Ants are medical prodigies
Did you know that if you turn red ants
into a chutney you will never get a bacterial
infection? Ants, many believe, are medical prodigies.
An ant colony once helped detecting
diabetes and early childhood blindness
in a friend who couldn’t understand
why ants bit him, every time he peed.
When he mentioned it to me, I suggested he pray
to the ant god, Nyonye-Ngana,
whose name we didn’t know then,
but even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to pronounce it.
My hypothesis was that he had
disrespected the humble, hard working ants,
and had left them with no choice.
But what if his susu is delicious, suggested another friend.
What if they are trying to crawl inside his nunu?
Shouldn’t he taste his susu before summoning the ant god?
Why waste his time if a simple taste test can solve our problems?
Or we could just offer ants our susu and see, if they like it just as much.
So in empty bottles of Vaseline petroleum jelly
we offered ants our urine,
but only his was the crowd pleaser.
We informed everyone of our
discovery, and they were pleased.
Because, ants are wise, and attracted to wisdom.
Aai talks about death again.
All the good swimmers we know
are drowning themselves in water.
Acche tairaak ki maut paani mein hoti hai,
she reminds me, when we find out
Baba’s friend’s son drowned in the Narmada.
He was a national swimmer, the newspapers
said, but Aai already knew that, not
because someone told her,
but because she is exceptional at this guessing game.
We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit
so we talk of each one who died of drowning,
and I listen to her stories with the patience
of a chronicler. A father and son duo,
died in Omkareshwar, a few years back.
The man’s wife still believes, they might come
back. The son was playing and accidentally
pushed the father, and they both fell into
the water, the current dragging them away.
Another father son duo drowned in a well
in their own front yard. The son drowned first,
the father drowned because he jumped in
to save the son. Expert swimmers,
all the these people.
My mother remembers the son who
drowned in the well, as the boy who
ate salt, when there was nothing else
to eat. He never complained. As if it’s a virtue
that should have given him a longer life,
but the grim reaper only knows how to kill.
Your virtues aren’t of any use to him,
nor are your talents. It’s why swimmers
also drown and die. Swimming is not
a survival skill, after all.
Just when you think that we are done
with all the drowning stories, and are
ready to move on from another death
that did not happen to us, Aai comes up
with a new one. A relative who was part
of a big circus crew in the ‘60s, once
drowned in the Arabian Sea. Now,
don’t ask me if he was good at swimming
or not, I don’t want to spoil the story.
He drowned and the family looked for him,
waited for the sea to throw him back,
the sea always gives back, whatever it takes,
Aai said. But the sea seemed to have eaten him.
And digested his bones.
Twenty five years later, when his mom was
visiting the city of his drowning,
she saw a shop, named after her son.
So, she went to the shop, and there he was,
her drowned son, who the sea did not return,
selling groceries like it is the most obvious thing.
Once you drown and come back, how else do
you survive, if not by selling survival itself?
So there he was, reunited with his family again.
People do come back, says Aai thoughtfully.
Why didn’t he get in touch or try to find them
for twenty five years, I ask. But the story time
is over now. All questions can wait till the
next funeral arrives.