I returned home from work as usual, rested awhile, had a cup of tea and walked up to my room on the first floor. Having put my bag away, I switched on the light and walked into the bathroom to freshen up. As I stepped into the room, something small scurried past the bathroom floor. Even before I could get a good look at it, the rodent like creature climbed up the shower curtain and made an exit from the bathroom window. The rest of the night was eventless. The next evening, the same set of events repeated and I failed to get a good glimpse of the creature. I had to wait until the following evening and hoped that I would get lucky.
The following day was like any other. As was the practice, I went up to my room and went directly to the bathroom to look for the creature. Nothing was in sight. But something told me that my little guest was somewhere there – hiding away from my sight. So, I decided to come back into the bathroom in a few minutes. On my return, I looked around and what caught my attention came as a surprise to me. My little guest had come out from his hiding, wherever that was, was cleaning itself sitting on the window ledge. It was a rich shade of fawn, had a long tail and black beady eyes. It quickly stepped out of the open window and disappeared. However, I noticed that it used the branch of a Jamun tree, the branch of which was within reach from the bathroom window.
This observation, albeit brief, combined with those that made the following day helped me identify the little fellow. It was a Long-tailed Tree Mouse Vandeluria oleracia. The fourth evening I decided to find the hiding place of the mouse after it had exited through the window as on previous occasions. I was excited as I eventually found a little pad of grass and some fibre hidden by some bottles and cans in an open shelf. I quickly replaced things that I had moved in my quest to find the nest. In the past, I had stumbled upon a Long-tailed Tree Mouse using an abandoned nest of social spiders. But, a nest in my bathroom was not something that I had bargained for.
Not quite knowing the habits of this mouse, my mind quickly started thinking about my precious library, my computer, my wardrobe, my camera equipment and all my slides-the result of many years of hard work stored in my room. As I kept thinking, I realised that the mouse had spent some time in the bathroom and it had not disturbed or damaged a thing. This gave me a sense of comfort. So, I did not take any special precautions to restrict the mouse to the bathroom.
Though only five days had elapsed since the first sighting of the mouse, it had already become a habit for me to go into the bathroom looking for my guest that had for some strange reason decided to make our bathroom its home. Amid all the suspense and excitement I had completely forgotten that I should take pictures of the mouse.
On day six, I equipped myself fully to photograph the mouse. I entered the bathroom with my camera fully ready and a lot of hope. The mouse had already come out. I first saw it on the railing that supported the shower curtain. I started clicking away. It was completely restless and kept moving about all over the bathroom. After giving me a tough time, it finally settled in the corner of the window for a couple of moments. This gave me ample photo opportunities before it went out of the window. Another day, another interaction with our guest, and I was a happy man.
The mouse and I had got habituated to each other over the week that had elapsed. We saw each other over the next couple of days in the manner not different from the previous days. Our little guest seemed to have settled down and I was glad that the guest found our place hospitable. One evening, perhaps, just over ten days since the first sighting the scheduled meeting did not happen. I was worried. I waited for our guest to show up, but to no avail. The next few evenings were spent in anticipation. The Long-tailed Tree Mouse seemed to have made a quiet exit. I still cannot fathom what attracted it to our bathroom and also what prompted it to go out, and in the intervening time even a build a little nest.
Later, while I was reminiscing about the events that had transpired, the fact that we (the mouse and I) used the same space without any conflict came out in a very striking manner. The mouse being nocturnal would make a quiet exit around the time I entered the room. The mouse, after a busy night, would return to its nest and I would exit the room after a good night’s sleep.
During the entire duration of its stay in the bathroom, the mouse did not damage a single thing. This is something that struck me. I was also left wondering about the number of mice that were getting trapped due the ignorance of mankind – all only because it looked like any other typical rodent. It may be worthwhile mentioning here that rodents, due to their constantly growing incisors, have an urge to constantly use them and hence, considered serious pests.
In the time that has elapsed since this incident, the Long-tailed Tree Mouse has visited my room on a few occasions. Each time, waking up to the sounds made by it when it was exploring my room. I have always promptly gone back to sleep since I knew, from experience, that there is nothing to worry about.
On many an occasion, I have wondered how a little time spent in understanding the creatures that co-exist with us in the urban landscape can prevent wanton killings. And, supporting and nurturing the biodiversity in our cities.