The Barbarians: Night of the Cat Whisperer

Barbarians: Adventures of Drunken Nights

The Barbarians: Night of the Cat Whisperer

Illustration: Akshita Monga

One morning, I woke up feeling as if someone was scraping nails across a chalkboard inside my skull. This was followed by cold silence around the breakfast table and death stares from my grandmother. The headache subsided after I ate some bread, but the stares did not.

Something was definitely amiss. I noticed the additional anomalies: I had no recollection of changing into the T-shirt I woke up in, I found mysterious scratches on my arms while bathing, and when I tried using my cellphone, the polite Vodafone woman told me in three languages that I had used up my prepaid balance. I left for college in a bewildered state where a kind friend showed me a strange video of a six-foot, broad-shouldered guy in a wrestling match with a cat, the size of his face. It took me several seconds to realise that the crazy fella in the video was me. Why the holy hell had I gotten into a wrestling match with a cat? The answer came to me through the course of a throbbing day in a series of movie-like mental flashbacks.

A chance meeting with an old school friend… a glorious happy-hours offer of buy-one-get-one-free on RC pitchers… the how-many-pitchers-can-you-put-away-in-two-hours challenge… one… two… three… the fourth was a victory lap… more friends appeared… the pitcher count went up. Soon, four and a half hours had passed.

It’s been irrefutably proven that alcohol alters people’s personalities. It acts in myriad ways: Some people begin thinking they’re God’s gift to music, and sing and dance, others choose to do the polar opposite – they “get high” by thinking about how miserable their lives are. And some others turn into “barbarians”. I belong to that last group. Our voices get louder, inhibitions get lower, and tempers get shorter with each drink.

When battle madness overcomes the barbarians, we enter a primitive state where we are unable to recall our actions or words while under the fugue. Like the fearless Viking berserkers who would wade into a sea of foes even when outnumbered, or the bold Celts who charged into battle, clad in nothing but a loincloth and war paint, today’s barbarians are impervious to threats of ridicule, embarrassment, or injury.

It is in this “barbaric state” that I sang Master of Puppets from the floor after falling off my seat, aggressively insisted that everyone participate in a peanut-tossing competition aimed at people in the bar, and stole alcohol from the tables of unsuspecting tourists while they went to the restroom.

She must have meowed, but the alcohol had fooled me into thinking that I was Dr Dolittle. I was convinced I understood the tabby.

As I sat holding my head in my hand, the memories faded into near darkness. What happened after all the singing and peanut tossing? It all came to me… the foamy beer had made way for bitter whiskey. I recalled the nasty, greasy taste of a medu vada I munched outside the station, the nauseous feeling of bile rising in my throat, and the citric, acidic tang of a lemon that I bit into.

The lemon sent me into a shock of sorts. I powered up and bolted down the street like Popeye does after eating his spinach. Just as animals head toward their lairs when they sense their imminent death, my feet carried me to college. I’m not sure what happened next, but I must have wound up passed out on the steps of the college foyer, and that’s where I met the cat. Her white whiskered face flashed in front of my eyes suddenly, as I continued my attempts to recall my adventurous night-out. She was peering at me curiously, as I lay on my back staring at the ceiling. Her curiosity enraged me.

“Back off, you pussy,” I said. (It’s not offensive if you’re talking to a real cat.) She must have meowed, but the alcohol had fooled me into thinking that I was Dr Dolittle. I was convinced I understood the tabby. And I found her meows harshly judgemental.

“You look so classy, sprawled out like that, you drunk ass,” is what I thought she said to me.

“At least I’m wearing clothes,” I scowled at her.

“Errmm… Your fly is open, genius,” came her reply.

“You little fu….” I leaped to grab for the cat, but she jumped back and scratched me with her claws. This dance of defiance continued for a while with the cat clearly emerging the winner. Bleeding, disoriented, and utterly wasted, I lurched forward again and again, but each time she nimbly sidestepped me and mewed mockingly. My friends, I would learn later, were witnessing the whole show, as were their cameras.

The Saga of the Cat and the Drunk became part of college folklore along with other similarly boozy legends of The Tree-Climbing Singer and The Drunk Who Flew. This was thankfully before uploading videos to YouTube became a nasty habit. These tales remain an oral tradition, which are passed on from one barbarian to another and proudly narrated before every drinking session to inspire and challenge other tipplers.

May you go forth and make your own legends. Cheers!

PS: No cats were harmed in the making of the video.