Short Story: MICE By V.N.Giritharan [ English Translation From Tamil By Latha Ramakrishnan ]

Troubles caused by cockroaches proved unbearable. Undertook all possible efforts. Right from the Chinese chalk, no way was left untried. But, all in vain. Cockroaches remained the victors forever. At last, attaining the grace to accept defeat and valiantly moving over to another apartment- such a move provided not the expected relief but alas, it turned out to be from the frying pan into the fire. Instead of cockroaches mice caused untold agonies. In Canada, only the buildings have risen sky-high and not the rats. For me who was so used to seeing the fleshy, fatty rats of our rural sides these mice appeared queer. In different parts of the globe, in different soils living beings do exist in different forms. My better half’s continuous grumbling and complaints were another reason for my attention to be focussed on the mice. The way our child too started enjoying the sight of those insects and mice that were running hither and thither added to our woes. “Look here, if you are not going to get rid of your mice I’m not going to stay here for another moment. We have a crawling baby at home, don’t you remember…” Within six months from setting foot in Canada the mother tongue becomes kind of alien to many. But even after six years my wife continues to speak in uncontaminated pure Jaffna Tamil. If I spoke of those who’ve forgotten tamil “that is all humbug…dirty presentation..” so, she would say.. I could bear with anything but not with her grumbling and likerings. And, till I set out to find some solution to this burning problem she wouldn’t leave me in peace. So, I decided to meet the mice in the battlefield, so to say. Of course, various strategies should be awarded for victory in warfare. The first step should be to know about our enemies, i.e., the mice. The more we gather valuable information about them the easier their capture could be. Initially we didn’t think much of the mice. It was when they started having a go at rice, flour etc that we became to the empending danger. If left unchecked, the situation could go out of control. I started realizing that my wife’s grumbling was justifiable. I decided to probe into the affairs of the mice after my better half and offspring went to bed. This investigative indulgence would prove helpful in selecting the appropriate spots for placing the newly bought mousetraps.

Bringing rice and flour and keeping them on the dining table I came away and reclining on the sofa switched on the TV Eagerly awaiting the arrival of the mice and keeping vigil in hope and expectation at random. I was watching the Letterman’s boring feats also. Time was running. In one corner of the wall there was a thin horse. I sharpened my eyes and ears. Close to that old sofa that was placed near the dining table a tiny head as that which we would call grain-sized peeped out slowly. Eyes as black tiny beads. Tiny ears. For a moment there was absolutely no movement. It was then that something stirred in my throat and a sneeze exploded. However much I tried to control it I couldn’t. Out came that with a bang. You should see the speed of the mouse. It flew away. No can even say that it had just disappeared from the scene. After a short pause when everything remained still and silent the tiny head re-appeared. And, the black beady eyes; ‘Winnowing-fan’ ears.

This time I was watching in utter quiet. Seemed like, only after searching for rice and flour in their usual places in the kitchen area and following their scent it had come by the side of the dining table. Inside me there arose a strange wish. In order not to facilitate its climb to the dining table I had already moved the chairs a little away from the table. Wondering how it would realize its climb, curbing my movements as much as possible, I was following its movements with alert and watchful eyes. I had already realizes that even a flicker of a movement was enough to warn it. After wandering hither and thither for a while, sniffing the rise it had fallen under the table. For sometime it remained calm in that position, keeping its ears all alert. Then raising its tiny head upward it looked above once looked like it had guessed the place where the food was kept. I could feel the movement of my wife inside the room, consoling our child that was crying in sleep, and slowly rolling over. Every life in the world tries and tries hard all through its existence. As like this mouse or as like me, we can say. Because war has come to be, since the day of leaving our land what all efforts in what all ways…If one turns out not ok another attempt. Even if one succeeds, one more trial. What a wonderful, great grand world. A world full of mystery. This mouse is now struggling again and again to climb up one of the steep legs of the table. Its movements spell out its intense desire to get on to the table and search the food somehow.

Scaling and falling down, scaling and falling down, the mouse was so going on trying. Sometimes it might succeed in his attempts. Sometimes it might not. But it didn’t seem to be the type which would get disheartened by failures and stop trying. Till the final victory is achieved or till it falls down utterly exhausted it would surely continue its efforts. What an awe-inspiring will power in this tiny piece of life. What grit and determination!

My wife’s grumbling and complaints to find a way to do away with mice came to mind vaquely.Oh! My foolish woman, don’t these mice to have their family, kids and such other relationships, just like us? And, who can say how many lives are there relying on this one tiny life? Just because it eats a few grains or food particles, say what at all do we lose…?

Sleep was weighing heavy on my eyes. But, that small little being didn’t seem to stop at all. In my half-asleep state also the sound of its feather touch movements could be seen.

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