My sister and I sat on the teak cot, eagerly anticipating the red light to turn green. My weapon was recharging.
With its criss-cross wires and neon frame, it may look like just any other tennis racket. But this here is the mightiest of the Indian arsenal: the mosquito bat. One wave through a swarm of those lousy varmints with this fine apparatus and ZAP! — hear their tiny wings sizzle and snap.
Perhaps my description of mosquito fighting sounds somewhat maniacal, but my personal vendetta against these insects is best understood by knowing what happened many years back.
The last time we came to India, we noticed mosquitoes had a certain affinity for Varsha, my sister. A day never went by where they spared her. So, my mother dutifully covered her in mosquito repellent each night. But it did Varsha no good. In fact, the repellent, a bottle of chemical gunk that smelled like toilet cleaner, seemingly brought more bugs her way. When she woke, scratching at her wounds, my father applied bubblegum pink calamine lotion to the bumps on her skin. Then there was me, wielding the mosquito bat and roaming the ivory-colored floors, ready to attack any insect that came her way. I dubbed myself the mosquito warrior.
The light turned green.
“Let me try! Let me try!” she demanded, her fragile fingers straining for the handle.
I hesitated. How could I let my baby sister romp the house, fighting these monsters on her own?
But as I looked at her face more carefully, I realized she was no longer the baby I remember. She was older, more mature, with knowledge of cloud condensation and the long division of numbers and the capitals of every state in the country. I handed her the device.
A wide smile broke across her face, bringing tiny dimples to her cheeks and making her chestnut eyes disappear behind thick curtains of lashes. She was finally a mosquito warrior, too.
And I finally understood that whether it’s these mosquitoes or the “mean girls” of 6th grade, the boys with teasing comments or the other vexations of adolescence, my sister will have to wield a mosquito bat of her own from now on. Though I must admit, I will always stand near, as additional reinforcements do, in the warfare that is life.
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