The lady.

Maya and her nigoni(rat).


Maya the spirited pre teen curly haired girl was chasing a chubby rat in her house. It was a difficult chase since the nimble footed rodent darted across the expansive rooms , across the verandah and then disappeared into the drain where the water drained from the roof of the old building. It was difficult to prevents rats and vermin from entering old houses in the countryside because the basic layout was open. In those old houses one could never think of privacy because the rooms in the rectangular layout would open into the courtyard at the center and each room was interconnected. So if a rat entered the kitchen he basically had an unhindered route to discover the old feudal house. It had littered the old heirloom sari of the great grandmother, had nibbled on rice in the storage house, had nibbled old wisdom of yellow pages of ancient books kept in a rickety old ebony and glass book case while its kids grew up in the luxury of fur that was kept in an ancient teak cabinet.

Maya was furious because when she studied with rapt attention under the concentrated light from the table lamp, this rat, let's call it Sana, almost gave her a heart attack by jumping out of the books on her antique table. It littered her drawers and moved things around without any warning. Once Sana climbed into the Long curtains that cover the tall windows in her house and shook them vigorously that made her grandma swear that their house had a paranormal member. She raised a hue and cry asked to call the ojha to exorcise the ghost away, but Maya's rationalist father spoke with his thundering voice and proclaimed that there was no place for superstition in their house. That evening perplexed that she could not get her hands on the rodent, she asked Shyam kai to get rat poison and generously lace a nice bait to lure Sana out of its den.

It was December and time for exams, Maya was supposed to bury her nose in books until supper. Maya's grandmother strolled in the verandah with her cane and as she approached the door to the boudoir of the old house the curtains shook vigorously, the old lady cursed,"Shyaaaaaam you are slacking in your duties!! Your rat poison was not effective; the marauding rodent is back and climbing curtains again!! Next time get the kaalnagini brand of poison." She gave the curtain a poke and stepped into the lounge to sit and wait till Biraja, their maid served her evening tea. Evening descended quickly in those places and especially since their area was in the foothills of the Himalayas , evenings meant a faint trail of fog from the hills would descend on the plain and shroud the town by and by as dusk turned into night.

Gopal, Maya's father, came back from work soon enough, trotted into the portico with his boots and entered the lounge. "Gopaaaal", quivered Maya's grandmother, "come have tea with me. I have asked biraja to serve maya in her study. She is a good girl , she is studying hard for her exams." "She better be" thundered Gopal. "Let me freshen up". Gopal had a routine of coming back from work , taking a cold shower be it winter or summer and lighting a lamp in the prayer hall of the family that lay on one corner of their house. One had to cross the courtyard from the lounge to go to the temple. Gopal bathed, lit the lamp and as he was coming out into the courtyard after paying obeisance to his gods he saw Maya staring at the drain where Sana had disappeared the other day. Maya!! Why don't you study!! So you were not studying and devising new ways to catch the rat again! I am fed up of your tricks, this time if you fail in math don't call your aunt to save you from me." Gopal the strict disciplinarian was furious and uprooted a bamboo stick from the holy basil's altar that was planted right outside the temple. He was angry that Maya lied to everyone and was taking her exams for granted. He hated lies, especially since it was Maya who lied because he feared she would turn out to be like her mother. He was about 5 feet away from her, she had her back to him. As he raised the stick to hit her legs and back with all his might , someone called him from behind, Detaaaaaaaa, detaaaaaa where are you???? Come help me with this math problem please!!! I do not understand this problem". The otherwise strong willed Gopal never felt cold even while taking a shower with frigid water during those bone shivering Himalayan dooar winters. Detaaaa was the word he had longed to hear at the end of a long day at work, but then that word sent a shiver down his spine and raised his goose flesh. He had never felt the need to take a shawl after a cold shower but he needed it then. He gathered courage to look at the Maya who was staring into the drain, he was staring at the blank nothingness in front of him. "Coming dear! Just got out of the gosain-ghar". He hurried into the lounge, bare chested and in a dhoti and asked his mother about the ojha who chased spirits into their own realm. "Why are you naked?" asked Aita. Realizing that Maya was alone in the study he sprung on his feet darted out of the room and ran into the study saying,"Maya ma, you are the best daughter I could ever have". She was confused. Shyam kai then came in with tea and bakery biscuits in old china on a tray saying,"Aitaaa, don't blame me, that bastard rat was found dead in the veranda. Bandar chaap poison was good enough for it." Aita was shaking her head, mumbled something and proceeded to have tea.

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