Kalyani worked for Amma and Ayyah who stayed in a two-storeyed house, in the city. She called the lady of the house, Amma and the man Ayyah. Though the two of them treated her well, Kalyani thought Ayyah was kinder than Amma. He never bothered if she rested a little longer but Amma would call out her name often to hand over some work or the other.
Kalyani’s parents lived in the village close by. Then why was Kalyani here in the city? Last summer after she finished her third class, Kalyani’s father informed her about his plans of sending her along with Ayyah who owned the farmhouse near their hut. Her mother said she would be looked after very well if she proved to be an obedient maid. After Ayyah handed a few wads of notes to her father, Kalyani travelled for the first time in a jeep, as she came to the city along with Ayyah.
Kalyani had no complaints about the house in the city. But on some nights, in the beginning, she cried without anyone hearing or noticing. She longed to see her mother.
Ayyah had taken her back to her parents once. She was so happy to see them. Her mother hugged her and kissed her. Kalyani played with her younger brother all the time. There were others too…….boys and girls of her age. They played all the time in the open ground, around the village well, climbing onto the big trees, chasing dogs, hens and goats. After a week, Kalyani had to leave for the city. Her parents and brother came to the farmhouse to see her off, in the jeep along with Ayyah. Her mother hugged her and kissed her again.
On some nights, Kalyani recalled that week spent at her village. That was when Amma and Ayyah’s son came along with his children. She watched them play with their bats and ball. She would take long to clear their indoor games, after they finished playing. She loved to look at the coins closely- the colorful Chinese Checker coins and the various ones of Chess.
After her son left the house along with her grandchildren Amma wanted the house thoroughly cleaned. Needless to say Kalyani had a lot of work that day. She went to clean the first floor, with a broom in her hand. As she was sweeping the room, she moved the door to get the corner clean. Suddenly she let out a scream, almost immediately followed by a sad “meow…” That was an all white kitten, helplessly staring at her. Kalyani went close, caressed it and soon took it in her arms. “Kalyani, have you finished sweeping the rooms there……..?” Amma yelled from the kitchen on the ground floor. “I am coming down Amma.” She replied. She took out an old shoe carton from the balcony and seated the kitten there. Thereafter she briskly swept the rooms and went down. She had a whole lot of work to do, but Kalyani thought only of the kitten hidden upstairs. She thought of the little puppy in her village called “Chukki.” That’s what this kitten will be – “Chukki.” She waited to go and see the kitten again but what if Amma sees her? She decided to be patient and went on with her work.
“Ayyah has gone out and I am going for a bath, don’t open the door for any strangers, Kalyani.” That was Amma with her familiar instruction. “Ok Amma,” said Kalyani She waited for Amma to enter the bathroom, and ran upstairs. Half way through the stairs she remembered something and came back. She carried a piece of idly and a biscuit, from the breakfast Amma had kept for her. Kalyani ran up again. Of course she ran on her toes, so very silently. “Chukki,” she whispered, as she sat close to the kitten, “Here, eat this.” Kalyani placed a bit of idly in front of the kitten. Chukki just sniffed it, turned its face away and let out a feeble purr. Kalyani was worried. She took out a biscuit, broke it and threw a bit in front of the kitten “Chukki…….biscuit,” she whispered. This time Chukki bent down, popped it in its mouth and munched making a lot of noise. “Ha ha ha ha……….,” Kalyani chuckled happily. “You like only biscuits,” Kalyani asked smiling, caressing Chukki with her hands. She went down before Amma came out of the bathroom. Kalyani managed to come up once again in the afternoon, this time with some milk in an old tumbler. Chukki licked the tumbler clean in a jiffy!
That night around 8pm, Amma and Ayyah were watching TV. Kalyani also sat down on the floor, near the sofa, her usual place while watching TV. Suddenly there was a lot of noise, like a stack of books tumbling down. “It’s from upstairs, let me see,” Ayyah got up and quickly climbed up the stairs. Amma and Kalyani followed him. Ayyah switched on the light. Books, files, papers, pens and pencils were all scattered on the floor. Chukki was on the bookshelf looking at them, petrified. Ayyah shouted something and immediately Chukki scampered down the stairs and jumped out of the window. “How did this get in?” Kalyani heard Amma say as both Amma and Ayyah went down. Kalyani sat and cleared the mess. She stared at the empty shoe carton sadly.
After a long time it rained that night. Kalyani could hardly sleep. She was worried about Chukki. Where would this kitten be in this weather?
The next morning Kalyani was cleaning the compound. “Kalyani…”called out Ayyah. “Look who is here.” Kalyani hurried to see where Ayyah was. He pointed to the windowsill. Kalyani was overjoyed to see Chukki sitting on it. She ran towards it and took it in her arms. “Shall we keep it Ayyah?” Kalyani pleaded “Keep it!” Ayyah was amazed “Keep it? And who is going to look after it?” Amma joined, all surprised “I will, Amma, please…”Before Amma and Ayyah could say anything further, Kalyani ran into the house, with her pet, and yelled out in joy “ We shall call this kitten, Chukki ,ok…!