The mosquitoes around House No. 17 strictly believe in the kamikaze doctrine. Any exposed part of the body and it’s a wham-bam-thank-you-wham situation for them. In the beginning, as I mercilessly slaughtered them with the help of my precise karate chops, there was a sense of achievement. Then realization dawned. They just don’t give a damn. Their ultimate high is to stick their proboscis in pliant flesh, suck greedily, and welcome the inevitable slap. Guerilla warfare. Hit and run. Hit and run. Well, more suck and fly. But it doesn’t quite have a ring to it. I am fast by the average mosquito hunter standards. I get one or two. By that time the others have dug deep and sucked hard. Drink for the day over, they fly away sluggishly, just out of reach of my flailing itchy arms (and legs).
Despite being from the shiny, happy, world of advertising, I believed in the hype of a dozen mosquito repellent products. Everything from electric swatters to citronella laced incense sticks found its way home. The 30% extra incense sticks (ominously named as Killer Incense) almost choked me one night. I could distinctly hear faint guffaws as I lit the oh-so-traditional mosquito coils. I switched on glowing spaceship shaped devices that promised that mosquitoes would disappear the moment it’s switched on. That night there was a rave party around it. I rubbed mosquito repellent. Other than making me smell like mosquito repellent, it didn’t really make much of a difference to the target audience. The mosquito racquet performed quite adequately at first. My record was snaring half a dozen with one well-timed swat. I displayed the slain comrades on a piece of paper on which I had written ‘You are next’ in serial killer font.
After that momentous occasion, there was peace. The mosquitoes disappeared. For one entire evening. A stupid grin never left my face. Till the next morning. They got me when I was in the loo. It was an ambush. They attacked parts of the body where forget karate chops, even little taps are unbearable. They came in droves. Elite units. Trained to the highest degree. With specially sharpened proboscises. It was diabolical. Stephen King would have been proud.
I swallowed my pride and did the next best thing. Asked Google. The first thing it threw up was – are there tropical plants in the vicinity of the house, specifically banana trees? Yes. Yes. There’s an unruly clump of banana trees. Bit of an eyesore really. I learnt that the part where leaves of the banana tree connect to the trunk serves as a cup that holds water, making it an ideal spot for mosquitoes to breed.
The banana trees in our compound also were of such an inferior type that apparently monkeys amuse themselves by throwing them at passerby’s. The plan was simple. The execution, not so much.
Despite money being offered, it was ridiculously difficult to find anyone who wanted to take on the responsibility of clearing the grove. The seething mass of mosquitoes also didn’t help. A couple of well wishers mentioned helpfully that as banana trees are the natural food of elephants, it might help if we get some elephants. Thing is, elephants don’t simply hang around in the vicinity, lolling their heads, waiting for someone to call them over for a meal of banana trees. But then life does give a break or two. Two elephants were spotted in the neighbourhood. Without much ado, the mahouts were apprised of the situation. Free food for their plus size wards is always a welcome prospect.
To cut a long story short, never once did I think that there’d be a day when I’d write that I enlisted the help of two elephants to overcome the mosquito menace in my house. But that was precisely what happened. I know there are disbelievers out there. Thankfully, there was a camera handy.
(As for the mosquitoes, the loss of their breeding habitat has led to a significant decline in their population. There are the occasional skirmishes, but nothing that a skilled hunter like me cannot handle.)