Drat..Rats! Natural ways to repel rodents

courtesy: cartoonstock.comuThere’s no place like home. And there’s no place for rats in mine. My husband and I were in for a shock last night when we pulled open a wide, deep drawer in which we store our household linens. There were little black pellets scattered between sheets, towels and dish cloths. I recognised these pellets as rat poop because of a forgettable past encounter with a rat whom I had somehow managed to trap some years ago. Although I had been trembling like a leaf at the time,  the poor thing was clearly more petrified as we had stared at each other, as clearly I wasn’t the one suddenly filled with an urge to excrete profusely. Fast forward to the present. The fact that the pellets we spotted yesterday were dry suggested that the creature who produced them was not around. The discovery of course filled me with dread and melancholy. Our beautiful, clean, hygienic and nice-smelling home was unknowingly playing host to an invited guest whose name rhymes with cat (now that’s a furry creature I long to have and hold).


The initial shock eventually wore off and replacing it was a protective instinct: i felt like a lioness raring to protect her pride. I was not sure what I wanted to do but one thing was/is clear: I am not going to kill any rat. So began the search for a herbal, organic solutions, natural remedies and repellents- humane ways of addressing the problem. We will of course be getting one of those metal cage contraptions to attempt to trap the rascal and set him free somewhere far, far away. But in case the nasty bugger outsmarts us (I have seen many a rat cleverly dislodge the bait and flee before the trapdoor snaps), I am considering other methods


At least five people have suggested rat poison and/or glue pads. I am not judging these people but the technique when I say it  is not for me. I’m happy to report that an equal number of people suggestied some peaceful, humane solutions.

I thought I’d share some of these suggestions and household remedies for people like me who don’t want to kill rats no matter how eek-ed out and protective they are of their homes.

1. Peppermint oil:  Apparently rats loathe herbal aromas. So plant peppermint, spearmint and citronella plants around your home. If these are not available where you stay, peppermint oil works too. This can be found in most markets. Soak some cotton balls in the peppermint. Make sure that they are saturated. Place the cotton balls in areas where rats are likely to crawl. Replace the old cotton balls with cotton balls with fresh peppermint oil at least twice a week.

2. Napthalene balls: Rats don’t like the smell of these either. It’s not enough to put these in your cupboards, woollen-storage closets….these need to be replenished and replaced as napthalene balls shrink with time. Their potency diminishes when they shrink. So be alert and put fresh napthalene balls out. This is where I failed and Mr. Rat taught me a lesson the hard way.

courtesy: madasafish.com

3. Ammonia: Some websites are also suggesting ammonia. Mix one part ammonia with one part water. Soak old socks or a cloth in the ammonia and squeeze out the excess liquid. Place the cloth where the rats are likely to enter the home. Check the cloth at least once a week and replace if necessary. Personally, I don’t plan to try this one out as the slightest whiff of ammonia makes me feel nauseated.

4. Spices: Chilli peppers, cayene pepper, even tabasco sauce can drive these lil beasts away. Sprinking garlic powder and diced garlic cloves can also do the trick according to ehow.com. The pungency of garlic can make rats feel nauseated and send them running in the opposite direction (opposite from you, that is). But if the strong smell of garlic makes you feel sick, then clearly this option is not for you. Incidentally, garlic oil is also a cockroach-repellent.

5. Gizmos: My uncle recommended an ultrasonic device that emits high-frequency wave speeds that permanently ensure that rats stop recee-ing your home. This is mostly designed to protect cars, offices, server rooms and godowns. Here’s the link: http://www.varnacrafts.com

courtesy: stuartmcmillen.com

I’m going to try out the peppermint oil technique tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Keep an eye on this space.

(Sources: etips.sulekha.com, ehow.com)


Where is the Love: A tribute to Boston, Damascus

I happened to catch an old song playing on the radio today. A Black Eyed Peas number from a few years ago. I’ve heard the song loads of times before but never really listened to the words, except for the chorus line… Where Is The Love.

As I paid attention for a change today, I thought it was a befitting comment on the state of our world today. Terrorism in Damascus, in Boston, in Baghdad, hatred, violence and the loss of that feeling called humanity.

(picture courtesy: globalpost.com)

(picture courtesy: globalpost.com)

Thought I’d post the words here on my blog today. If you haven’t heard the song or paid attention before then read on.

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

It just ain’t the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace are so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong

Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone

So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’ in
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover

The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where’s the love, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the truth, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the love, y’all

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema

Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Good Gourd! (Making lauki taste good)

(pic courtesy: sweetclipart.com)

(pic courtesy: sweetclipart.com)

This one’s for my new saheli Karishma Rajani whose appetite for life is equaled by her appetite for good food and new recipes. The protagonist of this recipe is the often disliked lauki (also called ‘doodhi‘, the english name for which is bottle gourd). I’d go as far as saying that this recipe – Koota – is the perfect PR agent for the veggie. It not only makes the lauki look good but taste good. The credit for this goes to an anonymous person who came up with the first ‘koota’. But I want to thank my maternal grandmother, my Amama who passed this on to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made koota at home. It helps that it doesn’t take time to make and that my husband laps it up each time.

The preparation time is 5 minutes, cooking time is about 20.

All you need is..

1 lauki (bottle gourd)
2 tablespoons moong daal (golden gram)
1 teaspoon rayi (mustard seeds)
1 teaspoon jeera (whole cumin seeds)
1 green chilly slit
1/2 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
a pinch of hing (asafoetida)
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon jeera powder (cumin powder)
1 teaspoon dhaniya powder (coriander powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
a dash of lime
a fistfull of freshly chopped coriander leaves

And here’s how you do it..

  • Soak the moong dal in a katori of water.
  • While the moong soaks, chop up your lauki into lil cubes
  • Heat the oil in a kadai. Add the rayi, jeera, slit green chilly, haldi, hing, salt and sugar
  • Turn to the moong dal now. Strain it (don’t throw away the water as it has plenty of nutrients in it, use it in your daal or another dish later) and add the moong to the kadai
  • Stir fry the moong in the masala for half a minute, before adding in the lauki pieces. Stir briskly.
  • Pour in the water, enough to submerge all the lauki. Put the lid on your kadai.
  • Let it cook on a medium/high flame. Stir occasionally.
  • When the lauki has absorbed 90% of the water (the dish should have a bit of gravy), add in the powdered jeera, dhaniya and pepper. Stir and cook for another minute
  • Switch off the stove. Garnish with coriander leaves and a dash of lime. Serve immediately. (If you’re not serving it immediately, add the lime just before you do)
    Tastes good with both rice and rotis.

I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of Koota to share. I will take pictures and upload them here the next time I make koota.
If you try this recipe, please share your experience.

Bon Appetit

The World this Week: News Digest 1

In Nitish Kumar’s Boat

courtesy: neeraj bhushan

pic courtesy: neeraj bhushan

If there’s one politician whose dilemma the general public could share at the moment that would be Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar. Earlier this week Kumar spelt out in no uncertain terms that he would leave the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance if it kept projecting (albeit tacitly) saffron poster boy Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections. He reiterated there would be no compromise on secular values. Before news pundits could even speculate on his options, Kumar also ruled out aligning with the Congress in Bihar, saying his party the Janata Dal (United) would not tie up with a corrupt party either. Now, secularism and clean governance are non-negotiables for Kumar (who is credited with single-handedly resurrecting Bihar and restoring the legitimacy of the state by practising these) just as they are for many voters like me. But while standing his ground for ethical and vote bank-related reasons may have earned him appreciation from many, that is not enough to help Kumar retain the numbers required for a third consecutive term in office. The dilemma for Nitish Kumar and many voters is this: If not the Congress or BJP, then who? With Arvind ‘Civil Society’ Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party still in its infancy and regional parties that talk about forming a Third Front sharing no common vision except to oust the big 2, one is left with a dearth of options. Quite ironic in a multi-party system. It’ll be interesting to see how Kumar negotiates the situation. Perhaps that will help guide voters as well. Otherwise, there’s always Rule 49-O.

Still in denial, 11 years on

pic courtesy: india tv news

pic courtesy: india tv news

Nitish Kumar’s nemesis Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has made a clever move. Offering up former aide and BJP leader Maya Kodnani as the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, the Modi-led Gujarat government is set to seek the death penalty for the former state minister for women & child development who is convicted for her role in the riots of 2002. This move is being seen as Modi’s bid to show that he too wants justice for the communal pogrom on his watch that left 2000 Muslims dead. The riots case is by far the biggest chink in Modi’s armour. Gujarat’s voters, Muslims included may have forgiven him and re-elected him as their Chief Minister for the third time. But outside Gujarat people are not only less forgiving but unwilling to forget. Modi has quickly realised that no amount of Sadbhavna missions, Google+ Hangouts and pan-India tours to interact with India’s masses and classes will completely wipe out the riots and his complicity in them (still unproven in court) from public memory. These may have earned him his third consecutive term in office, but being given a chance, a term as Prime Minister of the country is a whole other ball game. While he is still far from apologising and being punished by the law, I would like to ask Narendra Modi this: if he could rewind the clock to late-Feb and early March 11 years ago, would he have done things differently?

Dutt’s not the way, Bollywood!

pic courtesy: ibnlive.com

pic courtesy: ibnlive.com

Saif Ali Khan has dismissed the blackbuck hunting incident as a one-off misdemeanour blaming youthful recklessness at the time for the incident. The actor, who is among 5 other stars accused of the crime, says he is a changed man today, more than a decade on and wouldn’t ever commit such an act again. While the remorse is appreciated, a crime is a crime and pay he must! Stars and other VIPs who believe they’re being singled out when the law takes its course were crying themselves hoarse on social media this past fortnight. This after Bollywood’s bad ‘bhai’ Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to 5 years in jail for illegally possessing arms in the 1993 Bombay Riots case. Dutt too says he is repentant and a changed man and that he has suffered enough while the case hung over him for 20 years. It’s sad to see that the Bollywood fraternity that joined the chorus of Mumbaikars in the aftermath of 26/11- another terrorist attack- to demand justice by bringing the guilty to book, has double standards when it’s one of their own who is in the dock.

Condolences, Boston.

Terror struck in the heart of Boston on Monday night. I was at work when the news came in. The fact that the attack took place at the annual Boston Marathon – a target one least expected – killing 3 innocents and injuring scores of others – was a reminder that terrorism is a ruthless, indiscriminate beast.

pic courtesy: the huffington post

pic courtesy: the huffington post

As I watched US President Barack Obama shake his head in grief on TV and vow not to spare the bombers, I wondered whom the US would attack next in the name of avenging the killings. Where would the next set of drones be dispatched to, which suspected Al Qaeda/Taliban leader would be pulled out of a hidey hole in a tribal village in Pakistan’s northwest. You can’t wage a war on terrorism by bombing out nondescript villages in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Fight terror by tackling its root causes: Poverty. Fight terrorism with Development.

The Italian Marines/Kerala fishermen killing case: Or How India Ended Up Looking Like An Idiot

(pic courtesy: Reuters)

(pic courtesy: Reuters)

The Italian marine duo accused of killing 2 Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012 have pulled a fast one on not just India, but  its Supreme Court  as well. The pair was granted permission to go back to their home country, to vote in last month’s parliamentary elections, on the condition that they would return to continue facing trial after the 4-week period ended. But now they’ve  reneged on their word and, as the Italian Foreign Office simply puts it, won’t be returning to India. The worst fears of the Kerala state govt and the victims’ families who had opposed the sailors’ bail pleas have come true.

How could the Supreme Court not have seen this coming? At the risk of speaking out in contempt of court, what guarantees were sought to ensure that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone would not go back on their word? In the SC’s defence, the two sailors had returned to India on 10  January 2013 after a Kerala court had allowed them to spend Christmas in Italy with their families. At the time, Italy had hailed the local court’s decision as one that confirmed the spirit of trust & cooperation between the two sides.

The Indian courts – Kerala and the apex one – have been more than magnanimous in this case, allowing the murder under-trials to go home twice- for a festival and to vote.  I have a problem with this sensitivity.
1. Since when are murder under-trials allowed privileges like family time for such things as festivals and to vote? I would have been sympathetic if they had been granted such relief on humanitarian grounds. For instance, a health emergency (a loved one on his/her death bed, or the sailor himself needing to avail of some life-saving medical treatment back home.)
2. If there’s nothing wrong with such allowances, why aren’t 2.5 lakh Indian nationals who are under trial & languishing in jail granted the same privileges on Eid/Diwali/Navroze/Christmas and during civic body/assembly/parliamentary elections in India?  This kind of favouritism towards foreigners in India is really shameful.  I doubt that Italy would have extended the same privileges to, let’s say Indian sailors who ‘accidentally’ fatally shot Italian fishermen presuming they were ‘pirates’ in ‘Italian territorial waters’.

3. Given that Rome had all along been seeking custody of its nationals by rejecting India’s jurisdiction in the matter (claiming that the unfortunate killings took place in international waters), how could the court have been so myopic and let the foreign nationals leave Indian soil? The fact that India does not have an extradition treaty with Italy only makes matters worse. (India had merely signed an extradition arrangement with Italy in 2003.)

The court’s blunder compounded with the the lack of an extradition treaty may have well sounded the death knell for the victims’ families’ fight for justice. For, now India will have to wage a battle for custody of the two sailors in order for the murder trial to go on. In the absence of the accused on Indian soil, the trial stands disrupted.

The courts have some explaining to do. And I hope the lawyers of the slain fishermen’s families pose these uncomfortable questions to the apex court.

The Gud, the Bad and the Tilgul laddoo fiasco (or Sesame Jaggery Ladoos Part 2)

Here is the blog entry I promised I’d write once I attempted making the tilgul ladoos a day after Makar Sankranti. But before I say anything else, let me state for the record, the heaps of respect I have come to have for my grandmother, great grandmother, sisters-in-law and countless Indian women who make these laddoos with such ease. Here’s why.

I set out to make the Tilgul ladoos according to the recipe on aayisrecipe.com. I diligently followed the recipe to the T. First collecting all my ingredients, doing my prep and keep them ready on the kitchen counter. All went well till I had to take the mixture off the heat. I greased my palms with a lil ghee, eager to shape the mixture into laddoos. But, aaaaargh…the heat from the jaggery-sesame mixture straight off the stove was something I had not bargained for. My palms were completely scalded. The woman who shared the recipe had warned that this might happen.  So I abandoned the laddoo-shaping to pursue plan B: greasing a thaali with ghee and turning out & flattening the mixture on it! But that didn’t work either. Because there didn’t seem to be enough jaggery in the mix. The recipe recommends just half a cup of jaggery but i think it would require at least two more cups. Oddly though, the mix tasted great but just wouldn’t come together. My mix looked very grainy and not sticky like the one on the websites pictures.


note: reddening of palms from working with piping hot tilgul mixture 😦

It was sheer will and desperation that helped me make 4 laddoos, before my aching palms screamed at my brain and I stopped.

If this happens to you – the grainy dry tilgul mix, that is- you can use it as muesli to go with a bowl of oats at breakfast!

Tilgul (Sesame jaggery laddoos) on Sankranti


courtesy: aayisrecipes.com

I have one big regret the day after Makar Sankranti. I didn’t make tilgul ladoos – traditional sweets eaten on the day- on my first festival post-marriage! In a huff I had decided not to make them after 2 relatives nagged me about it in extremely patronising tones. Now I wish I had made them after all…more so because the recipe looks simple and do-able. I’m told making tilgul ladoos is an art. I guess it’s one of those things that you perfect with age.

Found this amazing recipe online on a site called aayi’s recipes (aayi is Marathi for mother).

You know what – I am going to attempt this recipe today! 🙂 Will share details of the experience, with pictures hopefully, tomorrow! So keep watching this space…

For now, here’s the link to the recipe. Good luck!

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