This is the story of a three-day-old kitten caught in a 30 ft. deep uncovered borewell in a small neighbourhood in Bangalore, India.
My colleague at Microsoft, Ashish Singh loves to be early at work. It was unusual not to be greeted with his bright grinning face on a Thursday morning. We had our weekly skype meeting scheduled at eleven and there was no sign of Ashish. When my call went unanswered I dropped a curious WhatsApp text in the hope of a reply.
He pinged me back after an hour with the following picture:
Seeing the image at first glance, you might be confused like I was. Try zooming in.
My heart beat quivered to see an innocent kitten’s neck against a rusty iron pillar. With no space to make any movement, she looked upward with hopeful eyes.
Moments later Ashish called.
“I think I am going to be late for work. This is impossible! There’s a three-day-old kitten stuck in an unmanaged 30 feet borewell in front of my apartment. Her mother is crying for help. Nothing is working man! I am trying to get her out. Please drop a mail on my behalf?”
I drafted the mail on his behalf and frantically started searching for help online.
When you hit the digits 101 in sequence from any Indian SIM card, it connects you to the fire department.
The phone was answered after several rings by a coarse male-baritone. Ten long minutes were consumed in explaining to him the entire situation. I was perplexed as to why he would confuse the kitten with a puppy or a human infant and react weirdly.
I disconnected the phone after he argued that I had dialled in the wrong department for cat rescue and suggested that I contact ‘someone else’.
Ashish finally reached office and recalled the fateful sequence of events.
There was a small passage in between the outer and inner concentric circles outlining the borewell. A couple of inches – small enough to barely slide your wrist through – was wide enough for the mischievous kitten to get stuck.
Ashish tried utilising several household items around him for the rescue. Nothing worked. He managed to call in a volunteer from a recognised non-profit organisation who, instead of helping, tried to convince Ashish to quit trying and told him not to worry as the kitten would soon die inside the perfect makeshift graveyard!
“What can we do Arnab? Why are people so insensitive?”
We gathered several contact numbers of organisations that promised help for animal rescue on their website. We were hopeful. We started dialling and then the illusion was shattered!
While one renowned NGO argued that the location was too far to travel on a bright sunny afternoon, another explained that their organisation only rescues ‘wild’ animals. I lost the debate supporting my claim that our innocent three-day-old kitten was wild enough to get their attention. He disconnected too.
Bound by our work duties we couldn’t leave the office for another few hours. We decided to keep on dialling – our only feasible way out, we thought.
While some would suggest that I contact the fire department, others would simply share random contact numbers. People kept passing the buck. It was close to four in the afternoon. I tried the fire department again. This time, I was scolded for dialling in the fourth time since morning. The guy explained that they didn’t have climbers and added that all fire engines had been sent out to various locations across the city. I tried explaining that a climber wasn’t required as the cat was locked in an underground borewell. He got even more rude and asked me to approach the media for ‘attention’.
I got the answer and hung up in disgust.
Our office colleagues chose to passively listen to our helpless phone conversations and even mocked us for being overly sensitive about just an animal’s life.
We managed to leave work a bit early. Reaching the spot, we tried to seek as much help as we could.
There was so little space around the borewell hole that moving the inner rod or inserting anything to pull out the kitten would have hurt her. We kept thinking. Some people gathered around. Ultimately, kindness is shown. That’s the base of our society and the world around us. Someone brought a wire from a hardware shop. A lady brought her old sari (traditional Indian female garment). A kind neighbour provided us with torches and heavy words of inspiration. We made a knot out of the long aluminium wire. Tearing the old sari to half, we looped it around the flexible wire’s length. We inserted this makeshift fishing rod inside.
In the commotion, the borewell rod moved and the kitten slipped further inside.
When it peeked at us, we realised the kitten was fine but was now thirty feet deep inside the borewell. A tear trickled down my face as I silently heard the kitten wail.
After a round of heated discussions, we further stretched the wire inside until we imagined it to be within her reach. We had no choice but to wait for her to climb onto the wire herself. The mother cat purred impatiently around us, motivating her child and us to hasten the rescue. The kitten had been devoid of food or water for more than twelve hours.
People murmured; some gossiped; some kept making fun of us; some wondered how the two guys found time for all this? Nervous moments ticked by.
Amongst all the thought bubbles came light! We suddenly heard faint scratching sounds. Upon flashing our torch light, we cheered hysterically as the kitten’s tiny paws clawed against the sari motioning it upward. The cat continued her shrill meows. The kitten responded and slowly continued moving towards us. Her eyes sparkled!
After vying for space and taking intermittent pauses, the kitten managed to crawl half the borewell’s length in half an hour. We stood in silence as it reached the climax. With the help of the sari, her mother’s woeful cries and a major stroke of luck, the cute kitten finally jumped onto our hands.
The assembled crowd cheered for the heroes of the night. Someone suggested taking a selfie. We obliged.
I tread back to my mind loops, questioning the concept of humanity.
What was the fault of the imbecilic young kitten? It has been forced to adjust growing around a dangerous, insensitive, human civilisation that chooses to favour and segregate nature according to its whims instead of embracing it as it is?
Shouldn’t the approach of the firefighters and the non-profit organisations have been more proactive, instead of simply passing around numbers and comments? Have we become lazy or simply insensitive or do we act only when the circumstances favour us?
In a country exploding in terms of population with every keystroke that I have typed so far, who do we approach when caught in such sensitive situations? Are there enough organisations, volunteers to offer help when needed?
As the inner debate still prevails, the kitten lives on – united with her nervous, caring mother sipping warm milk offered by another generous woman.
All photographs provided by Arnab Chakraborty.
Featured image for representation only. Source: Flickr/Lachlan Rogers.