30-Oct-2008

Crackers

I remember Diwali as a kid. We never used to have enough crackers. It was always begging some kind adult for an extra ten rupees to go and buy another round of crackers. It is not like our folks never bothered to get us any. But we would run through them fairly rapidly. Sometimes even before Diwali officially began.

The fun began when the whole family got together. The main show when we were kids was ‘The Train’. We would have spent a whole afternoon lighting up snakes (that produced an ugly black coil of soot, accompanied by a disgusting smell and left burnt marks all over the floor). We would have run through the safer, more sedate ‘kuruvi vedis’. Then the adults would wake up; have their evening cuppa and The Train process would begin. A long thread would be tied from one end of the corridor to the other. One uncle would post himself at one end. Another would man the starting point. One would get a bucket of water, handy for maintenance work. Another would just pace around advising all three on how to do their jobs better. Our moms and aunts would usually watch the spectacle, just laughing aloud. Then The Train would be ready. Kids would be shooshed away to safe watching spots. The cracker would be lit at one end. Beating speeds of a Japanese Bullet train, it would whoosh on the thread to the other side. The naked eye could usually see only a trail of smoke and a slight sparkle here and there. We kids would remember to breathe again. One year, the train managed to burn an old mask made of coconut hair that was unfortunately hung in the passage way. I think it must have been the greatest adventure in my seven years of existence.

As I grew, and approached my cracker-bursting-prowess’s peak, there came a Diwali when a cousin and I lit crackers with one hand and flung it casually from his 6th floor balcony. Of course, my parents or relatives had no clue that we were doing this. Our hearts thumped from the fear of being scarred for life and of being discovered, the latter a more potent one. There was also the challenge of ensuring that the cracker burst after it left your hands but well before it hit some unsuspecting pedestrian on the road. The adrenalin rush and the arguments on how to ‘time’ your cracker…

After a while, I enjoyed bursting crackers with my younger cousins, but I was certainly not the enthusiast who begged everyone to come and start bursting crackers the minute the sun began to go down a bit.

Since then, it has been a steady downward slide. This Diwali, as also several previous ones, has been quite sedate as far as the explosives division is concerned. For tradition’s sake we had to get one packet of sparklers for the morning prayers. It lay quite forgotten after that.

Of course, I can now nobly join the activists who talk about the air and noise pollution created. Infact, I vividly remember mentally cursing some of the colony kids for bursting crackers during my post prandial siesta. But then, in the evening, when I saw them arguing with each other on ‘timing the cracker’ and rushing up to their parents for another round of crackers, I sheepishly let another new generation take my place.

07-Oct-2008

Ten steps to catch a mouse

1. Realise that stupidly leaving the kitchen window open is the surefire way of turning the fruit basket atop fridge into a rodent hotspot. Curse self and close all possible outlets through which mouse can enter

2. Realise mouse is still entering and exiting at will. Do research on mousetraps and purchase cutting edge mousetrap (basically a piece of cardboard with super glue on it )

3. Worry about what happens if the mouse is actually caught in the mousetrap. Will it nibble off your hand while you pick up the trap and throw it away? Will you die of leptosorosis?

4. Buy Mortein Ratkill and place it atop the mousetrap along with a piece of banana. Order of events as envisaged theoretically – mouse will smell the banana and jump onto the mousetrap. It will struggle to free itself. After all that energy, it will feel hungry and start eating the Ratkill. Then it will die. In the morning, you can throw out the entire contraption alongwith the dead mouse. Order of events as occurred practically – mouse smells the banana and jumps onto the mousetrap. It eats the banana. Then eats the Ratkill. Then jumps off the mousetrap leaving two tiny footprints.

5. Scream out in frustration

6. Ask maid to pick up a traditional mousetrap. Hang pieces of apples, banana and carrot on the trap and watch it disappear everyday. Realise you are incapable of setting the spring gently. Blame it on the defective make of the trap. Meanwhile notice mouse has become fit and has got 20:20 vision from healthy diet.

7. Scream out in frustration.

8. Realise mouse has taken up residence in the depths of the old, battered sofa the landlord has given you. Purchase new mousetrap yourself after testing several in the shop.

9. Set the trap at night. Jam all doors with newspapers. Lock yourself into your bedroom against your new co-tenant and feel like Robert Neville, the protagonist of I am Legend battling against the vampires. Repeat process every day while mouse pitter patters around the house happily after carefully avoiding the mousetrap

10. Scream in frustration

And one fine day your maid calls you at work and announces that she caught the mouse with her bare hands and flung it out of your fifth floor window. Slobber into the phone emotionally and speak corny Bollywood dialogues like ‘Aapne tho sach much kamal kar diye’. (You worked miracles) Stop before telling ‘mein tho zindagi bar apaki abhari rahoongi’ (I will be indebted to you for the rest of your life). Heave a sigh of relief and try not to think that the sixth sense is highly overrated in the human vs mouse battle.

p.s. Looks like the city is fighting a losing battle against the rodent problem and there are still some brave men out there.