Stephan C. Hmar. 03.01.2015
The torture this winter gave to my ailing physique was worsened by the two fearless rats that constantly ransacked our kitchen. Day or night, they did not give us any break. They had already eaten away a big chunk of the plastic dust bin. They littered stuffs on the floor, collected fish bones and other items of their favourites inside unreachable corners. During any dead of nights, they would bang pots and vessels, raced around the gas stove, dived to-and-fro from one corner to the other, and on top of these, they would squeal with joy. We would listen these menacing sounds from the bed.
I don’t know how many times I gnawed my teeth in anger.
I had seen them many times, these two rats. They were big, black haired, canny eyed rats and always prowled about in pairs. Their strategy of looting was to watch and wait for the perfect time---when we were out of the kitchen or out of the house or late in the night when we were asleep. When the perfect time came, they would not waste a second, they would feast on anything they could lay their limps on, with their greedy appetite. Many times I had tried to kill them, but miserably failed always. They were as fast as a moving bullet. They would dash to the big hole beneath the wash tub and disappeared underground.
The most sickening moment would happen when my wife would run out of the kitchen screaming, Rat!Rat! What shall we do? I am scared. Then she would ask me to check the kitchen if they were still around. This had become a common occurrence, and many times our kitchen errands would get delayed. My wife is hell scared of rats. They are like monsters to her. I am not scared, but disgusted by the sight of them. Whenever I sighted them, annoying saliva of distastes would pile around my throat and that would affect even my appetite.
We came up with many possibilities on how to get rid of them. First, ratʼs poison. But we learnt that poisoned rats usually die inside water tanks or in some secluded corners of the house and their dead carcass would stink awfully before they could even be located. So, poison was a bad idea.
Second, we thought of ratʼs trap. We went to the market to get one. The trap we found was in fact ʿRatʼs Prison,ʾ designed to house the trapped rats alive, inside the trap. How would I like that? I did not want the rats to be seen alive. I wanted them to be trapped, squeezed, bull-dozed, and I wanted to sing a song of triumphant hymn over their dead bodies.
And the story of how to kill the rats grew longer.
We had many things in mind. Like, setting a dynamite on their path. Like, planting a sticky moreah ratʼs glue. But nothing, as gruesome as I had wanted, could not be plotted. Out of frustration and irritation, an idea came up to me. I recollected that there was one type of snare call pheikei that can mercilessly crush rats. During my teenage years, I used to come across people who would bring home their pheikeis with bundles of crushed rats. The pesky rats met with a brutal, fatal blows of the snare and I could remember them bleeding through their nose, eyes popped out, tongues sticking out between their teeth and some of them with ripped intestines. These brutalities exactly suited what I had in mind. And so, I decided to recreate this brutal ratʼs snare, the pheikei, and gave the worthy death sentence to the two prowling rats.
I carefully checked my remembrance: Pheikei is a snare that makes use of stored potential energy in a bending bamboo. First, you trim a bamboo so that it can bend perfectly, and then on the base of the bamboo, you clutch a strong circular iron railing for the unknowing rat to walk in. Then in between the circular iron, you fix a strong iron wire connected to a strong thread, which in turn is fixed on top of the bamboo. Then, you bend the bamboo, and you equilibrated the potential energy of the bending bamboo by another small bamboo, which will trigger the bamboo, to release its potential energy. This ʼtrigger-bambooʼ is holding both the wire and the thread together. Then another small bamboo is placed in the middle of the circular iron, weakly guarding the ʻtrigger-bambooʼ from setting off, and also acting as a bait for the unfortunate rat. When the rat walk through the circular iron, it displace the small bamboo placed in the middle, which in turn cause the trigger-bamboo to set off, which in turn cause the bamboo to release its potential energy. It pulled the wire dead tight against the bamboo, trapping the rat in between, giving a slow, painful, gruesome, death for the rat.
I had never made pheikei in my life, and this was how I remember from my teenage years.
First, I needed bamboo, which I easily got. Locking up inside my room, and checking keenly my remembrance, I started recreating pheikei. I collected all the parts needed---a strong iron railing, a strong wire, strong thread, and a pliers for bending the iron rail. That day, in no time, I recreated the pheikei of my memory. But, it won’t set off. I blamed the bamboo, maybe it was not strong enough. The next day, I collected a better bamboo and started trimming again. My hands started to ache. After another whole dayʼs work, I built the second pheikei. That night I placed the ʿready-pheikeiʾ at the entrance of the rats. When I checked the next morning I saw that the pheikei set-off, but the wire was gone. The rats had eaten away the wire and escaped, leaving the pheikei in shame with a hanging thread.
I did not want to give up the battle. I decided that I should start from the beginning, checking each step minutely, use stronger wire and stronger thread. I collected new bamboo, re-started the process again by trimming. My hands could not bear anymore. There were painful blisters on my palm, my fingers bled. But I carried on saying, No Pain, No Gain. The picture of those ugly rats in my brain had made my determination stronger. After completion of the third pheikei, I had a strong feeling that it would work perfectly. Again, I placed the ʿready-pheikeiʼ with the best of hopes. The next morning I jumped out of the bed with good expectation. I found the pheikei set-off, but half of the bamboo was pulled inside the hole. I slowly pulled out the bamboo, with a hope that the ugly rat would be mercilessly trapped and squeezed. But alas! No rat! The wire was gone completely. The trigger-bamboo was half eaten. The whole thread was gone. I could also see teeth-marks on the sides of the bamboo.
I wiped my face in deep despair. In all, I had invested three days to make three pheikei, but they miserably failed all along. My hatred for the rats grew, I wanted to cry out loud. My wife consoled me, but it was of no use. My hands were steaming with blisters and cuts, I had to eat food using spoon. The squealing sound of the rats in the kitchen grew wilder. We just sit in the room, listening helplessly to the persistent, annoying sounds.
New year day was about to arrive, but I could not be happy. I failed to kill the rats in my house. The pangs in living with the fact that my enemy number 1—rats---still prowling around my house was unbearable. And for that reason, I embarrassingly consider the year 2014 an unsuccessful, unfruitful and one cursed year.
On the night of 31st December 2014, my wife and I were alone in the house, waiting for the clock to strike midnight. The two rats howled about the kitchen with joy. When the clock struck midnight, my wife prayed, thanking God for all the blessing He showered upon us in 2014, asking Him to renew more of His blessing in the coming 2015. I was deeply touched by her prayer. After the prayer, I went to the kitchen, switched on the light and looked around. I saw the two rats escaping through the hole. I saw a bucket full of rice. I saw two bottles of oils---refined and mustard oil. I saw a packet of salt, a packet of daal, plates, spoons, sugar, frying pan, pots, pressure cookers, buckets full of water, dustbin full of eatables, etc.
Suddenly, strange questions set-off in my mind: Was there any single day in 2014 when I go hungry? Was there any day when my kitchen was without rice, daal, salt, plates, spoons, water, frying oils? Was there any day when I go begging for food? Was there any day when the plates and curry bowls were deprived of rice and curries?
The answer to all these questions was a big NO.
And then I began to realize that the two fearless rats found my kitchen worth visiting because there was food always. There were ample supplies for them and for their pups too. Summer, winter, spring or autumn, the stocks was always full. Oh! After all, I was a very blessed man. And the rats were there the whole time to tell me that. And then suddenly I regretted why I tried so hard to kill them. I was their saviour, supplier, life-giver. What position was more important than that? And then, I shouted uncontrollably, I love you, my dear rats!
I looked at the three unsuccessful pheikei. I prayed to God in my mind to let all the bad and dreadful things that await to trap me in 2015 to be as unsuccessful as my three very usucccessful pheikei.