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  • Writer's pictureLaura Peters

Uniting a Village: A Kitten called Peepo

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

Driving into Indus River Camp, a forty acre natural reserve nestled in the Indus River Valley of the snow capped Trans-Himalayan range near Leh, Ladakh, India, my daughter, Rebecca, and I expected a relaxing few days of yoga, hiking, monastery visiting, and great cuisine. We experienced all that as well as sharing a poignant moment with some local residents.

Indus River Camp is a place of tranquility in a spectacular setting of great physical beauty. The common room was so welcoming and relaxing that Rebecca and I felt comfortable napping there. The space also had good internet, which was a big surprise! The dining room was arranged so that conversation among diners was possible, but not required. The food was impeccable. You may read about not being able to eat the food or drink the water in India, but hosts, Mary and Niko, provided fresh world class meals made from vegetables grown on the property, as well as water potable from the taps.

I have vivid memories of the morning yoga session in the fresh air on a platform by the Indus River; the millions of stars we could see because of so few electric light in the valley; and a sunset walk along the river. I loved that the only human habitations visible from the camp were the monasteries on the jagged mountainsides. Getting nuzzled by double-humped camels at the Bactrian Camel Sanctuary had us laughing with joy. These camels are “descendants of the animals that carried goods along the silk road.”

Often when traveling it is easy to stay in the tourist bubble - the presumed safety of a hotel or resort, a boat, or tour group. Our version of travel doesn’t work that way. We like to get out and walk the neighborhoods where we stay and talk to people. The friendly local people were curious about me and Rebecca - a married woman and her daughter who were traveling together.

On one of our walks to town we heard a soft, plaintive, almost human cry for help. At first, we couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. We walked back and forth along a tree lined path several times before seeing, in a filthy ditch, a small, ragged looking gray kitten. We could see that he was severely injured. Rebecca, animal lover that she is, immediately got down in the ditch and began cooing comforting words to him. We fashioned a cup so we could offer water to the little kitty. He lapped it up, though seemed almost too tired to drink.

In the midst of this, local people came along the path, curious about what we were doing. We called Niko at the camp and asked him if he could help us get the kitty to a local veterinarian.

As we waited for Niko to arrive, a man said that it was his kitty and his name was Peepo. He wasn’t interested in taking Peepo to the vet, but he did give us a cat carrier. The neighbors kept us company and we all managed to agree that we were concerned for the kitty. Empathy is a shared value in every culture. Niko arrived in his car and took off with Peepo. Rebecca and I returned to camp to wait for news.

A few hours later Niko came back from the vet with Peepo wrapped in towels, looking cleaner and better than when we first met him. He was still a very sick kitty. He was on antibiotics for the gash in his back leg that was infected. He had been exposed to the elements in that ditch for days. When I pet Peepo’s tiny head and told him how much we loved him, he purred. That he could find happiness in such a depleted state was so touching.

Before dawn the next morning, Rebecca and I had to leave for the airport. We weren’t able to say goodbye to Peepo or our fabulous hosts. Niko messaged later that evening to let us know that Peepo had died. His little body could not fight the infection. Rebecca and I wept at the loss of his life. We’ll always be glad that we took the actions that we did so that he died in comfort, with people who cared for him, rather than alone in a ditch.

Rebecca and I wanted to bring our whole family to Indus River Camp the summer of 2020, but then Covid happened. I may not get another opportunity to travel so far from home again, but even if I don’t, I’ll always remember how one little kitty brought a village in India and two American women together.


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