It was perhaps the beginning of December…..no, November….last year, when I realised that my territory was getting repeatedly invaded by an uninvited guest who had this quaint habit of arriving without any prior announcement or permission and having arrived so, showing signs of positive reluctance to leave even if forcibly shown the door. Now, don’t you consider that rude and extremely inhospitable of me because the guest that I am talking about is not a member of the human species. Had it been so, I wouldn’t even have bothered to write a post on my travails.
The first that I became conscious of its existence inside my domain was when dear Rinky (my indolent pet) started sniffing and snooping odd corners of the flat as though in search of a hidden trail. But as is her nature, in no time she got bored of the project and gave up on a quest which seemed not significant or worthy enough of her valued industry. Of course! Nothing on this earth is that important for her to persist on, except those that prompt an exercise of her salivary glands or induce the soporific state that she loves to be all the time.
Now coming to this gatecrasher….I’d rather call it the trespasser…made its existence felt when it landed on a discovery mission of my household. I would see a sudden swish of a thing dashing past me in the kitchen or the bedroom at the oddest hours when I would be least expecting a botheration. At first I thought it was one of those optical illusions I am quite prone to. Gradually, however, its manoeuvres escalated in frequency as well as decibel, so much so that I could no longer ignore its presence, howsoever effervescent, it happened to be.
My initial ignorance or oversight must have emboldened it because one fine evening when watching TV I suddenly found a muddy brown furry thing peeping at me from behind the set top box. On one another occasion I saw a pair of quizzical eyes staring at me from across the gas stove on the kitchen slab. On my raising the alarm it dived towards the window and hid behind the panes. On another occasion I saw it sliding out of a narrow opening between the window frame and the pane. So that was the secret route by which the pest would let itself in and out. Not only convenient but very ingenious indeed!
However, as the miscreant became bolder planned action to oust it became imperative. So, the next day I put up the trap in the kitchen near the cabinet where I had seen it snooping around and waited till nightfall absolutely certain that this time it could not evade captivity. Next morning, to my great astonishment, I found the trap empty while the piece of bread which was hung on the hook inside the trap as the bait gone. However, the trap door was open which implied that the devil had employed some extraordinary technique to eat away the bread without letting itself be trapped inside. Ingenuity again!!
But I was Robert Bruce’s disciple, wasn’t I? So, the next day I set the trap with a bigger piece of bread as the bait. The idea was to tempt it to nibble at the larger piece so that as soon as there would be the slightest of pull, the hook by which the bread was hung would snap, closing the door of the trap imprisoning the nibbler. Such a well thought out strategy. I could not help but rub my hands in glee and pat my back in self-appreciation.
However, I was again in for a shock, of a different kind, this time when next day I found the trap empty and the bread dangling by the hook a little dried up and morose, on being rejected and not found worthy of a nibble. I was, to put it very mildly, crestfallen. In the meanwhile, the rascal kept me aware of its hovering presence in the house by various auditory tactics – a slight shuffle here and a slight screech there!
The problem seemed insolvable as I kept calculating in vain the extent of damage it must have already made or would be making inside my wardrobe, linen cabinet, shoe-rack, bed box…..
My maid took pity on my plight and suggested that I put pieces of freshly baked roti inside the trap as she informed that its whiff was quite irresistible to ‘them’. I took her advice and placed the trap at a strategic angle next to the kitchen cabinet where I knew it was hiding after all the plunder. In the middle of the night, a loud crash startled me up. Hurrah! I did it! I could have almost danced a jig as I figured out that the trap had shut and inside it would be the truant at last. Yes! I was right!!
But my travails did not end in rhapsody. Instead of being frightened, the scoundrel, at first squeaked loud protests at being trapped and then settled down to hold a looooooooong conversation with me throughout the night!
But the next morning when I took the trap to release the occupier in the nearest park I was again in for a surprise. I opened the trap door and upturned it for the furry imp to bounce out onto the grass bed. But lo! It stuck to the other end clutching at the sides of the trap positively reluctant to move out. The trap is made of thin tin sheet cut in the pattern of lattices for air to pass through. I thought perhaps its claws had got caught in the lattice-work at the sides. I shook the trap hard so that it could be ejected out with a jerk. The park is infested with stray canines on the hunt for such feasts. Once earlier such a prisoner had shot out of the trap right into the salivating mouth of one of my stray friends. I did not want that to happen again.
The exercise of slapping it out of its stubborn stance took some time. It suddenly fell out in a momentum and stood confused on the ground not certain what had transpired and where to scoot off next. Soon good sense prevailed and it bolted inside a long tunnel dug by the side of the flower bed by one of its older mates.
I got back home relieved swinging the trap in my hand.
Alas! The relief was short-lived. An hour hadn’t passed when the mischief monger was back in full swing prancing around as though my flat were its own. Repeat exercises of imprisoning and compelling it to shake out of its comfort zone followed not once but so many more times that I lost count. Again a gem of an advice from my maid to release it somewhere farther down from where it would not be able to find its way back. Though, there was no way to be absolutely sure yet we worked on the assumption that the same ‘un returned every time we threw the intruder out unceremoniously. To my chagrin, I found its road sense was too perfect to be fudged by long distances and unknown locales.
Resigned to my inefficiency, I delegated my maid to handle its departure. “Tell the plunderer not to return ….” I would hiss as she prepared to leave with the trap in hand. But as days passed the stern order devolved to a croaky plea.
Soon it was I who gave up and almost accepted it as one of the householders. The offender flourished at my expense and became the most eligible one to breed a brood. So it was not a surprise when my mother pointed out that now instead of one there were three of them – mother and two of her offspring.
As a routine I laid the trap and prayed to God that this would be the last. In the early hours of dawn I put on the light and squinted hard. Was there something inside? Yes there was. A tiny tot sticking its head out of one of the latticed holes of the trap – its slender tail wagged in delight (of getting caught?) while a pair of twinkling eyes stared right into mine. I was afraid it might squeeze out of the narrow slits of the trap. It was so thin and small. But it seemed to stay put.
It was a working day with a very tight schedule. I checked inside the trap there was enough bread to sustain it for a day. So I let it stay one more night beside my bed safely ensconced inside the trap.
The next day being a weekend I took my own sweet time to release it out of the trap into the park. But as I did so I found that it had got its head badly stuck inside the latticed hole. I thumped the trap hard on the low park wall so that the jerks could help it to wriggle its head out. But it stayed like that – its tail swinging lightly and heart thudding rapidly. It was still alive. I could not let it die like that. So I tried to push its head out but it would not budge. Its body had shrivelled and felt wet to my touch. Fright! I could figure that out. I poked its head softly so that it would squirm to my touch which would let its head out of the steely knot….but it just kept staring into my eyes not knowing what to do and how to come out of the trap. I tried once more……. and then again …..and again…..and again….to somehow get the head out of that narrow hole. But it just lay still and then it went limp….It had breathed its last out of sheer fear while its eyes still burnt into mine.
Next few minutes were a blur. I called out to the stray ones perhaps to pull the lifeless body out of the trap. They declined. And then a passer-by who cursed under his breath saying that I was making him sin early in the morning. But he managed to scrape the cold carcass out of the trap finally.
And I stood there shamed and sinned and feeling so damnably low…
My only consolation at the end of the day was that I had tried to save its life and tried hard though it had given up on its own…just out of fright….out of sheer paralysing, freaking fright…
PS: I have decided not to press the panic button if I see one of its clan again inside the house. And I have promised to myself not to let the trapped ones stay overnight inside the cage however hard pressed I may be for time.