The Rat Race

Written By

Chitra Doraiswami

The Rat Race Loading

Some great man once said three things always get your attention – sex, food and disasters.

Now, you must be wondering how rat race connects with any one of the three. It doesn’t. But I did get your attention, didn’t I?

That is the crux of the matter, to get you to listen to my mouse-y tales.

Sorry about what Agatha Christie would have called ‘misdirection,’ but now that you have come so far, why don’t you read on further? Maybe I can raise a chuckle (or two) out of you.

I have always had ‘wild life’ problems where we were posted. After all, Air Force bases are carved out of jungles as close to enemy territory as possible. Snakes, scorpions, cockroaches as big as my fist were all likely to come and check out this human habitation. But my biggest problems have been with mice, rats or bandicoots.

Once, a mouse got into our house and nibbled everything in sight. My hubby ignored my pleas till mousie nibbled his favourite chappals. ‘The mouse must go!’ he roared.

Since I am no use to anyone in these mouse hunts, all the males in the servant quarters were roped in to help Sahib banish this bandicoot (sorry, mouse. Couldn’t resist the alliteration). Well, my husband, my teenager, Tony and Mani from the quarters, all picked up weapons of choice and chased the guy around.

This guy would run out of one room into another, out of the window and return through the front or back door.

I? Oh, I stood on the dining table and squealed, ‘There he is!’

Tony straightened up near the window after peeping under all large bits of furniture and stated, ‘He has gone’. Then I saw a long, grey tail slowly moving along behind Tony. The mouse was crawling along the curtain rod under the pelmet. Tony whipped around and saw what I was pointing at and caught him by his tail and took him off.

This was the only time I approved of Tony. All the girls in all that row of quarters were sweet on Tony with his big head of oily curls, tight pants (a la Mithun Chakraborthy) and dark glasses. The girls created a ruckus at times fighting over this goon. There is no accounting for taste!

The theatre for the next big drama was a duplex apartment in Vasant Kunj (or ‘Santkunj if you are a Delhi-ite). Now, my teenager was a young man of twenty-two and my newly retired husband (but not too tired to chase this guy about) were the only protagonists along with the rat, of course. I stood on the landing of the staircase and directed operations.

They chased him about but the clever fella realized that the only hope was to run up the stairs towards that one human who couldn’t do much. I turned and went shrieking up the stairs with this guy in hot pursuit. My son found it so amusing, he doubled up, laughing. But his Dad came to my rescue and swatted him one with his trusty broom. This is only hearsay ‘cause I had ducked into my bedroom and was cowering under the ‘razai’ or ‘duvet’.

Now the next story unfolds in Bengal. Read on, it has passion, heroism and unrequited love, all in ample measure. The hero was my neighbour’s Dachshund. Ms. Ghumman was all praise for her dog’s ‘ratting’ skills. So, he was deployed to ferret out the mice (pardon my mixed metaphor) from my oven –cum- hob.

So, when doggie went sniffing around, a mouse/rat came out to investigate. Then, he saw the dog and lost his head. He ran out, instead of back, into the cooking range. Tactical error!

The mouse/rat (I’m not sure what) ran out with the dog close behind. My friend and I followed shouting encouragement to Bonzo. She stopped abruptly and I cannoned into her. ‘Look!’ she yelled and took to her heels in the opposite direction with the dog trotting after her. He was carrying the corpse to give her as a gift. ‘Shoo, shoo, I don’t want it,’ she cried. The dog, quite puzzled , still padded after her. Last seen, she was rushing up the path to her house calling out to her twelve-year-old son to come to her rescue.

I personally like the last one the best. This was in Namma Bengaluru, in my in- law’s house. My brother in law (hitherto referred to as B-i-l 2) was possibly, the laziest guy in town. Not that I have done a survey, but I’m pretty sure we would make top five if we did do one!

Well, my M-i-l (mother in law) would sort out the clothes, etc from all the debris on his bed. She would take away all the dirty clothes for wash and sort of, make the bed. That is, she would straighten the pillows, smoothen the sheet and fold the bed cover, blanket, or whatever.

The house help, our dear maid, would bring his washed and pressed clothes and bung them on his bed. B-i-l 2 would come home, late at night, change, toss the clothes on the bed and curl around the pressed and unwashed clothes like a pretzel, and sleep. Next morning, he would wake up, refreshed after his eight hours, chuck off his blanket, yank on some clothes, bathe (we earnestly hoped) and leave for work.

Nothing was ever put away into the open cupboard behind his bed. Into this unholy mix, came a mouse. He liked the living conditions and made it his abode. So, my b-i-l 2 shared the bed and cupboard with his books, clothes and a lodger-mouse.

We came for a visit and wouldn’t you know? I discovered the mouse when I tried to sort out my b-i-l’s cupboard. I went squealing to my M-i-l for succor. That intrepid woman tried but couldn’t get at it. So, she warned me against sorting out his cupboard and there the mouse lived on.

Now, my b-i-l 1 also came to visit his parents. He was looking for his suitcase. He spotted it on the lowest shelf of this infamous cupboard. ‘There it is!’ he exclaimed and reached for it before Mom and I could warn him about the mouse. And there it was, the mouse, I mean, cowering under the suitcase! My brother in law was soo startled that he promptly dropped the suitcase on its head, thereby murdering the poor guy…

Next time, I will only discuss lurid sex since we have finished with disasters. Fret not.!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chitra Doraiswami, 69, is from Bangalore. She has written for many publications such as the Deccan Herald, The Times, Femina, Eve’s Weekly, etc. Chitra has many an interesting tale to tell including the one about finishing her Masters along with her son; sadly “only” getting a First Class, where her son got a rank. She joined CMR, NPS as Headmistress two decades ago and is now known as the Associate Principal of the institution. She also has a sixteen year old grandson. Chitra is an avid dancer, reader and drama-enthusiast. She's traveled extensively with her husband who was in the IAF. She taught wherever they were posted. Chitra enjoys teaching people innovative ways of helping children learn, but she is definitely not the prototypical fluffy grandma!

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