Kubra Sait, Aahana Kumra: Cat ladies are successful, sorted and own the world
Boss ladies tell us why the trope of 'single, lonely, crazy and living with cats' has forgotten to include the story of the empowered
Earlier this week, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina released on Netflix. Sabrina, the teenage witch, who all of us, especially the '90s kids were first introduced to, in Archies, is obviously battling with the challenges that come with being a young witch. And, one of her first tasks at hand is to choose a "familiar" — a sort of spirit animal who protects her. She finds one in the form of Salem, her black cat (often thought to be the form Satan takes on earth). The fact that Sabrina, and in medieval times, other witches were closely linked to cats, formed the founding stone of the "crazy cat lady" trope, who could turn you into a frog if you didn't treat her right.
In the 1700s, cats started being seen as companions to spinsters, who had nothing to do in life except lament their singledom, and that lasted well into the 20th century. Remember Grey Gardens, where the single, broke and "crazy" Edith Beale Sr and Jr, lived in squalor in a mansion in New York with not one cat, but a dozen. Between 1996 and 2006, Tufts University's Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium conducted a study, which said that hoarders usually fit the "crazy lady" stereotype — a single, older woman, who was hard up for cash and not high on the social scene. But, the last few years have seen the crazy cat lady turn into the successful, sorted boss ladies, who flaunt their mutually conducive relationships with their feline friends on their Instagram accounts.
Singer-songwriter Nirmika Singh feels Guliya has made her appreciate solitude. Pic/Suresh KK
A lot like me
Aahana Kumra, who we know as Leela from Lipstick Under My Burkha, has had her Persian Mushu (named after the dragon in Mulan), now for six years. When she first got it as a gift, her father didn't speak to her for two months, as animals at home were a big "no". "Mushu knows whom to go to and for what: mom gives him love, the cook gives him food, I scratch him. He is a very secure animal." Her cat is so secure that he has helped Kumra become more self-assured. "I learn something from Mushu every day, but my biggest takeaway is that like him, I don't need validation any more from any one."
She also feels that women connect with cats, because they are so much like them. "Just like cats, if we don't feel like being touched we don't like it. But when we want to cuddle, we want to cuddle," says the 32-year-old. Actor Amyra Dastur, who made her debut with Isaaq, agrees with Kumra. She says that both her cat, Emma, and she, love their space. "At home, we both leave each other alone. She has taught me how to be okay with liking my space," says the 25-year-old, who then goes on to list very practically the reasons women and cats get along: "They take care of themselves, and are self-sufficient, and may be aloof, but are there when you need them."
Kanwar with her Cat at her home in Mumbai
Creative producer and writer Anisha Sharma, who is currently busy working on Koffee with Karan, remembers leaving her cat Mooch, who was a rescue, at home just two days after she got him. "What she doesn't know is that at one point, I checked my phone to see if she had called me. But they are okay being alone, you know. In the beginning, when she didn't come to me, I used to wonder 'why doesn't she love me?' But, I soon realised that her world doesn't revolve around me. They help you become more detached as people. It's a lesson in humility, really." Sharma says that as a busy working woman, it helps to have a compartmentalised relationship like the one, she has with her cat. "We have adapted to each other's lifestyles."
Lovers of solitude
Singer-songwriter/lyricist Nirmika Singh, 31, says she feels her cat has made her appreciate solitude — the only environment she thinks is best for a creative person. "My cat, Guliya, is a Tortitude. It's a word used to describe tortoise shell cats, and is at the apex of cats that are independent. She doesn't crave any affection, and is very territorial, and protective, but sweet. She has also taught me how to be aware, because she watches everything. It's a very delicate quality, and has helped me become a better at what I do."
But along with teaching their female owners about detachment, and being vocal about their likes and dislikes, the cats have also helped them become more honest about their own feelings. As actor Kubbra Sait, who recently won over the nation with her role as Kukoo in Sacred Games, says that her Persian, Shifu, named after the all-knowing, wise Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda, has made her less shy about showing her affections. "He has taught me how not to measure how much love I give. He absorbs all the negativity and just gives out love. She gives me so much joy. I open the door and his face is the first one I see."
In the end, writer Suhani Kanwar, who was once convinced that her cat Magravity, inspired by TS Eliot's Macavity the mystery cat, was trying to kill her — she even Googled that — now happily cohabits with her new flatmate. "She found me. She came to the door one day, then made her way to the living room, and then into my bed, and decided she was staying here," says the 38-year-old. As she explains, Magravity, who she has now had for eight years, has taught her one of the most important skills in life. "She leaves when she wants, she comes back when she wants. Nobody can change her mind. And hence, she has taught me the fine art of letting go. We writers like to control everything, but with her, I have to make peace with her whims. She makes me be okay with uncertainty, and that's truly liberating."
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