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Belling the Cat

Pyarelal had just finished a hectic day in his shop.  He was a grains merchant.  It was late in the night when he decided to finally call it a day.  He downed the shutter and went home, tired and hungry.  But for the mice in the shop the day had just begun.  The noise of the shutter falling was music to their ears.

They had been waiting all day for this.  The scurried out of their holes by the dozens - their mouths watering at the smell of freshly stocked grains of every type.  The mice scampered over the sacks, their sharp teeth making quick work of the sack cloth.  The juicy grains spilled forth from the many slits the mice had made.  The happy mice gorged on the grain till they could eat no more.
Their hunger satisfied, the mice slowly scampered back to their holes leaving behind a mess of grains on the floor.

You can imagine Pyarelal’s shock when he came the next morning.  The precious grain he had bought just the day before was strewn all over the floor.  Sacks that had been full of grain were now shrivelled and torn.  He was angry.  He had seen the mice eat his grains earlier, but never in a scale like this.

He was particularly angry that the mice had ravaged his stock just a week before the village festival.  He had been expecting big business as people prepared sweets and arranged feasts for their friends and neighbours.

That evening he went home.  He told his wife of the loss.  His wife was a clever woman.  She remembered that her uncle in the neighbouring village had four cats at home.  The next day she went to his village and persuaded him to give her one of the cats.

Pyarelal’s wife bought the cat to her home on her return.  The next day, Pyarelal went to the shop as usual. He also brought the cat along.

That evening as he left, Pyarelal left the cat inside the shop and locked down the shutter.  The cat was a great mice hunter.  By daybreak, it had killed a few mice.  The next day as Pyarelal opened the shop, he was glad to see the half eaten remains of a few mice.  He also discovered that the damage caused by the mice was lesser than before.

He gave the cat some milk which he had brought from home.    The cat, for its part, was effective at killing the mice.  The mice numbers began to plummet.  The mice were shocked and terrified at the cat.  They were sad to see friends and relatives killed.  They could no longer scamper around the shop at night.  Every step was to be taken in fear.

They decided that this could not go any longer.  They decided to call for a meeting.    That night, the mice scurried away from the shop.   The mice assembled in a nearby shed and began their meeting.  The mice began by talking about the danger they were facing.

As they were thinking of a way out, one of the mice suddenly said, “I have a idea.  The solution is to tie a bell to the cat.  We can put the bell around its neck so that when it comes, we will hear the bell ring and will have warning and time to run to safety.”  This sounded like a good idea.  The other mice too nodded in approval.  “This is exactly what needs to be done”, they said.

But then they found that they needed someone who could tie the bell around the cat’s neck.  “Someone can tie it around the cat’s neck when it is sleeping.” an elderly mouse said.  “That is a clever idea”, the others added.  “But, who will volunteer for this noble task which will bring safety to us all?” the elderly mouse said and then cleverly added, “I am too old for the task and my nerves are not that quick.” he said.

The other mice too started looking at each other hoping someone would stand up for the job.  One mouse said that he was newly married while another said that he was too short.  Another mouse said that it had just sprained its paw the other day and could not walk properly.  Soon the meeting became an exchange of excuses of how each mouse could not do the dangerous task.

The mice could not find anyone among them who would volunteer for their job.  One by one they slowly slipped away and went back to their holes.

As for the cat, it continued to hunt the mice till very few remained.  The few mice abandoned the shop and went to live elsewhere.

Children, this amusing story tells us how people avoid responsibility and risk and expect someone else to take it for them.

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