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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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.