We heard a familiar voice. The voice of our baby-hood, the voice we remember entering the house with. It was calling our names. We sniffed around. No smell, yet the voice kept calling out to us. We eventually thought we were dreaming and went back to sleep, but something was up we could tell. Big Sis was talking to the voice, about someone called Rakhi, and we heard our names mentioned. How our hearts ached for the touch that accompanied the voice.
We had first heard it when we had barely opened our eyes and were lying comfortably ensconced beside our birth mother. Dad, Mom and Big Bro were murmuring. After that we have different memories, so we’ll have to stop talking as one voice now.
Snuggles: I was fast asleep and looked up groggily. I liked what I saw and stumbled towards it, licking the offered fingers to express my approval. “This one is ours!” said Mom (now I know it was she). She told our mother’s parents, “There is no question of rejecting, of looking for points and features. This one is our baby!” And she picked me up and tenderly kissed the top of my head. “We’ll return for her,” promised Dad and they left.
Zaza: It was some time before they returned because they believe babies should stay with their birth mother for as long as possible. By then all our brothers and sisters had been taken away. Only the two of us were left. One day, Mom, Big Sis, and my absolute favourite, Big Bro, came for Snuggles. My gaze wandered past everyone to a tall, rather good-looking human and something made me caper straight to him. He was way above me so all I could reach was a pair of gigantic feet, where I made myself comfortable. He picked me up ever so gently and looked at Mom, “She’ll be left all alone once Snuggles goes,” he said. The thought shook me up. I would be all alone. I so wanted this family, but they had not come for me!
Mom, who had been observing Big Bro and me all the while instead of concentrating on instructions being given on feeds and papers, said something. My heart leapt. Then brother dear played noble: “I won’t be here for a while and you will have to do all the work, so you decide whether you can handle two.” My heart sank. I pretended I was asleep but every millimeter of my unruly fur was trained on Mom’s voice. What I remember most about this super anxious period of my life is that a pair of arms held me reassuringly. My fate hung in balance for an eternity although in hindsight it didn’t take Mom more than 30 seconds to decide, egged on by Big Sis – and the look in Big Bro’s eyes (That day I learnt what spaniel eyes were because Mom later described the look in his eyes as “perfect melting spaniel look”.)
For some time I thought Big Bro would put me down and they would leave only because there was no name ready for registration papers. Then Mom decided. Dad had expressed a preference for Zaza over so many others brother and sister had clawed each other’s eyes out over. There I was christened Zaza, which Big Sis says means beloved of many. Just to be sure, I marked my first night at home by wetting Big Sis’ pyjamas – you know how some people believe babies grow up close to those they wet most often!
Snuggles: I was confused but comfortable. The smell of Big Sis and Mom was safe although I missed my mother. When I saw Zaza in the car next to me, I felt a bit better. I heard Big Sis cry out, “I just had to stick with Snuggles; she snuggled up to me the moment she saw me!” Zaza and I exchanged glances. Nothing made sense. But we were together and that is all that mattered.
Moving back to one voice one soul: things mattered once the day wore on. We missed our mother. Mom did not make it any easier. At least six times that day she said, “I can only think of their mother. She must be miserable today, poor dear!” What had we done to make her miserable? We cried our hearts out. All night, Big Bro sat up with us, comforting us, cleaning up after us, talking to us. His room was our nursery. He didn’t care that we posed a substantial risk to his newly-done up room.
We sulked on days prior to the day we heard the familiar voice on Rakhi because our covert operations to grab the bright threads dangling off ends of tables did not work. We did our darnest as Mom and Big Sis scribbled letters and stuffed them into envelopes to despatch to brothers. Even when Big Sis put a pen in our paws and made them dance over the paper, we tried. But for once we are glad of failure. Our rakhi – yes, now we are wise enough to understand what it is – did get to Big Bro in pristine condition. We are officially his pesky younger sisters now, along with Big Sis.