Not cigarettes…though my father was a heavy smoker. I am remembering the daily evening ritual performed in my childhood home to get rid of pesky mosquitoes.
In the late afternoon we would play outside in the parar math (neighbourhood playground); frantic games requiring a lot of running about. When we would sit down on the grass, panting, sticky with sweat, the mosquitoes would buzz above our heads in droves, looking like vertical quivering grey columns above our heads. Inexplicably, some of us would have hardly any mosquitoes chasing us, while others would have large fan-followings (We said that eating sweets made the blood sweet, which attracted mosquitoes).
The mosquitoes would follow us home, some intrepid ones settling on bare arms and legs to bite. Inside the house, they would lurk in dark corners and beneath tables and beds, stinging and biting whenever they could, especially when there were power-cuts.
To combat the mosquito-menace, my mother and baroma (aunt) would fill an earthen open-top funnel-shaped pot (with a handle to carry it) with narkoler chhobra (coconut-fibre), put dhuno (a sharp-but-pleasant-smelling incense: the smell is preserved in my olfactory memory) on it, and light it so that there was no fire, only smoke.
This homegrown smoking weapon would be taken to each room and solemnly brandished all around, especially in the nooks and crannies, to expel the demon-descendants (Hindu legends say that mosquitoes were born from the tiny bits a demon’s body when he was killed and cut to pieces by a god – I’ve forgotten the names – a gory birth explaining the bloodlust of mosquitoes).
We would also temporarily desert the hazy battleground, returning only when the air was clear enough to breathe. Only my dadu (grandad) would refuse to move from his bed, sitting like a coughing-Gulliver (with his nose covered with a napkin) amidst the struggling, reeling Lilliput-mosquitoes.
The smoke-chased and chastised mosquitoes would flee (coughing and choking like us, I presume) for the evening, only to return, emboldened, the next day. Much like their foolhardy demon-ancestors, they were defeated again and again (by the dhunuchi - the aforementioned earthen weapon).
Now, in these anti-smoking times, we use liquid mosquito-repellents plugged into electric sockets. No haze, no hassle, no thrill of battle.
DID YOU EVER BATTLE PESTS WITH HOMEGROWN WEAPONS?