CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE ANIMAL KIND.
Let it rain even for half an hour and it seems the planet has been taken over by a legion of the Ranidae family. The numbers are just overwhelming. It appears as if someone had just emptied a mammoth container of small frogs over IITM and sat back to watch how the people deal with it. Suddenly they are just everywhere. A couple under the bed, a few behind the table, a motley crowd in the bathroom and virtually a whole community on the corridors. In diverse colors, sundry sizes and distinctive croaks. They make life awful especially for people who don’t consider frogs to be a tender and affectionate specie. I personally have had some very bitter encounters with them. Come to think of it, my adventures with the animal kind in the campus have been anything but ordinary. Most cases, actually perhaps all cases resulted in me being the vanquished.
Take the frogs for example. The other day I was taking my bath in the evening after the usual hour long basketball session. It had rained heavily over the weekend and as usual the frogs were ruling the roost. Now it happens that I always check every nook and cranny of the bathroom every time I enter it. I hate nasty surprises in the middle of a bath which I believe every person has a right to enjoy. But that day, tired from all that ball playing I just forgot and got under the shower. As I poured the shampoo over my head and began thinking how I could have got that one point and hence won the last game of the day I felt something slimy hit my leg. First I thought I had spilled some shampoo. But it happened again. And then again. The soap on my face prevented me from actually seeing what the matter was. I grabbed the towel, wiped my eyes and looked below.
A huge grotesque frog was jumping about and was inadvertently banging into my leg occasionally. The gross sight totally unnerved me. It was not one of those little ones which one had to carefully avoid squishing while on the way to the bogs. It was of whopping dimensions and seemed in a jolly good mood. The immediate reaction was to rush out. But I stopped myself in time. The fact that a guy sprinted out of the bath naked with soap all over because of a bounding frog are stuff hostel night roasts are made of. Nothing would allow me to bring such an embarrassment on myself. So I decided to face it like a man. I closed my eyes and begun to think what would be an honorable way out. Endure it. A small voice in the head said. And so I did. With my eyes closed I pretended that nothing was happening. Getting over with the bath as quickly as possible I made a quiet but dignified exit. But those moments with the slimy creature will remain in memory for quite some time.
The first few months in the campus were the toughest. I had to come to terms with the fact that the creatures down the food chain ought to get a little more respect. Within the first few days I realized that someone else was the boss around here. The Vanar Sena was the first to strike. It took me very little time to realize that years of human non-interference had resulted in them becoming totally fearless. If you charge at a monkey with a broom the chances are that he would charge back with something worse. I actually think they enjoying toying with us. After every transgression they sit there with a look as if challenging us to retaliate. I have suffered many losses thanks to their existence. I remember the first time such a thing happened. It was my first week and I had put out some clothes to dry. Among them there was brand new vest which I had worn just once.
I was in the room glancing through the day’s paper when the sudden chatter outside forced me to come outside to see what’s wrong. A flabbergasting scene greeted me. There on the branch of a tree sat two monkeys and one of them had put on my brand new washed vest. And they were grinning. Yes. They were actually laughing at me. And then in front of my own eyes they bounded from one branch to another and disappeared. That was not the only apparel I lost to the primates. My lab-coat, two shorts and a t-shirt soon followed. This stopped only when I decided that perhaps drying the clothes in the room would be a better option. Inconvenient surely but definitely a more viable option from the economic point of view.
The assault of the apes never stopped. Once I had got a brand new pack of glucose and hid it behind the books. The purpose was to keep it out of reach of my over zealous friends. But who knew that glucose was popular even in monkey land? My window happened to be very secure with a strong iron grill preventing any infiltration. The primates used supreme cunning which would have made even al Qaeda proud. As the grills were too close to prevent any grown-up to squeeze through, they sent a baby one to carry out the covert operation. It seemed that I had been under close surveillance and they knew what had been hidden where. Though I wasn’t a witness to the actual crime, the detective in me worked out their modus operandi. The villain had come in through a very narrow gap, headed straight for the shelf, grabbed the glucose pack and made a neat exit. Now just visualize the craftiness. Nothing else in the room bothered it. It came with a singular agenda and executed it to perfection. And now that they have a packet of strong glucose to supplement their creative exploits, the mind boggled to even envisage the consequences. The whole wing had to put up with their atrocities the whole year. They would come down in hordes like the Huns and leave a trail of destruction. Sometimes they looted just for fun and after the assault the corridors lay strewn with the spoils of war.
All these incidents made me feel perhaps my presence wasn’t liked by the animal folk. For even the otherwise docile deer, didn’t spare me. One evening I was taking the diagonal shortcut through the woods in from of the hostel office. As luck would have it a group of deer was grazing. In the shadows I missed them completely and rammed in to one of them at full speed. The sudden bump gave me the shock of my life. As my cycle slithered away I flew and fell on a pile of deer dung which proved that these days God is really very quick with his judgments. Another bout of embarrassments followed but the retribution wasn’t over. Next week, at around twelve in the night I was returning from Quark on my cycle. I was happy as I always am after a good meal, and cycling with a very carefree attitude. Who knew that my physical skills were about to undergo its toughest ever trial. All of a sudden a rustling sound attracted my attention. The rustle soon gave way to a thud of hooves and out of the blue a humongous deer with just one massive antler appeared. It was sprinting at a great tempo and was headed straight at me. I understood that to deliberate much on the matter would ensure a ghastly end. There was a time to think and there was time to run. And then it was time to run. Scurry. Scamper. Anything to save the poor intestines from being intertwined in those vicious antlers. Actually I had to cycle. Not run. And did I cycle like hell! I was chased all the way to the hostel main road and then it disappeared as abruptly as it had appeared. It appeared that scaring the lights out of me was its only aim.
No account of my animal misadventures would be complete without the mention of the curious incident of the fornicating squirrels. We were nearing the end of the first semester when one evening my room-mate opened his long idle drawer. And in it materialized a huge ball of cotton. This inexplicable discovery was soon followed by a more startling one. Strange squeaking sounds were emanating from the ball and as normally cotton balls do not make strange squeaking sounds, we decided to investigate. It surfaced that the ball happened to be a nest of some squirrel and in it were two baby squirrel-lets or whatever one calls them. Some over enthusiastic chap thought that the drawer would be a good place to find a new dynasty. Well, if you ever land up with a pair of baby squirrels you will know that it is a wretched situation. It always happens that some horrendous animal lover will land up and try to convince you that it is one duty to look after these gifts of god. Gifts of god! My foot. try being stern and then you end up getting portrayed as a stone-hearted fiend. A tricky state of affairs without doubt. Anyway, it was soon luckily discovered that Mr. I-want-a-large-family Squirrel had carried out its amorous exploits in other rooms too. Hence the moral policemen themselves tasted the bitter medicine and kept quiet about the whole issue. I went and kept it on a window sill. The next day it had vanished. We can only hope that it was safe with the busy mother who surely must have been cursing herself for not taking the concept of family planning more seriously.
Well, I don’t know how many more such escapades I will have to live through. Lord give me the patience and the will to face it all in a restrained manner. Amen.