One day, while working in a paddy field, Anwar saw a pack of mice disappearing inside a hole. Using his spade, he dug deep into it and killed one of them. To his amazement, he saw a lot of rice grains stored inside the hole.
He was 16-years-old and used to work on other people's fields. When he found the rice grains, he did what felt like the most rational thing to do. He took them home and traded them for some snacks like moa and murki.
His love for snacks kept him coming to the fields for more rice grains. Over time, he became an expert at hunting mice and took it up as his profession.
It has been 45 years since he started hunting mice.
"I was born in a poor family. From childhood, I worked on other people's fields. Discovering rice grains in those holes and being able to afford moa and murki were the greatest joys of my life," Anwar Hossain said.
This local legend with a curious profession lives in a remote village called Nur Nagar in Akkelpur Upazila of Joypurhat district. Finding his home was not at all difficult since everyone knows him by his nickname – Indur Anwar.
We met him at his home in the early morning. During the day, he sells rodenticides in his small shop in Naogaon. That, however, is mostly during off-seasons.
From Ashwin to Falgun (September to February), Anwar travels all over the country, especially the northern regions of Lalmonirhat and Kurigram, to hunt mice.
"People ask me to help them out with their fields – mostly paddy and potato fields. But I also hunt mice in households," he said.
What motivated him to choose mice hunting as a career? We asked him. He said it was a neighbour who was an agriculture officer.
Sometime in the 1980s, the officer asked Anwar what he did with the mice he killed. Anwar usually threw them away and the officer advised him to collect the tails so he could submit them at the local agriculture office and get wheat in exchange. At that time, the government gave 500gm wheat for one tail.
"When I learnt about the reward, I started killing mice and depositing the tails at the agriculture office every week. The wheat I received helped my family a lot," Anwar said.
Every year, he deposits 10 to 12 thousand rat tails at the Akkelpur Upazila Agriculture Office.
"Back then, the production of any crop used to be hampered a lot because of mice. Even now, it is a huge problem for farmers," Anwar added.
According to the data provided by Akkelpur Upazila Agriculture Office, mice infestation damaged 67.5 metric tonnes of rice, 43 metric tonnes of potatoes and three metric tonnes of wheat in Akkelpur in 2022 alone, causing farmers to lose approximately Tk2,90,000.
Moreover, a Krishi Batayon (a government platform to help farmers) survey shows that Bangladeshi farmers suffer an estimated loss of Tk2,000 crore of crops, fruits and furniture yearly, because of rodent infestation.
"I take pride in my profession. I help a lot of poor farmers," said Anwar.
He does not have a fixed charge for his service. "I let people decide the payment. They pay me according to their financial ability and I don't mind." Usually, people give him Tk200 to Tk500 for every mice catching session.
Awards, certificates, and recognition also help keep his passion alive. In 2005, for example, Anwar deposited 23,451 tails to the Department of Agricultural Extension and received a 14-inch colour television as a reward. The television delighted his children.
He recounted the story, while fondly displaying around 20 accolades he received from the department of agriculture for becoming a champion of the National Rat Extermination Campaign from 2001 to 2022.
Anwar was very modest when he was asked how he managed to kill so many mice. "I don't have any magic tricks. I simply use strategies and knowledge that I have learned over the decades." Now he can track down mice simply by inspecting the soil.
"It's easy to track mice, especially by smelling the soil. If there is a mouse, there must be the smell of excrement," he explained.
He brought out a cylindrical plastic pipe with a couple of holes. He told us he invented this trap decades ago.
Custom-made tin plates block both ends of the pipe. You have to put a small amount of food inside it and then shut both ends using the tin plates. Once the mouse steps inside, the jagged edges of the plates trap it inside.
The trap looks simple but is very effective. Anwar does not sell the traps, he only shows them to people so they can replicate them at home.
According to Mohammad Idris Ali, a farmer from Raikali, a single mouse can damage around 40kg of potato. "You can imagine the extent of damage farmers can suffer if they have a pack of mice in their fields," he said, adding that this is why he and the farmers around Akkelpur rely so heavily on Anwar's mice hunting skill.
We were curious to know how this person manages to serve so many customers. Anwar informed us that he has 57 apprentices all over the country - some hunt mice with him, while others conduct the trade independently.
As one of his apprentices carried the awards inside his house, Anwar expressed his wish to spend the rest of his life hunting and researching mice. "I hope my apprentices will carry on the legacy after I die."