I was sitting on the settee in my home in Salt Lake in Kolkata. The living room was a pitch dark, nothing moved not even the flimsy lace curtains, I held so much in contempt, bought after much haggling in some non descript shop in New Market. I looked at the yellow pale light on the street; it seemed to find especial delight in the fact that it was aged and haggard. There was a slight breeze outside and the little leaves of the drum stick plant that grew wild in our garden like so many other gardens in Salt Lake, shook in the wind. I wondered if he would make an appearance tonight. My gut feeling told me he would. I looked across the passage that connected the oval shaped large living room to the dining area and the adjoining kitchen. I had an advantageous position, without moving an inch I could see whoever would enter the kitchen by just turning my eyeballs.
To the uninitiated, Salt Lake in Kolkata, still has many sections that are vacant and without shopping malls and luckily my house had one such empty plot behind it and another beside it. While this was good for my mental peace, it also brought along with it many unwanted guests in the name of people prying over private property. In this foregone conclusion I was convinced, that my house was the favorite hunting ground for a rather hungry vagabond, and I was determined to catch him tonight. In the strangest of strange cases, the vagabond stole 1 egg from my kitchen every day. Apart from being curious about why he stole only an egg every day, I also wanted to see, what he did with the egg. I mean did he make an omelet, scramble or poach of it? These details are very important to any investigation, I had convinced myself. Under the circumstances, tonight I had set myself comfortably on the settee, meaning to catch the thief red handed OR Egg-handed if you please!
I had armed myself with a rather large stick that I had broken off from Mr. Sharma's garden (I was told that Eucalyptus branches are very strong) three plots away. The cuckoo on the clock made its appearance punctually at 12(the bewitching hour), much to my irritation. Why on earth did my folks have to procure this irritate thing all the way from Swiss hands? An Indian grandfather would have happily slept along the game. My nerves were twitching now, and my pupils dilated. "Everything in a mystery plot was a coincidence" I had read in an old book I bought off the footpath in College Street, and even though its author was suspect, all my detective instincts told me, this was the time! It would happen, NOW.
As if in tandem, suddenly I could hear a scuffle from the kitchen window. The sounds led me to believe that there were two tiny people struggling to do something. My eyebrows and pulse shot up in unison, but I had expected one person, how could there be two! I still sat in my position, only tilting a bit towards the kitchen. Suddenly, I saw two black shadows near the egg tray, my blood chilled, so there were two of them. Would my stick suffice to hit two people? I decided it was time to make my move, before they fled with the booty. Very stealthily I lowered myself from the settee and crawled on all fours, stick in the teeth, punctuated with the saliva of bravado. As I moved close to the kitchen, the shuffling continued unabated. This surprised me a bit, what kind of thieves were these, no one had obviously taught them anything about subtlety.
Unperturbed, I reached the kitchen door, to my horror the shadows that had loomed large had now contracted. I wondered if it was some law of physics that made shadows larger than they were in some vague angle of lighting. Whatever it was, I cursed myself for not paying enough attention to my physics classes and moved forward. Now the light from the outside street post was quite clear and I could see clear shapes.
What I saw made my jaw drop. On the mantel piece, along the kitchen wall lay a mouse, on its back. Quite big for its size, the mouse had placed( God knows how) an egg on its stomach and the other shadow( now confirmed as other mouse, pulled its tail in a slow and steady pace, so as not to disturb the egg, so precautious held in the middle!
I have always loved ingenuity but this took the cake! All short of clapping I closed and opened my mouth in sheer amazed stupidity and even wondered if I should give them another agg just to see the act repeated, right from the very beginning. Soon enough the spectacle was over and the smart mouse duo had vanished into the adjacent empty plot to probably savor their spoil from the night. It dawned on me much later that I had lain awake in hopes of catching the thieves and they had walked off right beneath my nose, without me doing a thing about it!
My story of the clever mouse wasn't met with as much excitement as I had expected the next day and this left me rather disappointed, especially since I had planned another excursion, involving all the family members and the lure of yet another tray of eggs.
Much have I waited looking beyond those holes, near the kitchen expecting yet another mouse pair to delight my nights, but since then I believe a house has cropped up and the mice holes fixed. But once in a while I still wonder about the delightful 'Anda chors’ (Egg thieves) and mull over an act so stupendous!
( Image courtesy Google)