It is the
stuff of fairy tale romances- this whole frog, princess, and
prince thing. In real life, the truth is slimier. Try looking
at a garden frog (not a toad, which is uglier with its warts
and marks) closely, and you'll know what I mean. I have also
read recent versions of these tales with a slightly better replacement,
the house lizard. The change is understandable. With patches
of green disappearing, it was natural that the modern day princesses
look for easily accessible options closer home, even if that
may make the results a tad incestuous. For, lizards and we grow
up like siblings, sharing the same bed, hiding behind the same
curtains, using the same floors, even the same toothbrush. We
recognize them by the colour of their skin (unfortunately, no
fairness crèmes have been introduced for them, so far),
the black ones being the most noticeable whenever they scoot
across the bare walls. One lizard dies, several more replace
it, and so on. Until the next massive pest control that wipes
them out completely.
I have nothing
against house lizards. At least not like my room mate at the
university hostel who was often discovered jumping and uttering
delirious profanities precariously positioned on her study table
that had been pulled to the centre of the room, pointing madly
at some lizard in one corner of the room, trying to verbally
shoo it away. I wonder what made her think that the lizard was
not capable of creeping up to the ceiling right above that table,
and then perform a free-fall from there. But then, perhaps it
was this belief that saw her through her frequent ordeals.
I am impartial
to their presence, but I notice them around. The only time they
cease being un-intrusive is when they fall upon me, but such
accidents are few. In general, they don't trouble me much. But
it is a different tale at my in-laws' house where I am holidaying
these days. There is an unchecked cultivation of these creatures
and there's no saying where you'll bump into one. So alarmingly
infested the house is with these friendly reptiles, that they
cease being friendly.
what happened this morning. The punctilious mother-in-law (MIL)
proudly brings out a freshly baked cherry almond cake from the
kitchen and we express our rehearsed hallelujahs down to the
exact much-favoured intonations. My little one cuts the cake,
as he does with anything that comes out of the oven, and, for
the nth time this year, we all sing 'happy birthday' for him.
The mini celebration over, the cake is left there covered with
a net basket. Anyone is free to go and peck on it. The MIL offers
it to me, but I say I'll have it later.
In the afternoon
when everyone's enjoying their siesta, I want to have a bite
from it. Only, what stands guarding the treat is a fat black
lizard that has decided to enjoy its afternoon snooze curled
up under the cake dish. The net has slid off the dish, and this
fat lizzy looks unusually pleased with itself. I know this lizard.
I've seen it around in the cabinet where MIL stores her nuts.
It must be the almond in this cake that has brought this creature
asniffing. Even as I inch towards it, it seems to be in no hurry
to scurry off. And why would he? For all I know, it may be as
deaf as The Hubby is when he's sleeping. I am certain it is
a male lizzy.
It is a
repulsive sight, as you'll agree if you try and visualize it.
I have several options to work upon- raise an alarm and wake
up everyone, particularly the MIL, and show all, as is where
is (lest I be singled out for declining to taste her fare by
design); shoo it away, cut myself a slice and then pretend as
if nothing happened; or let the sleeping lizzy lie and hope
and pray that the MIL sets her sight on it later, and sensibly
decides to throw the cake away. Or I need not have a bite now,
but tell her later, without blinking, how utterly mouthwatering
the cake was, and also get my pen and paper along to take down
her secret recipe.
none of these happen. Even as I stand there deliberating, the
creature's sense of foreboding being stronger than mine, it
languorously lifts its head, looks in my direction and then
clambers away. Good for me, because now I can forget about the
cake and the incidence, and others in the house needn't be told
about this unpleasant episode. The MIL would be heart broken
to see her creation being refused by everyone in the household.
It's all right. No one ever died having shared a bite with a
the problem, you see. Lying doesn't get me far. I start stammering,
sweat gathers on my upper lips, my cheeks become red, and even
before I've said the lie, I'm found out. So The MIL needs to
be informed. When the old woman wakes up later, it is an a-climactic
debriefing. And I have not even reached the part where the lizard
is to be mentioned, when she says, "Oh, so that black lizard
was there today as well? Yeah, it probably rests here to beat
the heat, this room is cool. Harmless creature. Did you have
usually happen in cooler climes, but for me they always happen
at times when the heat is unbearable. "Cake? Err, sure,
mmm, no, actually, I was not feeling hungry after all that heavy
meal we had…”
you can have it now…" Now we know where The Hubby's gets
his traits from.
sure, of course, that's what I've been dying to do since I took
off from Dhaka…"
there as I struggle with a slice. As I lift it to my mouth,
a million repulsive images stream down my mind, and a nauseating
smell pervades my senses. That is when something from within
makes me throw the slice away. I say "no, I can't eat it,
it makes me want to throw up." Hah! The household is stunned
into silence. With deep un-amused frowns, the MIL has just witnessed
the most blatant act of mutiny in her personal life.
forehead and the livid eyes tell me I am doomed. As of this
afternoon, my opinion of lizards stands revised. A pest is a
pest, and it is bound to make your life miserable. Period.