White ants , (known in posh circles as Termitoidae ) and I go back about 25 years.
I mean, really, I had never experienced the havoc caused by white ants earlier than that.
In my childhood, there was no pest control happening and/or advertising itself, or chaps coming in masks and pumps with evil smelling liquids.
Possibly, once in a decade or so, someone would shake their had helplessly over some old fabric showing weakness because of some stuff, but by and large, cupboards and trunks often smelt of camphor, neem leaves, and sometimes, even, dried tobacco leaves, in a virulently anti-smoking household. Certain small creatures were often seen in the house, darting on walls, feasting on insects that came in the rain, and we were too busy with our lives to stand, shiver and do a fashionable "Ewwww" every now and then.
25 years ago, we shifted to a house on a lake front. No , we didn't come up in the world by leaps and bounds, but the employer allocated this house to us. The untended jungle around us, the sparse traffic, and other favourable conditions, occasionally enabled house visits by small snakes, rats , mongooses, squirrels, red , white, and large ants, and yes, the surreptitious white ants. I first noticed them as black lines, that grew longer and ominous, and climbed walls, and corners of wood cupboards.
We shifted two decades ago to a multi storied complex, thinking we had seen the last of them. For a while I believed that.
Then 4 years ago, when they painted all the apartments in the building, we noticed that while the larger creatures had gone on to greener pastures, the white ants had found us again. This time due to monsoon leakage in walls, and the ensuing dampness. Various books from our old collection now assumed a lace like appearance, several clothes got destroyed, but the worst was when the ants managed to eat up plastic covers, and eat off 80% of some bank receipts. The ensuing saga of taking the disintegrating papers to the bank, folks there rushing to see it all, and the process of getting duplicated issued resulted in a post here.
We asked for, then, and got the white ants treatment done .
Last month, I noticed the creatures had returned, and were brazening it out fearlessly on various walls and corners , particularly where there was leakage. Some had managed to invade inside metal cupboards, and in an attitude of persistence that could teach our municipal authorities a thing or two about how to keep filling the potholes non stop, also managed to reach inside plastic bags.
Maybe the white ants were evolving. Maybe their DNA was getting methylated resulting in white ant offspring with better capabilities. I would notice an entire stick like protrusion of white ants, sticking out above a door, into the air, like a jetté of a ballet dancer, in a cantilever manner. When I removed it, it would return with renewed anger a few centimetres away.
And so , this time, they organized a building wide anti white ants and pest control campaign. We spent days and hours clearing out stuff so the treatment could reach into every nook and white ant infested corner.
(Kind of reminded me of anti corruption crusades. The measures announced to wipe out the corrupt types. New rules made for folks to turn themselves in. For a while you think it works, And then you are back to where you started. )
The only difference was , this time, I too had evolved. My tailbone vertebrae which occasionally bothered me with pain earlier were , like the white ants, back in full pain, and I wore a back belt in my upright moments, to fool the vertebrae into thinking I was giving them rest. (I almost wrote "black belt" here. So much for misplaced confidence :-) )
The pest control/white ants fellows arrived in fancy orange uniforms and masks. The chaps helped me move some heavy cupboards and stuff away from walls, where they would drill holes every one foot along all walls, and then inject medicine into these holes. They would also spray stuff copiously where required, and in places where drilling holes was not possible.
I sat reading the paper in the living room amidst the drilling and pervading smells, attending to someone who came from the Establishment Health office to check. Then I heard someone call out to me asking me about something in one of the inside rooms.
As is my wont, I rushed to see what they needed.
And slipped hard in a pool of water that had developed along the corridor wall. I am a veteran of falls , so to say, but this was different. I never ever vocally express my anguish during a fall. But this time was different. Maybe it was the belted back vertebrae, and the kept-in-check ligaments and tendons. And the entire uniformed lot rushed in response to an anguished shout, as they saw me collapse into what can be only described as a voluminous person performing a split; the sort they do with so much ease , without making a noise , on all these dance reality shows.
No. This was not a case of anyone being careless. Turns out that somewhere along the corridor, pumping of the meds into the drilled hole, got and entire colony of ants inside the wall into a dither, and they poured out of the hole along with the pumped in liquid .
I unknowingly stepped into the ensuing pool and performed this amazing split.
Like I said, the white ants have evolved. They are also greatly united .
Maybe they have now developed an improved tiny cerebral cortex, and can now think.
In a united manner against an old adversary. Me.
Clearly, this has been their great revenge.
But , one always learns something from one's misfortunes.
And I actually, amazingly, (with apologies to the downstairs neighbors for sudden thumps on their ceiling), learned to do the split !