims of George and Eddie.  Here, they romp and entertain in George’s wrestling ring:

Me… caught in the guilty pleasure of anthropomorphizing:

We debated names for several days.  The kids liked “Ganga” and “Goa”.  I voted for “Chutney” and “Curry”.  Jim ignored the Indian theme and opted for “Gaudi” and “Butch”.

Thinking that no one but Jim would understand my silly sense of humor, I suggested “Kama and “Sutra”.  Lala gasped,  “The Indian sex book?”  (Now I know she knows…)

All this reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Naming of Cats”.  It ends:

“When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

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I think three (3) is the magic number of years to live in Delhi.  I’m on year four (4) and my commitment feels empty.  Maybe I’m suffering more from living away from home for nearly ten years than I am from suffering India.  I promised to embrace the goodness in my last post but it’s more difficult this go-around and I’m not sure why.

And when it’s difficult, things like this happen:

I was not in the right mood when this sad man stuck his gnarled and impoverished hand into my taxi window:

The weather was desperately hot and humid and the car didn’t have AC.  I was exhausted and not game for feeling generous.  I raised my voice, told him to leave, waved my hands in histrionic sign language that said “bugger off”.   He didn’t understand my English, my antics or my frustration.  I even took out my camera and snapped photos to scare him away.

The taxi drove off and in the wake of this incident, I felt guilty for being mad, for not doing more to make this man’s day better.

I felt angry because I sincerely try to accept and to give, but you can never give enough  and the trying seems in vain.

I felt weak because I confessed my vacillating emotions to a stranger in the locker room at the American Club.

(She probably thinks I’m a nutter and just another spoiled expat who lives in a bubble…)

The truth of the matter is this:  There is no absolution.  There is just next time to get it right.

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Work is a small blessing.

Meet my new class:  This is the generation that will change the country and free it from the weight of itself….

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We are trying to limit the time our boys spend on the computer and the iPad.  George has a wonderful capacity to sit for hours and work on puzzles and Legos:

Eddie doesn’t have the sit-still gene.  To accommodate him while he’s at home and off the soccer field, we have turned the dining room table into a ping-pong court:

3 thoughts on ““The Naming of Cats””

  1. yes… so yummy, they are! we are in a state of bliss. it was time for pets again. in china we had 2 cats, rabbits, fish, a snail and a turtle. the cats died and the rest couldn’t travel to india of course. i’ve been reluctant to adopt anything here – but the kids had been begging and once pics of these furry faces landed in my inbox, i knew that our days without cat litter were numbered!

    fyi – wma is collaborating with SoC. i’ll be teaching at the latter two days a week – call me when you come up for air and i’ll tell you more.

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