It was a night in the month of mid-April. The sky had been overcast with dense cloud since the morning. It had been raining cats and dogs almost without recesses. All the inmates of our house retired early to bed, perhaps only to enjoy a sound sleep in cadences with the incessant pattering of raindrops. However, I also followed suit. There was no other sound except the rainfall. As my eyelids were going to shut down in sleepiness, the outdoor bell rang with the tune of a popular Hindi song starred by Shahrukh Khan.
I was quite surprised to notice the excellent tune of the doorbell. Ever since the replacement of the old pattern dingdong bell by an electronic one, the function of the bell depended entirely on the visitor’s fate. If our doorbell turned reluctant to work, a finger, however polite or rude it might be, could hardly coax or cajole it to emanate a single tune. Our electrician’s repeated effort to correct it degenerated into disappointment.
I was woken up from my drowsiness and lay on the bed pretending to be in deep slumber and expecting some other member of the house to go and open the door. But I could not wait for long. However, I left the bed with sheer reluctance. I responded to the night time visitor waiting outside by saying “Coming” only to relieve him. Opening the locks of the door made of iron grill and carrying an umbrella and a torch with its switch on, I steadily came out and unlatched the front door attached to our compound wall. To my utter annoyance more than my surprise, I found no one. I waited a little while and called out loudly, anticipating the stranger might have taken shelter nearby as there is no shed above our front door to protect oneself from rain.
Finding no trace of anybody, I concluded that it must be some passing guzzler who had just rung the bell out of inebriation before he could perceive his mistake that it was not his house. I lay down on the bed waiting for my slumber to return. But to my utter astonishment, the bell rang for a second time. Again, I got up and did everything I was required to do. This time too, there was nobody waiting at the doorstep. However, I could not convince my mind that someone might be daring to make fun of our belligerent family members in such a night with inclement weather. The same incident repeated itself for the third time.
This time I equipped myself with a heavy stick, almost like a club reserved for chasing troops of monkeys, unlatched the door as quietly as possible to make a surprise attack to our pestering visitor. A few minutes later, no sooner had the bell rung for the fourth time, I almost jumped on to the door and opened it widely. But once again, my wonder knew no bounds to find nobody there to defend my surprise attack.
I was obsessed with the thought of the nocturnal mystic visitor so much that hardly did I necessitate taking a look at the calling bell. The famous lines of Walter de la Mare’s mysterious poem “Some One” peeped into my mind.
Someone came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Some one came knocking;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But nought there was a stirring
In the still dark night…
But when I pointed the focus of the torch at the calling bell fixed on the left upper corner of the wooden frame of the termite-eaten door, I saw a row of ants tunneling through the switchboard with white eggs in their mouths like the Pearl Sydenstricker Buck’s marching refugees displaced from their Chinese villages inundated by floodwater. The mystery was finally revealed.
The marching ants, while touching one another, inadvertently wereplaying the role of the conductor by connecting the positive and negative ends of the switch and making the bell ring frequently without a human finger pressing on the switch of the calling bell. Then I just sprinkled some gamaccine powder on the ants to disperse the row and get relief from the repeated ringing of the bell and went to sleep.