I saw three mongooses in our parking lot this morning. At first, seeing just a tail, I thought it might be a cat, but the shape was a bit too streamlined, and then all three mongooses came out in the open and slinked away in perfect file.

I like mongooses. I like the way they look, and I especially like the way they bare their teeth at possible threats. It is a casual, and therefore powerful, gesture, because unlike the full-body display of, say, a cat, this says, ‘I am so capable that I don’t need to go for showy postures.’ Of course, it might say something else to actual attackers. I wouldn’t know.

I used to have a mongoose as a pet when I was about four years old. It is, in fact, one of only two memories I still have of living in Belgaum. My friend, his sister and I used to spend hours with our little pet, and take it food and stuff. Until our parents found out. The scolding I got from my mother was much lighter than it could have been, because, as she reiterated today when I mentioned the three surprise visitors to her, mongooses are supposed to be good luck. I don’t know exactly why.

I had another pet when I was twelve, this one also with a friend. We had been walking to the store to get some candy, and we found a chick sparrow on the ground, slightly wounded. We took it home and tended to it. We didn’t return it because my friend said that other sparrows would have torn it to shreds, because it had been touched by humans. (Can anybody confirm if this is actually true?) We named it Nancy because (duh!) sparrows are female, and anyway, if it had turned out to be a male, we could have called it Nancy Boy (*wink wink*). My friend and I had joint custody of the sparrow, and he was present at all feeding-times, because he had experience with rearing birds. Then that summer, I went to Mumbai, leaving her in this chap’s care, and I came back to find that his cousin had accidentally squeezed her, and she had died after a couple of days. The resulting mild depression put me off pets for at least about six months.

These are the only two pets I have had, because my family (especially my mother) is generally against having animals in the house, although my parents do allow one particular pair of birds to nest in our garden every few months.

My favourite possible pets run in various directions. I have wanted to have dogs, cats, snakes, monkeys and squirrels at different points of time. I still wouldn’t mind most of those, except that while I still like snakes, I have gone off snakes as pets, because they don’t develop attachment for their caretakers. I watched King Kong this afternoon, so I am not very keen on gorillas either.

All the others are basically solid.