Negotiating with rats

Updated: 20 September, 2020 07:21 IST | Meenakshi Shedde | Mumbai

A little green smoothie (spinach-frozen banana-dates-lime juice), then hot breakfast with upma/poha/dosa and chai

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeIt's the first time that our mum, Amma (Indu Shedde), has come to live with me. It is challenging to care well for a senior citizen, especially in the time of Corona, and with negligible house help. But it is also an opportunity for me to care for my mother, and a gift that deepens compassion and patience. As a friend texted me so perceptively, "Opportunities come to people who can do it." So Amma's Corona-era breakfast, for instance, is an expansive series: Warm water with haldi, honey and moringa powder. Apple/fresh fruit/dry fruit. A little green smoothie (spinach-frozen banana-dates-lime juice), then hot breakfast with upma/poha/dosa and chai.

However, a secret, unexpected visitor arrived around the same time: a rat who nibbled at apples, munchies and Dettol soap (ugh!). I was mad—I didn't want to deal with a rat menace, on top of everything else. Normally, I would immediately have used what maids call "chuha ka cake" (cake for rats), or rat poison. But I would prefer a rat-free home without killing the rat, if possible. I recently did an animal telepathic communication course, and their WhatsApp group is active, including tracing missing pets, etc. I tried to telepathically communicate with Mousu (sounds nicer than Ratu; I've no idea which one he/she is), and stupidly tried to negotiate with it: "I'll even keep food for you daily on the window ledge, but you absolutely must not enter the house. Or I'll have to kill you, which I'd like to avoid, so please help me." Ekdum passive-aggressive. But I couldn't get through to Mousu, so I requested the group to pass on my message. Here's how it went, with my responses in brackets.

Guide: She was a bit miffed that no food was kept for her after you connected with her…So if you were not sure you communicated telepathically with the mouse, you did. (That's because our pact was never, well, ratified. In fact, Mousu scorned the bread usal kept on the ledge, that we ourselves ate for breakfast).

Friend 1: She's not seeming too pleased with the idea (of khana on the ledge). She wants some spot in the house designated for her food. (Oh dear.)

Friend 2: Royal mouse. May be a red carpet too.

Friend 3: Very pretty, she's got six babies... I told her your Amma will keep a different fruit each day (What?!)

Friend 4: What would she like to eat? Any favourites? Or what is good for her babies? (Whaat?!!)

Guide: Also, she says she's checking in on your Amma…So I've explained she doesn't need to do that, since you will take care of her.

My brain was swimming. My close friends said they couldn't believe I was having conversations with a rat, instead of killing it immediately. So I put out the chuha ka cake. Next morning, the cake was eaten, autographed with rat droppings, and I got the impression Mousu was complaining, "How can we party with so little cake? Send more supplies, boss."

Please send me your suggestions what to do. I can't bear the idea of rat cages and worse, rat glue—eeugh! Until your pearls of wisdom arrive, I shall entertain myself watching that clip of Jackie Chan and Mallika Sherawat in The Myth, saving her modesty on a conveyor belt with rat glue (really, see YouTube).

Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at

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First Published: 20 September, 2020 07:04 IST

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