Thursday, May 26, 2005

Snakes, Mosquitoes and Now…..

“Snake Snake” a shrill voice shook me off my sleep on a May summer night. I looked around and saw my grandfather rushing to open the front door of our house. I was about 10 or 11 years old when this incident happened. The voice was a familiar one. It was of our tenant who stayed in the outhouse. I saw my father too rush towards the front door. The noise clearly indicated that people had already gathered outside. I stepped out of the bed and rushed towards the door when my mother stopped me. She warned me against stepping outside. My gallant words showcasing my bravery didn’t budge her a bit!! I was left with no other options but to watch the outside proceedings from the window. It was around 11:30 in the night. Most of our neighbors had gathered there. Our tenant it seems had come out for a stroll after his dinner when he saw a snake passing by which had lead to this commotion. Nobody there had any idea whether it was a poisonous or a non-poisonous one; but the mere presence of a snake is enough to scare most people to the core! The torch light search for the reptile proved futile and it was concluded that the snake might have escaped into the storm water drain. The air was thick with discussions about the deaths caused by snake bites, their characteristics, incidents of bravery, reasons for one to be seen today and even my grandfather having “Surpa Dosha”!!!
The acceptance however was that the reptile might have come from LalBagh which is opposite to our house i.e. it might have crossed the road and come to this side. One of our neighbor, a veteran and friend of my grandfather said it was not a rare occasion to see snakes moving around this side of the road until the government had constructed the huge stone wall around LalBagh (This might have happened somewhere in 1960s or 1970s)!! The commotion slowly died down and my people too came back locking the door behind.

Those were the days in Bangalore when snakes crossed the main road in search of (maybe) food!!! Our house is on R V Road which is one of the prime routes connecting central Bangalore to the south i.e. areas of Jayanagar and Banashankari. The road was very wide considering the humble traffic conditions of Bangalore in those days!

Though the construction of the huge wall around LalBagh and presence of scarce traffic had brought down the snake crossings, mosquitoes however terrorized unabated!! The standing water of the LalBagh Lake just across the wall provided the much needed succulent breeding ground for the larvae. The presence of easy prey like me (!!) on the other side of the road seemed to immensely help the mosquitoes! Fans and AC’s never were a necessity in Bangalore in those days but a mosquito coil was a must!! One other animal a bird rather, which seemed to be so omnipresent those days were the sparrows.

Those were the days when areas beyond Jayanagar 4th Block were considered outskirts of Bangalore! The extensions of Jayanagar and Banashankari were still in their infancy!! I always used to wonder at the need of having a road as wide as the one in front of our house!!!!

Years passed and slowly Jayanagar and Banashankari became the major residential areas of south Bangalore. Though I cannot really comment if a relation exists, the sightings of sparrows seemed to have followed a strict inverse relation to the growth of Bangalore. Their population seemed to have reduced as Bangalore grew and these days I have not seen a single sparrow near my place.

Surprisingly the numbers of mosquitoes too seem to have come down these days near my place!!! This in spite of the sewerage water sometimes getting mixed with the water in LalBagh Lake making it a heaven for the larvae!!!

The reason I feel is the increase in the vehicular movement on our road and not something like the newer generations of mosquitoes not being thought to cross the road!!! I should however accept that there are brave ones among them who still manage to cross the road but the number is fortunately less!!

Leave alone the mosquitoes; it has become very difficult for even people to cross the roads these days though the road width has remained unchanged, owing to the increased traffic. The same road which was once a cricket field for us now makes me wonder why at all such narrow roads are constructed!!!

The width of our road has remained the same, the wall around the LalBagh has remained the same and the lake still harbors the newer generations of mosquitoes. But it’s the snakes which first stopped crossing the road followed by the mosquitoes paving way to humans now!!!

~Narendra V Joshi