Featured image courtesy Daily Nation

6.15 pm. Oozing dark orange and purplish hues into the far horizon, the sun had begun to recede behind the hills of Kandy, like a tired giant. It’s this time I look forward to on a working day.

After a cold shower I settled down on the couch with my hot cup of ginger coffee to read the new book I purchased – Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. Hardly had I reached the end of the first paragraph, when I heard a piercing shriek. I’ve heard it before. It was my wife. Flinging the book aside, I sprang from the couch and dashed towards the pantry. She was already sprinting towards me, shaking the ends of her dress, as though some vicious creature was clinging on to it.

Before I could say anything, she yelled,

“The rat, THE RAT! It jumped on me!”

“What?! Where?”

“It was in the cupboard… Ugh!”

“OK, where is it now?”

“How do I know? I didn’t even see where it went!”

The third one in two weeks. It was only a few days ago we got rid of the last one. Perhaps there were more than one. Whatever the case might be, my quiet evening was lost. Once again we had to go through the lengthy ritual of luring this destroyer of pleasures to its bait. But the wait, it ruins your life.

The dreadful knowledge that there is a rat sharing your living space puts you on high alert. You suddenly become paranoid, constantly checking that the doors are firmly shut; and as you enter the rat’s dominion, your reflexes instantly make you reach for the light switch; once inside, you tread cautiously, as though there are landmines hidden beneath the floor. You prowl watchfully, anticipating a guerilla attack any moment.

I got to work. Setting the trap carefully, I placed a piece of banana on it. It’s one of those traps that catches the rat alive – these traps save the neck jammed, eye popping out, blood spurting, disgusting scenes, that are caused by the snappy ones. My mother said they love roasted coconut, but it never worked for the last two. Banana did; especially koli kuttu with a pinch of rat poison.

After leaving the trap under the table, where they usually lurk, we waited. No sooner did I wake up the next morning, than I darted off to check on my catch. The feeling is similar to the one you have during the last ball of a nail biting cricket match, where a boundary is must for victory. First there is the expectation, then the anticipation, and finally the results, and that’s when you either leap to your feet, punching the air with a violent blow, or slump back on your couch utterly dejected. Fingers crossed I knelt down. It was truly an accomplished feeling. The protagonist was lying sideways inside the trap, mouth stiff and slightly opened, as though in a final desperate attempt it had used every single fiber of its body to clutch onto the leaving soul. Poor devil. It had devoured the whole poisoned banana. I took it out and gave it a proper burial. The least I could do to an antagonist.

A week later I was at work, and my phone started to ring. It was my wife.

“Yes, darling.”

“Farweez, there is another rat in the pantry!”

The fourth one in three weeks. This was becoming a routine affair now. On my way home I contemplated a permanent solution. “We can’t go on like this”, I kept repeating to myself, like a madman, “this has got to stop”, and it was then that it struck me.

“What’s the point of killing the rats without finding the cause?” I thought, “Where are these rats coming from?”

So this time I ransacked the whole house. The door that was leading to our back yard, the windows, the sinkholes, the walls; I found chocolate wrappers, banana peels, my daughter’s teether, two passport size photographs, but not the hole. Finally, as I climbed up the window pane, there it was; the chewed mesh. A few weeks ago one of the rats had chewed through the cloth mesh to get into the house, and the rest was history.

The next day I wrenched off the half eaten mesh, and in its place put up an impenetrable steel wire mesh. The hole was repaired. The cause successfully dispelled.

It has been 6 months now, and we are yet to see another rat inside our house.

Now, what has this got to do with Sri Lankan politics? Apparently everything.

Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result”

I should admit that I was pretty close to it.

Never mind how many times we keep disposing the rats among our politicians, new ones continue to sneak in. Some of them donned in suits, some of them in white national kits, but rats remain rats. They destroy our livelihoods, squander our income and food, and run amok in the country, training their young to do the same. They leave us with no peace.

However we still seem to be oblivious to the fact that, no matter how many times we rid ourselves of the rats, new ones will keep slipping through, as long as the hole remains open; the hole of mass political ignorance.

To build a new, sustainable and better future this hole needs to be shut by the strong steel wire mesh of education; an education that will make an impenetrable shield over dogmatic thought, blind consumption of information, destructive passions, and narcissism. And then, when the rats are no more, we can begin to talk about better living.

Moral of the story: Don’t stop with kicking the rats out. Find the hole and fix it.