Rats, you might have exclaimed as a show of disgust. Loads of them, is likely to be the reply, especially if officials of the Indian Railways happened to be around. Rodents, scurrying across the trains that traverse the length and breadth of the country, have been plaguing railway officials for some time now. Their nimble activities at nibbling away have necessitated that stern action be taken against them.
The rats, in Robert Browning’s poem about The Pied Piper of Hamelin, “fought the dogs and killed the cats/And bit the babies in their cradles”. On long train journeys here in India, the furry creatures must have encountered far greater excitement and adventure, sampling a wider spectrum of cuisine from the leftovers, or chewing away at a delectable range of luggage and footwear.
But not any longer. In the absence of the proverbial Pied Piper who rid Hamelin of its scourge of rodents, the Indian Railways has decided to let some of its employees play that role. Some of them have been armed with sticks, torches, and magnifying glasses, not to mention toxins and other chemicals, so that they can snoop around and deal the death blow when they come across the offenders.
The story, however, does not end there. In order to get it across that railway authorities take their ratty affairs seriously (and as hearty comrades are perfectly willing to let others partake of the thrill of hunting down rats in running trains), the possibilities of a public-private partnership have also been firmed up. While many of you are obviously looking forward to the prospect of rodent-free train travel, the scribe in us is already coining terms in case there happens to be any mischief while handling the funds for the said purpose.
You, dear reader, had thought that dark comedy ended with ‘coffin scams’ and ‘fodder scams’. A ratty scam would be the ultimate cherry on that cake.