Once when we were young, my sister and I decided to kill the mango bugs in our house.
Ours was a rented two bedroom set with a measly kitchen, a bathroom and a small open space for dishwashing, a balcony, a deceitfully long corridor and an open veranda. There were six windows around the house with iron grills – the grills shaped as flowery Ws or inverted Ms – repeating endlessly. It all depended on how you looked at them.
The year, when my sister and I decided to kill the mango bugs, we were still in elementary school. I was the older and the taller of the two having inherited brawny genes from my father. My sister, on the other hand, inherited genes from my mother that helped her finish any given task. The genetic predisposition was apparent in our family but we didn’t care too much about it. The task at hand required meticulous planning and careful understanding of the territory. But, it also required the use of best tools to exterminate and a godlike patience to spot the bugs. Between the two of us, we had it all – we had the spotter and we had the killer.
We informed our parents about our mission. Our parents were nonchalant in their approval but frankly I think they were relieved that we would not bother them for the rest of the day. Our tools had to be sophisticated too. Killing a mango bug is not an easy task. When killed with too much force, the bugs exude a lime yellow fluid, which is – for the lack of a better word – nasty. Our tools were a long bamboo stick, a coconut-stick broom, a dustpan, a torch light, and a pair of binoculars. The dead bugs were to be collected in the balcony until evening when they would be disposed together. We wore our knickers, half-sleeved tees and rubber slippers. Thus prepared, my sister and I began our search in the balcony.
The mango bugs roamed on the walls, corners, and on the ceilings – at times in groups or in pairs – each place was a hotspot. No windowsill was left unchecked, no hinge was left before scrutiny. Where natural light would not enter, we used the torch light. Each time, a bug was found, I would use the bamboo stick or the broom – just a little tap – to kill it. My sister was a natural spotter, marking all the places, while I would synchronize with her in that order, and kill. Together, we killed thirty mango bugs that day.
In the evening, my sister and I looked at the dead bugs, each one lying upside down, motionless. We were definitely proud and we felt brave and accomplished. But we also felt other confusing emotions. We were oblivious – protected by our simple wonder – to our childhood inevitably coming to an end. That the mango bugs and the late evening suns were rapidly becoming memories of a greater function. Instead, we believed that we were bored, now that there were no more bugs to kill. So we asked our father to dispose the dead bugs and went away to play another game.
We moved soon after from that house and from the city. My sister and I found new interests that dulled our inherent wonder and our ability to personify our imagination. Ten years later, we would move to another city. The oneness of our family would gradually disintegrate into lonesome pieces. Our parents would become old and the dewy-eyed elementary-school children would become full-grown women.
But, it would take us seventeen years to realize that the year when my sister and I decided to kill the mango bugs in our house was the year when we last saw mango bugs.