An open letter


Dear Mouse-in-the-House,

I am mad. Like, really mad. Stark, raving are the adjectives that come to mind. And hence the letter. You must be musing, sitting there on our table, hiding behind the kalash, what I am talking about. But that is what we were taught, you see. Write letters if you have problems – to the Editor of the local newspaper, to the municipal commissioners for delays in taking off garbage, for telephones lines that do not work etc. And I have been a model student, as many other readers reading this can attest. In fact, we have been a model country – we had tried to write letters to our colonial oppressors asking them to leave the country! What is a mouse in comparison! Well, apparently you have been on my mind a lot – I have thought more about you than a teenage girl thinks about her favourite crush.

I saw you today morning at this place, where you seem to have made yourself at home, nibbling the few grains of rice akshata near the kalash. But there was some fear of God in you then, for you managed to tuck your tail, and do an about turn and go back to your hiding place beneath the table. But you have grown bolder since the morning. It is perhaps because you realised, that I realised that it is time for Bappa to make His yearly earthly sojourn, and we won’t be touching you with a ten feet pole, until Anant Chaturdashi anyway. (We have always managed to have a mouse in the house during the ten days of Ganpati. And the educated superstitious that we are, we take this a lucky omen).

Anyway, back to the present. I come back from my weekly badminton game and there you are. Now, I am a person who would not say boo to a goose. I mean it’s looks stupid anyway. But I do try saying boo to you, feeling really silly. No movement from you.  Touching you with a badminton racquet has not resulted in anything, and you continue to sit there, taking in the sights. I flash out my phone and start taking pictures, and shoot a video, thinking you might go away, and I can have some evidence captured to show to the Scientist..but you sit still there, as if modelling for the Kingfisher calendar. No amount of banging gives you the message. Let me add, the Scientist is much wiser – if I do start the banging pots and pans in the kitchen – he knows that the lady of the house is mad about something, and he should not dare to get in her way, but try to offer to help. I do not know what is done in mousedom, or how Mrs. Mouse makes her displeasure felt.

Well, let me tell you – you and your brethren are not welcome. We did not invite you. And if you think, that the food in the house constitutes invitation. It doesn’t. Neither does the wheatgrass planted in the balcony, or the tender shoots of coriander, which I had managed to coax out of the inert seeds. Do you have any idea just how much work you have wasted? And how hard it is to grow coriander?? I had so looked forward to freshly plucking the sprigs of my coriander for garnish as needed, and you have well and truly, made a big gaping hole in my plan(t)s and pot as well.

Your ilk might have thought that the few open packets of chips, which our flatmate would so stupidly leave around the house is a call for party is on, but hey! I have news for you. He has since moved out, and I am in charge here. I could give you his address, if you ask nicely though – I am sure you will find enough scraps and bits for your gang of friends. (And that would be my revenge for the state of the house left. Why revenge you might ask – well those open packets of chips that you merrily had devoured? One of our friends came over, and managed to eat out of it, before we could say a word!! That should tell you enough!)

There is a limit to everything. I have come home from work, and found my tupperware canisters nibbled away. I have found you sitting contentedly in plastic bags containing veggie and fruit rubbish. To say nothing of the umpteen bananas, apples, potatoes and sweet potatoes that you made away with. And after we got wiser and started locking up the said bananas, apples and sweet potatoes in the dysfunctional microwave oven, you turned your sights on the Scientist’s socks?? Well, really??! If that is your taste, well, I really don’t have anything much to say. You have given me enough scares on the nights I have sat up battling sleeplessness with a book – darting from one room to another. A girl cannot even peacefully enjoy her insomnia brought on by coffee in the evenings and a snoring husband!

I clearly remember the first time a mouse got stuck on one of the sticky cardboard trap we laid out for you guys. He looked so piteous and helpless, stuck by his belly to the sticky cardboard that I almost cried. And I was so afraid of even venturing into the bathroom, for the trap for laid out right outside it – that I would have had to go right back to office or the gym to relieve myself. Thankfully my Knight in shining armour came back from work, put the trap with the mouse in a shoe box, and all was good. We later went out in the dead of the night, to dispose it off. It was raining and we left the board near a clump of bushes. And for at least a few times the next day, the Scientist and I went past to check if the mouse had escaped. This mouse was the sole focus of our discussion for quite a few days afterwards.

We decided then, we cannot have your deaths and suffering on our hands – it’s too heavy a price. So since then, after we have laid out the traps, and if any of your friends or family is unfortunate enough to get trapped, we have gone out on the secret nightly missions with a big bottle of oil, far away from the house, and poured enough oil on the poor thing to free itself. We have withstood the suspicious looks given to us by folks here, because we seemed so furtive and up to no good. The Scientist leading up the procession with shoe box in hand, and me bringing up the rear with bottle of oil. My face and body language are a dead giveaway, though I try to be nonchalant about strolling about at midnight with bottle of oil in hand.

Do you know that now we have kept a separate bottle of oil for this purpose? We had to have a separate budget for cheap mouse-oil in our monthly expenditure. Given that the Scientist is a student, do you have any idea how it affects the household economy? Do you know that we now collect shoe boxes instead of throwing them away, so that we can put you little pests, stuck on the cardboard in those boxes till the coast is clear and we can sneak out to free you? Sometimes, you guys have managed to chew out of the shoe boxes and escape, and we have had to buy new shoes, just so we could have new shoe boxes? Did you know the other day the Scientist decided to fry some bhajias, and was about to reach out for your designated oil bottle, and my shrieking in time that it is mouse-oil, narrowly saved us? Did you also know every time a new mouse is trapped, I cannot venture out to the kitchen bypassing the corridor with the trap, and we have to make do with Ajji’s takeout?

No, you have no inkling what hardships humankind living with you have to undergo. Not to mention having to clean stuff once before using and once after, because we have no idea if you have run amok in the pots and pans. No amount of pepper and onions keep you away – we have left trails of pepper powders on your supposed routes, and ended up sneezing ourselves to glory. The kitchen looks a perpetual mess with onion peels scattered here and there, as if I forgot to clean away.

And yet there is no change. For now, thankfully, your highness has managed to rouse himself from near the kalash to the edge of table. (Just what are you trying anyway? Aiming for Olympics?) I had a feeling that you looked so frozen there, that you perhaps suffered a heart attack out of fright. But not you. If anything, it will be us folks who would have to be brave hearted and brave this invasion out. I so wish I could get hold of that air-gun so often mentioned in Wodehouse’s books, which young boys go shooting at the lords of the manor, or policemen and the like. I can now see how handy it is.

Well, you have been warned. Do not think all Indians are moderates, and will go down the Gandhian way. There are (and were) some extremists as well. And if required, we will go down the path of Tilak and Savarkar. This.Is.War.

Hope to see no more of you.

I remain,

The Lady of the House


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