A Time for Little Things

An absolutely bright sunny September morning, all fresh and breezy! The main advantage of having more than enough rains is that the sky is extra blue, being washed of our sins, i.e., pollutants. There is a silvery spray of scattered fluffy clouds floating merrily across the blue playground. The lush green leaves shine with a happy gloss under the sun. The insects and butterflies seem gone berserk with joy as they claim the best of the short time they have on earth. The birds are pretty vocal too about their agreement about the good weather elements for the day.

Potatoes in the kitchen of a bachelor staying alone have a particular advantage. They get enough time and space to enhance their status and sprout shoot and sapling in order to hurriedly change their status from the meek eatables to live plants. A potato is all inclusive in growth. It sprouts from all angles. It seems like it has the procreative urge all across its body. Isn’t it an expression of the instinct of expansion in the universe? There is enough moisture in the rain-lashed air, so the potatoes have decided to be plants and avoid the status of getting piteously frying in the boiling pan.

A potter’s wasp also carries certain advantages of occupying a bachelor, middle-aged writer’s house. It has more options to choose a location for its clay house. The scooty hasn’t been used for more than a fortnight. So the nice rubber on the handle grip grabs the wasp’s fancy. The grip has a clayey addition now. A house is in making at a furtive pace. The wasp is really busy, doesn’t get tired. It won’t lose focus and energy till the final brick is laid. I feel inspired by its diligence for the cause. Well, I decide not to be a spoilsport at the moment. But if I need the vehicle very urgently, the wasp will have to ungrip its hold on the scooty’s handle grip. If I find myself in too lenient a mood, I may decide to put the old bike rusting in the barn into order and let the wasp fulfil its tenancy. There is always choice and scope for kindness.

The peeping crow is still at its favourite pole. But then it’s a bright sunny day. It will have to pay with a lot of sweat for its fun. I hope it doesn’t starve itself to death in lieu of its inter-species addiction.

Saw an 8-10 inches long krait baby snake sneaking into the wildly unkempt yard. It sneaked in through the space under the lower grills of the iron gate. Despite my stomping of feet, it managed to occupy the property. I think we get more scared in dreams than in real life. I woke up with palpitations. It was a dream guys. But given the condition of my unkempt courtyard and the little garden, the reality of a snake crawling in is far bigger than the dream. Well, if it has really managed to come in, I don’t worry too much. The kittens are there. It’s an equal match in size and age, a kind of fair play. If they win, they learn successful hunting. If the snake wins, it learns the basics of stout defence. All this is same to Mother Nature. By the way, a krait couple seems to have managed a very successful hatching season. Two little ones have been found in a neighbour’s house. Including the one in my dream makes it three. The bigger one that we killed in the yard was probably either of the Ma or Pa snake. That’s better to avoid further proliferation of the species. Well, unless the remaining one doesn’t turn out too romantic and woos a partner soon.

A farmer accosts me from the gate as I am suspiciously looking around the place where the dream-snake sneaked in.

‘I need to take your advice and opinion on a very important issue,’ he says.

I know he is the mini-celebrity of the village. Even if he has to buy a needle, he has to ask at least fifteen people on the issue. No problem in that, one should consult others. The only trouble is that he has never abided by anyone’s inputs, without exception. He will do his own stuff later. It rubs a lot of salt on the people’s wounded ego. Probably, he asks others only with as much intent as to rule out those points at least. The rule of rejection, I suppose. He basically asks people what not to do, but people won’t understand. I am also not much interested in his new problem, so I have to dodge him.

‘Just now a big black snake has sneaked into the flower bed. First of all, please come inside and help in removing this problem. Yours we can discuss later,’ I reply.

Of course, he leaves the scene without his one more ‘what-not-to-do’ thing.

Kalla is raven black with equally white teeth and eyes. His smile is infectious. He is thin and looks like an undernourished long-distance athlete. He smiles and greets as I brush my teeth standing in front of the yard gate. He moves with ease, not much concerned with life. He started as a truck helper to get promoted to be a full driver later. There is prohibition in Bihar and he found simple cargo provisions for his truck too boring. His truck would then carry cartons of wine into the forbidden state. A few sorties are very successful in such matters. So he had extra money to spend.

In great spirits, he joined a group of trampish happy-go-lucky group of youngsters going to Manali for drinking and carousel spree. During the bus ride, he got the moment of his life for which he can afford a contended smile till his last breath. His co-passenger on the seat was a backpacker from the far away fairy lands. She was as white was he was glossy black. She found Kalla too cute and innocent with his big white eyes and innocent, shy grin. The bumpy ride dozed her off into a sleep. The best travellers are those who make the most of what they get on the path. They don’t crib about the lack of facilities. She too was resourceful and to extend the comfort of her sleep, she slid down onto his lap and slept peacefully for hours.

Kalla felt so much obliged and honoured that he absorbed all the shocks of the bumpy ride but didn’t move an inch lest she got awake. Ogling at the angel, he just sat through the hours-long journey. As they say, all things come to an end. The journey got completed. He had even missed his tea snack as the bus stopped by a roadside eating point, his friends winking and urging him to eat something. He but flatly denied through vigorous roll of eyes—he couldn’t afford to shake even his head in denial, risking waking up the sleeping angel—and looked the other way.

At the destination, the tourist smiled at him, hugged in fact, shook his hand and moved away with perfect ease without even looking back once. What a detachment from worldly matters!

‘How can you move away like this, as if you don’t even know me, while every cell in my body is yours now!?’ Kalla was left wondering.

Well, that was the moment of his life, all of this possible because he had extra bucks from ferrying illicit liquor to Bihar. Then the moment of paying back for fun arrived, as it inevitably does. He was caught in Bihar and put into jail. Now, Bihar being too far, his farmer father said the crops are in urgent need of his presence here.

‘How can I go there and spend weeks to get him bailed out. Someone has told me that the food is nice in the jail there, so it shouldn’t be a big problem,’ he wasn’t too bothered about the situation.

So Kalla enjoyed the Bihar trip for a good six months. That was when his father had enough time; his duties in the fields allowed him some spare weeks to go visiting Bihar and bail out his son.

As I spit out the toothbrush foam, a farmer neighbour is spitting out the choicest expletives on his buffalo, o sorry on his wife. Most probably, she has had extra(marital) fun instead of breakfast this morning. The farmer is around 40 and she is in her early thirties.

Years back when he was freshly married, he almost came running to me as I glumly wandered about the village pond looking at the ducks.

‘What fun do you derive out of this boring duck watching? The real fun is in getting married. A wife is real fun!’ he gesticulated.

‘Good that your wife is very happy with you,’ I smiled.

‘She has every reason to be happy. I give her pleasure almost all the time!’ he turned reddish, probably recalling some memories.

‘Well, too much of everything isn’t recommended. Pleasure arrives with pain also,’ I cautioned.

He was disappointed a bit. ‘You are almost a Babaji, what do you even know about a Wife?’ he laughed. Both of us laughed in fact.

Years passed. He had two kids and his ability, urge or intent, or all of them together, greyed like the pace of his bull slackened while pulling the cart. But his wife had the same old expectations from her carter. This gap was easily fulfilled by the young and upcoming carters, who are on a look out for such gaps in matrimonies in the neighbourhood. The husband was of course wounded to begin with, so he thrashed his wife. But even an ox won’t increase its pace beyond a point after getting whiplashed. Acceptance is the biggest tool to lead a tolerable life. He spared his hands extra effort in whiplashing his wife after beating the bull and started giving extra effort to his tongue through abuses. Well, that was pretty ok with the wife as well. So here he was doing the same after her latest round of extra(marital) fun.

The big rascal alpha male monkey carries the best pink colour in the world on its bum. It comes walking over the yard fence followed by three females, all of them carrying little ones on their backs. The rascal has been very busy in adding to his progenies like Chengez Khan did centuries ago. It goes with uncaring majesty. It has seen the toothbrush in my hand and knows that it’s no match for its fangs, which it bares as a warning not to mess up with his harem as it trains over the wall. Arrogantly it shakes a few branches of the tree as a further warning. Bare-handed, or even with a toothbrush, it’s too much for a human.

It remembers our last encounter. I had disturbed the train of his harem on the terrace. The ladies screeched away in horror. He was very much offended as the king of panicked queens. I had a very thin six-foot long bamboo stick. A flimsy weapon, I tell you. Its ends were split and I doubt whether even the kitten will mind it too much if I strike it with full force. Thank God, the monkey can’t see through the chink in the armour. To him, it is a lethal weapon and he gauzes its lethality by the striking distance, not the quality of its strike.

It bared its fangs and mocked attacks from a distance of eight feet, pacifying its vanity that I am not fully afraid of you. I had to add to my weaponry by picking a full brick and threaten a strike with full force. Now that too was a mock attempt, just like a monkey feigns fierceness. Who will throw a big brick with full force on one’s terrace? It will surely miss the monkey and will do more harm to the roof without even ruffling a single hair on the rascal. Again, good that they can’t see through these things and take things just literally on the face value. We have some extra things that we take in spirit. Well, we just have bigger brains, nothing else.

It remained at the front till it saw that the mamas of his children are safely on a neighbour’s roof and are gleefully looking at the interesting fight from a safe distance. He then showed me his shameless pink bum, looking back once more as if to say ‘I will see you some other day’ and ran away.

The next day, I found the terrace messier than before. I have a doubt that he indeed remembered the fight and performed certain extra criminalities on the way back in the evening. They keep the same route by the way; come whatever I may do to divert the trail route.

Forgot to tell you, the sturdiest of the street dog was heard howling in pain one afternoon. People ran to find out the big rascal holding the panicked dog by ears and slapping it profusely. Since the dog is a favourite of many drunkard farmers, the monkey king has many more enemies now. During their customary brawls in the evenings, when they routinely get sloshed up and need an object to vent out their fury, they have now taken up the fat monkey as the common enemy. The maddest words still do the rounds in the streets but they are less offensive because they are targeted at the monkey.

‘We will keep it chained and make him drink only liquor till he turns well-behaved like us,’ one of them gave the expert opinion, which was agreed only to the extent that of course the monkey would be sloshed first but later on would be thrashed for all the sins till it learns to hold human feet and plead for mercy.

It’s impossible to find a well-behaved monkey. They form the foundation of all the misbehaviours that we are engaged in as humans, destroying planet, disturbing the laws of nature. What they do on a small scale in a yard, we do at the bigger scale all over the planet. There is no qualitative difference but for some quantitative disparity. That’s why the rhesus monkey loves staying among humans. Out in forests, it gets bored to death.

They pry open the lids of rooftop water tanks and dive in and come out sleek and all brushed up to perfection. They get disgusted with any type of orderliness around. They have to put it into disorder as per the laws of entropy that says the cosmic disorderliness is ever on the increase. So they are the cosmic agents of entropy in fact. The trees have suffered. They just jump from rooftops into the canopies and commit as much damage as possible by flailing their limbs in all directions. Poor trees!

A few of them just love rope-walking, sorry wire-walking. Many a house go powerless at nights thanks to the extra wire-walking fun by the monkeys. Further, they cannot bear the ignominy of seeing a tree branch bearing the burden of a nest. They have to come to the trees’ aid at any cost and free the rent holding.

A few of them have too much of sex in their mind like humans do. They would just walk in all bonhomie on the parapet walls, all solemnly, for a break, and suddenly one idiot rides the haunches of the one in the front, irrespective of the gender of the carrier, and mocks licentious movements that can embarrass even the most shameless ones among the farmers.

I just hope that the kittens are spared from the monkey slaps. That would be too much for them. The other day, it was partially cloudy. They are becoming lazy and over-dependent on milk. Everybody gets spoilt by the free facilities. Who wants to stretch one’s limbs if there isn’t too much urgency for the same? They are no exception. They just wait and wait and wait for the bowl to get its contents. They have stopped going out into the bushes outside the yard to learn hunting. All through the day they just lie down comfortably and sleep. Well, to me a cat that doesn’t hunt is no cat. So I decide to teach them a lesson in attention and patience, the necessary requisites for hunting.

They keep on observing my every movement, waiting for that particular one that may fill the bowl in the corner. It’s very irritating, I tell you. This is plain greed and puts me off. Grumbling I fill the bowl but I put it in the open as a fine drizzle has just started. Driven by their greed, they run to lop up as much as possible. A cat abhors getting wet. She hates rains even more than the dogs. The misty drizzle turned to a rain and they had to run into the veranda, leaving the bowl still three quarter full. Definitely a torture to them. So the fear of getting wet is more than the love for milk. New observation. The skies are with me. The rain turns into a storm. It rains cats and dogs to make the cats learn the lesson in patience. So huddled in a corner they stared at the bowl without batting an eyelid. Concentration and patience are good for hunting. I am happy.

It keeps on raining for an hour. The bowl is full as a fruit of their patience. They have braved the storm, thunder and lightning and didn’t go hiding like earlier. They run out happily as the clouds take leave off the scene. Well, sometimes even patience doesn’t carry a sweet fruit as we expect. Their patience has earned a lot of water in the bowl. They lop up a few sips and move away making weird faces. I get my revenge for their insolence and laziness.