I don’t think there is any solution to the mosquito menace until we start biting them back. They are here to stay, despite the best efforts of your friendly neighbourhood mosquito fogger. In my opinion, he’s about as trustworthy as the dentist who says that the jab won’t hurt. Or, the slimming centre that says you will lose six kg in a week. But, we have a strange, inexplicable urge to trust them. Like we have towards honking. Or, sending ‘Good Morning’ messages on WhatsApp.
Our Fog Man arrives in my building, religiously, at 6.45 pm. every day, strapped with equipment that makes him look like Arnold Schwarzenegger striding in to diffuse a bomb. Only, his muscles, in comparison, are like mosquito bites. We look in his direction with reverence and hope. He is our Dengue Decimator. He is our Malaria Messiah. He scans the landscape, narrowing his eyes. Then, he gets into position and points the end of his nozzle-bearing hose at the bushes. It spits out the first puff of smoke with an angry hissing sound. Kids playing on the streets run helter-skelter, yelling out to others. Elderly folk cover their faces and hobble homewards. Women in sneakers (also sighted at this time of the day) walk briskly to out-pace the mosquito annihilator. Before that, they have quick, terse discussions like, ‘Should we walk past him and go to the other side?’
‘No, let’s walk this way and turn around at the corner?’
Shortly, they realise that their decision-making process is too slow and billowing smoke is enveloping them rapidly. They break into a desperate run, not really sure of where to head. In this mêlée, one of them runs straight into the arms of Fog Man, which, I guess, must be the only perk of this job of his.
Amidst all this chaos, where are the mosquitoes? Are they fleeing? Are they dying slow, painful deaths? No Sir! They are right behind the bushes, clutching their bellies with laughter. Who knows, they are even clinking tiny glasses of Bloody Marys and vaping on the smoke. The younger ones have taken their surfboards and are riding the waves of the smoke. The ladies have settled on Fog Man’s neck and possibly, are playing rummy, sinking their proboscis in whenever they feel a little peckish. In short, they’re having a bloody (pun intended) party!
In just a few minutes, the smoke dissipates. Fog Man is seen receding over the horizon. We have reemerged on the streets. So, have the mosquitoes, saying, ‘Come fast, Daisy, that fat one with the pudding-flavoured blood is back.’ ‘Hush, Edgar, don’t call her that’, his female chides him while settling on the lumpy arm of the suggested resident. That resident is me. I am back from my hiding space and am slapping myself all over, like they do for atonement for sins.
‘Does that fogging thing work?’ I ask no one in particular, wiping dead Daisy’s blood from my palm.
Several views are offered. We stand there evaluating Fog Man’s efficacy, sounds of slaps echo as the sun sets — smart fella to have chosen this time to vamoose!
‘Let that shiny, scar face take those bites, I’m outta here’, is possibly its farewell message.
(Bestselling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down commedienne)