Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I want to sleep
Swat the files
softly, please.
-Haiku by Masaoka Shiki

Many scriptures say (so I am told) that god has made everything on earth for man’s benefit but when a mosquito bites me in the middle of the night the benefit is not immediately apparent. When we shifted to our current house which is on the third floor, I thought I was rid of the scourge of mosquitoes. Surely those tiny wings are not capable of scaling such heights? But I rejoiced too soon. Third floor is not a challenge for mosquitoes.

The tip of my nose is a favourite piece of real estate for many mosquitoes. I will hope that a few shakes of my head would encourage them to leave. But hope is not a plan. Since I could not brush the mosquitoes off of my own volition, I had to think of some other way. At night, I sleep on my left side and a row of pillows is kept against the railing so that my head and legs don't hit it if I cough. I will move my head up and down and strain every sinew to irritate my tracheostomy. This will induce a bout of cough which will make my head hit the pillow and make the mosquitoes fly away. (I never knew that the acceleration and impacts of my head caused by bouts of cough could cause head injuries.)

Some of the mosquitoes that fly away might settle on a part of my body where I cannot disturb them. (There is a word for the part of the body where one cannot reach to scratch. Who knew?) By now I will be too exhausted to try and stimulate another bout of cough and see what happens. At such times I will have no option but to be another link in the food chain. Unlike D.H. Lawrence, I am not 'mosquito enough to out-mosquito' them. I will only hope that they will not leave me the baddest of all Apicomplexans as a parting gift. (I came across this expression last month and thought that it would be fun to make you click that link to find out what the hell I mean.)

I can understand Alfred Russel Wallace's feelings about the living conditions in Wanumbai in Indonesia (As quoted in The Song of the Dodo):
"Instead of rats and mice there are curious little marsupial animals about the same size, which run about at night and nibble anything eatable that may be left uncovered. Four or five different kinds of ants attack everything not isolated by water, and one kind even swims across that; great spiders lurk in baskets and boxes, or hide in the folds of my mosquito curtain; centipedes and millipedes are everywhere. I have caught them under my pillow and on my head; while in every box, and under every board which has lain for some days undisturbed, little scorpions are sure to be found snugly ensconced, with their formidable tails quickly turned up ready for attack or defence. Such companions seem very alarming and dangerous, but all combined are not so bad as the irritation of mosquitoes,"
On second thoughts...centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions...h'm. Enduring stings is not a 'happiness skill' that I am eager to cultivate. I wouldn't have liked to be in the room when Bill Gates pulled this stunt during a TED talk.

Mosquito mavens will be chagrined to learn that at one time, I thought that a world without mosquitoes would be close to the best of all possible worlds. But that doesn't seem a good idea.

1 comment:

  1. Took me back to my 'fauji' days when we were made to stand for 2-3 hours in attention...not allowed to blink(we all did)Mosquitoes loved these punishment sessions..It was feasting time for them(especially if we were in our PT dress(shorts and tee shirts)For us---it was PURE HELL!!!!Sadists,I say!!!