Insects

Please note: I wrote this a long time back, many years ago, when I used to live alone with my mother.

Insects and I have shared a long lasting association with each other. This I have come to recognize more after regularly watching documentaries on insects, on various wildlife TV channels. Despite my mother’s strident objections (we watch TV together while having dinner), if they are featuring insects, I have to watch that program.

Although I have not gone to the extent of chewing live beetles and juggling around tarantulas just to needlessly harass the scandalized creatures and make people cringe at my antics as some demented looking hosts and anchors are wont to do, I have begun to acknowledge and accept the presence of these six-legged and eight-legged terrors. I refer to them as terrors because, see an ant under a magnifying glass and it’ll look like the most hideous monster you can ever imagine. A mere touch of a cockroach’s belly can give you the creeps for months.

I have accepted them as an inexorable destiny. They have been before me, and they are going to be after me, on this living planet.

But I’m not the only unscientific person who gets fascinated by these creatures of the pre-historic transcendence (if I’m not mistaken, the geological period when insects evolved, is called the Silurian Period of the Paleozoic Era). The narrator in Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground” wants to turn into an insect at a particular stage of his pathetic life; and who can forget Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” in which the protagonist wakes up as a giant insect? In most of the horror movies, I often witness hundreds of insects entering and exiting writhing humans, turning them into funnily spasmodic zombies. In ancient Egypt, they worshipped the dung-rolling beetles as they supposedly roll the Sun across the sky with their hind legs. Known to be rich in proteins, ants and caterpillars are being recommended as a staple diet by the starving entomologists all over the world.

There was a time when I used to be very scared of cockroaches. So scared that their presence used to make me stiff with fear. The fear was not exaggerated of course. If there was a cockroach in my room, then it had to lunge upon me in a spate of ground and aerial attacks. It had to enter the most unseemly crevices of my clothes that I happened to be wearing at that time, from where it could not be extricated without copious bodily contacts. By the time it was out, it had performed its acts of exploration and probing, and there remained no use of dancing around in panic and hurling unmentionable obscenities at it. It used to happen sans exception. The fear has ebbed by now, though the creepy feeling still lingers and changes into fear whenever I think of those demonic infiltrations. Fortunately when we changed our residence, we left those tales of sordid encounters behind, for, I have not seen a cockroach in our house ever since we have been in this new house – for the past three years.

But mosquitoes and ants are still here to fill the gap. They don’t scare me. They torment my tranquil moments, especially when I’m engrossed in reading and writing. They allot themselves the lower and the upper regions of my body in a hegemonic accord. The mosquitoes attack my hands, my neck and other facial paraphernalia and the ants attack my feet. I don’t know if you can, but I can differentiate between a mosquito incited pain and an ant incited pain. Of course the ants have talons and the mosquitoes have those biological straws (proboscis? I don’t know what it’s called). That incidentally brings to my mind, mosquitoes don’t bite – theoretically they sting – so I wonder why everybody says, “mosquito bites.”

Ants I respect, mosquitoes I repel. Me respecting ants does not imply I offer my body to them at their lunch hour; it’s just that, I have never, knowingly killed an ant. Accidentally, yes (sometimes they refuse to let go off the skin so they break). I’ve been trying to predict earthquakes by observing the behavior of ants and successfully predicted one last to last month when they came out, holding their eggs. They stuck to the bathroom wall and the adjacent floor as if they were dead. It’s winter, and ants don’t come out in winters, so I told my skeptical friend over the phone, “We’re going to have an earthquake very soon.” There was one, very mild, the next afternoon.

I remember being plagued by giant moths and locusts during my college days. I have mentioned them in one of my suspense stories. In the old house (the one infested with cockroaches), my study table was adjacent to a window that I always kept open during the study-ridden months of February, March and April – in college we had annual exams in May. By the end of February, only the tail of winter is left, and the night air is full of reposeful warmth and the smells of spring, and hence the unclosed window. Keeping the window open meant bearing the onslaught of moths that got attracted to the glow of my table-lamp. Believe me, they hailed from all the corners of the world, for I have never witnessed such a variety of moths, not even on the National Geographic channel. For weeks I kept a dead moth that looked like a rhinoceros with me and scared the neighborhood kids with it.

Then, during my second year of college, Delhi got hit by a plague of locusts. A locust looks like a big, fat and elongated cricket, light gray or black in color. They were as big as sparrows, and they were everywhere. You couldn’t put a foot forward without hearing a crunching sound beneath it. For a couple of days we had to cover our faces while venturing out. I had to keep my windows shut. They ate all our plants and then they disappeared as magically as they had appeared. They say a locust attack is always invoked by a curse. Who knows? I believe in the paranormal manifestations.

The only insects I have knowingly killed are the ticks that stuck to my dog, Suzy (she’s no more). I just couldn’t tolerate them troubling her, so I used to kill them with a vengeance. In the fits of nostalgia, I still crush a solitary tick passing my path.

0 thoughts on “Insects

  1. A. N. Nanda

    Hi,

    Insects are one of the earliest inhabitants on the earth, and so they bear rancours against the newcomers like us. No wonder they bite us, sting us, crawl into the crevices of our cloth. At least twice I’ve seen a very small variety of it entered my wife’s ear. And how did I take it out? Simple. I switched my flash light on and showed it into the darkness of her attacked earhole. Poor insect struggled and struggled to find the way but came out only after giving those uncomfortable moments to her. I don’t know why insects are so fond of her ear, there has to be something about that.

    So long as the earth exists, insect will, with all their ability to survive. I don’t know how far it is true: cocroaches will outlast the nuclear holocausts!

    Thanks, Amrit. I enjoyed your post.

    Nanda

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