On going to the rats ! | By Khalid Saleem


On going to the rats !

SEVERAL summers ago, our vigilant media had reported that our Foreign Office had formally approached the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to help rid its premises of rats that had apparently the run of the hallowed halls of that Ministry.

This news hardly came as a surprise, given an environment that has long been overrun by rodents of all genres (no pun intended).

One wonders if the problem has since been overcome, what with the commissioning of brand new Blocks and all!

At around the same epoch, media had flashed the news that several planes of Pakistan’s national airline were infested by rats. It was not specified as to rats of what genre made it to the planes in question.

They may well have been potential illegal immigrant rodents aiming for greener pastures; or perhaps they could have been rats enjoying dual nationality.

Taking a contemporary view, some may well be carrying a stash of foreign currency to smuggle it to safe havens!

Either way, our Airline, that proudly sports the epithet ‘International’ as its middle name, apparently has an uncanny appeal for rodents of more than one species.

Rodents, on their part, have an uncanny penchant to discern which side their bread is buttered on.

Rodents, let it be said, happen to be an egalitarian species; no respecters of station or status they!

Several moons back, perspicacious readers may well recall, our very own rats were reported to have virtually taken over the Government Secretariat in Islamabad (pun intended!).

An item published on the front page of a national newspaper had carried the tidings that rats had the run of the Ministries of the government to the utter consternation of the bureaucratic machinery.

This is not to say that the bureaucratic stronghold of the land is not teeming with rats as it is (no pun intended!).

But the situation must have been desperate enough to warrant a major headline in an otherwise stringent media.

The rodents obviously believe in sharing and sharing alike – a philosophy that the Secretariat staff understandably do not subscribe to.

So the situation had all the makings of an impasse, as the French would say.If the reader has garnered the impression that the situation is peculiar to governmental structures of the Third World, then permit one to humbly clarify that this is definitely not so.

Location has little or nothing to do with it.Rodents belong to a hardy and – should one add – a shifty species.Man, with all his technological advances, has yet to come up with a better mousetrap.

Meanwhile, rats continue to be one up on man whether he (Man, that is!) likes it or not.

Let us allude to just one example.One is not aware when it was that technology buffs came up with the idea of what is known as ‘Central Air-conditioning’.

With this air-conditioning concept was tied up the corollary of a duct complex within the walls and ceilings of the structures in question.The ducts in turn provided comfortable, secure and snug quarters for the rodent species.

If nothing else, this should explain how our high-flying bureaucrats have come to share their offices with the lowly rats.One must not ignore the fact, though, that rodents happen to be versatile creatures.

You cannot pin them down to modern structures alone. Even old historical monuments have been known to harbour them.

Not so very long ago, one had read in the papers that rats had invaded the kitchens of Buckingham Palace in London, causing understandable anguish to the British Royal Family.

The United Nations Headquarters in New York, one learns again from the vigilant media, has its quota of resident (multilateral?) rats!

Rodents, it appears obvious, have a penchant to gravitate towards places where they find the greatest comfort.

And if the locale also happens to ensure a limitless supply of food, so much the better! Like the lowly cockroach, rodents too appear to have honed up on the art of survival.

Digressing a bit from the straight and narrow, mention must be made of the never-ending quest of American software giants aimed at producing a newer and better (computer) mouse.

From the age-old quest for a ‘better mousetrap’ to that for a ‘better mouse’ represents quite a quantum leap.

The quest for a better ‘mouse’ is proceeding, thus, on two parallel planes.Apart from the computer buffs, the indefatigable genetic modifiers are also hard at work.

It would appear that the world might well end up with a ‘better mouse’ in more respects than one!

Let us also not forget that the lore of the West presents the mouse as the biggest bugbear of the fair sex.

One reads about the most fearsome specimens of the female of the species being reduced to the level of frightened kittens at the sight of a mouse.

Wives, who are capable of reducing their hapless spouses to nervous wrecks with a mere cold glance, shriek with horror and jump onto the nearest chair at the mere sight of a tiny mouse.

That classical feminine weapon – the rolling pin – wielded with such telling effect against errant husbands, turns to naught at the appearance of the lowly rodent in question.

All of the aforementioned is, or more accurately was, part of the Western lore.The modern female of the species is said to adore the ‘mouse’, albeit the one of technological origin.

Each female secretary now proudly sports a mouse on her desk thanks to the technological revolution.

One should not jump to the conclusion, though, that this has had the effect of closing the credibility gap between members of the two species.

The rodent, meanwhile, quite oblivious of the shenanigans of the human species, continues on its mission based as it is on the dictum ‘survival of the fittest’.There is a lesson here for humankind, if only they would pay heed.

— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.


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