Published:  12:57 AM, 17 July 2017

Cats in symbolic and idiomatic jargons

Cats in symbolic and idiomatic jargons

One of my uncles, who is a very intimate friend of mine decided to get into wedlock a few years back at the age of forty five. His guardians and other family members had something to feel relieved about as they could at last get him round to tie the nuptial knot. I found him rather stressed or may be excited about the change it would bring to his life. Since he is one of my closest buddies we have no inhibition regarding exchange of words. As his wedding date was approaching he asked me whether he should kill the cat on the first night of his married life. I took a little time to figure out what he meant as I am not as quick-witted as the valued readers who might have meanwhile comprehended what ' killing the cat ' may stand for when it comes to matrimony.

 The cat as a domestic and wild creature has multi-dimensional presentation in our thoughts and rhetoric. During medieval times black cats were considered to be a symbol of forbidden practices like witchcraft. In ancient Egypt, people used to regard the cat as a shield against evil spirits. In Europe women found keeping black cats were accused of devilish acts and were persecuted in many ways. However, in our modern times, keeping a cat as a pet is no guilt. But housewives in some families don't appreciate the presence of this animal no matter how gentle or harmless it appears to be. It is branded for jumping on and off the dining table having a quick bite at the curries the lady of the house cooks with her own hands. It's a very smart and small creature hardly giving you a chance to catch it red-handed when it topples the pastries you just took out of the oven and runs away.

 Earlier I referred to a cat's physical relevance in human society. We know about some virtual cats who turn into huge tycoons by playing various tricks in times of fair or foul weather. If we look back on the turbulent time that prevailed in Russia in early 90's we can trace some tiny fellows who overnight converted themselves into enormous big shots taking advantage of domestic chaos and infirmity. Vladimir Gusinsky was one of them. He fattened himself and stuffed up his coffers with shadily earned money by emerging as a leading media top dog during former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's regime. But he had to pull the reins of his pomp and power when Vladimir Putin replaced Boris Yeltsin and started sweeping every nook and corner of Russia in search of the oligarchs who had been plundering state-owned money through all possible loopholes. Gusinsky concealed himself and escaped to Israel. So, that's the story of a small rodent who later on became an immense tomcat by eating all the dainty dishes the housekeeper had forgotten to put in the cupboard!

 Now we can relate the cat to a tale of the Balkans. Slobodan Milosevic, the ex-Yugoslav President went on with his carnage and repressions on the civilians of Bosnia and Kosovo for almost seven years until Belgrade came under NATO air strikes. The wildcat was allowed to stain the whole jungle with blood before it could be stopped. Milosevic died while his trial was going on but the nightmares he unleashed across Southeast Europe are still haunting the ethnic masses. However, the NATO hounds were not totally foolproof as they carried out one faulty attack on an innocent rabbit mistaking it for the vicious cat they were trying to catch. Bombing the Chinese embassy at Belgrade was a terrible slip on part of the NATO pilots which they later on confessed to be an error.

 The cat is not a triumphant trickster at all events. We found in our boyhood book "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" how rats became stronger and fatter than cats. Let's come back home to wind up the story. The whole country is now gripped by the blood-freezing escalation of militancy. Militants' hideouts are being found in different parts of the country by law and order forces. We point our fingers at each other but the sly and diabolic cat which has now taken the form of a hideous demon continues to hold the nation under threats. So, is the cat bigger than the housekeeper? It's now time to resolve who stands the ground.

School students in most places have to write essays on animals. The cat is one of those creatures. Cats are interlinked with weather too. We often say "It is raining cats and dogs" to talk about torrential downpour. Cats are correlated with unfolding of secrets as well. "Let the cat out of the bag" is a very popular idiom which means to reveal an unpleasant truth. A "cat nap" refers to a short slumber during daytime while playing "cat and mouse" means trying to hide something from disclosure. Another widely used idiom says, "Who is to bell the cat" with the meaning of taking over responsibility to carry out a tough job. On the other hand, "a dead cat on the line" stands for something ominous. There are many more phrases and idioms characterizing cats which are used for conveying different meanings in official as well as informal discussions.

The writer is a columnist for The Asian Age.

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