It’s sort of a running joke in my family when it comes to my issues with allergies. In 2010, while in transit to the US for a cousin’s wedding, I found myself scratching at my back and trunk with enough vigour to awaken my slumbering sister somewhere over Europe. On closer examination we found that I had turned salmon pink from neck to toe, front and back, speckled raw with a rash that was, by then, beginning to itch my throat, on the inside! Needless to mention my vacay was characterized by regular nail-clippings, long soaks in cold baths and a heady cocktail of antibiotics to deal with the fever that followed the rash.
A few years earlier I found my limbs covered in large pink splotches, raw and red enough to alarm the parents, and strange enough to perplex my medical examiners. To date I do not know what insect, plant or other species managed to engender that vile spread of rouge, and, quite frankly, I don’t wish to know.
So, it didn’t surprise me to see a flourishing crop of angry speckles forming their own connect-the-dots special on my back only two days after my arrival in Bombay. In routine fashion they then rounded the bends of my sides to say hello to my abdomen on the following day. What did surprise me was how soon into my Bombay-adventure I was bombarded by a grade-A pain-in-the-ass. Also, I worried. Could these little zits be the workings of over-active bed bugs? If yes, I was in for a mega bug-bashing marathon, one that I really could have done without on that, my first week in beautiful Bombay.
But then, my roommate assured me that she’d slept on the same bed a few times and had never been so much as tickled by a bug of any sort. Yet, my breakout résumé has (of course) requisite experience with bed bugs to its credit and I am quite certain I remember the exterminator telling me that the little shits are quite picky when it comes to choice of blood and don’t always bite everyone. So, I got the pest control people in to do a thorough examination of our sprawling one-bedroom and examine every nook and cranny to catch the buggers. False alarm! I was thrilled, until I realised the plethora of options this knowledge brought with it: they could be anywhere. The chair I sit in office, the others chairs I sit on in the office, in the fabric used to upholster the insides of Bombay’s very flashy taxi cabs, the very same cabs I am forced to use every single day. My mind was understandably boggled.
But, just as suddenly as they appeared, they vanished equally swiftly: shrinking, turning less pink by the day, till they were finally gone a week later. I no longer needed to run to the bathroom to deal with a runaway itch at work, or heartily bash chairs before sitting in them or examine the insides of taxis before choosing to get in based on the driver’s choice of upholstery: pleather or cloth. It was truly a Bombay special, a genus of bug that too was pressed for time and had other places to get to. My skin was only a way-station on the busy-bug’s grander journey in the city. After all, here, everyone has bigger fish to fry. I’m just a little kipper.
© Ayesha Sindhu 2014