Sunday, August 10, 2008

My encounters with mice- part I

Dogs, cats, horses etc are animals that mankind have domesticated over the last few thousands years, but mice appear to have moved in with them uninvited, like refugees. And these mice have continued to torment mankind ever since.

Conventional wisdom has it that women are afraid of mice, but men are not. I think this wisdom is not entirely true. I am a male and I was afraid of mice as a young kid. Of course, admitting to it was a different matter altogether.

Women can actually admit to it and demonstrate it when opportunity presented itself, that they were afraid of mice, and everybody would accept it as a matter of course.But a man cannot admit to it without running the risk of being ridiculed.

Well, as I said, I was afraid of mice, but I managed to hide it ( I feel) by putting up a brave face when face to face with a mouse. In case there were other men in the house, they would take care of the mouse.

But there were cases when I was on my own, and I needed to act. I would try to ignore the mouse, hoping that it would go away and leave the house on its own. But it rarely happened. I would try to scare it off, but all that would only cause the mouse to hide behind some articles, only to come out in the open as if to mock me.

When I could no longer ignore it, I would be forced to contemplate strong action ( similar to the strong action that Govt of India threatens to take every time there is some terrorist attack in India).

I would arm myself for the war. I would wear shoes, and full trousers, and also full shirt. The head would be left unguarded, because there was good probability that the mouse would not be able to target that high. Another reason could be that helmets were not yet in use either in cricket or while riding a two wheeler. Incidentally, two wheelers those days meant bicycles, not scooters or motor bikes.

I would also wear gloves ( one could not take any chances) and carry a stick which needed to be atleast 4 feet long.

Suitably armed like this, I would cautiously approach towards the battle field which was the space behind some furniture in the house. I would move the stick in air menacingly, hoping to score a few browny points over the mouse. I would detect no reaction from the opposition. I would hit the floor with my stick in the general direction where the mouse could be hiding. No reaction.

I would move the furniture around hoping to clear the room a bit for freer movement of the arm. Suddenly I would jump in the air in a reflex action, and the mouse would scurry around to the other corner of the room, missing me my millimeters. Despite my nervousness, I would manage to have a glimpse of the mouse vanishing behind books.

That would really make me uncomfortable. Mouse eating off my prized possessions viz magazines ( Chandamama, Lotpot, Nandan, Indrajal comics, Manoj Bal pocket books etc) was something too painful to even imagine. I needed to do something and fast to protect the books.

I would move towards the books gingerly, and hit the stick against the wall, trying to make the mouse run away from the books. I would even leave one corner free offering the mouse free passage to escape. Like Indian government dealing with terrorists, I fully respected the rights of the mouse.

It appeared to me that the mouse was not interested in my generous offer. More than the mouse, it would put me a tight corner, as then I would become obliged to carry out my threat. I would go to the book shelf, and remove some books, and then jump up in the air, startled. There was the mouse, hiding behind that very book.By the time my airborne frame would land back on the ground, the mouse would have run away.

Sigh of relief, the mouse has run away from the house, I would rationalise and start relaxing. My feelings would be mixed. Certainly it was a stalemate. It would have been better had I managed to kill the mouse instead of just scaring it away. But just like the Indian bowlers did not know where from their next wicket was going to come from, I too had no idea how I was going to notch my first kill against a mouse.

Just as I would almost forget all about the mouse, it would reappear again. By that time I was in no doubt that the mouse had sized me up and was regarding me as a pushover. Big mistake, Mr Mouse,one should not underestimate one's opponent. Like the Indian cricketers, the mouse would tend to become complacent. I would aim at the mouse with my stick, and miss it entirely. The mouse would run away, and again hide, this time behind a huge box.

I would go to the box, and push the box against the wall with all my strength, and I would continue to keep pushing for many minutes. No movement from behind the box. I would pull the box away from the wall, and search for the mouse. There is nothing on the floor. There is nothing on the wall either. Where has the mouse gone? Suddenly, I would jump up in air, startled, as I would notice the mouse hiding on the side of the box. The mouse would run away again, and this time behind the books.

This time I would not pause, I would go to the bookshelf and push the thick book under which the mouse had vanished. I would keep pressing it against the wall for some time. Carefully, I would release the pressure, and then remove the book. This time, just as I was on the verge of jumping up again, I would manage to control myself. There it was, the mouse had got squashed between the book and the wall. And it was not merely dead, it was most sincerely dead, as they say in the "Wizard of the oz".

My chest would swell a few inches, and I would feel like Vetaal ( Phantom)feels just after vanquished an army of baddies singlehandedly. This time my feeling would be unalloyed. I managed to kill a mouse. A 'mouse', can you believe it. No one ridicules Atul and gets away with it. The mouse learnt it the hard way, let it be a lesson for other mice of the world. Hopefully, this would send a strong message to the other mice that I was not to be trifled with.

I would feel happy with myself and with the world. I would tear a piece of paper from an old newspaper, and carefully wrap it around the tail of the mouse, ready to run away, in case the mouse miraculously came back to life. Luckily it would not. I would lift the mouse triumphantly by its tail, and pose with it for the benefit of non existent cameras. Then I would go out of the house, and give my body a rotation , like a discuss thrower, and in a discuss thrower's motion, throw the discuss.., I mean the mouse, away. It would only lands a few feet away, but that did not matter. What mattered was that I had finally triumphed against a mouse.

(to be continued....)

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