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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Death of a Mouse

It was evening and I was seated in the dining room, when I saw a pair of black, beady eyes, set in a small brown face with rather large ears, peering at me from under the refridgerator. It was time to look for the mouse-trap, I realised, and sought help from my father, since he had put the contraption somewhere when we moved house a few days ago. As a rule, we never use poison or any other lethal methods to get rid of the mice that come as uninvited guests from time to time.

So, I set the trap with a tiny piece of chapatti dipped in ghee (butter-oil) as bait, in the dark alley behind the fridge. I heard the door shut with a loud click late at night, a while after I had gone to bed.

The following morning I got up at the usual hour, which was not very early, performed the daily ablutions and saw my father off to office, before I was ready to go and release the poor creature on to a piece of open land, where I generally set the mice free.

As I closed the gate behind me, the thought of releasing the animal into the nursery across the road did cross my mind, but it was almost instantly negated by one of the keepers accusing me of letting in a pest that might nibble at the roots of the saplings. So, off we went to the clearing, after I had spoken to the rodent for a bit and it had responded by putting on a display of acrobatics for my benefit.

When I found a shady spot under a tree that seemed perfect for the purpose and opened the door, the mouse would not move. I raised the trap on one side to nudge it a little and it rolled on to the ground, belly-side up. I could see its stomach rise and fall as it breathed rapidly and its eyes were open, but it seemed frozen. I used a twig to flip it over, so that it was the right side up. "Perhaps it has passed out due to the oppressively hot weather and will revive in a while.", I thought. Just then, a crow that must have been watching from a branch somewhere above, glided down. I drove the bird away, but almost as soon as I turned my back, it returned to pick the mouse up in its beak and to fly away. I was filled with remorse; I, who hardly ever think twice before digging into a plate of chicken-masala.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Dog and A Gourmet

On summer days that he can manage to sneak past my mother into the house, my friend Zakhmi (he, who is an expert at non-verbal communication) likes to laze about or catch up on his sleep on the floor in my room, while I read or work on the computer or watch television. He generally tends to leave only in the evenings, when the heat subsides and the weather outside is pleasant enough for his evening stroll in the street, unless he chooses to move to another (and cooler) part of the house for his siesta before that and gets evicted by the lady of the house and the thick stick that she wields.

On one such afternoon, recently, I thought I might be able to interest him in some lunch and waved a chapatti in front of his nose a few times. He did not move. My mother even tried to thrust a piece into the side of his mouth, so that he could taste it, but he was having none of that and only clenched his jaws shut tighter.

Then, I noticed diced paneer garnished with tomato ketchup, on my brother's plate. I asked him to wipe a cube of the cheese clean and to give it to me.

As soon as I brought it near the old rogue's nose, his senses appeared to have been electrified and he gobbled it up almost at once. He sat up immediately thereafter and fixed his gaze at my brother's plate. Bite-sized pieces of the same chapatti that he had rejected earlier were made quick work of subsequently, when crushed paneer cubes were applied to each of those.