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My wife and other animals

Sivamani Vasudevan
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This is no parody or parallel to any other piece. This is no fiction, fairy tale or figment of the imagination either. This is a real life story. Any resemblance or similarity to any other true life tale or any other character, living, dead or yet to be born, is only incidental and unintentional.

Immediately after marriage in 1981, I took my wife to the Mysore Zoo as a prelude to acclimatising her to what she might have to encounter at my large joint family back home when the marital bliss wore off. The pungent odour of the animal habitat, and the smell of fodder struck direct at the nostrils of my wife and put her off instantly. Though she enjoyed the pleasant sight and sounds of different birds chirping in and out of their cages and the beauty of animals, languishing aimlessly and angrily, of course, in their domains, she felt an uneasy and quaint urge to get out of the place on spotting and watching giant crocodiles in stagnated, dull greenish pools and other coiled reptiles in their cocoons. Bronchital allergy runs in her family and she was at odds with the animal induced-dust and din. We exited the place hurriedly.

As the daily grind of new life started, she slowly fell into the family groove and came under the spell of new environs. Her ordeal started when my kid-son fancied rearing a canine pet. I managed to bring a month-old cute white Alsatian. On landing, it went around the house and dashed straight into the kitchen. My fair lady let out an echoing shrill that was audible across the street. Next moment, she locked the pretty thing in the bathroom and sent an SOS to me at office. I sped home and returned the sterling beauty back to its donor, much to the chagrin of my son.

As things cooled and days passed, the inevitable happened. A cat fell into our well while I was away. My wife let all hell loose. Labourers were engaged on a war-footing. The feline beauty would not get into any of the rescue vessels downed. It would dodge a whole retinue of fire service officials and passers-by. Finally, the entire water was drained out and some good Samaritan descended to the bottom of the well and saved the creature. It cost me a little less than half the guideline value of my house. I closed the well for good to eliminate any potential threat and future loss.

I prayed to God to keep us away from all living creatures other than humans around us. There were daily skirmishes over cockroaches milling around at night, mosquitoes flying across our faces, house-flies perching on any accessible surface, not to speak of late night guests like rodents and bandicoots. I was sweating mad catching them live with all my ingenuity and leaving them into the wild opposite my house only to be revisited the next day.

The zenith of the phobia was touched when my wife spotted a mongoose one fateful evening. She concluded that a mongoose would not stray into the neighbourhood unless it smelt snakes. That was the beginning of the end of my wits. I went searching into the dark backyard for the princely vipers at the dead of eerie nights. I could have doubled as an exorcist with a monkey cap on my head and scarf around my neck and a stick (an old-time ruler used by my grandad) in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

I would scout for anything that slithered and moved. I would mistake anything spiral or rope-like for a snake and would wield my make-shift weapon. Not in a position to carry on the relentless witch-hunting err ... serpent search, I cemented the backyard for good to extinguish any fear of any creature, living, dead or yet to be born whatsoever.

In the bargain, I lost my precious hard-built garden, groomed painstakingly over decades. Just as Uncle Sam did not find any WMD in Iraq after ruining the hapless nation, I did not ever spot even a millipede or centipede in my backyard or front yard, upon marauding the entire enviable greenery.

Now an uneasy silence pervades the precincts as no creature dares to enter our house to face my better half and incur her wrath.

( The writer’s email is pushpasaran@yahoo.co.in )

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