The mosquito net

It was 1981 and mom, all of 23 was in her 7th month with her first child. She trailed Dad all the way to Uppal in Hyderabad from a sleepy town in Assam. The office provided quarters – a big room with 2 single beds (which could be joined to make a single one) and an attached kitchen. The common bathroom was outside in the hallway. The Goyals lived next door and there was this other family. Life was very comfortable despite the small stipend – weekend visits to Charminar and Salar Jung, the Zoo and rides on horse-drawn tongas and no windows but curtained double-decker buses. Sugar-cane juice and black and white (Isolate 2) photography were the weekend treats. Vegetables and fruits were in plenty and very dirt cheap.

Summer is summer. The fan ran non-stop and mom would tie soaking wet clothes around the bed poles as a sort of cooler As the days advanced, she took to sleeping alone in a single bed and craved for a mosquito net. She informs me the mosquitoes are peculiar this side with a white spot on their heads, almost as if they  are wearing Gandhi topis. So off they went to the bazaar one weekend and brought home a nice mosquito net for a decent bargain. Both hoped for some respite and relief and some peaceful sleep.

She was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of the front door being opened. Oh, dad just stepped out to visit the bathroom. The door was kind of ajar and there was a gentle breeze outside. And she felt relieved she was not a feeding pit for those bellowing mosquitoes grr-ing outside the mosquito net. Just then, she felt a poke in her tummy, she was lying on her side with her eyes on the door waiting for dad to come back. She thought, must be the hyperactive baby inside her. Then, another poke. She turned and lied on her back. She felt the poke again and, wait. This time it was a long stick from outside the mosquito net. There seemed to be two people standing outside the mosquito net and one was holding the stick. She sat up with a fright and called out for dad. There was no sign of him, the door still open and creaking, and she was left with no choice but flung herself out of the bed and ran towards the door only to find it latched and when she turned back, the strange visitors had disappeared. And, she heard dad snoring in the other single bed.

She woke dad up and went hysterical for sleeping so deaf to all her shouts and screams. Dad had no idea so much had happened within 3 feet of each other. The mosquito net was brought down and it was a sleepless night for many reasons. The next day, the mosquito net was disposed (actually burnt) and those pokes and visits never happened again.

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