by Indrani Talukdar
(Dehradun. Uttarakhand, India )
Billoo was one lazy cat. If there was one thing in the world he did well it was sleeping. He slept all day long in front of the grocer’s – Shyam Lala’s – shop. Suman, on his way to school – and back – would stop by to give the lazy cat a pat. Billoo would open his eyes once, look up, then go back to sleep.
No one knew where Billoo had landed from. Suman had learned that he’d been somebody’s pet a long time ago. But that was all Suman got out of him.
Needless to say, Veeru and his gang of bullies made no end of fun of Suman who could follow the language animals spoke. But the bullies were cowards too. Afraid of Suman’s “ticklish” powers, they would pass snide remarks from afar and flee for their lives.
Then Sheru had a brainwave.
“Lets tease the fat cat,” he told his cronies, “it will make Suman mad, won’t it? That idiot appears to be crazy about animals, yuck!”
The plan was this: pebbles and rocks would be rained on poor Billoo from a safe distance. Billoo’s pain and the inability to punish his offenders would drive Suman to tears.
“Sounds great!” Veeru thumped his brother’s back.
The bullies lost no time locating their victim.
The day was sunny. Under the mango tree, next to the Lala’s grocery, lay Billo in deep sleep with his head beween his two front paws.
“Get up lazybones!” Lagan struck the first stone. Billoo woke up, his sleep rudely broken.
“The lazy good-for-nothing cat doesn’t even know how to run!” Lagan threw a stone narrowly missing Billoo’s tail.
A crowd had collected. And worse. It was encouraging the bullies.
A fat man in pyjamas whose string was hanging loose, yelled, “All he does is eat all day; doesn’t move a step!” The fat man looked so comical that the crowd couldn’t help laughing.
And where were the three bullies? They had fled after stoning Billoo and watching the scene from a safe distance.
“Run Billoo, run!” The crowd turned in the direction of the voice. It was Suman’s.
“I can’t, you know that!” Billoo sounded tearful.
“Shut up! Just spring to that tree next to you.”
“I can’t spring anymore!”
The crowd, which could only hear Suman’s part of the conversation, was mystified. Some thought he’d gone mad. “Look at him,” laughed the comical man in pyjamas, “he’s talking to the cat as though to a friend!”
“The boy’s gone round the bend!” another commented.
Suman wasn’t paying attention to the banter around him. He was simply worried about Billoo being attacked once again by the cowards from their hiding places. Without a second thought, he rubbed the ring. Lo and behold! Billoo landed on a branch of the mango tree. The crowd was shocked into silence. Shyam Lala emerged from the grocery and watched as Billoo shook his tail from the tree top.
Now there was no stopping Billoo. Landing on the ground he ran in search of the bullies.
His first target was Lagan who was having chaat at a sweetshop. He landed chaat and all on the ground as Billoo tackled his knees with full force. Veeru and Sheru, who’d watched the commotion, picked up a stone each. But they were no match for Billoo who knocked them down as well. The cat had turned into a lion. The bullies fled, leaving their chaat behind.
“Say sorry to Billoo!” Suman was shouting. “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, harming a poor defenseless cat!”
“Say sorry! Say sorry!” the crowd was chanting. The tide had turned for Billoo.
The crowd forced the three offenders to apologize to the cat. And Billoo? He actually thought he was the cat’s whiskers! At least now no one would say he was a lazy good-for-nothing cat.