Amazing Grace, how (not so) sweet thy sound (and sight and smell)!!


Amazing grace it is indeed, that every time I witness the state government’s attempt ay pest control, I have not rolled over and died. You may be wondering what I am on about now, and I swear, I have been trying to be tolerant about this, but in Mumbai, the government has a unique way of pest control. Ever since I landed in Mumbai, I have had several opportunities to closely monitor and observe how pest control in Mumbai is done, and it’s not fun, to say the least.

My first recent experience with this nauseating method was when I was in the kitchen, on a humid day in October, and I noticed a strange smell creeping through the cracks of the kitchen windows. It smelt like a concoction of “pif-paf” (the insect repellant spray) and wall paint (at least this is how I think it smelled). It started getting stronger, until every room of the house was oozing with that smell. And then the horror of horrors, I saw white smoke enveloping my bedroom balconies and trying to make its way into the house through the bathroom windows and the hallway of the building. For the life of me, I had no idea what was going on and had to run crazy around the house desperately trying to shut all doors and windows. But alas, it was too late and we had to live with the stench for a couple of hours.

By the end of it, I was dizzied with the smell and sight, but had no idea what was going on. And at that point, I did not even bother about its origin. If there is one thing I have learned about Mumbai, there is no time to figure out what’s going on if you haven’t figured it out in the fist 5 minutes of noticing anything. At least this has been my experience. Life moves at the speed of lightning in this mad city. I always thought and heard that “life in the USA” was so hectic and busy…..not after you have lived in Mumbai, where you are constantly bombarded with every visual, auditory, and olfactory stimuli.

So, on I went with my day as if nothing had happened and did not pay much attention to the fumigation drama that just unfolded outside my house, until I witnessed it again in the month of November. I finally figured out what it was on closer inspection. It was the municipal’s attempt to rid Mumbai of its mosquitoes!!!!

Yes, Mumbai has a lot of mosquitoes, especially during and a little after the rains. It’s painful, these mosquito bites and they itch like no tomorrow. I think it is fantastic that the municipality is taking great efforts and pains to do pest control on a large-scale, but does it have to be so painful?

Here are some recent pictures of what I am talking about. Hopefully, it will give you and idea of what I have been experiencing on a monthly basis:

The Municipal guy with all his armory!!

The Municipal guy with all his armory!!

As he enters the building....

As he enters the building….

...a tornado of smoke and chemicals follow him.

…a tornado of smoke and chemicals follow him.

The entire area is drenched in smoke for the next 10-15 minutes. People in doors are still not directly exposed to the fumes – but what about the people who are out and about on the streets? What about the vegetable and meat vendors and their fares, who are exposed to such harsh chemicals? And what about the man himself who goes about fumigating the many parts of this city? The only protection I see for them is a flimsy face mask that covers the nose and mouth. I find it really astonishing and sad that, despite our many advances in this city, we have still not found a sensible, safe, and efficient way of doing pest control on a mass level.

I hope I see some advancement in this department, among others, in my lifetime…. Should I be counting on it? Am not sure.

For someone who is just figuring out this city, wouldn't this sight seem bizarre to you?

For someone who is just figuring out this city, wouldn’t this sight seem bizarre to you?