Thursday, October 26, 2006

Foot fetish of a freakin' mouse

Fetish (n): Anything to which foolishly excessive attention is given.

'Now in what context does this combine with a mouse; worse, who cares about his sexual preferences?', you may think. Pervert, not everything that is used in connection to sexuality started out that way. Coming back to the topic, there was this stupid rodent running around our apartment and our neighbour's about three weeks back. It's fine if food was on his mind, we'd allow him to visit once or twice provided he'd never come back. But his weird tendencies made us take drastic steps towards eradicating him from the face of the earth.

It would be better if you have a little background information on this issue. You see, mice/rats and my family don't have the most amicable of relationships. We kill them, they hate us [till they die, that is]. Dad and Mom have been brought up in settings that train you to hit the mouse on the head in a reaction time of point seven three of a second. It's tough not to hate such a caring and hospitable family. After the first nocturnal visit itself, the mouse finds a delicious piece of Mortein Rat Kill at every window. I'm told it contains ground cereal, some healthy stuff and the not-so-good-for-health rat poison. Atleast we've become more compassionate of late. A couple of years saw the mouse trap being used for any and every occassion. Well, that's a separate story by itself.

The Rat Trap Hall of Fame includes personalities that are inducted if they can avoid personal injury [and ofcourse, death] but still get away with the booty. The list is pretty short - about three names. The all-time great was a big problem. Let's call him Melchior [ I just like the name; not getting out personal frustration on any of my friends]. It was the summer of '99 and our building was being painted on the outside. The bamboo scaffolding provided the rats with an excellent venue for their Extreme Sports Olympics. Melchior by far seemed the bravest, strongest but also the smartest - unlike Moose from Archies comics. On his first visit, he came into the kitchen and gnawed at every damn thing that was solid and edible. The trap was set up the following night with a tempting piece of chicken et al. The old man of the house has a habit of making sure it's the last and best meal of the rat. This Melchior fellow comes along, pushes the trap till it goes off, eats the chicken and leaves after gnawing at a few more things. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, the trap is set again; this time with a piece of fried fish topped with ghee. Same rat, same trick. This got more irritating than frustrating.

Innovative solutions come forth when confronted with innovative problems, I guess. Dad does a little analysis, scratches the head [you'll be surprised, it helps] and comes up with a winner. He sets the trap on the grills, next to the flower pots. That forces Mechyboy to sit on a support [trap] and eat/gnaw the bait. It works. Apparently, Melchior's family members are stupid; we get rid of half of their Olympics' squad - eight rats in nine days.

Now the new guy [ Let's call this dude Xerxes (pronounced Zerksis). Awesome name] walks into our house in blissful ignorance of its past history. He announces his arrival by nibbling at my Mom's finger at the unearthly hour of four in the morning. Mother dear gets up thinking its a bad dream and so drops off to sleep again. That same morning I get up to a crazy barking session organised by the colony dogs - and a tickly sensation near my right toe. I move the bedsheet about, to make sure it wasn't a piece of fabric; but it's shadow surprisingly moves in the opposite direction. And then I, through the cobwebs of sleep, realise it's Xerxes.

Sitting cutely next to my foot, Xerxes flashes me a smile and dashes for the window. I emit two sharp yelps, jump on the sofa and ensure safety. [Hey that takes courage too.] Dad, who was sleeping beside me, puts the light on and sweeps the room with a swift eye. All he gets to see is the tip of Xerxes' tail.

Consider this: One - there's a rat in your house. Two - he has the audacity to nibble at your toes. Three - food doesn't seem to interest him [except bananas, I'll explain that later]. With all due respect to coincidence, the case is dismissed and Mortein Rat Kill is out at once. It is then we realise Xerxes has also taken off some skin from my sister's toes. Now that, the thick skin one finds on the toes, is what he seems to be after. Frivolous foot fetish.

So we all cover our bodies from head to toe as a preventive measure and sleep as if we were enacting a morgue scene from a popular horror show. Halfway through the night, I begin to cook inside. Caring a damn about a mad rat on the loose, I cleverly spread a bedsheet on the sofa and go to sleep. They say 'Once bitten twice shy' but oh the feeling of direct fan breeze! Just two hours of fitful sleep is all I get before I feel a familiar scratch on the toe. Light from the tubelight reveals it's good ol' Xerxes perched on one cushion, waiting for me to return [with my irresistible toes]. Is he retarded, is he possessed? But like that matters when your sleep pattern is spoilt by night activity [try not to think out of context]. And then my toe begins to burn. Close inspection reveals about one square centimetre of precious thick skin is missing.

Next day is a more serious Take Two of morgue scene and a new pack of Mortein Rat Kill. It's scary when a rat goes for your toes but not the food. That reminds me; he always had a little fresh skin and then returned for fresh bananas - the only other thing he touched in our house. Maybe he was a health-conscious guy. The third night, he infiltrates 'fortress bedroom' again but Mom is fortunately a light sleeper and chases him out. Thats the last we saw of him, reason being all the rat poison went missing that night. Out of curiosity, I check the back of the first rat poison pack and solve the mystery in two seconds - it said 'manufactured and packed in Ulhasnagar'. Man, that place doesn't spare anything.

Since then, everything's back to normal, the skin on our toes has grown back. Rats have ceased to worry us since then. And the dogs of our colony lived yappily ever after.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A mind incapable of understanding defeat


An unsteady step, wobbly knees
But eyes with piercing innocence.
Calling out in a tongue that
Daddy knows better than his own.

Everything scary fails to impress -
For daddy's arms will provide security,
Giving meaning to a non-sensical life,
Hope for the incomprehendable.

In a mind that cannot grasp
Just how complex this world is,
Knowledge falls short where
Love can teach all things.

Mamma's touch is everything; everything at all.
Nothing, nobody comes even close.

Of reasoning, knows nothing.
Put him in a tub - he may drown.
Quiet, alone, he's in his own world
Realising not that something's amiss.

Surely, there's something I overlooked,
That made this child complete.
Unless I, not he, am retarded.
Very unjust term, this -
Who makes the standard, sets the norm?

Xperience the true meaning of living,
You who are 'normal'.
Zealous spirits have big hearts, not big minds.

Inspired by the sight of a father putting shoes on the feet of his child - a mentally challenged kid. Not able to balance himself, he hugged his dad around the neck for support. I know he got more than just that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thursday the twelfth - the prequel to Friday the Thirteenth.

As a reminder to all my dear friends who believe in astrology, Vaastu Shastra, superstition and LK Advani, I just realised that yesterday was Friday the thirteenth. Nah, not that I am intimidated by this fact or subscribe to such stuff; but recent episodes of threat to personal safety have made me realise co-incidence. Or rather, how bad luck forgot to be puntual this time.

As if being five foot five and a half inches of nonsense and stupidity was not enough, nature tried to make its contribution day before yesterday. During my lunch break, I had gone to meet a few friends and have lunch with them. With a test scheduled after the break, I [the diligent and sincere student that I am] got out a book and began to pretend reading some numerical problems. Now understanding the layout of the seating arrangement is central to the event that I will be hereby narrating. These seats are situated in the open, on the border of the full-size cricket ground our campus boasts of. To the left is the Biotechnology section while the college main library is right ahead in front. Stick out your hand to the right and you'll feel the plants growing on the fence, beyond which is a laboratory that looks more like a cottage.

The table is a circular slab of granite, artistically and amateurly balanced on a vertical column. Round it are four similar but smaller structures that serve as seats. The trees on the fence extend their branches over three such tables, making it a sought-after place to hang out. [Tell me, has a shady and cool corner on any college campus ever been spared the students' butts?] My friends and me were sitting on one such table and completing some writing work. At about quarter past one thirty, it was time for them to get their submissions done and so they left. For the next ten minutes it was me, alone with my book and friends' bags - and then, a tree joined me.

If you've not been able to stretch your imagination to accomodate this piece of information, let me help you. Remember the branches over the tables? Well, one of them belonged to a wild tree and so had been cut two days prior to its visit to sincerely yours. Co-incidently, I was witness to the cutting, which showered leaves, twigs and sap on an unassuming couple sitting right beneath it. It crackled, twisted, teased the woodcutter and finally came to rest on a lower branch. As you may have guessed, like all other jobs begun by Indians, it was left to decide its own fate. Little did I know the branch would take exactly forty eight hours to do this. While I was reading page eighty four [conveniently skipping all the earlier pages], I heard a distinctive rustling of leaves. And for the next ten seconds, the branch kept falling downwards to my immediate right and adjusting itself until it assumed a position of minimum energy. Halfway through the descent of this heavyweight, I realised the problem - the branch had thorns. Big thorns.

There are some situations you don't want to get yourself into; standing on an ant hill or wearing a pant full of its residents, stamping on a ferocious dog's tail or getting caught with your pants down - literally or figuratively. This can be counted as one of those. To my relief, there were atleast ten youth around the place who came to the rescue and got me out of there. After a quick first aid and assessment of the twenty-odd scratches, it turned out to be nothing serious. Actually, that wouldn't have been the case if I was sitting on the seat to my right. Mr.Thorny Branch would have landed directly on my head and considering him to be about half a ton, I guess it's not a joke. Coming to think of it, journal submissions [of all the blessed things on earth] saved my friends from his unannounced but successful test on gravity.

Funny how we value life a little more on going through scary or near-death experiences. After Thursday's episode, I don't mind it at all, when crow poop falls out of the sky and onto my head. 'It could have been worse', I tell myself. 'It could have been a branch....'.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Emancipation from examination.

They come twice or four times a year depending on the mood of the University. Worse, if the professor is one from the enthusiastic breed, there will be some more - euphemistically called tests. I'm recovering from one such series of assaults just to realise I've to get into top shape for the next event - longer and tougher than the first. Of course it will be a last minute effort. I rarely branch out from the traditional.

Then what's new about this discussion? Actually, nothing. It's just that crazy times are mostly accompanied by stupid thoughts - "What's the perfect examination?" You bet, stupid thought.

Spare a moment and you'll probably realise that all the exams you attempted [apt use of the word, what say?] in your life can be summarised in one phrase - use of logic. There's absolutely nothing that is out of the syllabus after this approach is adopted. Then where's the problem? It's the knowledge of terminology of the subject. Now before going on any further, let me make it clear that this opinion fails miserably when applied to subjects based on facts and figures [read history].

All great ideas have an inspiration. Let me tell you my story. Last week we had a class test in which four problems had to be solved in an hour - five marks each. Like that mattered. I couldn't make myself to go beyond the first one. It was an amazing-concept-but-can't-get-solution types. I left an approximate amount of space [only to realise that I wouldn't be able to fill it later] and went on to the next one. Same fate with a little concession. I managed to draw [rather, attempt - man, this word conveys so much] a small diagram. After the stipulated one hour, I had written just two sides on the answer sheet, one frustrated poem, drawn a heptagon and an octagon, cracked a few jokes [really really sad ones I guess] with my neighbour, killed two irritating mosquitoes and stared hard at the fan.

Yesterday, the results of the test were out. Guess who scored the highest - one dude who keeps forgetting that green is for earthing in a plug. Irony, he is going to graduate in Electrical Engineering. After a long and tiring semester, this realisation was the last straw. Now, how do we come up with an exam that tests the real knowledge of the student? Quite impossible to be frank. C'mon, I've scored the highest in Marathi during school and yet can't get through a complete sentence without giving the impression that I'm of Russian ancestry. Bookish knowledge has long defeated common sense. All that is taught in class is fit for just that - to be taught in class. Public and Entrance exams are better not discussed. Well, maybe another time; can't resist the entertainment, you see.

That still leaves us with the same, basic question. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether the solution is anything even remotely connected to academics. Could be social, ideological or maybe even political. Till then, I better keep studying. No doubt, last minute attempt [wow, this word amazes me].

Friday, October 06, 2006

No mind, won't mind

What would a normal individual do if he got up in the morning to find the newspaper wet, made tea to realise it tastes aweful, that the pet has left its footmarks on the office pair of clothes and then missed the transport to work? Worse, when (s)he does get a chance to squeeze into the crowded transport, someone helplessly sneezes on the neck.

I'm guessing your answer is on the lines of 'curse everyone, spit the tea out, kick the pet and then ruin what is left of the day.' Now just imagine half of the working population experiencing one of the mentioned genuine tragedies. Aha, now that sounds like a Monday.

It's very interesting to know that each one of us has our own threshold value for irritation. In that, too, different levels for different issues. But come to consider this: 'We set our own limits when it comes to tolerating people, issues and situations. Why not stretch it just a little more?'

First of all, nobody or nothing is worth your peace of mind. Then why do we go about throwing it away at the drop of a hat? Classic example: A five year old chap doesn't have his vegetables at dinner. Dad loses his already strained 'rational thinking' and gives him a earful about children dying in Somalia due to lack of food. Classic reaction: The boy stares wide-eyed, eyes moisten up, tears flow and then the wails. Runs to Mom/Grandma/Grandpa. C'mon, is that fair? But then, it's a vicious cycle - Dad gets it from the boss, who in turn gets it from his wife [or mistress], whose brains have been eaten royally by the housemaid. The housemaid most probably had had a tough time taming a drunk husband or unruly children. And so it goes on.

I've found a way around such problems - smile at the person who's the potential irritator. Intentional or unintentional. The irritation, that is. The smile doesn't have to be of Colgate magnitude but something to make the other person think. Guaranteed you'll earn yourself a few stares, a little more-than-few abuses, the occassional slap if you've tried it on a peeved woman [don't tell me I didn't warn you]. But it's completely worth it. Gives the feeling of 'Nobody can touch me'. After all, are not people the world over spending money to regain that alien concept called sanity?

As always, I have got to list down the people one must not use this method with. Professors are a big no-no. There was this one guy who thought me to be a shameless character and flung my assignment like in an Olympic discuss throw. I must say his range was impressive.

Then come parents. They think you're making fun of them, or better, undermining their authority. Well, coming to think of it, this would appear that way. They may sound irritating but I guess we mostly deserve the lectures. It's not like we have lived perfect lives.

And lastly, the physically most dangerous - when in the middle of a heated arguement/starting of a fight. I'm warning you, it may cost you your front teeth and a few drops of blood through the nose. But I'm saying it again, its completely worth it.

Note: The author strongly recommends the readers to find out a method best suitable for themselves but at the same time takes no responsibility for any mental or physical injury sustained by them trying out any of the above mentioned methods.