The sight of a hamster recently, reminded me of the squirrel(chipmunk really) I had as a pet for a while, when I was maybe 13. This was in Calcutta.
One evening, I remember going for a walk--with whom I can't remember. We lived off Camac Street then and when we turned into one of the darker streets, we saw this man selling baby squirrels. He had 3 with him. The price for one was 50 paise. Since that fit in well with my budget, I bought one. The squirrel was absolutely tiny. The man who sold it to me said that it would have to be fed milk as it was too tiny to eat.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia-animal photos.)
I remember I took it home and then made a nest in a shoe box, lining it with cotton wool and maybe bits of cloth. I laid the little thing carefully inside and tried to feed it with an ink dropper with milk. But it was too small and weak even for that. Then I dipped some cotton wool in milk and made a little teat with one end and put it into the little squirrel's mouth. It happily sucked that. Now when I think about it, it must have been my persistence and sheer love of the animal that this little thing survived.
I can't remember what I named the animal (can't remember if it was male or female even). But very soon it learnt it's name and would come when I called. By this time Chippy (for convenience I'll call it Chippy and assume it's female) was too big for the shoe box and was allowed the run of the house. When I went to school in the morning, Chippy would run up the curtains in my room and stay there. I would leave a bit of food in her shoe box. When I returned from school and called out her name, Chippy would come down chattering away, and then she would be with me till my bedtime, either on my lap, or in the pocket of my skirt, or on my head. I had long, thick hair then, which hung in 2 braids and the squirrel's absolutely favourite place was to climb up and sit on my head just under a braid. Chippy came with me to the dining table, in spite of my mother's grumbles. But then she too got used to it, because Chippy really was so well behaved.
Once I took Chippy to school without telling my mother. On looking back, I can't imagine how I had the guts to do that--smuggling a squirrel out of the house and into school--because I was basically very law-abiding; not at all one of those wild rebellious kinds. Anyway Chippy came with me and I hid her in my desk during each lesson period. We had those old-fashioned wooden desks with lift-up lids. I kept the lid a teeny-weeny bit open with my eraser, so that Chippy would have air. In between the lessons I let her out. For one lesson, I couldn't push her back into my desk; instead she sat quietly on my head, under my braid with only her tail hanging down. But since said tail was well hidden by my hair, we didn't get caught! It was a relief to get back home without any incident. I was heroine of the class for the day :)
I guess the fact that it was an all girls school made for the peaceful day. I bet if there had been boys in the class, some tamasha would have taken place and Chippy and I would have been caught.
One day when I returned from school, there was no Chippy. I called and called but she was nowhere to be found. The only explanation I have is that the window was open that day and either one of the cats came in and caught her, or she decided to go back to nature. But I fear it must have been the former, because otherwise I am sure Chippy would have come back to the window at least once to see me.