Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Who's afraid of Lizards?

Navtej Sarna
For years I have hidden it away as a sure sign of unmanliness. Not only hidden it from others but also refused to acknowledge it to myself. Recently however it has become a favourite conversation piece employed deftly by my wife, never failing to get its due cackles from the unfeeling souls who gather to drink the friendly cup. Now I feel that there is little mileage to be had by hiding it; better, perhaps, to make a clean breast of things; And if some of the unfeeling souls can understand, well.....

I hate and fear lizards. I have hated and feared them all my life. Not in the way that one would fear a shark or say a tiger but in a slimy wriggly way that makes the hair stand on end and turns the nerves into chowmien.

Take the other night for example, I opened the door and one of them raced me to the clothes cupboard. The wretched creature was young,- But, believe me, they start young. A tiny hop or two, a few deceptive twists and it had disappeared into the pile of shirts.

After the initial waves of shock had passed, I decided to take stock of the situation. The choice, as I saw it, was clear. I could either, so to speak, screw my courage to the sticking-place and take out all the shirts thus exposing the bandit and bringing it out in the open. After that it would be a question of the quicker draw and may the better man win.Or I could let things lie. I could hope for the best and shake out every shirt before wearing it. Besides making one feel like a bit of a fool, the second course had the added disadvantage of the suspense of going through the motions everyday until the offending object materialized finally on a collar or a cuff.

I opted for the first line of action. Bringing out my four foot stick kept especially for this purpose (none of them, to my knowledge, are four feet long), I pulled out the shirts one by one, watching the dhobi bill creeping up. Halfway through I gave up the idea and went to sleep. Perhaps it was the impending certainty of coming face to face with the Enemy that decided my course.

In the morning light things never seem so bad. I may be mistaken but I think I even managed a man smile at the pile of shirts on the floor.

I have wondered, as some readers no doubt are wondering, what it is about a lizard that so strikes the chill around the heart. It could not be aesthetics. I have heard of people who keep them as pets, presumably tickling them periodically behind the ear. Cooling to them and taking them on long relaxing evening walks, I have only heard of such people, never met any. If did one I would no doubt bow low and tell him that as far as I was concerned he was king. Other people, I am told, eat them, slurping and smacking their lips.

If it is not the aesthetics then it must be the uncertainty that governs their whereabouts. They have a way of appearing and vanishing, their beady eyes agleam. They catch one unaware just as one is picking out a book, adjusting a picture frame or, as I said, pulling out a shirt. Crocodiles too, if I ever came close to them, would engender similar feelings in me as they went about their obsession of trying to act like logs of wood. It would be small compensation that they would not be hiding behind books.

Well, I have said it all. If nothing else, at least I have taken the punch out of one conversation piece.