He stood there with a dozen or more of them crouched in a semi-circle around him regarding him menacingly. A few amongst them (the younger ones!) had their sharp teeth bared in a snarl. He felt like a cornered rat and that is exactly what he was! He was not afraid though; he had survived worst. Regarding the rats surrounding him with a cool appraisal he addressed the one who seemed to be the eldest among them, "Venerable Rodent! I appeal you to hear me out!"
"No!" shouted a particularly vicious looking young rat, "You are an alien! You are not one of us! You don't even smell like any rat I ever seen! Why you even look different! Out with you!"
"But I am a rat all the same, just like any of you here," 'Alien' Rat said calmly.
"You are an intruder! An imposter!" the vicious looking rat continued his tirade. The other young rats also bared their teeth.
"Enough!" Wise Rat, the rat whom the 'Alien' had addressed and who was the leader of the pack, squeaked authoritatively.
"I tell you Wise Rat. This fellow is trouble!" the vicious young rat squeaked.
"Shut up B-rat!" wise rat glared at him. B-rat went into a silent sulk. Wise Rat looked at Alien Rat and said, "Ok what do you have to say in your defense?"
"It is a long story sir…" Alien Rat said with a sigh.
"Never mind I am all ears." Wise Rat snapped. B-rat snorted.
"I was born at Peshawar and would have probably lived there all my life with my extended family and the rest of the rat community. There were conflicts, political or otherwise but on the whole it was a peaceful existence. We lived in harmony with the humans too till the authorities came up with this devious scheme of awarding Rs 25 for each dead rat. Then all hell broke loose! The very people with whom generations of us had lived in peaceful co-existence betrayed us! For mere 25 rupees they started killing us and handing over our dead bodies to the authorities. From fellow creatures we were reduced to promissory notes! Within less than a week more than 1000 rats were massacred and it is continuing. Sheer genocide! Rats started migrating and I also joined a group which decided to cross over to this place."
"You crossed the LOC?" one of the rats asked in incredulous wonder.
"Yes of course!" Alien Rat turned towards the enquiring rat, "Not that it was easy! But then none of it was easy! The escape from Peshawar! The travelling by night! Hiding in the day time! Moving through sewers! Dodging dogs and cats! And the owls! Had a narrow escape on the LOC too! There were some men from that side probably pursuing us who tried to cross the LOC. There were men on this side and there was exchange of fire between the two groups and they threw grenades at each other! A few of my comrades fell in this exchange of fire. There was confusion all around and I don't know what became of the rest of my companions. Hitching a ride on one of the army trucks I managed to enter the army camp and lived there for some days. Then I again got into another army truck and that is how I reached here. I found this empty house and I thought I will be safe here…" Alien Rat was trembling with the memory of his arduous journey and the effort of relating it.
After giving him time to recover himself Wise Rat said, "I remember reading about the Peshawar Rat Massacre almost a year back. But what made you come over to this side?"
"I have been reading in newspapers how well cows and dogs are treated in this part of the world. I thought they must be real animal lovers over here!"
"Well…" Wise Rat coughed and cleared his throat, "you don't have the complete picture. Cows are sacred and Dogs are man's best friends," he said and added with a note of bitterness, "And we are mere vermin! Dogs are pampered and defended by bleeding-heart animal lovers and we are poisoned, trapped, killed, subjected to water boarding and drownings after capture. All this even as dogs bite these humans and drive them mad while we are harmless and believe in peaceful co-existence. We even prefer to move around at night so that these humans are not disturbed."
"There are a lot many people who lobby for the cows and there are people who raise their voices for the dogs. Nobody gives a damn about us!" B-rat squeaked bitterly looking at Alien Rat, "we have enough troubles as it is and don't need you to add to them."
"You are wrong. This intruder might be our salvation." Wise Rat squeaked ponderously stroking his whiskers.
"How?" Several rats asked at the same time. Alien Rat also looked curiously at Wise Rat.
"Just wait till the news channels get hold of him. With his tales of torture and oppression in the neighboring country and the story of his escape and seeking asylum in this Great Country and all that he will be an instant celebrity. And then…" Wise Rat took a deep breath and beaming at all the gathered rats said, "…and then he will lobby for our rights!"
There was silence as the rats took in this idea. Then one of the rats squeaked, "Brilliant!" and other rats too began to squeak their admiration at this stupendous idea. They looked admiringly at Wise Rat and gave welcoming smiles to Alien Rat and went to shake hands with him. B-Rat actually hugged him.
Alien Rat heaved a sigh of relief.
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)