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The Lizard Chronicles

April 28, 2011 4 comments

After what seems like several light years, I- the prodigal- step back into the blogosphere and this time my return has been inspired by extreme psychological pain heaped upon me by my seasonal four-legged, scaly, tail-shedding, beady-eyed, stealthy, slithery…..et cetera, roommates. Please excuse the mutant compound statement; writing is an effective way to vent one’s emotions, which are currently a bit dysenteric, for lack of a civilized word.

Well, let me start at the beginning. I have an irrational disgust for (NOT fear of) house lizards. Agreed, they have never harmed me or mine, but even thinking about them makes me break out in goose bumps and cold sweat…..in short, gives me a panic attack. Even my worst nightmares do not involve flunking the exams or a failed experiment, but invariably star a 6-inch monster- the lizard, that is. So, I am careful to keep my room clean, keep doors, windows, cupboards, drawers locked tight and in general, perform every ritual in the Gospel according to Paranoid Lizard-phobics. But I have had my share of bad moments. The highlight being when an exceptionally large and ugly one planted itself inside my laundry bag and I stared at for one whole hour, willing it to climb out of the bag and my life. Yes, that’s confession number 2 – if I feel that a lizard has truly violated/ is on the verge of violating my territory, I stare at catatonically for hours, directing certain thoughts towards it- like don’t drop onto the table, turn left, not right, and so on and so forth. Yes, I know. Those of you have who have actually read this far are either appalled by my craziness or are shaking their heads in pity. The hostel cleaning crew and my dear labrats are well aware of my traumatizing relationships with lizards.

With this background, I proceed to narrate the events that took place on April 27th, 2011. A few days before this ill-fated date, A big fat you-know-what crept inside my bathroom, however, I didn’t bother me much as it seemed to be the peace-loving sort- spent the night in one corner and left with the first rays of the morning sun. As the afore mentioned day dawned, I sauntered into the loo and stopped smacked in the middle of it, my head trying to do a fair impression of Linda Blair’s head-rotating act from The Exorcist. There were four lizards in all four corners of the bathroom. First, I stared at the old inmate and this damning thought popped into my brain- “You betrayed me by bringing others into our home.” Yes, I actually thought that, no, its not poetic (or bloggerectic) license. And yes, I know, I probably need therapy.

Anyway, I took a look at the next scaly-bane-of-my-existence hovering over the cistern. All normal biological urges fled. Even a rookie like me knows better than not to turn the back on an enemy. The third one lodged under the wash basin obliterated all thoughts of teeth-brushing. And that’s when I looked at the fourth one.
It was smaller than its counterparts (which is absolutely irrelevant as even a newborn lizard sends me into paroxysms) and perched upside down on the doorframe between the bed- and bathrooms. And its hold was shaky, rapidly loosening. Once it fell, it could rush straight at me, or it could enter my room, where there was an infinite number of hiding places. I concentrated my telepathic powers on directing it towards the loo, definitely the lesser evil. It didn’t work exactly, it just managed to shifted to the cemented partition where it had a better hold. In one hop, I landed straight from current vantage point onto the bed (It’s a small room, so no need to admire my athletic prowess). And then, I slipped into my catatonic-cum-telepathic state.
To cut a very long story short, one by one the demon spawns disappeared. I finished up all the morning’s interrupted work in record time and by then, was somewhat back to my sane self. Then I scoured the internet for potential solutions to my problem. The most sensible one which I found was to spray the room with bug repellant. Once insects are exterminated, the lizards won’t get free lunch no more and stop patronizing Ye Ol’ Arpi’s Loo. Simple, and much more practical than telepathy.

So I got dressed for lab. Then I placed moth balls around the wash basin, over the cistern, in the corners and on the sill of the only window. My little chemical bouncers, please do your job. Then, I came back into the bedroom, holstered my laptop (yes, that’s the term I use. Don’t bother to mark it as an affront to the English speaking world), took the lock and key in my left hand, switched of the fan, switched on the mosquito repellant, closed the back door, unlatched the front door and picked up the can of bugspray. Holding my breath, I liberally sprayed the loo with the insecticide, darted inside, closed the door and repeated the maneuver with my bedroom, tossed the can on the shelf, locked the door and took another deep breath. I don’t have anything personal against insects, but every war has its casualities.

Over to evening. I came back, saw to my immense satisfaction that my bathroom was all mine. My relief was transient, as, when I picked up my bucket, I saw one of the Evil Ones, propped on its hind legs, staring at me. I dropped the bucket and leaped inside the bedroom. It took me 15 minutes to gather the courage to peep inside the bathroom, trying to make out if the bucket still housed an unwanted guest. It took me half an hour to gather the courage to tap the bucket with my broom. Immediately, “It” leaped out, poised at the edge of the commode. Telepathy time. I prompted it to slip inside so that I could flush it, also asking God for help. Yes, I know. Natural disasters are wrecking lives, incurable diseases are on the rampage, psychopaths are devouring the society, but yours truly was praying for deliverance from a palm-sized animal.

The lizard, of course, was deaf to my appeals. It slithered over to just below the window. Again, I silently cheered it on, but alas! The ultra-lethargic organism repeatedly fell off before it could reached the window sill and, lacking perseverance, changed directions. I watched in horror as it positioned itself in close proximity to the commode…..

…….and did not move for the next 4 hours, 12 minutes. Once again, I am not joking. I kept track. By this time I was in a very bad state. I was panicking- what if it did not move even in the morning? How would I manage? I would have to go to the lab to…you know…..brush and bathe and do other stuff. The rational half of me was appalled at my behavior, but the phobic was in dire straits.

In frustration, I snapped the light switch on and off, and noticed that this thing freaked the lizard and forced it to move. Using this technique along with stamping my foot, I nudged it closer to the commode. Then, in a rare burst of courage, I picked my broom and hurled the “Thing” over the edge and immediately flushed it. Of course, I did not sleep the whole night and kept on checking the bathroom for sign of any reptilian activity.
This morning, there were no new occupants other than the old fat one, who, I suspect had become bolder, as it did not run out the window in the morning. I am almost scared to wonder where I will find it when I get back. My room has suddenly become very unwelcoming.

But the bigger concern is my own reaction to these organisms. It is abnormal, and I have to do something to change it. Hopefully, I will shift to the US next year, where house lizards will not be a problem. Till then, the battle continues. And oh, dear readers, please do me a favour and give me some advise how to get rid of house lizards.

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Categories: Reality bites

The Sounds of Silence

June 3, 2009 3 comments

A strange aura- foreign, unknown- permeates through the corridors of Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow. It hesitates at first, for this is a virgin territory. Then, it firmly establishes itself in the labyrinths of an organisation which never sleeps and the air becomes heavy with the realisation, that, time has stood still.

Last week, I entered the lab only to learn that there was going to be a strike because of some political hotch-potch regarding the governance of the institute. The next day, I found that all the staff members had congregated in front of the Administrative building and were giving speeches etc. Work was slow. Later on, the patients were shifted to other hospitals. When we returned from lunch, the mass exodus was complete. I felt like I was in some military research facility and not a medical institute.

PGI has not witnessed a strike of this proportion in its entire life. The place that was always alive- punctuated with death and despair, hope and happiness- is now deserted. Devoid of bustling human forms rushing with multivariate urgency, barren except for us research people who are unaffected by almost everything that disrupts a normal human life. Desolation and silence prowl the corridors. Footsteps and heartbeats resound in haunting synchrony.

Day Two of the strike, even the roads are empty. Normally one has to snake one’s way around bewildered patients, their worried relatives and lots of monkeys waiting to snatch fruits from the visitors. I almost miss the intruders as I saunter on this strange, uninhabited planet. Thoughts of the inconvenience caused to patients are enveloped by a need to reflect upon this new mantle that my surroundings have donned. Things have become slow, lackadaisical.

As I return to my room, I hope for the sake of everyone involved that the strike is called off soon. Somewhere down the line, there is the crazy idea that I may get used to the quietness that currently lingers. Let me savour this novel experience and stash it away in the annals of memory. We shall talk about it often, when life retreats behind the façade of normality. It might even be missed.

And now, a compromise has been reached, the protestors stand triumphant, patients are flocking to the hospital, doctors and nurses have returned to their work stations and of course, the PhD students still remain blissfully ensconced in their special life which is immune to those happenings which mar the peaceful existence of others. The flurry is back. The quietude surreptitiously goes back into hibernation- an invisible leviathan waiting for its next wake-up call. So long, Silence!

Categories: Reality bites

Checkmate: The Grand Finale

May 24, 2009 1 comment

21st May, 2009: Like a forlorn Zoozoo, I sit alone in a corner. Everyone in the lab is busy playing chess; those who couldn’t get a partner are awaiting their turns. But no one is ready to play with me. Reason? I am too pathetic an opponent. So I sit on my working desk, dangling my legs, popping “aam goli” into my mouth every now and then and disturb the players as frequently as possible.

Swamy swaggers in. Amit animatedly- and with the aid of several unprintable, juicy swear words- informs us that the previous night, Swamy lost to Srikanth. Swamy promptly doles out the blame on me: “My standard has gone down ever since I started playing with Arpi.” As far as chess is concerned, I have no pride left to be bruised, so his comment goes unrewarded. I try to bribe Amit with aam golis, but he still refuses to play against me. After devouring 8 of the digestive candies, he vanquishes Pramod in just 10 moves. Sigh, when will I learn to play like that?

It is a busy day for me with two samples to be processed. The calculations and planning divert my mind. I am tired and I know that I will have to be in the lab till 9 P.M. I realise that I need some human company if I want to avoid sleeping through my experiments. So, I managed to coax Swamy into a game of chess. He agrees, as he too is bored.

He’s probably not concentrating, but suddenly, we both realised that he has lost quite a few of his pieces. “You’ve improved,” he remarks.

Amit- ever the inquisitive one- hurries over; he is immediately absorbed and comments that Swamy is in a bad position. By this time, Swamy gives me a check with his queen. I block his path with my queen. Now the three of us are seriously concentrating. A couple of moves later, Swamy’s queen (white) is trapped. He can rescue her and simultaneously gobble down my pawn, but he overlooks the chance and in the next move, I kill his queen. Of course, my queen also goes, but now I am in a strong position.

Now, Swamy’s pet move is to let his pawns infiltrate my side of the board and convert them into queens. There have been games when my poor king was stalked many as many as three opponent queens. This time too, Swamy is hoping for a similar coup. Amit is beside himself with excitement- I have to beg him to shut up and not guide me. I am gorging on aam golis– following Amit’s claim that they bring luck in chess.

By this time, my elephant and knight have trapped the white king. However, I have lost several pieces and one of the white pawns is all set to be reborn as a queen. One move and it will be all over. Swamy- like the priest in “The Mummy” – is so engrossed the aforementioned reincarnation, that he neglects his king. And then, like a gentle whisper on the wings of a hurricane, I take advantage of his distraction and… checkmate! Black wins!

Swamy and I are still recovering from the shock. Amit is howling, prancing, dancing, making fun of Swamy, screaming, “It’s the aamgolis! They helped Arpi to defeat you! Swamy, you loser! Yanna rascala!”

I quickly text the news of my victory to Sushma, Rajni and Pramod. By this time, Srikanth also enters the lab and is informed of the conquest, which Swamy is attributing to cheating. My absentee labmates telephone to congratulate me. I am so relieved. I will never play chess again.

22nd May, 2009: Poor Swamy. I wish Amit would stop bugging him so much. But I know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now that we have all gotten over the shock, we have to decide what penalty Swamy will pay. The girls have unanimously decided that we want to see him dance and have even made a list of Hindi and Telugu item songs. He refuses to oblige. Maybe I will have to defeat him again to prove my point. I can already imagineCheckmate ! myself sprawled on the floor, with a butterscotch Cornetto in my hand and Swamy gyrating to some really naughty numbers!

Categories: Reality bites

Checkmate: Part I

May 9, 2009 1 comment

A million apologies to Mr. Archer for shamelessly plagiarising the title of one of his superb short stories; but my life is taking a turn similar to his tale.

Last week, I started learning how to play chess under the able guidance of my lab partners. I must confess, unlike most people, I find the game boring and…okay, I’ll say it, not challenging enough. Anyway, a couple of days back, Swamy was looking for a partner to play against. I volunteered. His response, “There’s no fun playing with you. You are pathetic.” The poor female ego was badly bruised. Yours truly purred sweetly, “I can’t wait to see your expression when I defeat you.”

“If you manage to defeat me within one year, I will do anything you say.” He replied nonchalantly.
I clenched my fists and teeth, mustered every single iota of self respect I had and threw the challenge: “Three months. If I don’t defeat you within three months, I’ll do anything you say.”

Hitherto the trend had been that whoever lost the last chess game of the day had to treat the rest of us to coffee. So far, SS has not spent a cent. So, my words created a major uproar in the lab. “Anything? Anything?” This was Amit, his dirty mind brimming with possibilities. Amit & Rajni are on my side- they want to see Swamy brought down and that too by a midget like me. Sushma is neutral. Pramod is confident that I will not be able to succeed. August 6th is the deadline.

This is it. I am practicing, and yesterday Swamy himself said that I have improved, but still, August 6th is not too far off. Anything can happen. Meanwhile, speculations are mounting, as to what task the loser will have to perform. I have been bombarded with suggestions, even requests. Amit & Rajni are coaching me with greater dedication than they will ever have for their research. Whatever, even I am eager to see how this saga will end. Well, time for me to get some practice. Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into?!

Categories: Reality bites

Fiery Tales

December 1, 2008 2 comments

Even the least patriotic India is shocked, flabbergasted and brimming with indignation. Our nation has once again been ravaged by terrorists, a calamity of such gargantuan proportions that is equalled in recent times only by the World Trade Centre incident. I feel a part of me has died with all those whose lives were cut short by a mindless act of violence. Although I have become practically accustomed to terrorist acts, this time, I could not shake off the feelings of anger, despair and disgust.

I do not know what sickened me more- sights of wounded/ orphaned/ dead infants, charred bodies or, the fact that, the perpetrators were young, younger to me in fact. Opening the newspaper, I looked at the face of the terrorist who has been captured alive. Except for the gun, he looked like a normal college kid, with his cargo pants, ruffled hair and backpack. He should be bunking classes to sneak out on a date, I thought, his worst crime being smoking in the college loo. Not this, not this carnage.

The economy will recover, the hotels will be rebuilt, and the evanescent patriotism will peter into oblivion, only to be resurrected by another similar incident. The dead will be buried, time will erode the brutal edge of painful memories, but the bereaved will forever be haunted by the thought that some insane “cause” wrenched from them the chance to say even goodbye to their loved ones. Along with life and property, another loss has been incurred; so many hearts have died to love.

The very minute the blasts started, some of my friends were due to land at the Mumbai airport and some others were in Pune. I came to know about the incident only the following morning. After several fervent attempts, we managed to contact one of them and breathed a sigh of relief to learn that they were all safe and sound. How I wish these words could be reiterated by millions of those who, instead, are mourning right now!

These saturnine days are a poignant reminder that life is short and unpredictable. Worse, it is very often in the hands of ruthless killers. We plan a beautiful life with the ones we love. We plan a movie, a honeymoon, a nursery for the newborn, only to watch them go up in smoke. No one is safe, no one is immune, we are all vulnerable and we are all helpless. All we have is two options: to live in fear, or in hope.
I choose the latter. Let’s spread laughter all around and accrue a myriad of immortal memories, so that, when our time comes, a gun totting militant can take away only our life, not our spirit. Bullets may riddle a million hearts, but they can never severe the bonds of love. We live on, with legacy of love handed down to us by those who left us so suddenly. I know they would want to us to go on, united, strong, with an indomitable will to enjoy life, or whatever is left of it. May their souls rest in peace.

Categories: Reality bites