Obituary for James Dean and Open Letter to Jet Airways and the Delhi we Love

Subject: Obituary for James Dean and Open Letter to Jet Airways and the Delhi we Love
From: Tara Chowdhry
Date: 26 Mar 2013

Dear Jet Airways,

We are waiting for your condolence call. We know that if you had
personally known the deeply loved pet cat who passed away while she
was under your care that you would have called already.

Obituary for James Dean:

James Dean was a beautiful grey striped Indian cat with beautiful eyes
who belonged to a Japanese born Desi girl, Preeti Varma. The adorable
tomboy was mistaken as a male kitten…hence the name…but the name
stuck. James was a little daredevil trouble maker like her namesake.
Preeti’s flatmate, Gigi Bedi, nicknamed her JarJar after the goofy
Starwars movie alien character, and she certainly had a goofy side
too. Before we took her for the cremation we were giggling about each
precious memory we had of the little fur ball that stole our hearts.

She was a cat with many colours to her personality. To me her mew
sounded like a pigeon cooing. To Preeti it sounded like a dog barking.
To Gigi it sounded like a spoiled girlfriend whining to her boyfriend
about not giving her enough attention or spoiling her with enough
treats. Sometimes her mew sounded like she was innocently asking,

When she visited our house for a month I’d often find her lounging in
our bathroom sink and she trained my husband to put on the tap for her
to lap up fresh water whenever she wanted. She was happy with the
simple pleasures of life…a bite to eat…a comfy spot for a
nap…and when she wanted a cuddle she’d land in your lap…demanding
attention like the little diva she could be….she was such a
beautiful creature…playful and yet mysterious…friends who met her
wanted to adopt her…but I think really she had a way of adopting
us…and making us her humans. We will always belong to her in our

Dear Jet Airways,

Something went wrong. The fine print says that you are not liable in
case of injury or death. But please guide me to understand what this
means to you, in terms of what you stand for. Where is your heart on
this matter? Does it mean that after you have done every thing within
your power to take responsibility for the safety of animals in your
care…that then…if something truly unavoidable happens…then you
do not wish to be held accountable. I can understand the legal
perspective. But where is the perspective on how you feel about the
loss of life? Please guide me…I want to understand your heart on
this matter.

If you are already absolved of liability regarding death then why did
no single employee of your team express a single “I’m sorry” to
Preeti. I thought that surely this had to be due to the fear that
such a statement could be held against you in a court of law, but it
seems that you have already protected yourself legally. So again I
ask…please guide me to read your heart on this matter.

Why do you offer to transport animals if you do not have anyone
working for you who is qualified to handle them? Why is there no
veterinarian in case of emergencies? Please guide me…I want to know
that money is not the bottom line here…

Why do you not advise passengers to bring a leash and collar for the
pet if you are going to ask them to remove their pet from the cage
while you Xray the cage separately? Why do you not have a waiting room
or a separate cage available during this procedure? When James became
frightened and ran under the Xray machine why would you find it
acceptable for your employee to refuse to listen to our experienced
advise regarding handling the animal? Why would he feel certain in his
inexperience that poking the frightened animal with a stick would be
an acceptable thing to do? It can only be that no one has any
knowledge about animals in your place of work…but then guide me
please…why on Earth would we have been led to believe that we could
trust you in this situation with James?

We were sad about the loss of James today. But what really crushed us
was the way you treated Preeti after her cat was allowed to perish
under your care.

Hiding a mistake does not make it go away. You are at fault here. We
do not condemn you. We were waiting for you to bring Preeti a cup of
tea, to hold her hand and express your sincere condolences at what
must have been something beyond your power…but then why did you not
do this?

Why did one of your employees laugh cruelly and crack a joke about
what happened? Why did you make Preeti wait for hours while you
withheld her passport to sort out paperwork? Couldn’t you have let her
mourn first? Why did you prevent her from holding her beloved pet in
her arms for so many hours?

Why were you so guarded about showing Preeti the CCTV footage? Why did
you make her wait such a very long time to see it? Why have you
withheld the footage of James being transported into the Siemens lorry
that carried her out onto the tarmac? This is not, we have discovered,
a legal thing for you to have done…please guide me…if you are not
liable for the death of James then why did you not rush forward to
show us what happened?

You said only, “The cage was open. Your cat is no more.” As we have
the cage with us and it is perfectly intact we have yet to understand
how it was that the cage, which was bound shut with a wire, could have
been opened by a cat. She did not have supernatural powers.

When James jumped out onto the tarmac and her life was crushed beneath
the Air India vehicle why then did you not go to her? Did you not see
that the cat was still alive and needed the caress of a human hand to
sooth her as she passed from this life? Why did you not bring Preeti
to her that very instant? Why did you allow a crowd to gather, watch,
and do nothing? Please guide me to understand your heart in this

Were you afraid to pick up the body of this beautiful cat? Why did you
ask a garbage disposal man to lift up her body for you? As I
said…you did not know James…if you had known James it would have
been you, dear reader, who would have bundled her in your arms, your
heart breaking as you did so.

You have confused us so, Jet Airways…because what we have been
waiting for…is a sign that you have a heart that represents a Delhi
we can be proud to be a part of. And yet…Delhi did not fail us.
While Preeti was grieving alone, in tears, unable to comprehend the
coldness of your treatment…a mother and child approached her…two
of your passengers. The mother bought Preeti a bottle of water. The
little girl gave her a hug.

Thank you Delhi.

Later on, we exchanged stories about James and travelled to “Paws to
Heaven”, a remarkably lovely interfaith crematorium for animals. Gigi
carried James past wild flowers into a beautiful room filled with
posters and pictures of many beloved pets who had passed from this
world. Some day I hope to go back and read all the stories. They were
a moving testimony for life and how small creatures can change our
hearts in enormous ways.

The gentle folk who manage the crematorium greeted us with shy sad
smiles, and handed us incense as they asked us to pray for the
departed. We prayed for you James and I know that we felt something
tremendous in that room. It was your love. A powerful thing that we
were so blessed to have experienced. We had uninterrupted time to
mourn and to pass your body into their care. They received your body
with reverence. Who thought of building such a place? An airport of
peace for tiny souls…Its existence moved us.

Thank you Delhi.

with Love,

Tara Chowdhry