Man versus reptile


Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

HAS the gentle reader found him (or her) self faced with a real, live reptile? Not any run-of-the-mill reptile, mind you, but a fat, slimy, revolting creature with a malevolent glint in the eye! No, one does not allude to the human variety, though that one is no less revolting. One refers to the proper “reptile of suborder Lacertilia having usu. long body and tail, four legs, movable eyelids and scaly or granulated hide” (as defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary, no less).
One is obliged to dwell upon these pesky creatures since the season favoured by these reptiles is upon us. They manifest themselves out of the blue in all unlikely spots, which they would be well advised to avoid if only they had the peace of mind of poor innocents at heart. Not that one has anything personally against the species per se. It is at worst a nuisance; at best an extremely efficient exterminator of worrisome insects. But, for some inexplicable reason, it brings out the worst (followed invariably by hysterics) in the female of the species.
So, to put the whole thing in a nutshell as they say, it so happened one fine day that one found oneself left alone with one such smug looking reptile to contemplate with some trepidation one’s immediate future. The lizard in question, meanwhile, stood its ground, unmoved; grim and defiant – rather like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Which state of affairs brings one back to the fundamental question: what does one do when faced with a real live lizard?
Now, had it been a member of another species – a rodent, for instance – things would have turned out quite differently. Contrary to common belief, mice are rather docile, trusting creatures. You can lure them into such contrivances as mousetraps when need be. Or, you can chivvy them around and ultimately chase them out of the house. If things appear to be getting out of hand, you can always consider procuring a cat. Digressing a bit, one cannot help feeling that the Western male is so much luckier than his Eastern counterpart. The pet nemesis of the Western female happens to be a mouse, of all creatures. The situation is nothing short of laughable. After his sweetheart gathers up her skirt and runs screaming out of the house (or jumps on the nearest chair, as the case may be), all our hero has to do is to pick up his favourite golf club and chivvy the hapless mouse around the house until it either scurries out into the wild or drops half dead from fatigue. Either way, the battle is all but won.
The battle plans in the East, alas, are not all that simple. How can one even contemplate chivvying a lizard that is looking down on one (literally) from the safety of the wall three quarters of the way up to the ceiling? How, indeed? But, then, let us not forget, nature has blessed the human species with arguably the choicest of brains. All that is needed is a workable strategy – ask any successful general! The handy weapon – an essential element of any strategic solution – mercifully, is just round the corner. What are long-handled brooms for if not for parallel situations, one justifiably asks oneself?
From contemplation to commission is but one short step. A long-handled broom, consequently was duly commissioned but all one managed to achieve was to drive the offending reptile further up the wall towards the ceiling. That brings one to another fundamental difference between a mouse and a lizard. While the rodent is nervous, docile and easily frightened; the reptile displays no such weakness. The latter, in effect, exhibits what can only be described as an annoying devil-may-care demeanor. Backed up, as it is, by such awe-inspiring ancestors as dinosaurs and the like, it can well afford to. But faced with a no-win situation such as this, what ancestors does the poor homo-sapiens have to fall back upon? Surely, not the Darwinian missing link!
Makes one pause and ponder –does it not – how some animal species managed to survive (and survive unscathed, at that) millions of years in an environment that, if not hostile, was not exactly overly friendly either. At least two sub-species – lizard and cockroach – have successfully emerged through the hostile environment for far longer than one can contemplate, none the worse for wear. The cockroach, as a matter of fact, is reputed to be the oldest species alive, having survived some three hundred million years. And while it went about its business, it has seen several species evolve, prosper and ultimately become extinct. The lizard too probably falls in a similar category. If there is one thing that is common between them, it is that both have earned the hostility of the human species, though in varying degrees. And yet, with all the fire-power that the humans can muster against them, they merrily go their way, none the worse for wear.
The human being – the scourge of several species that are now extinct or on the verge of extinction – has been a miserable failure in its fight against the cockroach and, indeed, the lizard. In fact, one can safely surmise that when humankind will have finally engineered the extinction of their own species (as appears highly likely, seeing the state of the world), these slimy little creatures will merrily be going about their business as if nothing untoward had occurred. What is it that these species possess that we, humans, lack? Perhaps, it is their uncanny ability to mind their own business, regardless of what goes on around them.
With the aforementioned sobering thought in mind, one looked up to find the lizard disappearing into a chink in the doorjamb. It (the lizard, that is) had probably decided that it had had enough entertainment for the day, or perhaps confrontation ran contrary to its philosophy of life. Be that as it may, it had decided to call it a day, leaving a somewhat chastened yours truly to contemplate the state of things to come. Perhaps, there is a moral to be garnered out of this tale after all!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.
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