It’s a cold, windy day and I am at the window table trying to write my New Year resolutions. At least that is what I should be doing but I spend more time watching the dry leaves clattering across the sidewalk than in writing.
Every year my therapy group makes a list of resolutions, discussing them for weeks in advance. Some are very ambitious. I will control my anger. I will not get depressed. And some are very mundane. I will stop eating so many sweets. I will eat more salads and cut down on spicy food. I will cut down on my drinking.
The discussions are animated. When our group meets on Thursday the 2nd, we will read out our lists and make extravagant promises. The week after that they will be forgotten and no one is insensitive enough to ask if any were actually kept.
At home, the enthusiasm has long died out but I go through the motions. It keeps me occupied through the long evening of the 31st when dusk falls fast and I go to bed early. In this quiet neighborhood I will hardly know when the midnight celebrations begin.
In the end it does not matter what I write. That sheet of paper will first be lost among the piles on my desk and then, one day in the future, will reach its inglorious end in the dark confines of the wastepaper basket.
But I must write something so I sit at the window and chew the end of the pencil. It’s growing dark. It has been a chilly, depressing day and the streets are already empty. Nothing but the howling wind and one long, repeated call — some bird perhaps.
Eat more regularly, I write. It’s the first one I write every year. I always promise myself I will eat better but I rarely bother. I am alone and on the wrong side of sixty, so food is hardly a priority. Sometimes I skip lunch and dinner, sometimes I heat up a soup. What is the point? Who will notice? The children hardly call and they are so bursting with their own lives that they have no time to ask about mine.
The call comes again, thin, high, and mournful. What kind of bird calls like that?
I need to stop listening to noises and write my list.
I will start taking evening walks. I will go out more.
I will not get depressed — that is another one I always write, another unreal resolution which I cannot keep. Then I run out. What will fill my long and lonely hours, frequently overwhelmed by the tsunami of memories? Can anything break that dread spiraling down, down into despair? There are no resolutions which can work that magic.
The shrill cry again. Something is out there.
The wind is tapping branches against the windows. I look out but see nothing. Dusk is falling but the street lamps are not on yet. A sole car goes past. Few pedestrians are around and they are huddled and walking fast.
This part of the Delhi side street is not very busy. People usually gather around the market stalls at the end of the road, the tea stall with its hot masala tea whose aroma I get every time I open my door, the banana seller, and the line of walnut sellers, who come down from the mountains at this time of year, spread out piles of dry mountain walnuts and string up their bright, handmade sweaters from the lamp posts.
Every stall is shuttered and deserted.
Then I see a tiny movement right under my window. Something is crouching below the marigold bushes, the single row which is my sole excuse for a garden. Something moves out on the paving. A small shape. A hurt bird, perhaps?
I drape myself in a warm shawl and open the main door.
It is struggling towards the steps but the wind is pelting it with dry leaves and threatening to blow it over. As it struggles I see what it is.
A tiny kitten, a small bundle of grey fur almost lost in the gloom.
I look around but see no cats, no people, no indication of where it came from. Strays are not uncommon but rarely one so pitiful.
It meows again, a thin, desperate sound. It tries to reach the lowest step, then collapses and lies still.
When I pick it up, it is ice cold and I can feel every bone and vertebrae. It’s nothing but a skeleton. I wonder how it even got this far.
I take it into the warmth, wrap it up and feed it warm milk. It opens great green eyes, disproportionately huge in that shrunken face, and looks at me. It rumbles in an attempt to purr. Stroking it is like petting sticks but it seems to respond to the warmth of my hand.
After a while it curls up in my lap and goes to sleep.
Outside, the street lights are coming on. My room is getting dark but I am too comfortable to move. I am content to sit in the undemanding dusk and listen to the song of the wind.
Then I remember what I was doing and look at the half empty sheet of paper with my resolutions. They are the same ones I have made several times before with one exception — the one which found me.
I will surprise my therapy group this year with something which is not meaningless at all.
I will call the kitten Resolution.
And, this one, I keep.
Rohini Gupta is a writer who lives by the sea in Mumbai, India. Rohini says: “I have published nonfiction and poetry books and am now writing fiction. Flash fiction is keeping me happy while writing longer stories.” Rohini’s blog is at wordskies.wordpress.com.