Monday, April 21, 2008

Particle physics in the animal kingdom - Part I

We found them in my dad's garage one evening, crying their lungs out, scared, away from their mother, trying to find a sense of security by huddling together. They were trying to find their way back to their mother. Max Planck was the more adventurous of the two, and he would be the one to occasionally creep out of the dark garage from under the tin door. However, fear knew the better of him, and at the lightest sound of the falling of a foot he'd hurry back in.
I was the first one to hear the cries, The kittens were still very young, and even in their loudest, the desperate cries could not have carried beyond a few metres. I only heard them because I happened to be playing cricket on the street, and the stumps were just next to the door of the garage.
Dad was out; he had taken the garage keys with him. In the evening Niels Bohr, in the darkness of the night, perhaps hoping that no one would be able to spot him now, or perhaps scared of being in the dark in the locked garage and wanting to go out where he could at least see some light, ventured out. I was at vigil outside the garage door. Having literally grown up with cats, it did not take too long to take Niels into confidence, and soon he was comfortably huddled in my arms, the task of getting hold of him made easier by his weakness.
Max, however, was a more difficult fish to catch. He preferred to stay within the garage. My chief concern now was that when dad came back, he might accidentally run over Max with his car.
Dad came home late that night, but luckily he did not crush poor little Maxie. The key to the garage now available, we could finally manage to get Max out of the garage.
Mom was a very loving person and she loved cats. It broke her heart every time a cat died or was killed by the curs that made their way through our house. The most favourite cat that we ever had was called Gultu. Once Gultu had such a big boil in his neck that he had stopped eating, and as a result, he had become weak, transformed from a bubbly cat to one that would spend hours lying at the same spot without even stirring.. When mom finally realized the cause of Gultu's fast, she applied hot water on the boil for two days till the boil burst and pus oozed out. Mom nursed him back to health, treating him no worse than she would treat us. One night we had gone out, and when we returned, we found Gultu lying dead in the middle of the courtyard. The curs had killed him. It broke my heart. I cried a lot that day. Gultu was my best friend then. I remember mom had once locked me up in a dark room for being mischievous. I was crying. Then Gultu came in through the ventilation and sat with me till mom opened the door. When Gultu died, mom, too, was heartbroken.
Mom did not want to take the emotional trauma any more, and although she gave our visitors a bowl of milk, she was staunchly against the idea of adopting them. We pleaded with her to take them in, but we only managed to get her to agree to let them sleep the night outside the house in a box with blankets. She deferred the decision of what was to become of them until the morrow.
Mom couldn't put up a hard face, but inside, she was made of soft and warm wax. She could not bear the thought of the kittens sleeping outside in the cold, and at eleven thirty at night, the kittens were in a box under the table which hosted the television.

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