The mouse… Or the rat … I am honestly not sure what she was.
Are there mice with long naked tails? Are there white rats?
Anyways, this is the brief story of how I became (almost) friends with a rat in Nepal. Luckily I did not end up eating the rat, as I ended up eating my goat friend. This a story from the same place and the same time: In 2001 I staid as a volunteer in Shanticowk, Rampur Bajaar, Chitwan Nepal. For a total of 2 months. The host family that would provide me with shelter was a Brahmin farmers household, who lived in the average cottage style house, with a ceiling so low that my 6 feet height kept me banging my skull every other day.
I had a room to myself, which when I was not there was used as a storage room I believe. I had wooden bed with a futon on top of it. I slept underneath my mosquito net inside my sleeping bag. The ceiling was made of corrugated metal and there was a gap between the wall and the ceiling which came down at angle greater than 90 degrees. .. hmm I will probably make you a small drawing, so you will actually understand what I am describing here. So basically there was a kind of 2 inch wide ledge around the top of the wall.
The first encounter
Every morning I would wake up at 6:15 to my host sister calling me: “Bipana tea is ready.” … and then I would crawl grumpily out of my warm cozy sleeping bag into the cool misty Chitwan morning. But maybe on the second morning I hesitated for a moment and chose to contemplate the pleasures of warmth that the sleeping bag was providing me with and whether the adventures of the day would weigh out leaving that pleasure behind for now. So I lay in my bed looking up above at the ceiling, and to my not so pleasurable surprise I see a white rat (or mouse) looking down at me from that ledge, wiggling its nose at me. I am not a great fan of anything vermin, but I also don’t completely freak. In that moment though I kept stock still so that rat would not experience a sudden rat rage and jump down on me or something. Apparently that strategy worked out and the rat, after a few moments of silently observing that human underneath went on its way: once around the ledge, and vanished through the gap into the low ceiling attic above the other rooms.
After getting up and out of the room and then shivering in the mist with a tea in my hands, I soon forgot about my small visitor and went on with the day.
The friendship progresses
But alas – you readers might have already guessed it – the next morning the rat was back. When I opened my eyes at about the same time as the morning before, two tiny black eyes were staring down at me, contemplated my existence for a little while and then the rat moved along the ledge back into the attic.
I cannot say that this happened every single morning, but it happened often enough that seeing the rat became a almost welcome morning experience. Almost like a friend, who obviously cared enough about me to check in on me every morning to see if I was still doing well. Some foggy memories suggest that I even started talking to her (she was a “she” by then) at some point, asking her how she was.
I also believe that the rat must have actually come down into the bed (this memory still makes me go >irks<) a few times at night. As I remember waking from something crawling on top of my sleeping bag. That really harmed the trust base of our emerging friendship though.
Time to say goodbye
As I did not end up eating her (unlike the dear goat), we basically parted ways when I left Rampur. I am not even sure if I properly said goodbye to her. I am certain that she is not amongst the living anymore, but hopefully her decendents are living a happy life down there in Shanti Cowk in peaceful coexistence with the humans … which of course is totally unrealistic – I am sure the farmers would immediately kill the rats if only they could catch them.