The dilapidated door to the basement opened with a squeaking sound and the big heavy hands of a man ruthlessly pushed a frail girl into the darkness. The sobbing girl pleaded but all in vain. As she unwillingly dragged herself down the steps to find the light switch, she was alerted by a squeal.
“Who is it? Do I have a companion here?”, she asked while switching on the only bulb in the huge basement.
Sensing confidence in her voice Musa came out of the hiding.
“Hi! I am Musa. Are you not afraid of me?”, questioned the heavy, decrepit, over-aged mouse.
“Hello. I am Siya. Why should I be afraid of you? I have not done you any harm. In the grocery store that I used to work earlier, many of your peers were my friends. If the owner had it, he would have massacred all of them but then I developed a strategy. One day I had a face to face conversation with the gang leader and struck a deal that if I would keep aside some grains and water, then they would no longer enter the forbidden territory. He agreed and then everyone lived happily ever after.”
“Whoa! You are truly the God’s child.”
“No, I am not the God’s child. I am the love child of my parents. This is an ugly truth, according to everybody, that was revealed to me a few days back.”
“My Lord was right when he instructed that I will have to help a pure, innocent soul in the days to come.”
“Your Lord? Wait..What? Who are you and who is your Lord”, questioned puzzled Siya. “Can you elaborate more on what you said?”
“Of course!”, grinned the whiskered grey creature. “But first, come down and have a seat. That monstrous giant pushed you quite hard.”
“He is my Uncle and I would not like to hear anything against him”, snorted Siya while trying to control her tears thinking about what happened just a few minutes ago.
“You are a naive young lady. You don’t quite understand the cruelties of the world just like your mother.”
“Did you know my mother? Can you tell me more about her? I don’t remember anything about her. I was a toddler when an illness snatched her away. Since then I have been with my grandmother.”
“Get ready to embark on a roller-coaster ride with me tonight to know some bitter, harsh truths. My Lord , Krauncha* is Lord Ganesha’s best friend and vehicle. I have been alive more than my expected age. When all my family and friends left me behind, I pleaded him to grant me death. Instead he told me to wait here in this stuffy place as I have a purpose to fulfil in this life. He gave me immunity to survive.”
“What could the purpose of a mouse be?”
“That is what we are going to unravel tonight. But first tell me how did you come back to this house?”
“This is the first time I am coming to this house. I used to live with my grandparents in a different city. While my grandfather was a strict man and never liked me, my grandmother was a doting granny and never made me miss my mother. After my grandfather’s demise, it was difficult for us to make the ends meet when one day my uncle visited us. He was visibly upset to see our plight and offered us to come and stay with him.”
“So here is the first truth. This used to be your grandfather’s house. This basement used to be your mother’s den. What a talented artist she was! All day and night, she would work hard on paintings to put up for exhibitions. She would paint in watercolours, oil colours, charcoal and what not. Follow me. I will show you something.”
Siya followed him to a corner to find a couple of broken, painted plates.
“This is an artwork of your mother for whom the whole world was a canvas. Things started to change when your uncle got married. Shrewdness runs in the blood of your aunt. I am the sole witness of the catastrophic damage they caused to your mother. She was getting ready for a prestigious painting exhibition and had everything set when one night the cunning couple came down and cut through all her canvas.”
“How could they? Why didn’t you stop them by scaring them away?”
“I was a timid, feeble young mouse too scared to be crushed under your giant uncle’s foot. But I regretted later when I heard all the blame being put on me that I had nibbled through all of her masterpieces.”, said apologetic Musa.
“Poor Mumma. She would have been so upset.”
“Yes she was and she wailed leaning on to the same window you are leaning at now.”, said Musa while pointing to the window that crowned the spacious area.
“But it was just the onset of the atrocities. Things were back to normal for me when one day your mother was pushed into the darkness same way you were did today. All that I could make out from her sobs was that she had fallen for a boy outside her community and the family was against it. To prevent her from meeting him or talking to him, she was locked down here. Until one night, your father came and took her out from captivity through the window. That was the last time somebody came here and stayed giving way to an uncanny lull. Since then spiders, their cob-webs, old pieces of furniture, old books and some unfinished canvas have been my companions.”
“Musa you are more fortunate than me to have seen my parents. What happened next?”
“The youthful, energetic mouse that I had become, I wanted to explore the other parts of the house. And then I was all over the place, the bedroom, the closet, the kitchen, the living room. One fine morning, the gloomy house breathed an air of freshness as your mother returned but this time she was not alone. She had you in her womb.”
“Everyone must be so happy? Grandma and grandpa would have been elated to hear the news.”
“Sadly enough the reality was far from this. She was condemned to bring shame to the family. Your father had abandoned her and she was left at the mercy of her family.”
“Why did my father do this to us?”, questioned Siya while wiping a tear down her cheek.
“Not every question has an answer my dear for example your own existence. God wanted you to survive, that’s why he kept me alive.”
“Was I going to die?”
“Yes and that too even before you could have seen the light of this world. Your grandfather along with your wicked uncle and aunt tried to kill you by poisoning your mother’s cup of milk. That day I was really hungry and was strolling in the kitchen to look for some food when I saw your aunt put in some white powder in the cup. I followed her to your mother’s room and as she was about to lift it from the tray, I made a long jump and spilled the milk.”
“Thank you Musa for saving my life.”
“After a number of failed attempts, they decided to get rid of your mother. But this time your uncle played a bigger game. Sensing sympathy in your grandparents’ hearts for your mother, he cheated on your grandfather and ousted the three of them from the house.”
“Now I am able to see the big picture. It took me by surprise when my uncle with his sugar-coated words brought us back. My grandmother agreed for the love of her new grandchild who came into this world after a lot of prayers. Within a day my granny took charge of the kitchen and I was ordered to help my aunt in looking after the baby. That was the trap we fell in.”
“Ah now I see! They got a new cook, a cleaner and a babysitter this way. But how did you land in this dark and dingy place?”
“Working hard day and night, I was extremely tired today and I accidentally overheated baby’s milk which left the baby crying and my uncle fuming. He decided to punish me for my carelessness. But nothing happens without a purpose. I came across my new friend, you!”
“What is the plan? Where do you want to start from?”
“What do you mean by the plan?”
“Since you have come back, we must take revenge from your uncle and aunt for all the hardships they have imparted on your mother and grandparents.”
“Musa, you are your Lord’s child. How could you think like that?”
“I am not telling you to cause any injury to them but just to teach them a lesson. All our lives, we lead a miserable life unsure of the kind of end we will meet and when. We survive on the dirtiest of the things that you couldn’t even imagine. Now my Lord has given me chance to make my life worthwhile, I am not letting it go. I remember the time when my father had taken us out on a vacation to a temple to gorge on the delicious food, I heard people chanting when good triumphs over the evil.”
“It must be the Dussehra festival when the good succeeded over the evil. So, what are you thinking?”
“These people with evil intentions will never change and will harass you and your grandmother for the rest of your lives if not taught a lesson. We will give them a taste of their own medicine and make them realise that they need to treat you both with equal respect and dignity.”
“Musa, I don’t understand any of this revenge and realisation part. Can we talk tomorrow? I am sleepy and tired now. Too much information to process in a day”, said Siya while rubbing her eyes.
Musa dragged a sheet from a pile of old clothes to make bed for Siya.
As the first rays of sunlight trickled through the window and brightened the otherwise gloomy basement room, Siya woke up to find her companion missing. After few minutes, she heard the familiar squeal and saw Musa squeezing in through the door and jumping onto the steps. It was anything but a regular hopping of a mouse, more like a happy dance.”
“Good morning mischievous friend! What are you up to? And where were you?”
“Captain, I have taken the first step towards our mission”, said Musa with a serious tone.
“Today your uncle will repent piercing through your mother’s paintings. I nibbled the complete newspaper lying in the bathroom.”
“What kind of an attack is that? How will that help?”
“Siya, even in this age of smart phones, there are people like your uncle who are not able to relieve themselves in the morning without reading the newspaper. When your uncle will need the newspaper the most, he will find only a useless piece of paper not worth reading and thus he will suffer the whole day from stomach ache.”
Siya burst into laughter commending the effort of her fearless soldier. This was probably the first time in many years that she had such a hearty laugh.
The sun had climbed up by few degrees when they heard the heavy footsteps approaching the door. Siya was hopeful that she would be released from punishment and would get to see her nephew and grandmother. Musa tried to ease the tension on Siya’s face by asking if he could bite her uncle’s foot at which he got an angry stare.
The door opened and the man with the broad shoulders entered. Musa took shelter under a plate. His words transformed the upward curve on Siya’s face into the opposite direction. She had to stay there for couple more hours without any food or water.
As soon as he left, Musa screamed “Hurray! You will stay here with me for some more time.”
Seeing grief on Siya’s face, he thought of another mischief in an attempt to make her laugh. As Siya leaned on to the window to look outside while lost in her thoughts, she saw Musa. The window overlooked her aunt’s kitchen garden, one of her prized possessions. As part of the daily routine, she would come and turn on the hose to water the plants. Musa with his sharp teeth made some tiny holes on it. As soon as she turned it on, the sprinkling water from unexpected points made her all wet. She ran inside for cover.
Musa, anticipating appreciation came down only to find a sad Siya with a long face.
“Did you not enjoy looking at your harried aunt run away?”
“Musa, this was a sheer childish behaviour. These things will not earn us any respect or equality that you were lecturing on.”
Making sense out of her words, Musa apologized, “I just wanted to bring a smile on your face. I don’t want to lose a friend like you. Tonight when you will go back up, you will forget me and I will be again lost into the darkness awaiting my end.”
Siya lifted Musa up and gave his furry, tiny body a tight hug.
“Musa you are my one and only friend. How can I forget you? I will keep coming down here and just like my mother this will become my most preferred space in the house”, she winked.
“I have a new game plan.”
“I hope it is not as mischievous as the last one.”
“Irrespective of how evil a human can be, it all melts down when it comes to his own child. Tomorrow afternoon during lunchtime when your uncle would be home and your nephew would be with your granny, I would come near the baby and pretend to bite. When your grandmother will try to protect the baby, I would run away without causing any harm but only hitting her with my heavy tail leaving a mark. Your uncle and aunt will be indebted to her to save their son’s life.”
“But this way, you are putting your life at risk too.”
“Don’t worry about me. I will not leave until the mission is accomplished.”
The same night Siya was forgiven and went back upstairs. The next day the plan was executed and bore the desired result. The daughter-in-law, now a mother herself was ashamed of her attitude towards her mother-in-law and couldn’t thank her enough to save her child from mouse bite.
Siya thanked Musa in her heart.
After two days, Musa could hear the hurried footsteps coming down towards him and it could be none other than Siya’s.
“Musa you need to leave the house immediately. I was not aware but uncle called some anti-rodent team to spray some medicines to kill you and lay some traps to catch you.
“Don’t panic Siya. Nothing will happen to me. My job is only half done yet.”
“Grandma has earned her due respect. That is enough for me. Even if I don’t get the right treatment, I am satisfied to be with my family. But I cannot see you in danger.”
“Relax and go back. I will see you in the evening.”
In the evening when Musa followed Siya into the kitchen, he was saddened to see Siya being ill-treated by her aunt. He came back without exchanging a word with her to think about the next and the last plan of action. He did not see Siya for next two days.
Two days later Siya went to the basement to meet Musa.
“Musa, I am sorry I didn’t come to check on you. But that day I had seen you in the kitchen and was assured that you were fine. I was busy helping everyone in packing to go for a family wedding. We will be gone for few days.”
“Siya, is there something that you are hiding?”
“They still consider me the illegitimate child and haven’t accepted me as part of the family. They make me do all the work without saying a single word of kindness in return. I was heartbroken when I found holes in my favourite dress which I was planning to wear in the wedding. To top it all, the blame was put on you.”
“Siya, I promise I would wipe all your tears one day.”
The family left for the wedding. Meanwhile Musa found company in mice Lucy that had sneaked in looking for a potential place to stay for a few days. They had a good time together.
The family returned to find the biggest shock of their lives. The house was a big mess with all the vegetables nibbled on, the saris with big holes, all of the office files chewed on. It was the work of the rowdy Lucy.
Uncle, in a fit of rage, took out a heavy rod and went straight to the basement looking for Musa followed by Siya.
“I am not going to spare that ugly creature today.”
Musa was awakened by the light and the commotion that followed with Siya pleading her uncle to spare the mouse. He freaked out and ran haphazardly for his life. The moment he saw the big rod coming closer to him, he jumped to bite uncle’s foot. Instead he landed wrongly on Siya and bit her.
The next second he breathed his last.
Siya fell unconscious owing to the shock.
Siya did get her due respect not while alive but after her demise. She lost her life to black plague virus after being bitten by Musa. The deadly virus was carried by Lucy.
Musa’s Lord had rightly told him, “A pious soul would lead you into your next birth as a human being who will educate you about the good and the bad.”
Meanwhile Siya united with her mother.
Krauncha* – The mythological story, according to Ganesha Purana goes like this: There was a celestial musician-god by the name Krauncha. One day, in the court of Lord Indra, Krauncha accidentally stepped on the foot of Muni Vamadeva, who (as all Munis), got enraged and cursed Krauncha to become a mouse.
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