The First Part of Monsoon Tiger by Rain Chudori
The Monsoon of 2012 was an anguishing time for the tigers. Living in the only zoo in our city, their lives revolved around licking their soft paws that no longer remembered the feel of dirt (for they were taken as cubs), picking at the trash that the visitors threw at them, in an effort to provoke or at least capture their attention, which didn’t quite work, and sleeping under the artificial tree that produced no sap. Due to budget cuts, there was one keeper to ten animals, and they were only attended to during feeding and washing time, in which a keeper would throw each tiger a slab of meat and hose them down from outside their cages. The mistreatment of the tigers was mentioned as such; in page twelve of the Sunday feature article of the city newspaper, in which I read aloud to Michael on a late Sunday afternoon, his head resting on my stomach. “I don’t care much for tigers,” he said unaffectedly.
When the monsoon came, the tigers were left in the heat, and somehow, in that stoic, quiet way of theirs, they slipped out into the city. They roamed the streets, searching, maybe, for an answer or a cause for this unclear war they had with the weather. It was common to see them drinking from the fountains when they were thirsty, finding small coins that people had threw along their small wishes, sticking to their tongue, and sitting next to patrons in restaurants with white linens and silver cutleries, waiting for a bite. Then when they grew tired, the tigers rested under real trees while insects cleaned their furs off. There were no qualms for the citizens after a while, when at first, we had frantically called the city zoo who at the time had no power or tactical abilities in recapturing the tigers, when we realized that they had given up their predatory ways. And so for a while, the tigers lived amongst us peacefully.
I was drying Michael’s hair with a towel, standing up while he sat on the bed, as he was taller than me, when Monsoon first entered our door. We were looking at each other as we always do when I dry his hair, and his left hand was resting on my arms, his index finger moving affectionately. Monsoon nudged the door, managing a little creak to alert us of his presence, and then entered with such poise that Michael and I felt no fear. He wandered as far as the bathtub in which he proceeded to live in for 12 months. I stopped drying Michael’s hair, but clutched it through the towel, as if through the ferocity of it, I was telling him to approach the unassuming tiger. In return, Michael took my hand and stood up, leading me to the bathtub where by now Monsoon was asleep, claiming its territory as easily as simply existing in it, unlike humans who it seems, spend their whole life claiming things through loving things intensely. At first, he would attack Michael with such fervor as if he was the cause of the monsoon, but we had managed to minimize it to that of a small growl, not one that indicated any desire to hurt us, but one that told him to keep his distance, which made it my job to feed, bathe, and take care of Monsoon. These two catalysts co-existed for a year. The tiger in my bathtub and his cause on my bed.
At that time, it was my third year of being with Michael (who still sends me letters on nights he finds it difficult to sleep) in a one bedroom apartment that was bare, with nothing but a mattress and flowers that Michael would pick coming home from somewhere (and he was always coming home from somewhere). The letters from Michael are desolating for the most part as I knew he only wrote to assuage his fears of the fire crackers going off that he mentioned in one letter was “like some sort of war outside”. One such letter went like this
It seems that they are testing a new firecracker. If you were wondering what the sound is like, it is like the sounds Monsoon made when you tried to cut his nails with garden hedges. What were you thinking? Why didn’t I stop you?
Even apart, I knew that we still loved each other very much, though it was the kind of love that was better left unseen except through these letters. Michael now lived in the industrial part of the city, right by the fireworks factories, near the highways with skies interrupted by wires every few miles, as he had always wanted. There was an incident in his area where a tiger, which had unknowingly wandered to the area, was so disturbed by the sounds of the steel noise, turned rather violent. From then on, tigers were prohibited to live or visit this area. Though Michael has asked me to come for him, I never have, citing Monsoon as a reason, even though Monsoon too was long gone.