I looked towards the cage again. I was surprised to see a small tiger. I had never seen such type in my lifetime. I looked at my friend. He was smiling blissfully.
"How much did you buy it for?" I asked.
"Quite a lot, my friend, quite a lot!" He said.
I was pretty sure that the amount was quite high. Or else he wouldn't have avoided telling me the amount.
"But why did you buy it? I never knew you had a thing for cats. Or any animals for that matter." I said.
"First of all, It's not exactly a cat. Second of all, look at it. Have you ever seen such an exquisite animal? Look at the stripes. It's like a little tiger. A mixture of Cat and the Tiger.
But I would like to think it is a tiger."
I glanced again towards the cage. What I saw bewildered me to no bounds. My friend was right. It wasn't exactly a cat. I had never seen anything like it.
It had yellow and black stripes just like a tiger. If it were not for its size, anybody would have said that it was a tiger. Yet, it's size was that of a cat. It was sitting down now.
And even the body movements and the sitting down posture, it looked or should I say it mimicked the tiger. It was an amazing creature. The cage was about 4 feet in length and 2.5 feet in height.
I thought that the cage was a little too small for a creature like that.
"It's a small tiger." My friend Pratik exclaimed. It was evident that he was quite taken by the creature. I was not sure where he got it from.
"Is it a Tiger Cub?" I asked. This thought had occurred to me. I have seen the Tiger cubs. But only on TV. In real life I had never seen one.
"No, no it's not a tiger cub. It's a tiger cat." He laughed.
"A Tiger Cat!" I exclaimed. "Pratik, where did you buy it from? And whom did you buy it from?" I asked. My tone was curious and excited.
When Pratik had called me earlier today and said that he wanted me to see something, an animal like this was the last thing on my mind. I could sense the excitement in Ganesh's voice.
My curiosity got the better of me. And of course I had nothing else to do. So, I got to his house as soon as possible.
"A Chinese gentlemen from the Chinatown, he sold me this. Yesterday evening, I had gone there for a dinner party. After the dinner was over, everybody left.
I was waiting for a bus to come along. That's when I saw this beauty opposite to the bus stand. I got intrigued by it. So I went to the store. I asked the Chinese gentleman about this animal.
He said it was a rare breed. It was a mixture of Tiger and cat. Believe me, it was looking amazing in that golden cage. Such beautiful movements. Such elegance in an animal.
I knew I had to buy it."
"Are you sure, he said it is a mixture of cat and tiger. I mean, I never have even heard of such a cat. But I could be wrong." I said.
"It's a Tiger cat. That's what the Chinese gentleman told me. It brings good luck. I tried to buy it. But he wouldn't sell it. I kept rising the price. But he wouldn't care.
He said, It is an important member of his family. But I was adamant. I said, I wouldn't go without taking the animal." My friend hesitated for a moment and then continued.
"So in the end, he agreed to sell me this magnificent creature. But when I was taking it away, the Chinese gentleman said that, it doesn't bring good luck to everybody.
There is a hard price to it. But what is a hard price for good luck. Right? So I took it." Pratik was still grinning. He looked like a man who had just found a treasure of gold.
"Have you let it out yet? I mean, has the cat or the tiger cat come out of the cage?" I enquired.
Pratik shook his head. His face gave a wince. "That's just it. It refuses to come out. I opened the cage door. But it doesn't want to get out."
"Perhaps, this new surrounding is upsetting him. Perhaps he is missing his old master." I said.
"Yes. Perhaps." Pratik replied.
I had a nagging feeling that something was not right. But I guessed if my friend was happy, who was I to interfere with his life?
I glanced at the cage. I saw the animal. Even it's face was like a tiger. The more I looked at this amazing creature, the more I got convinced that it was more of a tiger and less of a cat.
Only the size of the animal was small. In all other aspects I found the animal to be more tiger and less cat.
"What does it eat?" I asked Pratik.
"That's just it. I didn't ask the Chinese gentleman about his eating habit. So today I got fish from the market. But he is refusing to eat it. He is just turning away his mouth.
He is only drinking water for now."
"But cats eat fish." I said.
Pratik nodded and looked at the animal, still smiling he said, "But he doesn't. I am thinking of giving him chicken. Let's see whether he likes it or not.
But I am sure of one thing though, my luck is changing."
After some time, we got up. Pratik said he was going to the market to bring food for his precious animal, while I left for my home.
After two days, I had taken an early leave from my office. And I was very interested in my friend's new pet. So I went to the National Library. And I checked for cats. Any type or breed of cats.
Very soon I came across this breed. The Tiger Cat! I read up the material. It said, Tiger cats are direct breed of the Tiger found in Asia. However, they are mainly cats.
They are very very rare to find. Not even 400 of them exist today. And most of them are found in China. I saw the attached photo of the Tiger Cat.
I must say what I saw at Pratik's house didn't actually match with the photo. But I was getting confirmed that what I saw was indeed a Tiger Cat.
3 more days had passed. I was busy with my work and I had completely forgotten about Pratik and his Tiger cat. Suddenly on the sixth day, Pratik called. He sounded very worried and scared.
It was like he was rambling on and on about his tiger cat. He said, he is going crazy with it.
He was unable to go outside, because he didn't want to let this tiger cat out of sight for one moment. And he was hooked on to it. He just couldn't take his eyes off it.
And something terrible was happening to it. I tried to calm him down and asked him what had happened. But he couldn't say. He said, he couldn't call anyone and he thought about me.
He had only shown this creature to me and now he wants my help. I asked him to calm down and said that I would come to his house as soon as possible. Within the next hour, I reached his house.
When he opened the door, I saw my friend's face. He looked tired, scared and highly anxious. He was sweating and it was evident he had not eaten for a long time now.
"What happened to you?" I asked.
"Come inside. Quickly. I have to show you something." He said. He was shivering with fear.
There was a slight noise, something like low growl, coming from the other room. It was in this room where he had placed the cage and the Tiger Cat. Suddenly, I felt a shiver along my spine.
He grasped me and took me to the other room. I could sense his sweaty palms cold with fear. I could smell a foul smell coming. But I could not identify where this smell was coming from.
As soon as I entered the room, what I saw sent shivers through my body. I was looking at the cage. But what I saw I could not believe. This could not have been possible.
Was I seeing things? I saw a large cat or a middle sized tiger inside the cage. The cage now was completely filled by the animal's body. It was barely able to move.
I could see that It was looking at us. The eyes of this animal was green and it was filled with hatred. I was hypnotized for a moment. I could not shift my gaze.
I thought I was paralyzed by fear, by the animal. I will be never be able to forget what I saw that day. My friend came close to me and whispered to my ear. His voice was hoarse.
And in the hoarse voice, He whispered in to my ear, "Do you see? Do you see what has happened to my Cat. I can't understand what happened to him. It was growing daily.
I tried to feed him, but he wouldn't eat. He would only drink water. And every day I watched him grow. I couldn't go out. I was scared that if I went out, he would escape.
And in 5 days he has grown up to this size. I don't know how much will he grow in the coming days. Help me!!"
He put so much stress on the last two words that he almost screamed in his whisper. I stood my ground like a lamp post. My brain was still trying to put things logically.
I knew what had happened was impossible. Yet I was looking at this...creature, which had grown in size in 5 days! It was impossible.
I breathed in deeply and with almost a herculean effort I managed to look away. I quickly managed to stagger out of the room. My friend was holding me. He came out too.
I saw a chair and quickly sat down. I was sweating too now. This was incredible. What was I supposed to do now? I closed my eyes and breathed deeply for some time.
When I opened my eyes, I thought of something.
"Do you remember the place from where you had brought this infernal thing?" I asked.
There was anger in my voice. And I did not hide it. I had told Pratik earlier. I had warned him. But he kept insisting on keeping this creature.
"Yes, yes I remember." Pratik said. His eyes looked pleading. It was as if he was begging to me to take this problem away. He had suffered enough.
"Well. Let's go there. And find this Chinese gentleman of yours and ask him to take back his animal." I said in a little more commanding voice.
"Yes. Yes you are right. Let's go there. We need to find the man. I can't keep this thing." He said.
We quickly got out of the building. Initially he was feeling a little insecure about leaving the creature alone in his apartment. But I had to convince him, that it was the only way.
Since I didn't know where he bought this animal from, he had to come with me. It took us an hour and a half to reach China town.
We quickly moved with in the narrow streets and reached the place. Pratik suddenly stopped. He looked crestfallen. He was standing infront of a shop. But the shutter was pulled dow