An Ordinary Life 5 - Davidraj
Davidraj cursed under his breath in Tamil. The drawer he had jerked open with such fury had crashed to the ground and nicked his foot as it fell. "Che! What kind of a place is this? Nothing ever works properly. All rotten on top!" he ranted for the twentieth time that day.
Irritated, he put his hand on the bell on his desk to summon Arokiyamani. At the end of its tether, the bell croaked a hoarse metallic cough. Davidraj flung the bell from his desk, exasperatedly. It flew up in a graceful curve and landed at the feet of Arokiamani, dozing on his stool outside the room, waking him up. He jumped onto his feet, picked up the bell and rushed into the room, "Saar, I found your bell at my feet, saar," he said, scratching his hair.
"I threw it at you, imbecile. Now, get here and put this rotten drawer back in its place." Arokiamani ducked under the table. His ears twitching with fury, Davidraj moved out of the room and lit up a cigarette. Inhaling deeply, he let the smoke burn his lungs and then let it out in stuttering puffs...
* * *
The only reason he had put up with years of signing over the dotted line authorising the purchase of several tonnes of chlorine tablets and bleaching powder was the rat at the end of the rainbow.
He had begun, like most boys his age do, with a healthy fancy for rodents, lizards and spiders. Only, unlike most other boys, Davidraj was never to grow out of this. As he grew, his fancy quickly shifted into an unhealthy obsession for Rattus rattus, what the rest of us know as the common rat.
More slowly, the powers that be shifted gears to put Davidraj in the driver's seat of the Vector Control Department in the Municipal Corporation.
So slowly, it took twenty five years and a plague.
Though others took the credit, every rat hole in the city knew it was Davidraj that did the trick. It was magical, almost like the Pied Piper, the way the city's Chief Vector Control Officer seemed to speak the rats into dying or maybe, just going away. The newspapermen came from all over, masks round their mouths, stepping gingerly over dead rats on the roads, following Davidraj in his battered Mahindra jeep, chronicling, attesting his achievement.
After this, there was no question that the usually nepotistic behemoth had finally found the right man for the job.
* * *
Letting out smoke in interuppted puffs, Davidraj crouched over the railing. Things were going from bad to worse. After all, he had dedicated his life to his work. One would think the powers that be would have more appreciation for his work. He could not fathom why they were not bowing in front of him, pledging their gratitude to their pied piper.
After every encounter with an ingrate higher-up, Davidraj felt worse. In anger his face and ears twiched madly. Like they did today, after a rather foul encounter with the health officer. "Enough!" he muttered to himself.
* * *
His colleagues did not really notice the changes. The file pushers were not really an observant bunch. They did not see it begin with the twitches, primarily of the nose. But it soon grew, like bacteria on a culture plate. Facial twitches came next, the imperceptible darts of the head, the nibbling, the crouch and eventually, the sniffing. Over a period of time his voice changed to staccato squeaks, short sentences rapidly delivered by a man in a hurry, his gait a scramble around the edges of rooms. It seemed his skin was turning from the usual bronze brown to a black grey and his luxuriant moustache dwindled down to a few whiskers. But they dint notice a thing.
* * *
Not a thing. Until the day they found him crouching, shaking, his whiskers quivering, in a hole hollowed out in his bedroom, hiding from the neighbourhood cat.
I began writing this in the sunset of last year! And kept writing in fits and starts, not quite satisfied with the way it was shaping up.
Thanks Hari, for that final SMS push to get this thing wrapped up. I still cannot decide if I'm happy with this story or not, but at least it is a story now. :)