Mayhem: My Mother and a Mouse at the Movies

My mother was petrified of rats and mice.

Actually, to be absolutely accurate, petrified isn’t the right word. It barely covers the truth. It is too weak a word for her true emotion. She was outraged, disgusted and repulsed as well as petrified. As all students of humanity know, disgust and outrage take petrified to another level entirely.

Whenever she spotted one of these things, she let loose the most blood-curdling scream of horror you can imagine. The film industries of the world could have made a fortune if they’d had the foresight to record her at the right moment.

Just imagine the effectiveness of the Hitchcock fare if Alfred had included my mother’s production, recorded at the critical moment! Fortunes could have been made by everyone. Yours truly would have been sickening rich. Add that to my saintliness and you have a full hand. Not that you don’t have a full hand now.

But I digress, as always.

I once saw my mother leap—I exaggerate not—an Olympian nine feet from the scene of the disaster to her bed. The bed was more a cot with a blue cotton niwar woven over a wooden frame. Needless to say, the cot was not amused at this cavalier treatment and promptly died in a huff. I can still see my dear mother sitting amidst the ruin, dismay writ large on every feature. Thankfully the rat scampered away in the nick of time or he’d have had a thin time of it if she’d gotten hold of him, revulsion having to make way for her towering temper.

For this, was the other thing that came to the fore whenever she was deeply moved.

Her vernacular expressions panted and withered away at the root. What remained—and a veritable Niagara of it too—was her very chaste, scholarly and dazzlingly highbrow English. She suffered no qualms about letting it lose with absolute abandon. It mattered not who took the brunt of it. It mattered even less whether they deserved it or not. She didn’t give two hoots about being fair when she was deeply moved. Not my mother, no. You just had to lump it, that all.

But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.

~Mitch Albom

I remember her top-notch verbal outrage unleashed at a restaurant manager once when she happened to spot an unfortunate mouse. After the blood-curdling effects—which I’m sure scarred and traumatized the rest of the patrons and put them off their food for life—the manager made the mistake of arriving in the vicinity at the wrong moment. She held a passionate monologue for just under twenty-five minutes. Once she was done, there wasn’t enough left of the manager to fill a teaspoon. True story.

And how do I know it was twenty-five minutes? Because my father timed her, surreptitiously of course. He must have perfected the art within a year of his marriage with the Mayhem Generator. Opportunities for timing her were plentiful and frequent. And the man never turned a hair, I tell you. He supported her as vociferously as she attacked. Between them, not many lived to tell the tale.

When they’re together, it’s like putting a hurricane and a tornado in the same room – you can feel the tension. I didn’t believe in the cliche of soul mates until I saw them together.

~Tarryn Fisher

She once screamed at the top of her voice in a packed movie theatre, simply because she happened to espy a mouse running up a wall a few feet ahead of where we sat. Why she had to be looking at the wall instead of paying attention to the movie like all right-thinking folk ought to, is more than I can imagine. She was and that’s all there is to it.

Absolute, glorious Mayhem broke out. People poured pell-mell out in panic. There was almost a stampede. Thankfully no one was hurt. But everyone was sure a brutal murder had been committed in the balcony section and a particularly giddy-headed female had just discovered the body. The movie, I remember well, was the Hindi movie Wo Kaun Thi. You can imagine the effect, right?

The show couldn’t be resumed and the theatre had to refund everyone’s money. There was no end of bother. When the manager came to remonstrate, she let loose at him in her elitist English. He retreated in haste like a scalded cat. Poor man! All through, my dad defended her fatheadedness most steadfastly and refused to budge without getting his own refund. The cheek of them, honestly!

Behind all your stories is always your mother's story because hers is where yours begin. Click To Tweet

My mother was truly, absolutely and unapologetically a Mayhem Generator. Tornadoes had nothing on her. My father was the perfect corollary to her. He defended her passionately no matter what she did. In all the years I saw them together, I never saw him question her. He never so much as said- even privately- “Renu, you shouldn’t have done that.” On the contrary, he told her she did well by holding people to a better standard.

Happy Mother’s Day Ma!

Note: I had to write this to clean away the gum from my eyes after reading an endless procession of soppy Mother’s Day posts. It was getting intolerable really.

Mayhem: My Mother and a Mouse at the Movies

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8 thoughts on “Mayhem: My Mother and a Mouse at the Movies”

  1. hehehe I was just imagining all the scenarios. 🙂 What a firebrand your mum was. Mine was very docile and loving except for the 3-4 occasions in my life when she thundered. And then her temper was something to be witnessed. Even dad was scared, I think. 🙂 By the way, I am really scared of lizards and can let out a blood curdling cry when I witness one in my vicinity, but I haven’t really yelled at people if they didn’t deserve it. And those are the times when I unabashedly use the prowess of my vocabulary, oratory and loud voice to the fullest. Thank you for the chuckles. Now, I am curious to know if you have inherited her traits (the vocabulary you have but the temper?)?

    1. My mother was truly a firebrand. I could tell you endless stories about her near foolhardy daring. She was completely and totally fearless. Never gave a damn about any consequences but always did what her conscience demanded of her. And she had a particularly strict conscience.

      As for yelling at people who didn’t deserve it, that was only in the heat of the moment.

      Inherited her traits? Not really. My vocabulary is a pale imitation of hers. While she was alive, I never- not once in my life- referred to a dictionary. She was my dictionary and thesaurus. And she never failed me.

      I used to have a temper. Not any more. Now I have cold-blooded annoyance that guides me to give ‘constructive feedback’ to people who need it desperately. I make sure the feedback is given in the gentlest way possible. That’s why I say I’m a saint. 😀

      So pleased you chuckled. That’s high praise. I’m suitably gratified.

  2. I loved the little Note at the end 😀 So perfectly you! Of course, the whole post is also a delightful read. I love the way you presented this ‘Mayhem Generator’ roopam of your mother. I was picturing the scene at the theater, and the face of the manager! And of course that poor mouse – wonder if it survived the whole mayhem!

    I am sure your Mom is laughing and sending you all her love from wherever she is.

    1. I’m sure she is Beloo. She would be tickled pink to read this post. She’d probably have fallen off her chair laughing.

      The note at the end was essential. Why on earth do people get so bloody soppy at Mother’s Day? I mean… really!

      Your delight delights me. 😀

  3. I could just picture the manager at the restaurant ‘who wouldn’t have filled a teaspoon’ after he got ‘the’ treatment 🙂 This was not just about your mother, was it Dagny? I could see the inseparable entity your parents made together – woven into the story. Soppy mother’s day stories…..yes. I have a theory about it and you know it don’t you? 😀

    1. And oh, I remember my own tryst with the little creature, recorded for posterity on my blog, where the elder son plays a part. A tad soppy, perhaps?

      1. I must hunt up the post and re-read it. As for soppy, you can’t do soppy to save your life! We can’t, you know… people like us. We simply don’t have the organ with which to process ‘soppy’.

    2. Yes Zephyr! My mom and dad were indeed inseparable. They were truly companions… and both ferociously protective of each other.

      Oh yes! I know your theory about it! 🙂

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