For the past decade and a half, my New Year resolutions have remained remarkably unchanged: fall in love, lose 10kg, write fiction. Come December, and I am usually steadfastly single, nurturing three extra kilograms—thanks to the end-of-year glut of sweets and cakes—and deleting the first three chapters of some godawful novel off my computer. In my 20s (thank God for the sense of assurance that comes with turning 30), all this bothered me a lot. I usually spent the last month of the year being irritatingly grumpy, complaining bitterly to my long-suffering mother that “nothing interesting ever happens to me”.
It was Christmas Eve, I remember, and we had friends over for dinner. I was in my usual grinchy mood, nurturing it with a doggedness that makes me want to whack my younger self—I no longer have patience with performative angst. As I sulked on the sofa, consuming too many murukkus and pretending I was too cool to converse with everyone else, my cat, Lady Mo, short for Lady Mohawk (a white cat with a mohawk-shaped black patch on her head), walked in, looking remarkably pleased with herself.
Then she proceeded to drop, with great aplomb, a live snake in the middle of the hall and looked at us for approval. “Look what I have gotten you for Christmas,” she seemed to be saying. There was silence for a very long minute, I remember, as we watched the dying snake (she had broken its neck) writhe on the mosaic floor. Then pandemonium broke out.
“You get rid of it,” said my sister—I think. “You are the zoology student.”
To cut a long story short, I have had a somewhat convoluted career, starting with a bachelor’s in zoology—I am still not sure how I survived it. I had become remarkably unfastidious by the end of that degree, though—three years of disembowelling cockroaches, emasculating frogs and layering live earthworms and garbage in a vermicompost pit with bare hands does that to you. Even today, I can always be counted on to handle any insect, frog, lizard or rat emergency at home.
But a snake is quite another matter. While I know that most aren’t venomous, and this one did look like a common rat snake, one close to its deathbed or perhaps already gone, I wasn’t sure. And I did not want to spend Christmas Eve trawling hospitals for anti-venom. I was also worried that Lady Mo, who was playfully swiping at that poor snake, would get bitten. Finally, we used a stick to lift the snake, which had thankfully gone to a better place by then, and place it in the fields behind my apartments where it must have come from, watched by a highly indignant cat which seemed offended that her offering was being rejected (live prey is a sign of great love, apparently).
Almost a decade has gone by since. Lady Mo has gotten rheumy-eyed, corpulent and slow and can no longer hunt; she simply nips my leg when she wants a snack (which is very often). I am still relentlessly single, have 10kg to lose and have three chapters of yet another novel on my computer that doesn’t seem to be working the way I want it to. But I have stopped complaining about nothing interesting ever happening to me. I never have since that fateful Christmas Eve.