Nandita And The Ants
Nandita And The Ants7 mins 584 7 mins 584
“I am tired of all the lessons… books, books, books! All the time. I don’t want to learn from my textbooks any more,” wailed Nandita.
Nandita’s mother smiled. “I can understand how you feel, dear. But you have your public exams coming up in less than two weeks. The first most important exam of your life, dear. You can’t fail in this!”
“Fail! Mother, what are you saying? I have been studying the whole day. It’s been like this for weeks. So much pressure, so frustrating!!! And I can’t understand why you don’t allow me to watch TV. How can watching half an hour of TV fail me in the exams? You are being wicked!”
“I am your mother, sweetheart. I know what’s good for you. Even half an hour of TV is a distraction. It will fill your head with ideas that will surface when you are in the exam hall.”
Nandita stared at her mother in disbelief but there was nothing she could say in argument.
“OK, fine, that’s what you think? Then I’ll not watch TV till my exams are done. But don’t ever say you know what’s good for me. Because, if you did, then you wouldn’t throw garbage on the roadside. Have you noticed the millions of mosquitoes and flies swarm over that rubbish? It’s those devils that come here and suck the life blood out of me. I am sick and tired of their pricking,” and walking back to her room in a huff, she added, “You really care about me? Then do something about the mosquitoes.”
Nandita’s annoyance and tiredness was understandable. She was in Grade 10 and ever since school reopened in June, all she had heard was exams, marks, exams, marks, exams, marks…. It wasn’t that Nandita disliked studying. She was a studious girl and took her education very seriously. But to have no respite from it, even for half an hour was exasperating. (Especially with all those grain-sized, monstrous blood-suckers.) At least if she had been going to school, it wouldn’t have felt so bad. She, along with her friends, could have cribbed about the unfairness of such pressures. Unfortunately, she didn’t have to go to school now. The last of the mocks were over and they had study holidays.
“It’ll be at least two weeks before I get to see any of my friends. When exams begin… but everything will then be a whirlwind. Oh, I can’t even think of what it would be like then.”
“All my friends are silent. Just as I am. We aren’t allowed our phones even for 10 minutes. Why are parents such a pain in the neck?” ranted Nandita as she involuntarily scratched her leg.
“These mosquitoes! People will spit on the roads, throw waste anywhere and everywhere and openly defecate. They will make the environment a humongous garbage pile and expect us to grow in it happily. Our people suck!”
With this, she flipped open her book, only to shut it again with an expletive. Her bladder was full and she had wanted to use the washroom before she had sat down to study. She got up and headed to the washroom.
It was only when she was done that she noticed it — a blotch on her spotlessly clean washroom floor. It was a dead cockroach.
“Cheee! This all I need now. Can’t be bothered.” She flushed, washed her hands and went back to her books. But she couldn’t concentrate. The dead ugliness disturbed her and she wanted it gone. If she called her mother in, she would have to hear another mouthful from her.
“No, I’ll wash it down the drain myself.”
So she went back to the washroom once again and taking the health faucet from its holder, she was about to spray water on the blotch when she heard a squeak.
“Nooooo! Please don’t!”
There was no one else in the room except her, so Nandita didn’t give the sound any heed. She readied to press the trigger when she went “Ouch!” and shifted her feet. Something had pricked her big toe. She bent down to scratch her toe when she heard another scream, “Nooooo! Stop!”
At first Nandita thought her tired eyes were playing tricks on her, but on closer observation she saw the source of the squeaks. It was an ant!
“Stop and look around,” it said, its elbowed antenna outstretched, as if to signal a stop. A bewildered Nandita looked around and saw a hazy smear. Only, it wasn’t a smear. It was a swarm of ants! And there seemed to be a horde of them, with more of the tiny insects joining in.
Suddenly there was a hustle and several tiny voices yelped, “Hey, what’s happening?”
For, some of the late comers had toppled over, having bumped into their fellow mates who had come upon the scene earlier. The early comers had all been forced to stand still because of Nandita’s intrusion and they were all staring at her accusingly.
“Why were you trying to destroy our meal?” asked another ant that had come to stand by his leader.
“That,” replied several tiny voices, pointing to the dead cockroach.
“That’s your meal?” Nandita laughed. This was getting too crazy for words now.
But Nandita’s laugh was drowned in the high-pitched sniggering of the ants.
“You have been sitting with your books for several months, yet you don’t know about our food habits? Didn't you learn all that in your science lessons?”
A now confounded Nandita replied, “Err… no, I mean, I only learn for marks. Once I write my exams, I forget everything. I have new things to learn, and my brain can hold only so much information.”
This was met by more boisterous convulsions.
“She doesn’t know how much information her brain can store… ha ha haaaa!!!! And she says she loves to study… hahahaaaaa…!!!”
Nandita went red in the face.
“How am I to know all this? We don’t have such topics in our syllabus.”
The leader ant spoke now.
“I feel so sorry for you, miss. All those months you have been closeted in your room with those books are just a waste. If you want to learn, you must also look around. Look beyond yourself.”
“You thought we ants ate only sugar and honey?” spoke another little one. “We also scavenge on dead insects for protein.”
“Please leave us now. We are getting late for our party. The cockroach is recently dead, so we feed on it. If time elapses, then we can’t feed on it.”
The leader spoke again. “Please, I request you to leave us now. I assure you, when you come back in the morning, you won’t find us. And you won’t find any trace of the dead cockroach either. That’s how nature works.”
An amazed Nandita apologised for encroaching upon their party and walked back to her desk, closing the washroom door behind her, so that the predators would be undisturbed during their feast.
Back at her desk, Nandita just sat staring into empty space. She was too overwhelmed to study further. She wanted to do a Google search on ants and their life but she didn’t have access to the laptop. Her mother had it secured away under lock and key. So she pulled out her personal diary and made some brief notes that she could come back to once her exams were over. Then she did the next best thing. She got into bed and slept.
When morning dawned and Nandita woke up, it took her a while to assimilate the queer incident of the night before. She threw the blanket off her, jumped out of bed and half ran to the washroom. Something told her she would find it spotlessly clean as ever and she was right. There was no sign of death or feast or even her tiny friends around.
“How well-organised and balanced nature is, with a solution to every problem. But we humans are such insufferable know-alls, assuming we are so superior and meddle with this balance. And the irony is that it’s we humans ourselves who ultimately suffer the consequences of our idiocy,” pondered Nandita, slapping a mosquito on her arm.