Last semester was difficult, to say the very least. I had just begun taking antidepressants, barely made it to one class and had my heart ripped up and stomped on by a sk8r boy (no, he was not good enough for her). Just the typical life of a fourth year student. During a particularly impulsive decision-making phase, the only logical solution to my problems was, of course, to get a kitten. What began as a personal journey to recovery, resulted in bringing so much unadulterated joy to my family.
Abbu, like most typical South Asian fathers, did not want Oskar.
“It’s a fifteen year commitment”.
“What about the house alarm?”
“The litter box is going to stink up the kitchen”.
He reluctantly drove me to a pet shop to pick up the supplies and was grumpy all the way to the previous owner’s home. He only agreed to the new family addition because I had shown him several studies that suggested pets improved mental illness. My dear father would go to the ends of the earth to help me feel better in any way possible, even if that meant taking on the responsibility of a new pet. As one would suspect, abbu took one look at the tiny black kitten engrossed in chasing his own tail and was instantly smitten. It was love at first sight; a pure, honest, profound sort of love and my parents have not looked back since.
One moment my mother is angrily yelling, “OSKAR, WE ARE GOING TO SEND YOU BACK”, frantically jumping onto the kitchen counter, he attempts to swipe some of the meat from her freshly cooked biryani. The next moment, she lovingly strokes his soft, silky fur, scratches the backs of his ears and the tuft of his neck; tired out from his antics, he curls up next to her and succumbs to a deep sleep on the sofa. My mother loves Oskar most when he is snoring; he has that in common with abbu.
The thing about having a pet is that you need them as much as they need you. We give Oskar food, shelter, many, many catnip infused toys and in return we get the warmest, most unconditional love. When mental illness makes my brain foggy, forcing me to believe that I am alone, unlovable, good-for-nothing, Oskar reminds me that this is simply not true. He reminds me I am loved when he runs to greet me at the front door. He reminds me I am loved when he curls up at the foot of my bed every night. He reminds me I am loved when he bravely attempts to save my life by fighting the scary vacuum hoover. My parents felt the harsh reality of empty-nest syndrome when my sister and I moved to different cities for university, but Oskar reminds them that they are still needed. We can’t even shower in peace anymore without him crying like a newborn baby, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.