Brought up overseas, he had been fascinated by the variety of food available in KL and I decided that the best place for him to try the street fare, which he had read so much about in blogs and travel brochures, would be where the working class ate.
As he feasted on the side dishes and slurped up the plain porridge, he suddenly stopped, his face turned pale and gasped: “Did you see that?” He pointed to a grey furball which scuttled across the pavement and disappeared into a gap in the drain.
“Oh, it was just a rat,” I said, but from the pallor on my friend’s face, I knew he wasn’t amused.
The sight that we city folk have become all too familiar with killed his appetite — and his interest in KL’s street food.
“How did the authorities allow this to happen?” he asked after regaining his composure.
“Isn’t there some kind of pest control that you guys undertake?” Yes, I answered, we had probably tried every known rodent eradication exercise, including sporadic cleanups and fumigation.
At one time, members of the public were even recruited as rat bounty hunter s.
They were paid for each rat delivered at redemption centres —RM2 each, dead or alive.
In fact,we had carried out so many campaigns that I had lost count of the many wars that had been waged on the rodents but with little success.
What we have not tried is to have a hotline to report a rat sighting and dispatch rat exterminators to the scene immediately to get rid of the pest — and then fine the owners of the premises if theywere found guilty of harbouring or causing rats to breed.
Maybe, we can have surprise checks like those carried out for the Aedes mosquito larvae in our anti-dengue campaigns.
My friendwanted to know why city folk were indifferent about dining with rats scampering around our feet.
I told him that most of us were concerned but sometimes hunger and convenience made us take chances — which could explain why some dirty hawker centres still attract hordes of diners.
I, for one, am concerned about the rodents because I know someone who have been bitten by rat tick and contracted typhus fever as a result.
I have also met those who survived leptospirosis, a bacterial poisoning caused by eating food contaminated by rat urine.
Yes, the presence of rats does worry me.
In fact, I try not to return to places where rats are a common sight.
I think the rats thrive because there is simply too much food lying around in the city.
Carelessly thrown leftovers are not only feeding the rats but have also fattened the city’s stray cats to the extent that they no longer catch a rat to sur vive.
The only ones eating rat carrion are the crows.
Perhaps, the answer to the city’s rodent problem would be to cut off the rats’ food supply.
After listening to my explanation, my friend suggested that we continue dinner at a fast food chain hewas familiar with where hygiene would at least be better.
I was tempted to tell him about my experiences with cockroaches at one such place, but decided not to spoil what was left of his gastronomic trip that evening.