Death has a finality like no other thing in the world. You can wrestle with it, avoid it, hope against it but when it finally arrives, you kneel. You surrender and accept the verdict it brings.

Puttu was (it breaks my heart into pieces to use past tense for him) my cat and the most generous teacher that blessed my life. Cats are weird creatures each unique in their personality. Our Puttu was a personification of compassion. He embraced every single living being with love. When he entered our lives in August 2020 it was him who welcomed us into his magical world rather than us welcoming him into our home. At ~1 month he was like a ping pong ball let loose, bouncing from one place to another, dashing through the corridor, and stubbornly climbing onto my laptop every single time there was a call. Within days of arriving he fractured his limb and was still jumping places under the influence of pain killers. Our neighbor declared that he was too majestic to be called Puttu, the little one in Kannada. She suggested St. Louis.

Puttu was flowing love in our lives. He welcomed our puppy into the home when the latter was a baby who didn’t even know how to walk without tripping on every fourth step. Puttu played with him, slept next to him until the pup was no longer a baby, and was a grown-ass dog chasing Puttu all around the garden. But Puttu still didn’t give up. Like a well-meaning patriarch of the house, he used to whack the shit out of our dog if he crossed a line.

Puttu was kind. Unline normal cats he didn’t shy away from strangers. Our house had a swarm of friends always visiting for catch-ups and Puttu made them all feel at home. He slept next to Kavya on her very first sleepover and nuzzled next to Sonal whenever she visited. He had a sort of ownership over Chethan where he would demand Chethan to pet, feed, and comfort him. When Sameer and Bharat dropped 4 other cats under our care Puttu generously gave up his food, potty tub, and space. Puttu ditched the humans to woo his own kin for weeks.

Puttu’s compassion flew beyond our home. He was the street’s darling cat who we discovered had multiple names given by different houses. He was a Robert to somebody and I remember hearing a Robin too. Milk and bread were always guaranteed in the next-door apartment for our Puttu.

Puttu reserved his most tender affection to me and Harshi. Because Puttu was so exceptionally compassionate he was the first-ever cat I did not ever forcibly pick to pet. I would look into his eyes and always settle in a position that was welcoming for him. He ALWAYS rewarded my patience with generous purr and display of his chin and tummy for me to rub. He was also the only cat who let me rub his tummy without murderous scratches. Puttu knew that I had much to learn. Like a Zen master, he would observe me every single day and uncannily acknowledged my efforts at a bit more kindness with proximity. He knew I had surrendered to him.

Just last night I gave him the prize of getting cozy on my pile of clothes in the wardrobe. He slept with us the whole night only to be bitten by dogs early in the morning. Puttu was alive and breathing when Harshi and I rushed to shoo away the attackers. He was gasping for breath. The fragrance around his body when he breathed his last is forever etched in my mind just like the signature baby smell he carried when he chose our home to live. Just like the warmth, he brought into my everyday life during the pandemic. Just like the boundless love he had to spare for every species around him.