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East & West Stories of India: Cultural Odyssey

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East & West: Unveiling the Soul of India through Storytelling

In her captivating collection, East & West: Stories of India, Catherine Ann Jones invites us on a captivating journey through the heart and soul of this vibrant nation. Drawing on her deep connection to the land and its people, Jones weaves together a tapestry of tales that explore the contrasting yet complementary aspects of Indian culture.

catherineFrom seekers on spiritual quests to ordinary individuals navigating the complexities of life, she introduces us to a diverse cast of characters whose stories resonate with both universal human emotions and the unique rhythm of India. With deft prose and keen observation, Jones paints vivid portraits of bustling cities, serene rural landscapes, and the hidden corners where tradition and modernity intertwine.

‘East & West’ is more than just a collection of stories; it is a window into the soul of India. Through laughter and tears, triumphs and struggles, Jones reveals the beauty, complexity, and enduring spirit of a nation that continues to captivate and inspire the world. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or simply curious about the rich tapestry of Indian culture, this book promises a journey that will leave you spellbound and yearning for more.

Embark on a captivating journey where the boundaries between east and west blur, revealing a tapestry of enchanting tales. Let the East and West: Stories of India transport you to a world of beauty, wisdom, and endless possibilities.

Here’s an extract from one of her stories –

The Cat Who Would Not Die

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little they become its visible soul.
—Jean Cocteau

Gurgaon District near Delhi lies on the Sahibi River, a tributary of Yamuna. In India’s great epic Mahabharata, Gurgaon is described as the village of Guru Dronacharya, the revered teacher of the Kauravas and the Pandavas who fought the great war. So it was that Gurgaon is even today known as ‘the village of the guru’. However, modern times have changed much. Aft er the major American company, General Electric, in 1997, other large corporations followed, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and BMW. Now, giant shopping malls sprawl the land where one and a half million privileged residents have settled and shopped. It is July in Gurgaon, hot and humid with a temperature of 40 degrees C. Everyone impatiently awaits the coming monsoon. Kamala lives alone in her fine house aft er long years of marriage and a nasty divorce. Her children have grown up and away, busy with their own lives – some with children of their own. They all live in New Delhi which is more exciting for them. Though traditionally not the Indian way, Kamala was surprised to discover that she did not mind living alone. She enjoyed the peace and quiet and being able at last to do whatever she wanted to do and at the time she wanted to do it. She could eat when she was hungry, and no longer have to think of what others needed. It was a simple life. A good life, mostly. Though late at night, her thoughts would sometimes roam, thinking of the husband who had found solace in a younger woman. At first, she had tried to be angry – even jealous – but she failed, for she could only feel the loneliness that sometimes prowled around her in the night as a silent tiger seeking its prey.

One day Kamala sat in her garden with her favorite breakfast of soft , pillowy steamed iddlies and coconut chutney. In the Indian Express she read about a clothes designer from Delhi who had retired and built a sprawling refuge for abandoned cats. The woman would go out and fi nd feral cats living on the streets, and collect them ensuring they were well and had the necessary shots for people to adopt them. Curious, Kamala decided to visit the cat refuge and see if it was as interesting as the newspaper said it was. A small lizard startled her as it scampered near the food tray. “Oh,” she cried, “Let’s see what you will do when there’s a cat around.”

It was a short drive from her home in Gurgaon district to the small village just outside Delhi. There were eighty plus cats living in the refuge. To keep them safe from predators such as circling hawks, various cat residences had been built high up in the air. An enclosed runway connected them so that the cats could walk or run and visit other cat lodgings. It was indeed an interesting place, a cat village unto itself with tall fishtail and coconut palm trees providing some shade for the shelters and a sense of calm protection. It reminded Kamala of how her father had loved cats and would sit on the floor eating his lunch on a fresh green banana leaf carefully making balls of rice and yogurt, then tossing them to two unnamed pet cats who waited patiently for their treat. Her father was three years gone now. He had died as quietly as he had lived, simply going to sleep and not waking up. How like Appa not to cause any bother to anyone. Somehow this morning, it seemed that his devotion to cats had lingered and lived on in his daughter, for Kamala too, had always loved cats. Her husband’s asthma had prohibited having pets, and aft er some time, she had put them out of her mind. Nini, the former clothes designer with short hair and simple attire first warned her that she didn’t let just anyone adopt her cats, but felt instinctively that Kamala would be a suitable guardian. Kamala smiled, and then Nini showed her a female calico cat who had given birth four weeks earlier to a litter found in the street – born wild. As the kittens were too young to be separated from their mother, Kamala was told that she could have the first pick of the litter yet could not take the kitten for another two weeks as they were too young to be separated from their mother. Kamala took her time watching the mother cat and her five kittens. They were all quite different from one another and she learned that they had had different fathers. It seems that cats and dogs can have different fathers in the same litter. Only after several minutes did Kamala make her choice. He was the most beautiful of the kittens, and looked a pure Russian Blue breed, exactly as his father must have been. Soft light grey short hair with striking green eyes, his manner was shy, cautious. Having made her choice and paid a reasonable fee, which covered neutering and vaccinations, she left with the understanding to return in two weeks to collect her new pet.

With a clear purpose now, Kamala shopped for a cat bowl, water distributor, litter box, and even an adorable toy mouse with bells. Paying for her purchases, she went next door and ordered a mango lassi. Surprising herself, she told the proprietor that she had just adopted a kitten, though it was not like Kamala to talk to strangers like that. Two weeks later, aft er thanking Nini, she carried the kitten home. She called him Sasha, as he was a Russian Blue. At first, Sasha would hide under the bed and stay there for hours. Kamala had all the time to be patient and talk softly to her new companion. Slowly, Sasha would crawl out from under the bed and find his water bowl and Kibble waiting for him in an adjacent stainless-steel bowl. Gradually Kamala and Sasha became used to one another and one day, surprisingly, Sasha jumped into Kamala’s lap as she sat reading the newspaper. Soon aft er, one night, Sasha decided to sleep on the bed next to his new mistress and continued to do so from then on.

Kamala found herself eager to return home after shopping in order to share whatever she saw or heard that day with Sasha. He would sit very still and look directly into her eyes, listening to every word, so it was easy to believe that he understood all that she said. When her children invited her to visit them in Delhi, she would say, “Oh, dear, I would but I cannot leave Sasha.” So, aft er a while, they stopped inviting her, explaining how they or their children were so busy in Delhi that driving over to her was not a choice. Kamala understood and didn’t really mind.


East & West – Stories of India

by Catherine Ann Jones

Publisher – Pippa Rann Books & Media

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