The tiny mosquito has been immortalised in poetry by D.H. Lawrence and Ogden Nash. One quote advises being persistent like a mosquito because at the end you will get your bite! Even the Dalai Lama has weighed in with “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
This tiny creature was in focus in my hometown recently as cases of chikungunya spiralled, causing deaths and spreading panic. All one could think of was how to keep these at bay. Those who loved pottering about in their gardens began to take precautions such as wearing long-sleeved clothes and liberal application of repellents. Grass was trimmed and doors and windows securely fastened to prevent their entry.
As the mosquito menace escalated, theatregoers were offered mosquito repellent free with tickets as most theatres were open-air venues to cater to large crowds. And it isn’t just the viewers who suffer from harassment. The actors on stage have to learn the fine art of improvisation if one of these pesky creatures decides to hone in on them. An accomplished thespian will effortlessly make the disruption a part of the play.
Humour aside, the mosquito is a deadly enemy when you consider the diseases they transmit. These include West Nile virus, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and various types of encephalitis. When dengue was doing the rounds here, pictures of the Aedes aegypti mosquito began circulating on WhatsApp for identification purposes. I didn’t find this information helpful as there was no way I was going to let a mosquito rest long enough on any part of me while I tried to identify whether this was the one.
Nowadays we have mesh fitted on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. However, this was not possible in the large army bungalows we lived in during our peripatetic existence back in the day. We lived in small towns as well as big cities but we were never free of this pest. In the summer we slept outside on charpais (traditional woven beds) on which mosquito nets were strung. One had to be careful while entering or exiting this shroud-like structure as the mosquitoes never lost an opportunity to enter your refuge. And, as experience has shown there is nothing more frustrating than going to bed with one of these. It certainly is a learning experience. As the saying goes, “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”
I seem to have had my fair share of encounters as military life seems to thrive outdoors. So, we had open-air cinema theatres where one slathered repellent on every inch of exposed skin. Considering that it was summer and one was inclined to wear the lightest clothing, that meant a lot of repellent. Nowadays they use fogging machines at these open-air theatres and if you believe in being an early bird, you would be advised to delay your arrival unless you don’t mind being enveloped in the fog.
Thankfully, we have no activists fighting for the rights of mosquitoes. At least I think so but one can never be sure these days. All I know is that when surrounded by enemy fire, nothing gives you greater satisfaction than swatting one successfully. I have seen grown-up men slashing their way through swarms of these creatures armed with those anti-mosquito racquets or bats, and smiles of triumph lighting up their faces as they hear the sizzling sound.
According to WHO, mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than one million people every year.in light of this, it is hard to feel any sympathy for this minuscule creature.
—Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.