The incident that occurred not long ago of a rat finding itself on board an Air India flight, as reported in the news, is quite interesting, if not amazing, for such incidents are not rare. Stowaway passengers, whether rats or terrorists, are usually a cause for concern. Spotting rats in odd places, like an aircraft, makes everybody panicky. As the rodents discover that food is hard to come by on board, the next best thing for them to do is to chew the wires up, endangering the safety of the flying machine.
Woefully, you can’t avoid these lowly creatures for they thrive, especially in warm weather, plaguing our country throughout the year, with the exception of two or three months. They breed in dirt, which is a common feature of most big cities and towns in our country. There was a time when rodents used to proliferate only in rainy season, but now they seem to be all seasonal.
In Hindu mythology, the rat has the unique place of being the mount of Lord Ganesha. So, unwillingness often takes over the faithful when it comes to killing these rodents.
Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague, widely described as ‘a gripping tale of unrelieved horror’, chronicles the panic and disgust experienced by those living in Oran, then a French colony, whose streets were strewn with dead rats in myriad numbers. Plague has ravaged Europe and northern Africa most furiously at various times in the past. Rats were thought to have a role in spreading plague among men, though it is said that they have been exonerated now.
However, the plague that raged in England during Isaac Newton’s time turned out to be a rare blessing in disguise. The story goes that the pestilence forced the brilliant man to leave Cambridge and find himself sitting under an apple tree in an orchard. It is said that like an artist’s moment of inspiration, a scientist suddenly discovers the connection between a banal event and a general law of nature. What is said to have inspired Newton to discover gravity was a mere fall of an apple to the ground, which ordinary mortals would’ve dismissed as trivial. So, if we regard rats as responsible for the spread of plague, the creatures can very well claim their contribution to scientific discovery too, and not just by being used as lab animals!
Speaking of the nuisance of rats, almost every building in the housing society I live in is rat infested. Once, a fruit bowl kept over the refrigerator in our kitchen was ransacked by them, and they made a feast of costlier fruit like apples and pears, not laying their hands, nay, paws on bananas that lay alongside.
Maybe the beasts could tell expensive fruits from cheaper ones!
Increase in the rodent population has made rat traps sell at a premium. Often, there have been instances of one coming into possession of a defective trap. Such a trap fails to shut itself when a rat enters it, and the creature makes good its escape after eating the bait that is placed inside to lure it, possibly even unaware that it was in what could have been a trap.
Increase in the rodent population has caused a surge in the demand for rat traps in our locality. Year-round, it is the heyday of rat trap manufacturers and traders. They, of course, want their products to perform well, and catch the rats without leaving any room for doubt about their efficacy. However, these trap manufacturers’ efforts are not aimed at diminishing the rat population. A decreasing rat population follows a fall in demand for rat traps, which doesn’t augur well for them. How will they sell their products then? In the same way a doctor always wants all his patients to get well soon but never wants them to be free of illnesses for good!