Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Last Update : 06:55 PM IST

  Opinion   Columnists  29 Jul 2023  Sucheta Dasgupta | Why only the female mosquito lets blood

Sucheta Dasgupta | Why only the female mosquito lets blood

Published : Jul 30, 2023, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jul 30, 2023, 12:10 am IST

It’s the female mosquito that lives off our anatomy!

The female mosquito uses the red liquid to raise its offspring. (Photo by brgfx on Freepik)
 The female mosquito uses the red liquid to raise its offspring. (Photo by brgfx on Freepik)

Chitragupta, Yama’s employee. Imagine him to be the Editor of a daily. Let the product’s name be Annals of the Earth. What if my name were Bigfoot?

Small talk did not come easily to Bigfoot. Having been a hermit, she had little measure of social boundaries. Her passion for change enjoined her to be obnoxious.  She had, in her past lives, endured slights from emotional shirkers.

First assistant of Chitragupta and last of the savants to have been recruited by the holy scribe, Bigfoot’s mandate here was fact check and design of a portion of the annals.This she performed intensively enough not to worry about having few friends. But the content of the news she processed made her ruminate.

Bigfoot had reason to be circumspect. She had a soft corner for India. There was a time in her life when she would enthusiastically pen question-answers quoting the poet Atulprasad Sen’s rousing lines, Bharat aabar jagatsabhaye shresttha aasan lawbe (that roughly translates to East or West, India is the best).That got her full marks in her secondary school literature exams, but she did not feel particularly elated by the Indian Prime Minister’s state visit to the United States. Heck, she was not even gung-ho about the triad of Rishi Sunak, Leo Varadkar and Humza Yousef at the helm of India’s erstwhile colonising power. Did subcontinentals deserve to be on top merely by dint of birth accidents? Their human development indices were amongst the lowest in the world!

Chewing on that dilemma today, Bigfoot kicked off her size nine slippers and entered the portals of her private cave where she lit a lamp to meditate.

A mist rose from the still waters of the pool below the overhang of the rock on which was Bigfoot’s home. The little mosquito felt frisky and rose with the mist in the direction of the light.

Inside the cave, Bigfoot listed out her thoughts of the day in her Little Red Book.

The mosquito was a va-voom girl. Pretty as a pin-striped punk, she had numerous admirers in her community and she loved to climb high in the air and then flip herself sideways casting languid shadows of her proboscis along the rock above her birthplace. For these acrobatics, she did have all the time in the world. Her friends did most of her food gathering for her and she went hunting for sport. She was a good huntress.

No point hating Indians, sat on the floor, Bigfoot reasoned. They are, after all, people, and bound to one another by ties of duty, love and gratitude.They also have their moments. The incumbent Indian management was in fact protosocialist in that it purported to prioritise their interests. But where was the talent to frame policy? Was policy and governance on agenda at all, or was it wholly about strategy? Witness how female victims of violence in Manipur became political pawns to obfuscate the real issue of ethnic conflict and reduce the death of hundreds to mere numbers? Talk about hijacking the women’s cause! But did anyone in the corridors call it out? Poor Bigfoot was at a loss.

The mosquito climbed into the cave, spotted the hermit, sniffed the air and savoured her scent. She yippied in her tiny voice and zipped right into the half-darkness. Bigfoot heard the beating of her wings but was careless. “I fancy her liver,” thought the mosquito. “It is forbearing. The stoical ones have more red blood cells.”

For some time in the past, wrote Bigfoot on her papyrus scroll, I have noted that incremental change is possible. Because it wants to stay in power, the management will course-correct. It did retract farm laws. While the female labour force participation rate has fallen, women are joining the transport sectorand the gig economy. Girls in blue collars, such a reprieve to our bleak eyes! The question is, with climate change upon us already, is there a point to this trouble?

The mosquito was bored ever since she had been ignored after the first bite. She was not used to such coldness. Where was her charisma, the power of her sheer presence? Defiantly, she flapped her little wings and circled round Bigfoot’s head. Then she dug her sinkers onto Bigfoot’s sole.

A depressed Bigfoot, ploughing her misery for pointers, noticed the mosquito. A tiny ruby shone dully in the insect’s transparent belly. But she was loath to kill her for that would mean spilling her own blood. Abruptly, she resigned herself.

Tired of being treated with such summary disregard, the mosquito shifted positions and bit down, hard. Then she flew a tight circle around the tip of Bigfoot’s nose, next dropped onto her fat thigh for a rest. Now she felt drowsy. She was gorged on Bigfoot’s blood.

Bigfoot felt piqued by the mosquito’s antics. She was already missing Chitragupta’s hall. She would be unable to put down her truth in the annals, she fretted. Even peripherally, the mosquito was adding to that pain.

Yet, killer of many a mosquito in her day, Bigfoot was loath to squash a sitter. So she brushed the insect off with a pungent, “Mashkara hoy, gatorkhaki? (Another of those damn jokes, you corpulent one — that lives by burning adipose tissue off its ample anatomy?),” delivered in Bengali.

Mashakirai hoy gatorkhaki! (It’s the female mosquito that lives off our anatomy!),” the mosquito misheard Bigfoot, albeit in the same language.

A savant’s words never go in vain. The spell spoken by Bigfoot thus was cast. In the tongue of an east Indian people, the mashaki is the female mosquito, and egalitarian Bigfoot had repurposed an old insult used by patriarchal mothers to coax indolent daughters into completing chores into one suggesting women be provider instead. The object of her curse being the lazy one who, rather than labour, relied on the fact of her existence.

And from that time forward, it is only the female mosquito that goes in search of fresh blood. It uses the red liquid to raise its offspring.

The male mosquito, on the other hand, is a drinker of fruit juice. Apple, orange, grapes and persimmon! What a bountiful world.

Tags: rishi sunak british pm, leo varadkar, manipur violence