Drats, there's a rat problem! but hold on to your hats

Rats! They fought the dogs and killed the cats/ And bit the babies in their cradles/ And ate the cheese out of the vats/ And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladles.’ Had he been around today, Robert Browning might have penned those lines to describe not medieval Hamelin, but present-day New York City.

NYC has been plagued by an infestation of rodents, which has left it, known for a different kind of rat race, in dire straits. While it is no stranger to rats, there’s been a Malthusian population explosion of the varmints who lurk in abandoned tenements and vacant lots.

To confound the pestiferous problem, civic authorities must contend with animal rights advocacy, which disapproves of the eradication methods, involving employment of specially trained hunting dogs, painful glue traps, or the use of poisons, which lead to a lingering demise.

A recent plan to curb the menace humanely is to adopt birth control measures, based on contraceptives of the oral kind. Called ContraPest, the formulation is contained in salty pellets designed to prove temptingly toothsome to fastidious furry critters scattered in the favoured stomping grounds of the targeted consumers. The pills supposedly impair the ovarian function of females and disrupt production of sperm cells in males.

It remains to be seen if NYC’s riff on India’s programme, as summarised in cautionary slogans like ‘Hum Do, Hamare Do’ and ‘Do Ya Teen, Bas’, will achieve its objective.

According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of the Rat possess acute powers of observation, alertness to the physical and social environment, and a capacity to adapt to change and overcome vicissitudes.Should these survival-enhancing traits be transmutable across species and manifest themselves in the animal symbolised in that section of the zodiac, the wily rodent might well sniff out the con in the contraception and give the pills a wide birth, thereby providing an empirical endorsement of the poet’s prophecy in paraphrase: The best-laid plans of rats and men gang aft agley.Moreover, Peta, or some like-minded organisation might raise moral objections to the scheme, saying that it infringes on Whisker Willy’s constitutional rights, as represented by life, liberty, and the pursuit of rattiness.

In such an eventuality, the impasse might be best resolved by resorting to the preferred fallback of the liberal sensibility, the compromise, which could be mass deportation. This solution, in turn, would raise the inevitable question: to where?

For old times’ sake, and letting bygones, such as the Boston Tea Party and the Shot Heard Around the World, be bygones, could the erstwhile Mother Country be importuned for the required accommodation? A point of indubitable mootness.

Apart from anything else, the MC seems to be having some deporting problems, which has got its PM into what, across the pond, they call a tizz. Calling in an itinerant Pied Piper might work, but the profession is known to attract dodgy customers and is best kept a safe distance from children.

The solution to NYC’s problem might be found in the desert town of Deshnoke, near Bikaner in Rajasthan. The place is famous for its Karni Mata Temple, which is home to thousands of rats, known as ‘kabbas’, or little children. These rats are believed to be descendants of the son of the resident deity, and are tended and kept well-fed by the priests and the many pilgrims who flock to the site in the hope of spotting a white specimen, said to be a sign of great good fortune.

Safe and secure in this sanctuary, where coots have never been more bandi, NYC’s refugee rodents could well live the life of Riley.

The only fly in the ointment, or anointment, might be a swadeshi outfit that could disallow the induction of videshi migrants into a sanctum made more sanctorum for being a haven for only the homegrown variety.

That’s the problem with members of order ‘rodentia’. No matter what you propose to do about them, someone or another is bound to smell a rat.


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