Friday, December 16, 2011

Cars,Rats and Tobacco.....

This might be a strange post from someone who did a post on Life of the Death Stick, approximately  4 years and 9 months ago,  and got two very abusive comments, which were  left there, because of the tenor of the comments, and a wish expressed therein that "You are a @#**#@* , in need of a thrashing.......".

Reading those comments (by the same person) was psychologically and sociologically  educative.

But I then realized, that the basic plant, the tobacco plant, cannot be blamed if some over evolved, misdirected, deaf, folks, decide to use it in such  a way , so as to mess up their lungs and blood vessels big time. Once the tobacco leaves packed in a narrow cylinder play with fire , so to speak,  the game is over.  Particularly, for a fool, at the other end of the cylinder. 

There is nothing bad about the tobacco plant , per se.

Back in the old days , half a century ago, I remember  old clothes cupboards where I often came upon small sachets of some powder, which , it turned out, was tobacco powder. Contrary to what you might be thinking, no one in the house secretly smoked. Apparently, dried tobacco powder used so, was a way of keeping clothes insects and moths away.

In  recent days, one has had a dramatic demonstration of constructive tobacco use. Particularly in the week that just went by.

The ground floor of our building is for parking. And the building is nestled amidst lots of greenery, old trees,  other dilapidated structures,  and a lot of construction materials, strewn around , thanks to the urge to modernize . All these years, our 38 year old  Fiat stood in senior splendor, exhibiting all her wear and tear amidst her creaking steering wheel, gears and groaning cylinders and pistons. (Ye gads, I just described myself ! Never mind ....)

The old car is now retired  since the last two years, and gone to the native place , and its place has been taken , by a bigger modern Indian-make car.  No problems since arrival,  and I always touched wood, when such thoughts cruised through my mind.  Maybe it's a statement about the environment, maybe I touched insufficient wood, but a few days ago, rushing for some errands in anticipation of a flood of house guests, I dashed to the car to go someplace, and was shocked to see, that a full gas tank suddenly showed up at zero. The ignition key turned  and made the requisite noises, but something refused to fire.  It still showed zero gas.

Lots of phone calls, messages, and SOS's later  two guys , mechanics, on a two wheeler drove in, and looked in all the parts of the car, front, back and below , shaking their heads. Asked us if we had rats around the place. They then yanked the entire back seat from its moorings, and their eyes lit up. There was a wire junction type thing, nicely chewed up wires on one side, some of which were hanging lose.  Some circuit had been broken, and had affected the working of the gas gauge. Contrary to what I thought, no one had stolen the gas.

 Maybe rats in technological institutions have a Chewable Car Priority List, headed by , say, Korean, Japanese, and American  cars, Indian cars coming last.  No wonder they refused to have anything to do with the 38 year old Fiat , even when we once forgot to put one of the windows up.  Now that there was a new Indian car, it kind of appeared at its place in the list.  And it took the rats 2 years to actually run through the list and reach us ! 

  They (the mechanics, not the rats), decided to remove the part, rewire it, do a nice strong insulation around it all and reconnect the chewed up stuff.  The manufacturer would have had us replace an entire unit extending to the front and back. And I wanted to know  what we could do, to keep our car off the rat's Favourite Hangout list.  I wasn't looking forward to any more last minute surprises in the car, and didn't want this to happen again elsewhere.

Turns out that the solution was to keep small plastic pouches of tobacco powder (available at the local paanwalla)  strategically stuffed and strewn  at key places  in the innards of the car.  They didn't have the tobacco with them , but would get our car started, and asked us to come to their nearby garage, where they would do this 10-minute job for us.

Naturally, I had visions of something lighting up and bursting into flames inside the engine etc. But this doesn't happen if the pouches are intelligently placed . The rats hate the smell of tobacco, and amazingly, the amount that we humans imbibe against good advice, is fatal for rats, simply because of their small size.  The rats sense the tobacco and stay away .

So we now have a modern car, with automatic windows, power this and that,  decent pickup, and a body studded with tobacco pouches inside.

Driving in Mumbai often involves, sudden illogical  braking, random stops, and pushing the  engine to make it through an abnormally short traffic light, and kind of abusing the gear in which you are driving.

Yesterday, returning from a full day outing with house guests, we did all of the above while returning, very close to home,  and as we drove in,  there was a smell.  A familiar smell.

At other times, there would have been comments on woman drivers, not changing gears as required, driving with the foot on the clutch,  knocking of the engine, pushing it too hard etc etc.

This time, as I unbelted from the seat and got out, I took a deep breath, walked around the car,  sniffed again, and said, "Ah! Must be the tobacco pouches roasting ! ".... and there were heads nodding in agreement all around.




  1. Many chemicals used in perfumes are derived from Nicotine or tobacco plant [so told me somebody - adding that they are called alkaloids]. If true, women wear the chemicals extracted from tobacco!

    Rats seem to enjoy the electric wires more than anything else. Must be giving them a kick! But it is terrible thing to happen to a new car.

    Enjoyed reading your post, and hope you have a safe and rat free ride.



  2. Hi suranga, you have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.

    check this out;

  3. I agree Ugich, it is terribly frustrating when people blame everything else in their lives for causing problems, like eating so much fast food, drinking and smoking, I'm very sure no one is forcing them to do this. If they took control of their own lifestyle all would be well! Very funny and informative post, who knew about the rat thing, not I!!

  4. You've just put an idea into my head. Last week I tried switching on the washing machine and it just would not start. The mechanic was called in and he showed me bits of wire chewed by rats. I swore that there were no rats in my house but he insisted that this was the work of rodents. I got on with my washing and when i put the clothes to dry I notice that a new salwar and a not so new petty coat that had remained in the machine since it did not start had been nibbled by a rat.I suppose they manage to come via the drainpipe have a feast of my washing machine + clothes and depart. I now block the drainpipe at night but will keep a pouch of dried tobacco leaves too. Thanks
    for the idea. BTW I knew abt tobacco powder acting as insect repellent.

  5. We can safely conclude that rats are smarter than many humans by staying away from substance abuse.

  6. Weird! I have never had such an experience with rats. Maybe, you should adopt some cats to reduce the rodent population.

  7. tobacco pouches roasting?! Does that mean, the rats have taken to smoking after all?! :P
    Great post and hope that the nasty commenter of your first post has been blocked.

  8. Vivek Thank you. And yes, so far , so good, after the tobacco pouch stuff :-)

    Aabha Midha Thank you !

    Perth Daily Photo Thank you. One learns every day !

    HHG Forget wires, I once had a twin tub washing machine about 20 years ago , and it started leaking because rats nibbled and scratched away at some alluminium of all things. So they are really capable of anything .

    Kirti Yes.

    Gigihawaii That's an idea !

    Roshni I've always ignored that nasty commenter, and thought he was high on something anyway. But no, I dont think the rats like the pouches.

    magiceye I think so. Because the mechanic person bought it at the paanwala. :-)

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