[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Thumri singer is seated on her writing chair. The cat is seated on the Thumri singer’s lap.
The Delhi Walla is in Vidya Rao’s apartment. Ms Rao, who also works as an Editorial Consultant with Orient Blackswan Publishers, lives with Sufi, her cat, in Mehrauli. Their balcony looks out onto the 11th century tower of Qutub Minar.
Sufi is not as old as a Delhi monument but she is quite old for a cat. “She is 16 and a half year old,” says Ms Rao, adding, “Her health is not as good as it was.”
Sufi has “old-age related problems.” Her liver and kidneys are no longer functioning smoothly. Her eye sight has dimmed. “Earlier, my Sufi would constantly run around the house,” says Ms Rao. “She would jump onto the sofa and climb the tables.”
But now Sufi sleeps a lot, usually in Ms Rao’s bed. She often snuggles under the bed-sheet for warmth and lies there quietly for a long time. Another place that Sufi likes is Ms Rao’s writing room (Ms Rao is the author of Heart to Heart: Remembering Nainaji).
For all practical purposes, Sufi has taken over the possession of a window-side chair in Ms Rao’s study from where she likes to look out at the birds and trees.
“I think Sufi may not be interested in Qutub Minar,” says Ms Rao rather uncertainly, adding, “Perhaps because Qutub Minar doesn't move.”
Just then Sufi gets up and starts to lick Ms Rao’s cheek. Ms Rao utters sweet-nothings, saying, “My Sufi, my Suflet… my Chomps….”
Ms Rao doesn’t know Sufi’s exact age. She found the cat one monsoon afternoon in 1999 when she was driving down somewhere near the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in central Delhi. “I picked her up from near Nizamuddin’s dargah so I named her Sufi,” says Ms Rao. “Later the vet told me that Sufi couldn’t have been more than three weeks old… in fact, she was so small that the whole of her fit into my palms.”
As the cat gets down on the floor, Ms Rao says, “She is my dearest friend.”
Holding the elderly Sufi in her arms, Ms Rao says, ”You can't think of cats as pets. They are not like dogs. They are very independent. But definitely Sufi, at least, is very loyal and affectionate…. I think cats are unjustly maligned as not particularly affectionate creatures.”
Ms Rao says that Sufi always rushes to the door to greet her when she returns home from work. “I can see Sufi’s happiness when she sees me after a long gap,” says the singer. “She purrs. She follows me around. She looks into my eyes. If I happen to do my riyaz (music practice) in the drawing room, she would sit beside me. If I’m doing my yoga early in the morning, she, too, would wake up and sit next to me. She always wants to be with me.”
Sometimes Ms Rao goes away for long trips outside Delhi. “Maya, my maid, then takes care of Sufi,” she says.
Ms Rao then sits down on a sofa. The side table has a vase containing the pink bougainvilleas. Soon, Sufi walks up to Ms Rao and climbs on to her lap. The Thumri singer closes her eyes. Both the friends seem to be at peace with the world.
Long live Sufi
1. (Sufi with Vidya Rao)
7. (With Maya)