Without a squeak

Unlikely Tribute

Without a squeak

Imagine we survive the Holocaust, Third World War, pestilence, our politics and such like. Imagine we also survive road accidents, or whatever your current favourite hate. Imagine, in short, we enter 2030. Who should we thank? Persistence, for one. Chance, for another. Why not your local hakim and your neighbourhood druggist?

No matter how hard you think of things or circumstances to thank for your sheer lively progress, you will miss one humble thing. Mouse. Not a word of praise, not a hint of acclaim, not a murmur of applause will go out to the teams of mice that are part of any medical breakthrough. When Dr Jonas Salk called for volunteers to test a serum that would snuff out polio, who came scampering to his side? Not your dog, man’s best friend. He was too busy playing fetch or bringing you your newspaper. Not your reclusive cat, which had curled up in the corner. But mice.

That mice have stumbled upon this humble business of prolonging human life is an interesting one, but it’s purely accidental.

Ever since the clever Pied Piper whisked away all the mice from a sleepy peasant town, mice have been feeling terribly unwanted. Time was when they had to reconcile to their destiny. But then, this was their moment of reckoning. Something had to be done. At first they tried to ingratiate themselves. Play kind. In one instance, a mouse pulled out a thorn from a lion’s paw. This act earned him some regard, but the ‘mousekind’ wasted away. A turning point was when cats were sent to exterminate them. Incensed, they planned a revolt. They began a squealing campaign, causing terrified women to jump up on furniture. They were thrilled when Little Tommy Thin put one of his cats in the well.

The mice then gnawed at a ship to make it sink, and as the crew went down, the mice gleefully deserted. Despite their valour, mice remained in limbo. But they got a lucky break. It reads like a fairy tale...

There was a pretty girl named Cinderella. She was ragged and dirty from the menial work her evil stepsisters enjoined her to do. While they made merry in the razzle-dazzle society, Cinderella slogged. Eventually, a kind fairy enabled her to go the Prince’s ball by bedecking her in a fabulous gown and sandals of glass, and turned a pumpkin into a splendid coach. Who do you think drew the coach? A team of six mice, that’s who!

Oh, what a furore the mice created, prancing their way to the palace! The simple folk in town had seen fabulous coaches and girls in fabulous gowns, but a team of mice in resplendent white? It was worthy of Disney. But their joy was shortlived. At midnight, the coach turned back into a pumpkin and the mice had to retreat into oblivion. And they thought, “Where is he who sees with a fair eye... a hero perish, or a sparrow fall...

Now you know who our true friends are — toiling and slogging in the labs just so that we can reach 2030, which is more than what a nuclear scientist can promise.

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