Rodents, toads and a rat snake send SEEMA MUNIZ and her family into a tizzy even as elsewhere in the country, the usual heat, political and communal cacophony raises its discordant head
It passed noiselessly from our front yard. “Good,” my mother exclaimed. “This would take care of those thieving rats raiding my papayas right off the trees”. Yes, the enormous whip-tailed rodents were not only partying up there, but also leaving fat chunks of turd right by her entrance door as though to rub it in.
“Great,” my husband remarked, chuckling. He was thinking of the fate of all those toads which had turned our shoe-rack on the porch into a convenient housing complex, with each slippery individual occupying the cozy interiors of our more infrequently used sneakers and sandals. However, as part of his morning ritual, he went through each footwear on and off the rack and shook it vigorously, waking up the sleepyheads and sending them scurrying away to look for another place to house-sit. Needless to say, he also had to ensure that they hadn’t left any proof of their eupepsia behind. So, for my husband having a snake around was reassuring and translated into one less chore to preoccupy his morning hours.
My brother too was overjoyed. His reasons were quite different, as he nodded his head thoughtfully and said, “hm….very auspicious indeed”. Legend has it that we are descendants of King Agrasen of the Solar Dynasty. King Agrasen is believed to have married the beautiful princess Madhavi, the daughter of Nag Raj, the Snake King. Somehow, my brother was very taken up by this legend and seemed proud to have some reptile blood coursing through our veins. Conspiracy theorists like David Icke who propagate the reptilian humanoid/reptoid theory would surely feel vindicated by this belief.
Two-meter long, dark green and unaggressive, the welcomed visitor, which came and went as it pleased, was a harmless rat snake. Soon a mongoose too had begun to drop by our yard in a casual ‘howdy’ kind of way. And the brahminy kite was seen circling the swirling heights above the cashew tree. The sprawling indolence of summer-swathed days assumed an air of alertness with shadows once still, beginning to breathe, hiss and glide.
“Nothing is permanent”, says Buddha. One morning we were woken up by a sudden commotion of excited voices. An image of two drunkards in a tussle swaggered across the mind briefly before I was nudged hurriedly back into the tempting arms of Morpheus. Later, on waking up, the dead snake outside the gate met my eyes: killed, slaughtered, hacked.
“It is released from this world of Maya”, my mother philosophised, adding, “Now, it might be reborn as something else”. She had found her peace. She always does.
The memory slowly slinked away, leaving in its wake, the usual cavalcade of unanswered questions; the whys and the wherefores. Summer soon descended upon us and the days grew hotter and clammier. Most of the country was soon embroiled in communal upheaval, even while reeling under an unprecedented heat wave. Elsewhere, history was being dug up to resurrect the past, while the present itself was being quietly buried, lost in the noise of the political cacophony rising in two opposite ends of the country.
Seema Muniz, a feature writer with the Times of India group in the nineties, is an avid reader and educationist, who homeschooled her son until tenth grade, while drifting between New York and Alaska with her family. She is also an artist, with a few solo and group shows in Albany, NY, to her credit.