CHENNAI: Has your well-fed pet cat suddenly gone missing? For all you know, your feline friend might have ended up as the toast of a gypsy-wedding feast – off your rugs and onto their plates.
Cat meat is a delicacy for us, says Shyama of the Narikuravar (Gypsy) settlement in Kotturpuram. At their marriage feasts, ‘Cat Biriyani’ is the main course! “For special occasions, we go for cats from rich houses that wander out in the mornings. They are the best fed. The quantity and quality is very good.”
I was invited to a feast to celebrate the birth of a male child; this special feast had another furry delicacy – Cat Soup! “We cannot afford chicken,” says top-cook Laika. “It is softer than mutton. You’ll know when you taste it.”
As domestic help, beads-sellers and drifters, these gypsies trap cats in innocent looking sacks. Animal welfare activists worry about theft and cruelty to cats but for the gypsies cats are part of nature’s food cycle. “Farmers raise cattle and eat them. We breed cats and eat them,” justifies Laika, pointing to the cats following her, unaware of the impending culinary potluck.
Gypsies are astute businessmen, too, seeing an opportunity here as well. “Cats of Besant Nagar and Alwarpet are the biggest, and the best” recommends Kamalesh, a wizened old beads-salesman. “I can give you a 10-kilo cat, 100 per cent cleaned and cut for Rs 400.”
Fancy a change in fare? Meeow, if the answer’s a resounding ‘Yes’.