Friday, September 11, 2009

Battling with Isolation

Cats and I are not friends, but the mosquitoes are my lifetime nemesis. Just when I thought I would have the most restful slumber since I arrived in India now that I have my own flat came this realization that in spite of the apartment being newly constructed, I am not its first occupant. Could it be that I moved here two days late of my original schedule the mosquitoes squatted here and decided they want to stay permanently?

I rushed to the nearest store to get a box of mosquito coils (25 pieces with 4 extra coils free). Never mind if I am contributing to the acceleration of global warming. After all the Indian government itself is not keen on reducing the country’s CO2 emission now or in the immediate future.

As I lay my back on my rickety bed that first Saturday night, an army of my archenemy started attacking me from all fronts. I had plugged in a mosquito repellant in my room but that didn’t work. Almost all night I alternately snoozed and swatted the mosquitoes. Until they became more than a nuisance that I resolved to stay awake and just watched them flit around till I drifted to sleep out of exhaustion. The morning after, I found several smudges of blood on my pillow. Apparently, I managed to retaliate in my sleep, but counted 26 bites in one arm and one leg. The number of course is conservative because I didn’t count the ones on my other leg and arm. Without a mirror in my house I didn’t become aware that I have bites in my face too until colleagues told me Monday morning.

Not far down from where I live is a river clinging to its last breath of oxygen to stay alive. It is home to life forms that don’t swim. Every time I pass there I no longer feign repugnance. The stagnant water gives off a repulsive stench that makes one’s stomach revolt. To nauseate is the next best thing to do. That’s where the mosquitoes are from I surmise.

Recognizing that I have to live with them for the next two years of my life I was better prepared on my second night. I shut all my windows and the lone door, sealed the hole in my kitchen wall (provision for exhaust fan) and lit a coil. I don’t know what those repellants are supposed to do, either kill those mosquitoes or drive them away out of my house. Whatever, they seemed to have worked this time. The army of mosquitoes that was there before was in short supply. But with all the air vents shut I then had to suffer from profuse heat.

But how could I fret about the more than 26 bites that dot my skin? What am I doing talking about this mosquitoes when some volunteers from my batch are still anxious about ever finding shelters they can call home for the next one or two years? At least I already have a home. Well, I have to have an excuse for the unexplained gloom I felt on the second night. I hate to admit but I think I have already entered that phase that most (or all?) volunteers go through at the early stage of service.

I became impatient when the day I had to move to my apartment came and I was still stuck in the hotel room for 2 nights more. Yet when I have settled, which I longed for, I was consumed with mixed of anticipation, isolation, helplessness. Albeit I only have the bare necessities, (a small coffee table with two chairs, a wobbly cot, a gas stove, a fan; the second-hand fridge will be shifted later), my flat now gives a semblance of permanence that elicited a hint of anxiety in me. Unlike when I was in a temporary accommodation, knowing I would leave soon I didn’t have to unpack all my stuff. It was like I could just flee anytime I wanted. I can’t now.

It seemed that that the decision I made 10 months ago was just beginning to sink in. That whoa, I’d live in an unfamiliar territory alone for twenty-four months! The volunteer nearest me is thousands of kilometers from here. It cannot be like the first month, when I was in Delhi, that whenever i experienced dismay for whatever reason the other volunteers were a just a room or two away.

But as I wrote this, it filtered deeper through my senses. Two years is a fleeting permanence. I might be in a place all so new to me, with mosquitoes that have the advantage of the terrain, but I am armed with commitment and determination. There’s no going back now. Time to forge new alliance with the people in the NGO I am now with. And when things become unbearable, I know the volunteers will send reinforcement one way or another. This is the choice I made, a new journey, a new sense of independence, a new battle in life… a new life. I am not allowing the mosquitoes or the sweltering heat defeat me.

Splat!!! another mosquito down. May it rest in peace.


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