Opinion

Killing the Bedbugs: A short story that has absolutely nothing to do with demonetisation

How a guest proposed a novel way to deal with bedbugs in a wooden house.

Once there was a house – a house made of wood. When too many people inhabited it, the structure would tremble a bit. Yet, it was known to withstand shocks, even earthquakes.

The house had far more people than it could accommodate. Besides, it was always crawling with bedbugs, who were adept at doing their business on beds as well as mattresses on the floor. Since the house was open to visitors, conversations would inevitably lead to the bugs and how the residence could be rid of the pesky and unwanted creepy-crawlies. But nothing much changed and at times, even the departure of visitors (for reasons best known to them) would add to the bug menace.

Then one day, a rather distinctive guest landed up. From the time he made his entry, he told everyone in no uncertain terms that he would decimate the bugs in no time. As the days passed and there was precious little evidence of this action, murmurs began. “What happened to the promised slaughter?” they asked him.

So one night, when everyone was just about preparing to doze off, the guest started pouring kerosene on the wooden beams and out came a match to light them up. In no time at all, the fire became an inferno. People ran out out of the house, some fell and got injured and a few even lost their lives.

Caught cruelly unawares, everybody started asking the guest,”‘What have you done? You have burnt an entire house down to kill bedbugs?”

The guest replied, “Don’t you worry. This fire will now claim all the bedbugs and you will forever have a peaceful time. Just think about how those bugs are getting roasted in the flames at this very moment. How they must be scurrying for cover – here, there, everywhere. Shouldn’t you feel grateful at that thought instead of complaining about a burnt house?”

No sooner did he finish saying that than a few of them vigorously offered their support: “Yes, there was no other way to make this house free of bugs,” they said. “However once a new edifice comes up, everyone will benefit from it.”

On hearing this, people not only started nodding their heads in affirmation but even began clearing the remains of the scorched house. In doing so, they that realised a whole lot of bedbugs had taken refuge underground and as the embers cleared, they started coming out, hoping to move into their new home.

Experts now started holding forth on whether it was fitting to have razed an entire house to crush a few bugs. Was the step advantageous or counterproductive? That quite a few bugs got charred inside the home (and in mattresses) was seen as a positive outcome. It was presumed that even the ones that got away would now stop stinging, because they would be petrified.

Still others said, “So what if the house got destroyed, at least there was an effort to kill the bugs. Tell us if there was anyone in the past who even thought of taking such a courageous step? Now wait and see how a wonderful new house will come up to take the place of the old one.”

Soon enough, the guest once again announced in grand fashion: “The solution to put an end to bedbugs has just been discovered. Henceforth, no one but no one should sleep in their beds or sit on their chairs or couches. We will make this home “seat-less” just so the bugs cannot pester us anymore.”

Translated from Gujarati by Vistasp Hodiwala

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