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Racing against mosquitoes

A swarm of mosquitos - grab the bug spray! 3D render.  

In 1969, when I was a Captain in the Madras Sappers Centre in Bangalore, Corps of Engineers Day was observed with the finals of games and sports.

One of the competitions was in watermanship, held on the Ulsoor lake. It had team and individual events, including assembling pontoon rafts and then racing them, rowing and kayaking. Training Battalion-3’s kayaker was practising hard, but always timed a few seconds more than TB-1’s kayaker, the previous year’s undisputed champion.

It was under two weeks before Corps Day that I discovered that I had slipped up, not noticing that the rules required an officer to take part in at least one event. On shamefacedly confessing to my Commanding Officer, he ordered me to take part in kayaking, because at this late stage, joining the rowing or rafting team would upset the team. Our TB-3 kayaker was naturally upset. I was no match for TB-I’s kayaker, but the crisis was of my making.

So for the remaining days, wearing shorts, I went morning and evening to the lake to practise kayaking. Since the lake was densely populated by ravenous mosquitoes, I applied mosquito repellent especially on my legs. I practised hard, but my timings were not encouraging.

The big day arrived. After reaching the venue, I realised that I had not applied or brought the repellent. I mentally kicked myself because it was too late to do anything about it.

The kayak champion was TB-1’s Naik Damodaran (if I correctly recall his name), a muscular Malayali. He was psyching everyone, especially me, with his warming-up routine. We entered our respective kayaks, waiting to go to the start line.

That was when my misery began. In the 15 minutes spent in the kayak before the race, I was hard put to scratch my legs, keep hold of the paddle, not attract attention and not capsize.

We reached the start line, paddling gently to remain on the start line and in our lanes. Damodaran, in the lane next to mine, nodded politely to me and I grimaced back in my misery while the mosquitoes continued their feasting.

When the starting gun was fired, I got off to a decent start, but Damodaran was ahead. I paddled furiously with great vigour, mind focused on the feasting mosquitoes and my mounting misery, and with the aim of finishing the race as quickly as possible. It was only when I crossed the finish line that I was shocked to realise that I had finished just ahead of Damodaran. I had actually won, thanks to mosquito-power!

sg9kere@live.com


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 10:52:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/racing-against-mosquitoes/article35652323.ece

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