“Eeks!” she shrieked and her scream echoed through the empty house.
Heart thudding, mouth dry, she picked up the mop as her weapon and peered into the living room. The house was dark and quiet. Manoj, her husband and Shristi, her daughter had travelled to Kolhapur two days ago for a wedding at her in-laws place. She was working on an important assignment and had hence been unable to join.
And that’s precisely when the nightmare had begun, she thought.
Sleepless for two consecutive nights. And it’s a third night tonight, she corrected herself.
The evening they left, she had walked into an empty home to spot an unwelcome guest. A big fat rat! Manoj had forgotten to lock the balcony door in a rush to leave and now this atithi* was here to stay.
Oh, how she hated the pest! What perfect timing…
The rat had already made his way through her larder and was merrily gorging on snacks. Fruits, chips, biscuits, the bloody pest was having a field day!
She had enquired about rat poison at the medical store and they had insisted on her placing poison cakes in the house, not that he ever went near them. Hell, they looked so damn unappetizing…
But she had to get him tonight, she thought again.
She had walked in armed with the works. The glue traps were set, the cages with food beckoned him placed in strategic positions.
All she had to do was to nudge him in the right direction…
She pushed the door of the laundry room in trepidation slowly inching her way to the laundry basket, his favorite hiding spot.
“Yikes….!,” the pest jumped up and scurried past her.
Mop in hand she followed but he disappeared again. She glanced at the clock. It read 3 AM.
Although scared she went room to room, moving stuff, opening doors and cabinets. But he had simply vanished. How he went in and out of spaces was still a mystery.
Exhausted, she settled on the sofa, cursing her luck and Manoj for his stupidity. She hated pests of any kind and now here she was alone dealing with this menace.
As the sky slowly turned lighter and the first rays of the sun snuck in through the windowpanes, she rubbed her eyes and stretched. Yawning, she picked up the kettle to heat water for her cup of coffee in the kitchen.
Was that what she thought it was? Her ears strained to hear it again. She tried to recall where she had placed the traps last night. Pulling open cabinets one by one, she finally reached out for the larder door. Her hands trembled and heartbeat quickened.
“Squeak, Squeak!” the grey faced pest pleaded looking into her eyes.
Atithi, not Devo Bhava*, her heart cried.
Feeling sorry for the little pest, she set him free in the woods overlooking the lake near her house and smiled. She would surely sleep like a log tonight.
Atithi – Guest in Hindi
Atithi, not Devo Bhava – Guest is not equivalent to God
Atithi Devo Bhava is a Sanskrit Verse taken from the ancient Hindu scriptures which became a part of the code of conduct for Hindu Society. According to this verse, the guest is considered equivalent to God. Hospitality is part of Hindu heritage. Hence, treating the guest as god, we give full respect to them and take care of all their needs related to food and lodging.
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