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Tillie's Tales My Family and Other Animals
My Family and Other Animals
Once upon a time, not too long ago, our house was a haven for roaches and creepy crawly lizards that lived with each other in peaceful co-existence. Peaceful co-existence because the cockroaches never stopped breeding and the lizards thus, never ran out of cockroaches to eat. As a result, it was like living in a jungle or a zoo of sorts.
I tried to wipe the cockroaches out by stamping on them, swishing a rolled up newspaper at them, wagging a broom at them, using Baygon bait cleverly disguised in balls of dough, but to no avail. They always got the better of me and learnt to hide in the remotest of corners and scurry out when the lights were out. They were not of the variety of the shiny large cockroaches with long swaying feelers that are painted on the Baygon spray cans. The ones that we had to draw in our biology practical class before we pinned them on wax trays and dissected them. Or like the oversized ones we see in TV commercials where the lady of the house is shown gloating triumphantly over the corpse of a cockroach – belly up. This was a definitely smaller, wood colour, nondescript species that blended well with the wood they lurked around in. They were impervious to poisonous sprays squirted from thin but powerful nozzles that were definitely injurious to my health.
In this losing battle, I lost my peace of mind and more so because this incorrigible, interminable army of cockroaches attracted the gecko. Our kitchen was like a veritable food court for the lizards that dared penetrate our carefully bolted doors and windows. One careless mistake made usually by the hired help was enough to let one slimy creature in through the door or window and it would nestle comfortably in our home. This was naturally followed by furtherance of the species and you would have a spate of little ones hatched out of eggs that looked like moth balls, slithering around, learning like Spiderman to use their webbed feet while finding little nibbles of the diehard cockroaches.
Roaches I could stamp on but lizards? In earlier times, lizards remained mainly on the ceilings and walls but now, having become more adventurous, they have learnt to invade other territories. So I would, to my horror, find them peeping from behind the almirah or wedged between shoe boxes. Some would look like miniature crocodiles with hard scaly skin while the others had a smooth ivory tone that helped them blend with the carefully selected cream colour of our freshly painted Royale walls.
Not to talk about the hysteria it generated in the family. We had to drop everything in sight to chase out the one that had dared to invade our home. And the unenviable task of chasing out lizzie usually fell on my poor husband. Armed with a rolled up newspaper, like a hunter of old, he would stalk behind the hastily fleeing creature, taking a wild swipe at it every now and then. In fear, and to direct my hapless husband, my children and I would, from the safety of the bed, shriek in sounds many decibels higher than the poor retreating lizard could tolerate, making it run this way and that, to safer zones. It always managed to run away to some inaccessible corner and out of view.
If I ever tried to enlist the help of the hired help for such an act, it was always met with a disapproving clucking sound – “but lizards are considered lucky for the household, they will bring Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth”. “No, no, how can you even suggest that I kill a lizard, that’s very unlucky, both for me as well as for you.” This dire prophesy was meant to stop me from committing homicidal acts or even planning them. If I ever pressed her to service by threats of unhiring her, she would always help the lizard run away and save its life.
I have tried many types of home remedies and failed miserably in all such attempts. At one suggestion, I have displayed broken egg shells in my drawing room because it was recommended as a sure shot remedy to keep lizards at bay. And this was much to the disgust of my squeamish, almost vegetarian son who hates the sight and smell of eggs. The second suggestion was more aesthetic. “Peacock feathers are sure to keep lizards away”, another well wisher wisely volunteered. And the reason is, because peacocks feed on lizards and every lizard is born with the sub conscious memory of this danger, she told me with a very scientific and smug expression on her face. Awed and armed by this piece of information, I collected a bunch of peacock feathers and stuck them on the walls near the windows from where the lizards were likely to enter. My house was adorned, much like santhali women with flowers stuck in their large shiny buns as they do their group dance, arms entwined behind their backs. But the lizard looked the other way and entered nevertheless!
I have even considered ultrasonic rat repellents advertised in Singapore which emit sounds of a very high frequency ensured to hurt the ears of rodents and chase them away. However, my scientific friend could offer no advice as to whether the same frequency could hurt the ear drums and the nervous system of lizards and thereby, drive them away.
After a lot of experience now, I have discovered that if I wag the ordinary and humble broom at the lizard, it does feel threatened and tries to run away. This is another reason why vacuum cleaners, so important for the housekeeper in the west, have failed miserably in India while the broom, which is of ancient Indian origin, continues to be used till today. Also, although cockroaches are undaunted by cockroach killer sprays, it does manage to stun the lizard for a while and reduce its escape speed which helps me to get another swipe at it and whack it unconscious. After which both the broom and the lizard may be thrown away.
As far as the cockroaches are concerned, I have discovered a more genteel form of pest control, where a lethal dose of poison is mixed with what looks and feels like inoffensive chewing gum and stuck to the corners of shelves and cupboards and under the kitchen sink, the erstwhile breeding place. In the first few months, mutation takes place and the cockroaches reduce to the size of ants, and then they just disappear. Just like that, into thin air without even a trace! So without cockroaches, my house is no longer a Garden of Eden for lizards and for the odd one that dares to stray in, the spray and the broom is an effective combination to get rid of it. In this battle of mother vs mother nature, I feel I have scored one.
So you can come into my parlour now. It is a haven for my family, and totally free from other animals.