Or, perhaps, bandicoots. I’m not sure. It doesn’t really matter. They’re all rats to me.
See, it’s not as if I’ve never seen a rat before. When I was growing up in Chandigarh and Panchkula, we had enough close encounters of the rodent kind to fill a book. But the thing is, we had three dogs back then. Two of them were fairly good at catching rats. And I also had my mother and sister around – for moral support. Whenever a rat appeared, all three of us would jump six feet vertically upwards, and then scurry to climb on to the nearest accessible surface. And of course, my father would be there, or could be relied upon to turn up shortly. Handling the rats was his department – if the dogs failed. Or even, come to think of it, if they succeeded. Our oldest dog would occasionally lay one of his kills at my father’s feet with an expression of haughty pride and self-satisfaction, clearly expecting the highest accolades.
After I got married and moved out of those rat-infested government bungalow, I rarely encountered any four-legged rodents. In fact, it would not be stretching the truth to say that I pretty much forgot about them. Until a couple of weeks ago. That was when we started noticing these gaping holes in our back yard. Our back yard is a bit of a mess right now. When we moved in, the wooden crates that Amit had used for his vegetable garden were dumped in the back yard. We planted the hibiscus and the lemon tree in front of the wooden crates, but they did nothing to improve matters. And when the gaping holes began to appear, I noticed that some of them gaped right under the stack of wooden crates. What’s more, the blue plastic sheets that held the compost in the crates were beginning to look rather, well, ratty. The conclusion was pretty easy to draw.
When we first moved in here, we had a canine infestation. Stray dogs would get in over the walls and had taken to knocking over the compost pots, probably looking for edible content. All they got for their pains was a mouthful of maggots. All we got, for their pains, was unbreakable metal covers with spokes in them, which dug down into the pot and hence the lid could not be dislodged so easily anymore. We didn’t stop at that, though. We shored up our defences and made our property largely dog-proof. Predators stay out. Rodents, come on in and make yourselves at home.
It wasn’t until Amit was putting the garbage into the compost pot on Monday night that things came to a head. The back door was open, I was in the kitchen, handing him the containers with kitchen waste, he was outside, barefoot, emptying the containers into the compost pot. We were just barely arm’s length away from each other. The light was on – both inside the house and outside. I heard him shout. I grabbed the door and quickly banged it shut. Then, I saw the creature scuttling past. Good lord, it was big!
Now we’ve been married 15 years, so it’s easily that long since I last came face to face with a real live rodent – discounting the small field mice that have picnicked (and sometimes held midnight feasts) on my groceries during my treks. So I really don’t remember how big the rats I grew up with used to be. I think some of them used to be pretty big – about the size of a puppy or at least a small kitten. Those were called “goose” in Chandigarh, which probably equates to what I hear is called bandicoots. I do remember catching some rats in the old-fashioned wire traps – wire mesh cages with a trap door. I remember their tails sticking out when they got locked in. I remember my father taking them for a morning walk, depositing them in a field somewhere. Apparently, unlike cats, pigeons, and some dogs, rats aren’t homing animals, they don’t easily find their way back.
Anyway, having a bandicoot scoot across his bare feet scared the living daylights out of Amit. So Tuesday morning saw us struggling to upturn the broken down wooden crates. The outcome was more or less as expected. Two huge rodents scuttled out of the wreckage and lumbered across the back yard. They were so big and heavy, they needed a stepping stone to get on to the fence and though a stepping stone was to be found conveniently nearby, in the shape of a built-in, covered box for storing dry leaves, they both needed two attempts to get onto it. A dog or a cat would have been onto them long before they got away. In fact, if we hadn’t been so busy jumping six feet in the air and clutching on to each other and falling over our feet to get out of their way, we might have been able to nail them with a well-aimed stone.
Anyway, having dismantled their mansions on Tuesday morning, I spent the evening soaking their beds in gray water. I’m not very sure of the preferences of bandicoots, but I’m hoping that a wet mattress is not to their liking. Amit also turned on no less than four lights outdoors and kept them on all night – and this is a guy who cribs if an 8 Watt bulb is left on for an extra five minutes, so you can imagine how he felt about that.
Then I called the pest control guys, who said they would get back to me, but didn’t.
Then I emailed CUPA to find out if they have any cats available. Haven’t heard back from them yet, either.
Then, this morning, I saw a big fat tabby cat casually stroll across our lawn. Obviously I rushed out and shouted “pussy, pussy, pussy,” at it, but to no avail. It gave me the briefest of glances before casually leaping off the wall into the neighbours’ lawn and disappearing from sight. The kids spotted it again, later, grooming itself atop a fence. This time I rushed out and placed a saucer of milk closeby, but again to no avail. It completed its grooming and languidly strolled away without even sparing a glance for the milk. Sigh. I probably need to fetch some caviar and cream cheese for the creature. Cats come with attitude too, these days.
I had been charged with the task of obtaining a rat trap, but I haven’t managed to make any progress on that front yet. I’m not very motivated, either. For one thing, I’m more interested in keeping them bandicoots away than in luring them into my garden in the fond hope of catching them. I’m also not very convinced that the trap is of a size appropriate for bandicoots. I have every expectation that in the morning we will find the food gone, the trap closed and nary a bandicoot in sight. And they’ll be back for more treats the next day, friends and family in tow.
So – what does one do about these repulsive rodents? Any suggestions?
Amit says we should move into an apartment on the 22nd floor, but somehow I don’t think that’s realistic today.