Sunday was H-day for the Eichers in Thane. After years of subtle and overt demands for pets - and a brief and tearful experience with fish a few years ago - we finally are a family who are not just humanoid - but who also exist at a very small scale - enter the hamsters!
Our dear sister Chinnamma told us that her son Sheryl and his wife Annette had more hamsters than they could handle. They started with two last November - and ended up with nineteen earlier this year. We heard that they were down to five and so set up an appointment for Sunday evening.
Since John and Nalini's girls were with us - Sheba and I and the fabulous four piled into our Papaya (the lovely little Nano who has been with us for over a year now) and tooled over to Sheryl and Annette's place.
Once there they graciously showed us the hamsters - 4 males and a female - and the kids went into raptures of excitement. The Eicher adults were excited too - but we have 40 plus years of learning to hide our feelings! And so we took a deep breath and said: "we will take all of them!"
Our generous friends gave them to us. Lock, stock and barrel. Make that two barrels - the hamsters were housed in two large plastic bins, with lots of tissue paper for them to make nests with, and each had a hamster wheel. We were overwhelmed with Sheryl and Annette's generosity - and so went out into the monsoonal night richer by five hamsters.
When we got back home, it was delight central.
Nikita and Jasper immediately went about pleading with their parents to let them take one or two - and when John and Nalini relented the only task left was choosing which ones to take.
Sheryl and Annette told us that the males were more friendly. They kept the single female apart because they knew how fast they breed. The gestation period is only 16 days! No wonder they ended up with 19 hamsters at one point. They also said that they did not want to interbreed them too much - since they were all from one pair.
Later in the evening we unearthed our old fish-tank - and Nikita and Jasper took two males (who have been named Caramel and Peanut) - and one of the hamster wheels - and rode off happily into the night.
So now we have 'only' three hamsters.
The lady has been christened Cinnamon! Take a bow dear!
She is a bit shy - and doesn't allow us to hold her easily. But we are working on it - and its still early days.
Cinnamon really likes to run in the hamster wheel. Just keeps on moving when we put it in with her.
She is also very interested in smelling it when we bring it from the 'boys' bin. In fact we have started to wash the wheel before we take it back to the males - after they started acting funny after getting it back the first time after Cinnamon had run on it. Another hamster wheel has been ordered off the net.
What about the lads then?
Well - strictly speaking they are probably Cinnamon's sons - but we have two lovely chappies who are cute as buttons - and seemingly always ready to be lifted out of their tub!
It took a few hours to come up with their names - but now we have them fixed as 'Garlic' and 'Pepper' - based on their colour. Asha had chosen Garlic and Enoch had selected Pepper.
Garlic, Pepper and Cinnamon are a variety of the normal Syrian hamsters called 'Teddy Bear' or 'Angora' Hamsters because the males end up having long hair.
What we have to do now is adjust to caring for some very small and very cute lives.
These chaps are nocturnal - so the time when they most want to run around and be picked up and explore is when we are horizontal. During the day they spend a lot of time curled up in their little nests.
While we are waiting for the new hamster-wheel, we have come up with some alternatives too. Thank God for the duplos that we have kept for when we are visited by small kids. Enoch and I were able to make something for the lads to run up and down. They also use it to jump off - trying to get to the rim of the plastic tub they are in.
Asha and Enoch tell us that all through their school day they are thinking of the hamsters.
For the last two evenings their parents have been working on what it means to be kind to hamsters - and make sure that they are 'having a good time.'
Asha and Enoch have yet to pick up the little fellows without dropping them with a squeal. But we are working on it. Asha is allowing them to sniff her hand - and I am getting strong advice from all sides to take them out of their bins - and let them wander around on the floor. Again with squeals when they start looking at what they can find under the sofas - or decide that the next room is also worth visiting!
As parents, Sheba and I want Asha and Enoch to learn how to look after their first real pets. We are hoping that they will carefully feed them and clean up their tubs weekly. We hope that the little ones will learn to trust the kids and that Asha and Enoch will learn to control themselves and be kind and loving to these lovely balls of fur!
But we know that as parents we are going to be taking the major role in hamster care.
Growing up, when the guinea-pig (one of which we had in Nana Chowk for at least a few months) started noisily announcing that it was hungry every morning - it was Mum who brought it something to eat. When Mum would come into the kitchen, it was normally with all the Eicher cats rushing in along with her, looking up to her, rubbing against her legs, or running ahead with their tails up straight like so many flag posts!
But even if it's 'more work' for the two of us - the sheer joy that is splashed over the faces of Asha and Enoch (and their dear friends Nikita and Jasper) makes it oh-so-worthwhile to have these three little fur-balls named Cinnamon, Garlic and Pepper with us!
And so now to do at night (its 23.43 according to the trusty-rusty computer clock) what these fellows have been doing for most of the day - to sleep! In the other room, three wide-awake hamsters would love to have someone playing with them.