My marriage and our wildlife? No, it is not a sob story of marriage bereft of love and affection, marred by a husband’s wild and violent behaviour. It is a series of encounters, like Alice in wilder land….
I’ve been married to a central government employee for the past ten years. These years have been packed with interesting incidents and anecdotes, in addition to packing and unpacking because of constant transfers.
I was born and brought up in cosmopolitan Bangalore. After marriage, we came to Visakhapatnam to stay in a rented house in the suburbs. Our house was situated at the foot of a hill. The small garden in front of the house was full of chameleons and huge lizards. A few of the lizards decided to sneak into the house as if to keep me company. Unlike the lizards of Bangalore, the Vizag lizards were larger and healthier looking. Being totally paranoid of reptiles/rodents, spotting such lizards inside the house prompted an SOS to my husband at work.
Initially, my husband went out of his way to shoo these creatures but what ran out was patience, not the lizards. He told me then to ‘get along’ with these companions.
The days my husband went on official tours were a testing time for me. My house would instantly transform itself into a battlefield with yours truly holding a broom or any available implement to drive these creatures out of my domain. With my attention completely on the battle with these reptiles, I would lose sight of obstacles in my way like a chair/stool or sometimes even the wall. On one occasion, I tripped over a stool and fell on my face, and another time I ran into a wall! Sitting on the floor with pain written all over my face, I had this strong feeling that my opponents (read lizard) had a sly winning smile as if saying, “you Bangaloreans are no match for me”!
Towards the end of my 12 months’ stay in Vizag, I began to realise that these lizards are harmless creatures leading a dull life on the wall, eating a fly or an insect now and then but had no intention of harming the human species! Perhaps their only entertainment was teasing me.
From Vizag, we moved to New Delhi where we were allotted government accommodation. Unfortunately, I moved to New Delhi alone, as I had to report for work while my husband’s transfer was deferred by three months. The house was a haven for an army of rats and it looked as though I was trespassing in their territory. Unlike Abhimanyu who courageously entered the chakravyuha alone, I requested my maid to enter the house first. When we switched on the lights, we spotted three to four rats escaping from a hole in the kitchen door to the guest room and from there they were quick enough to zip through another outlet into the balcony. Such rapid movements of these feisty creatures were enough to give full vent to my lung power. I let out a loud shriek and jumped onto the divan. The rodents hiding in the balcony appeared to interpret my loud cry as a battle cry. They descended in full force. The rattraps and poison kept in all strategic locations did not seem to have any effect on these pests. They seemed to possess nerves of steel! My sudden outbursts and Tarzan-like cries only turned me into a laughing stock in front of my maid and her family.
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On one occasion, I invited my friend’s parents for dinner. We were in the middle of our meal when I sensed a pair of eyes staring at me. I spotted a rat sitting in a corner as if mocking me. Unmindful of my guests, I shouted and climbed onto the dining table. My guests with their mouths full of food and wide open were gawking at me, wondering if I was possessed by some spirit. By the time I recovered to explain my unusual behaviour, the rat had escaped through the front door! Before leaving, my friend’s father said quietly, “The solution to this rat menace is a carpenter.” I gave him a puzzled look and he explained that a carpenter can nail wooden planks on the doors to plug the gaps and holes, to keep the rats out.
Our next destination was Kochi. God’s own country is well known for its flora and fauna. We thought the best place to experience them in full glory was Thekkady. Accompanied by my sister and my husband, we headed towards the forest resort fully equipped with a camera and trekking gear. On reaching there, we hired a guide and started our two-hour trek into the forest. A day before our arrival, there had been heavy showers, which had made the ground damp. We were advised to smear tobacco powder on our legs and were given special socks to prevent leeches from attacking us. As our trek progressed, the guide was pointing towards some rare flowers and insects found in the forest. At one point, he stopped in his tracks and turned towards us. I was directly behind him. “See, these are leeches whose staple food is human blood,” the guide said. That’s when I realised that his index finger was pointing towards my leg. Ten to 15 leeches were climbing my leg with abandon! It seemed that I was their preferred lunch for the day!
Our guide beckoned to my sister and my husband who were engrossed in soaking up Mother Nature’s abundant charms. A minute later, I had turned into a laboratory specimen. Three curious faces were peering at my extended right foot, waiting to see whether one of the leeches would penetrate the sock and go for a vein underneath. On seeing the leech for the first time, I lost my voice for a minute or two. Once I regained it, I let out a shriek loud enough to deflect my companions’ attention from admiration of the leech’s rhythmic movements on my leg.
My shriek was strong enough to stir the serenity of the woods too. My husband used the umbrella as a weapon against the leeches while I kept thumping him on the shoulder with my hands to make him aware of the futility of his efforts. Ultimately, I took to my heels, rubbing my hands all over my leg to dislodge the invaders.
Soon we regrouped and trying hard not to laugh, my sister and husband were full of regret, if not remorse. They were regretting that they forgot to capture my predicament with the camera!
My husband has been posted now to Goa. What could be in store for me there? I can hardly wait. Crabs, for one, may not be a bad start.