10 May, 2006

Can Any One Explain This?

About three weeks ago, just after dusk, I and my two young sons, were on our way to visit a sick relative; not far from our home. We took a short route, through alleys. I had never gone through that route before, but my sons, knew the way very well. And they knew about the incredible cats! But, they had never mentioned this to me or their mother, as they never considered any thing odd about the cats.

We were walking uphill - Mukalla is made up of mountains and valleys - through flat roofed buildings, turning from one alley to another. As we turned along one alley, I saw the black cat! On top of a roof of a single storied house. Walking. I and my sons, love cats so much that we have influenced my wife to love the felines too; and so, whenever we walk, we take a lot of interest in the cats we come across. Back to the cat on the roof!

As we got closer, I could see the cat clearly: it was big, male and completely black. And it was walking along the top of the one meter or so high, wall on the edge of the roof. It walked only on two sides of the roof; the sides that had alleys below. It walked sort of mechanically, not fast, not slow; as if it was programmed to do that. When it reached the end of one side of the wall, it would stop, look from side to side, and turn, to continue its walk along the other side of the wall and on reaching its end - it would turn around and go back the same way it came from! On and on! Repeatedly, exactly going through the same motions. My sons, said that the cat was ' guarding' the house, and that it does that every day - at nights! And that: on certain nights, there was a another cat, instead of the black one, exactly like the one on the roof, but completely white! Doing exactly the same thing! When we reached right next to the house with the cat on top, I stopped and kept looking at the cat; up on the roof. Inside the house, was dark.

My sons started whispering to me saying: we should move away quickly from the house; as the owner would throw cat feces at us, if we continued standing there for long. I learnt later, that - that's what the owner does if one stands close to his house for long: he throws cat feces at the person(s), through his window! My sons having passed through that alley, several times, knew all about this, but had never mentioned it to me. All this was happening too fast.

Well, as I stood there looking up at the cat - it continued its relentless walk; after walking pass above me twice, the third time it returned, it abruptly stopped exactly above me and looked down at me! Should I say: stared down at me! It was then, I started realizing that - this wasn't like the normal kind of cats I was used to! When it stopped: my sons, said: " come on, come on dad! Let's move! If we continue like this, it (the cat) would go and ' report' us, to its owner!"

"Report us to its owner" ! I just couldn't believe it! As we started moving, the cat stopped looking down at me, and moved too; moving away from the house, I turned and looked back at the cat, and saw it coming down from the roof and entering one of the dark windows; my sons too, noticed the cat disappearing through the window; they pointed out: " see! it is now going to 'report' us!" I thought otherwise; believing my sons were too young lads with silly ideas.

We were walking uphill, and the further we moved away from the house, the better I could see its roof. My sons kept on repeatedly telling me, that the cat had gone to ' report' us - and that it would return back on to the walls of the roof and continue moving. And surely, incredibly enough, after a few minutes - the cat was back on to the roof walking along the walls on the edges of the roof! The same mechanical motion!

I just couldn't believe this! I became very curious to know about the cat and its owner! After a few buildings away, I could still see the cat on the roof clearly - I found four teenagers playing. I decided to ask them about the cat. They giggled, and repeated the same thing my sons had said: the cat was 'guarding' the house! The cat does that every night, between dusk and dawn; at dawn, it would disappear and return on the roof at dusk! They also said, on certain nights - there would be a white one instead of the black one! That: if one stands or stays for long near the house, the cat would always go through one of the open windows and 'inform'! That - the owner had infact about fifty or so cats, that he keeps and ' trains'! That: the owner spent much of his free time with the cats; and that the cats had ' beds'!I also learnt that, the owner was a man who was 'normal', single and lived only with a sister. At nights, he preferred his house to be in darkness! It is never in my habit to be inquisitive about other people and their doings; but that evening, I couldn't help it!

I took some time, standing there with my sons and the teenagers - staring at the cat moving. Just on the walls at the edge of the roof; only on the two walls with alleys below them. Never going to the other two walls. It would reach the end of one wall, look or glance from side to side, turn - and move on; on to the next wall, move, reach the end of the wall - and again go through the same motion of glancing from side to side, and turn around. On and on! Persistently!

As it is, it is very hard to keep a male cat indoors for long, let alone train one to do some thing as monotonous as I had witnessed. Every night. Continuously. All night long! I very much doubt that even animals as smart as dogs, or dolphins or chimpanzees - can be trained to do some thing like that!

For the last few days, I have been telling friends and relatives about the cats; they too, are amazed! Locals here, believe that those are not cats but djinns. I have tried to find as much as I can on the Internet, about: cats, their behavior and how they can be trained. Nothing so far, about cats, explains what I had witnessed.

In all my almost half a century of life; having been in some of the remotest jungles and places of East Africa, and the remotest deserts, valleys and mountains of Yemen - I have never witnessed or experienced any thing as unexplainable, strange and incredulous as what I did with the cats. And, I don't think I will ever have a proper explanation for it!