How does it feel to kill? I feel remorseless.
Until last week, the biggest living thing I'd killed was probably a cockroach. I am a huge proponent of 'live and let live' unless the creepy crawly in question is getting too familiar with my living area or worse still, feeling me up.
At the moment, I live in a village and am reasonably nonchalant about dogs, caterpillars, lizards of various dimensions and hues that revel in falling on human heads, squirrels, bats and nearly everything else that wild untrammelled nature can throw at me. But when we do not share a concept of private space, our peaceful coexistence is threatened.
Earlier this week, I was having a quiet Thursday evening, singing Raga Bihag and sipping my coffee. The electricity was out, as it usually is in this part of town on a rainy evening. I stepped out of my room and heard something rustle behind me. I looked back, expecting to greet the friendly inhouse dog. What I saw was a snake languorously uncoiling itself and slithering away. I ineffectually declaimed 'snake, snake' to no one in particular and then rushed to the nearest human being whose response can be paraphrased as - oh that's the resident snake.
But that was not the end of my tryst with the animal kingdom. That very night, I was sleeping rather peacefully on my bed by the window. As you can see, peace and quiet form the crux of this narrative. Suddenly I felt something tug at my hair and then whack my bum. I first thought it was a human being trying to wake me for some inconceivable reason. Then I started having complex thoughts about the possibility of human beings tugging at hair with such precision and sharpness in complete darkness. Then I heard a peculiar sound and realised it was a rat. That took care of weeks of the sleeping without a mosquito net variety of nonchalance.
I spent a good hour trying to figure out if the rat was still in the room. Then I unsuccessfully tried to continue sleeping. In the morning, I dumped all my possessions in the centre of the room and ran around them like a madwoman, in the wild hope that a rat would emerge and find its way to the door. The rat, as it happens, did not emerge.
The next morning, I woke to find my bananas scooped out of their skins. And oh, my clothes were on the floor. This was the last straw. I screamed my battle cry and was the proud owner of a rat trap by that afternoon. My last and most recent acquaintance with rat traps dates back to when I watched Tom and Jerry cartoons. So I was most surprised to find out that there have been significant advances in the field of rat catching. The traps that are now in fashion open out like books and are coated with a really strong adhesive that makes the rat, well, stick to them.
That night, I laid the trap out and placed alluring bits of food on it. Sure enough, two hours later, a rat was squealing on its side, caught in the act. Life doesn't prepare you for what comes AFTER you trap a rat. I stared at the rat for a good five minutes before finding the courage to close the door, or in this case, the book, on a squealing rat. This happened at midnight, to the accompaniment of a gaggle of very amused young adults trying to take videos of this process, discussing rat disposal practices in India and making humane but unviable suggestions such as - we should take the rat out of the trap before we send it away.
Finally, what the rat got was close to a ritualistic funeral, because none of us were willing to step within squirming distance of the rat. We managed to get it into a bag, which was then hoisted on a long stick, which three of us carried out of our living quarters with great pomp and ceremony. The rat died during the night, and I may have observed a moment of silence. But my conscience hasn't been very troubled. Most importantly, I can rest in peace without having my books and bags shredded to bits.