Wednesday, October 4, 2006

"My Cat, Pook, and 6 Oct"

This short story by Wattanchai Winichakul, written in very correct and poetic Thai, touched me in its simplicity and depth, so I decided to translate it for English readers. The English, of course, would never equal the Thai version in its communication. So if you can read Thai, please read the Thai version, link provided above.
"Miss Pook" was my pet cat when I was a child.

Ms. Pook's fur was three colored, mostly black, white with patches of yellow all over her body up to her tail. Her four paws were all equally white. Most prominent of all, was her face, exactly halved by fur of black and the other half, fur of yellow.

At that time, my house was a food shop in the Ta Prachan area. Therefore, Ms. Pook grew up well fed. She was a teen cat with shiny fur, playful and mischievous. She could be classified as a good natured cat with extraordinary intelligence for a cat.

There was this time when I taught her how to use the toilet bowl by carrying her with me to the bowl and showing her by doing the business myself. Since then she would pee in the toilet bowl and patiently wait for someone to come flush it down with water.

Ms. Pook lived a very common cat life. We would rarely see her catch a rat. If she did, she was just following her cat's instincts. Once she caught and killed a rat, she would play with it rather than eat it because she was already well fed.

My Ahmah loved cats. She would have fresh platoo (thai fish) in the fridge ready to mix with rice for Ms. Pook to eat every morning and evening. Ahmah would call Ms. Pook to eat by knocking the aluminium bowl on the floor. Its sound, a few "peng! peng!" would miraculously produce Ms. Pook from whichever corner she was hiding in to faithfully appear immediately in front of that bowl.

On the morning of 6th October, BE 2519, I got up as usual to shower and get ready to go to school but found that the shop was not open. My older brothers told me that I didn't have to go to school because there was a violent situation at Thammasart University. I was secretly happy to not go to school, but a little bit sad because I wasn't able to send my art homework on which I had deligently colored during the whole week.

At 7:00 am, a thunderous sound, as if something gigantic fell right next to my house startled and frightened me. We had become accustomed to the sound of guns and bullets because our house was located close to Thammasart and Sanamluang, a strategic location during that time.

This incredulous sound was not like before. I felt as if great danger was falling upon us. Ms. Pook was all puffed up, hair on ends, running around like mad, her eyes filled with terror I had never seen before. Ahmah tried to catch her but couldn't. We didn't know which part of the house she went to hide. That was the moment when many occurrences took place in my house.

Many strangers came into our house and were herded away.

My elder sister nearly got taken away in the herd, fortunately, my mother managed to pull her back.

Many uniformed men came into my house and ransacked the house, rudely shouting at my mother's and father's faces.

One of my older brothers got hit in the back of his neck with a riffle end when he moved towards the door to answer a frantic knock on the door. He was dragged out in front of my mother and father. After that I heard the sound of a round of machine gun. My elder sister fainted. My mother's heart shattered.

My aunt had a house in Pratoonam. She sent her daughter for us to take refuge there.

"Go and help bring the kids and the elders. If you can't help them out, then don't come back!", my mother recounted my aunt's orders.

My brothers and sisters, my mother, and myself, altogether five of us took refuge at Pratoonam for nearly a month. When we returned to our Taprachan home, I found that my father had taken Ms. Pook away to some place where she wouldn't find her way home. My heart ached, it reflected the terrible atmosphere in our family at that time.

Sadness remained in my heart for some time, but one day my brothers voices woke me up calling me to come look at something. I sleepily walked downstairs and saw there Ms. Pook looking at me with wide eyes, her fur all dirty and mangly. I called her name and ran down to hug her to myself with joy, but there were no more tears. They had dried up since the morning after October 6.

They say that cats loved the house, dogs loved their owners. So if a cat ever got lost or deserted, it would always find a way home, just as Ms. Pook did.

I wanted to ask her, where had she been, how difficult had it been, what did she encounter? All I could do was to pet her all over and rub her chin as she liked. If she could talk she would probably have asked me, and you, how were you when I was gone, did you think of me? But all she could do was to nudge my hand and try to wrap herself around my legs.

Ms. Pook came back to live her happy normal life with us. Many times, when I returned home from school, I would find her languidly sunbathing under the evening sun shining in through the windows. Her shiny black fur sofly reflecting the light would always invite me to go pet her and give her a rub under her chin.

I don't know if Ms. Pook remembers any of the trauma of October 6. I believe that if she can be so intelligent to do many things beyond normal cats, she would remember all the good and bad things that have happened no less than my own memories.

Only different from us...

Human memory is a wound cut deep in the heart,

Never forgotten.

PS. I got particularly weepy for this one because my cat of 12 years old recently died. I think all Thais are apprehensive and sad that this year's anniversary of 16 Oct is under a military coup regime.

Picture of my cat.


Stuart said...

Thanks for the story, Nui, and welcome back. I've been enjoying your posts for the last few days.

Cuauhtémoc said...

Hello stuart, thanks for dropping the encouraging comment. I subscribe to your blog via bloglines, you haven't been blogging much lately. I guess it a natural rythm of blogging. Cheers.