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I know they talk about me all the time. I can feel their eyes on me as I walk across the room. One winks to another as if to say, “She is the one!” They probably laugh. Hmm… Do lizards wink, I wonder? And can they laugh? I am not too up on my zoology about that, but I am sure they must be doing whatever the human equivalent of winking and laughing is. When they congregate behind picture frames or behind almirahs for their lizard conventions, I must be the chief topic of discussion. They will have plenty to discuss all right.

I don’t know what it is with them, the insects/reptiles and me. If I had my way, if our paths were to cross at all, I would prefer them to take the low road and I the high road. Well I am not particular about it. If they so want they can take the high road and I shall be delighted to take the low road. All I ask is that we do not take the same road. Is that asking too much? I shall be East and they the West (Thank you, Rudyard Kipling) or vice versa, so never the twain need meet.

What’s my grouse you wonder?!

Our sideboard had broken its leg and had to be sent to the MES for repairs. We are transferring the glasses and other cutlery from it to the old wooden cupboard. There I am, surrounded by glasses, cups, plates and other fragile things, wiping away, nodding to the music playing from across the room. That’s when I feel a sort of weight on my dress, look down and there is this albino house lizard clinging to my dress.

I try to scream, but no sound comes. I merely go “Ggg…gguu ..gguu…” My normal routine in such situations is to shriek a good deal, enough to wake the dead, and make a dash for somewhere other than where I had been initially. If I had followed the usual pattern there would not have been much crockery left so to speak of. My brain, showing great presence of mind had assessed the situation, paralyzed me and saved the glasses and cups and plates and jugs and whatnots. Heads turn at the “Ggg…gguu ..gguu..” and my Lord and Master, my savior is soon by my side, flicking off the offending lizard, and promptly leading me to safety.

He: Why did you have to go and stand there? Something like this was bound to happen!

I: (Silent, still remembering and mentally shuddering at the experience of an albino lizard sharing me in the eye)

Children give amused looks. The rare occasions they find their Mom helpless tickle them pink.

You think this is all? No siree!

I walk in to my kitchen after a brisk walk and take the pet bottle off the kitchen counter to have a drink of water. My hand touches something cold and I send the bottle flying across the kitchen. There had been a lizard sitting on it. What the heck was it doing on MY kitchen counter and on the pet bottle to be precise?!

Someone has left the kitchen drawer open. About to close it I see some sort of string inside. “What’s that string doing in the drawer?” I ask myself, always the one to want to get to the bottom of things, and pull it, when it quickly slips away. Let me tell you, that was one surprised lizard and one shocked lady. And it makes the day for my family. Sigh.

I make chikki (peanut candy) and walk over to the room where the Martians have congregated to announce the glad tidings. I carry with me the scrapings from the vessel, having left the chikki to cool. Watching the delighted faces with pride, I take just that little bit of extra time to return to the kitchen. On my return I find Mr.Lizard (It could be Mrs. Lizard too) helping itself to the chikki. I throw the whole thing out in frustration. Having second thoughts I go out and get the plate back. I can’t afford to throw plates around in this manner each time. Is all this fair, I ask you?! Do I go and sit on the walls and try to throw a spanner into a lizard’s dinner by eating up all the moths or insects or mosquitoes or whatever their dinner is?!

This is not all.

There is this house where I used to stay which was haunted by a chameleon. ‘Haunted?’ you ask, with that sly grin. Off her onion, you think about me. Ha, but little know you, the truth! Years back when I used to stay there, there was this regular visitor. A chameleon. There is a saying in Malayalam that goes, “Onthine kandal thalli kollanam” It means, if you see a chameleon, beat it to death. (I hope Maneka Gandhi is not around or else my goose is cooked). Now as to why the old timers thought it should be beaten to death I have not a clue. But I sure know their hearts were in the right place.

This chameleon (or maybe there were more and they were taking turns to harass me) would come in daily and park itself at one place or another. Most mornings I found it silhouetted against the curtains in the drawing room. Since it was on the other side, very bravely, I used to attempt to chase it off myself. After all, my baby was sleeping inside. Suppose it crawled in? One day I found it in the bathroom. I promptly ran out, my heart in my mouth, the scream well and truly stifled. My maid very helpfully chased it off the premises. Another day, I find it sitting on my sewing machine. Sewing Machine! Was it going to stitch itself a dress? My one year old is sleeping in the same room. I sit next to him keeping an unceasing vigil on this chameleon aspiring to be a tailor. When the doorbell rings, I make a dash for it, let my 7 yr old elder one in and run back. With his help and a good deal of muffled shrieks (the sleeping baby!) I chase and trap it in the tiny toilet with no means of escape. Come evening, and enter the Lord and Master the Savior. Things are soon resolved with the chameleon taking to the open spaces again.

Well I ask you again, is this just?! Do I go and park myself behind bushes and scare the chameleons to death?! Haven’t I left my garden free for them to run and frolic? Yet they have designs on my home. Unfair!

Once I was sitting out in the enclosed verandah, talking on the phone. Sometimes dry leaves blow in from the nearby tree and entangle themselves among the small green leaves of the plants in the pots kept there. I idly pick out the dry leaf from one such plant, as I usually do, all the while talking on the phone.

I look down to where I had dropped the leaf. Not one dry leaf on the mosaic floor. Surprised, I look up. No dried leaf on the plant either. Strange. I literally jump off the verandah (and out of my skin too) when I realize what I had thought to be a dry leaf had all along been a small brown chameleon. It is sitting on a lower branch of the plant and staring at me balefully, justifiably offended for having pulled its tail for no reason at all.

My husband had plenty to say apart from the mirth that I could hear flowing freely down the telephone lines from far away Bishnupur. “Hahahaha. You better leave things alone…..I am warning you in advance. I bet your next phone call is going to be about kicking some stick on the road, and it turning out to be a snake.” Well I do have this habit of kicking off anything lying on the road, being a considerate soul and not wanting anyone to trip and fall. Now I have wisely given it up this service I had been providing free opf cost to humanity.

There are the cockroaches whom I take pains to avoid but who take greater pains to find me and sometimes by flying in. Ugh! There are spiders that jump out of dark corners with the sole purpose of scaring me. Then there is this mouse or its whole family perhaps, who regularly upset the lamp I lit before the Gods. I asked around and none of my neighbors had this problem. That says a lot, don’t you think?

Hmmm.. …I stick to my theory. There is this big conspiracy against me. They are all in it together. Shhhhh…….Can’t you hear them tittering??

Another one: Operation Spider

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