Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mouse or Rat?

Strange things happen in this city of Bombay! One morning, I am on my way to the office... Suddenly a swirl of crows appear like a black dust devil over Flora Fountain... A massive rat comes scampering along the pavement. People run helter-skelter. The bus queue scatters. I see all this and decide it is safest in the middle of the road; traffic has been halted at the signals. The rat deprived of its human shield makes a dash across the road. Thr crows follow it like a swarm of bees. The rat turns to me for protection. It seeks shelter between my feet, then tries to clamber up my trousers. I yell and leap into the air like a dancing dervish. Rat falls on my foot, fat and clammy like a snake. I scream some more and run through speeding cars and buses back to the pavement.

"Arrey, what kind of Sardarji are you? You get scared of a mouse!" taunts a fellow back in line for his bus. The entire queue bursts into peals of laughter. I am very angry. I want to tell him it was not a mouse (chooha) but a rat. I scour my memory for the Hindustani word for rat. Hindi word for rat. Punjabi word for rat. There is not Indian word for a rat as distinct from a mouse. I resume my journey.
- Khushwant Singh (from the essay "Murdering English," India without Humbug)

On this auspicious occasion of Vinayaka Chaturthi, let us spend some time pondering over a pressing issue: Does Ganesha ride a mouse or a rat?

The best of us bloggers thinks it's a rat. As does the Mumbai corporation.

I am confused. In Tamilnadu, Ganesha has always had a moonjoor (Tamil for mouse) and not an eli (Tamil for rat) for his vahana.

Sadly, Sanskrit does not come to my rescue: mooshika can be translated mouse as well as rat.

This question has been left unresolved long enough. Let's settle it once and for all today.


krishna said...

I personally dont care if it's a rat or mouse coz anyways they are small when compared to the gajanana , the elephant faced, representing all knowledge. The point is one should try and gain that knowledge by expanding ones rats brain to that of the clever elephant..;)

Sunil said...

do i smell a rat in this post? Or is it just something fishy??

Ok.....bad pj, sorry.

Srikanth said...

Hi Krishna and Sunil,

Krishna: Sorry about the late response. Clever elephant - true, true... Speaking in terms of relative sizes, the question is probably immaterial. Symbolism apart, how much more of a vermin is one compared to the other, I wonder.

Sunil: It's more probable that you smell a mouse, 'cause it's right there next to your keyboard. Er... sorry too.

Girish said...

u never told us wat u were doing in mumbai....

Srikanth said...

Hi Girish! What, me in Mumbai? It's the sardarji who is in Mumbai!