Monday, December 7, 2009

Coexisting with a soap-eating predator

Recently I moved in to a log cabin on a hill slope of pine trees, autorikshaw-sized rocks, lazy prayer flags and a brook that runs along my bedroom. I started weaving dreams of writing a magnum opus staying in a place like Thoreau’s Walden. I converted a shoe rack used by the previous Japanese tenant into a book shelf.

The arrangement of books had to be special, I had decided earlier. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying alongside the Bible for quick inspiration before going for work. Next was a bloody thick anthology, which my friend Thea gifted saying if I am ever marooned on an island, I could read it till the Fedex ship comes. This was to be savored on weekends. On top of the rack, in random, were tiny editions of psychoanalytical theory and cultural studies. These would enable me to quickly backdrop any daily experiences with theoretical explanations. For example, to interpret how a girl could force her pony-tailed lover to cut his hair in a blooming multicultural office love affair.

But all plans failed into the second week of my stay with I realized that someone was eating my soaps. It was a huge rat, I learnt, that had fallen in love, first with Pamolive, then Lux and finally Pears. The only explanation I could arrive to from my books was that the rat was anti-capitalist, and must have been the ghost of a food security expert in its previous life. Inspired by the interpretation, I changed my strategy by placing a Mohammad Yunus inspired washing soap produced in a cottage industry. I waited that night peeping through the toilet door for more than an hour. At around 11pm, I heard him or her crawling in through the majestic drain. It climbed up the flush, jumped onto the half-read Audacity of Hope, caressed the Barack Obama cover with its tail and sniffed the Bangladesh-made soap. The rat had found its Ratatouille. But to my surprise it didn’t start eating it. My bushy-brained friend pushed it down to the toilet floor, jumped along with it and rolled the soap to a dry corner. And without any hurry, first smelt it, then nibbled a bit and then started eating.

I felt like an intruder in a place where the rat ancestors lived and ate what they wanted, but now encroached by a man-made toilet. I remembered a newspaper quote by the Nature Conservation Division chief, Sonam Wangyal Wang, from September last year when the human-wildlife conflict discussion was raging. “Peoples are talking about food security. Whose food security are they talking about?” he asked then.


  1. A psychology-resistant rat with a fetish, eh? With such a broad definition of food, I doubt it'll ever have food-security issues - or "regularity" problems either, for that matter. lol

    Glad to have found your blog.. Great story, artful imagery - hope to see more of them!

    red dragon

  2. Thank you red dragon.
    I am waiting to writing an article when humans have food security issues and starts eating soaps.
    Maybe then the world would be ruled by rats.. and we would sneak to rat toilets to eat rat soaps..

  3. I've read that the best SF comes from changing only one seemingly trivial aspect of ordinary reality, whatever that is. Or am I thinking of allegories? Or fables?

    red dragon