I am in a hurry as it is already ten minutes over my scheduled time to start for work. I quickly stuff my lunch box into my backpack, and also an umbrella as some showers are forecast. I open the door, stop in my tracks, and stare at the floor. It is such an incongruous thing. As if someone left it for me there just to surprise me early in the morning. The way it is placed almost feels like a gift I never expected. Only, it isn’t wrapped in coloured paper or tied with satin ribbons. No, there is no bouquet of red roses on the floor, as much as I would have preferred. Instead, lying right at my feet, is a large dead rat.
It is grey and generously plump. If I wasn’t the daughter of a zoologist who’d got me used to lizards, snakes and chameleons since I was a little girl, I would probably have screamed. But rats, dead or alive, don’t ruffle me too much. I would have probably picked it up by its tail and thrown it in the garbage heap downstairs. But this morning I am really late. So I push it ahead into a corner with my shoe, hoping that the chap who clears the garbage will eventually throw it away, by the time I get back from work. It doesn’t shift easily as it hasn’t stiffened yet. So it is a large, freshly killed rat with a bite mark around its neck.
As I walk to work, I can’t get it out of my head. Who would have placed it right at the entrance of my house? It had to be one of the stray cats that loiter around the vicinity. Now, I have always had dogs as pets at home, but cats are just not my thing. There are three cats in that area: one is a tabby cat, another a white cat with black streaks, and the third is a pitch black one with gleaming green eyes which light up in the dark. For some reason, one of my neighbours has this disgusting habit of leaving her garbage bags near the staircase overnight. And especially when she’s ordered takeaways, you know the next morning, the cats would have torn the plastic bags to bits and feasted on the leftovers. It ruins my mood when I see the rampage and the aftermath in the form of excreta littered in front of the door each morning. So cats are not exactly my favourite. I’m not nasty to them, but I do my best to avoid them if I can.
Work takes over the morning and I have other things to pay attention to. At eleven, I chance to look at my phone which has been placed on silent mode. There are three missed calls from the girl who cleans my house. I call back and she is almost screaming. “Didi, there is a huge rat right in front of your door. I’m not going up there!” “C’mon, it is a dead rat and it isn’t going to bite. Take a broom and throw it out,” I tell her. It takes some coercing and counselling to make her agree. I get back to work.
When I meet her next, she tells me she got someone else to remove the rat, and shows me animatedly where the rat was. Now I am really curious. I had pushed the dead rat away to a distance. Who brought it back and placed it right back in that Valentine gift-like position? The cat again? Why didn’t the cat feast on the rat? Why out of four doors on the floor was my house chosen? What is the connection?
Fascinating that instead of anyone else, I get an amorous feline creature trying to woo me with a dead rat! As I fry some pomfret for dinner, I wonder if I should leave some fish bones as a return gift for the cat the next morning. It is a huge dharam-sankat. Best not to raise a stink in a predominantly vegetarian area which persuades me to try soya chaap on every visit to the local grocer. Well, every one’s idea of a good protein is different. Meeow to that!