Today a baby rat fell from the rafters while we were practicing yoga. He was so small, his eyes hadn’t even opened yet. The little Indian woman who wears the colorful scarves on her head, and cooks, cleans, and gardens here happened to be passing through the studio just then. She whisked out through a side door, and then returned moments later with a broom and a dustpan. She swept the tiny rat into the dustpan and was preparing to take him outside. A small group had gathered around to see the helpless creature.
I ran up and peered over someone’s shoulder. The rat was curled into the dustpan, his tiny paws clinging to the ridged plastic, his tail wrapping around him. As everyone pushed for a better look, he gave a tiny squeak. I nearly melted. She was going to put him outside to die, so I stepped in, hoping to save him. My yoga teacher joked, “What are you going to do, Sarah? Take him home to live with you?” I knew it was senseless to try to save a baby rat, but I felt like I needed to do something. He was moments away from being cast away to die.
I took the dustpan from the Indian woman, and said I’d be right back. I carried the rat to my room, and set the dustpan with his tiny body in it just outside my door. I looked around the room quickly, hoping to find something to put him in, but I knew it was useless. I’d already done a mental scan of my things, and I knew that the belongings in my backpack did not contain a cage, a feeding bottle, or even a bit of sawdust to make him comfortable. Still, I wanted to do something. The knowledge that I would have to feed him multiple times a day crept into my mind. What would I give him? A capful of soymilk? Crumbs from a box of crackers? I had no idea how I would take care of such a little thing, so I pushed the thoughts out of my mind.
A bit later, empty-handed and beaten, I decided to let him go. I couldn’t keep him in my room without a cage, or a box, or something he could live in. Maybe the yoga teacher and the little Indian woman were right- maybe it was best to just put him outside. I carried the dustpan out into the yard, and placed the little rat onto a mound of grass surrounded by ivy and rocks. He made his way blindly forward, and I nearly cried. I said a little prayer that Nature would look after him, and maybe provide him with his first meal away from his mother. I made sure he was in the sunlight so he would be warm.
When I returned to class, the teacher asked me how it went. I told her I had nothing to put him in, so I let him go. But she had been thinking. “When class is over,” she said, “I’ll give you a little box that I have in my room. I might even have some shredded clothing you can use as bedding.” I agreed that it was a good idea, and went on to do shoulder stands. A bit later, as we had just gotten into our relaxation poses, the monsoon arrived. Within moments, the cone-shaped tin roof was reverberating with the sound of the violent downpour, and thunder was booming all throughout the valley. It was so loud, the teacher stopped talking us through the pose because it was useless. We couldn’t hear a word. Balanced in halasana for the next fifteen minutes, all I could think about was the rat. He must be freezing. He must be drenched.
Lila let us out of the pose early, and I jumped up and ran out the door. I grabbed someone’s umbrella and trotted down the slick pathway to where I had deposited him. I crouched down in the rain, only slightly protected under the umbrella, and looked at the spot I had put him. He was gone. I couldn’t imagine him having gone far, though, as he was so tiny he could hardly walk. I lifted ferns, and cleared grasses out of the way. I peered under sticks and into the tiny gulley of rushing water behind the patch of grass. No rat. I searched for a long time, but to no avail. The rat was gone. I remembered belatedly the quick gray cat that lives on the grounds. I’ve seen him chasing and being chased by mongooses. He darts around like a naughty shadow, appearing when you least expect him. In a way, I hope he got the rat. That way, the tiny creature would have been saved from the relentless monsoons. But still…
I will always mourn, I will always pray, for the little rat who got away.