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Journalism of Courage

What happens when a human and a mosquito take matters to court

How sleeplessness caused by the insect's drawl and blood loss owing to their bites – mosquitoes suck iron for their babies – leave a man unable to function, affecting his livelihood

Ranjit lal column, mosquito, indianexpressBe a part of this engaging conversation. (Getty Images)

In a filmi courtroom drama setting, presenting the case: My Goodself vs Shrimati Dengue; the issue of contention being yet another sleepless night, courtesy the undesired company of Shrimati Dengue.

Prosecuting Counsel: Milord, my journalist-writer client’s profession depends on his having a clear head every morning to enable him to write coherently and not befuddle his readers. With a disturbed night, this is not possible. My client has had many such disturbed nights thanks to the accused who’s been dancing noisily like a dentist’s drill around his ear. She is robbing my client of a good night’s sleep and the ability to make a livelihood.

Defence Counsel: Milord, my client comes from a noble lineage of insects, which has remained virtually unchanged for at least 79 million years. Her soprano wing-beats produce pure music, “the food of love”, as she lands delicately as a ballerina.

Prosecution: And then she inserts her diabolical hypodermic into my client’s tender, plump earlobe, and sucks up his precious lifeblood — almost three times her body weight in one sitting.

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Defence: Milord, my client weighs not even 0.5 gm so the amount of blood sucked up is totally insignificant.

Prosecution: Milord, what the learned counsel has forgotten to mention is that his client, at the time of bloodsucking, may also inject deadly pathogens, which cause dengue, malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile disease and so on. In the course of human history, her type has killed 52 billion people, mostly children and the elderly, and in India, malaria is among the leading causes of death among children. She is exceedingly dangerous.

Defence: Milord, I think you can dismiss this case. My client is not Shrimati Dengue: dengue mosquitoes only bite during the day.


Prosecution: Milord, what’s in a name? A deadly disease-spreader is a disease-spreader. We can call her Shrimati Machchar if you like.

Defence: Milord, the learned counsel has not mentioned that the origins of these pathogens, lies not with my client and the great khandaans of Aedes, Culex and Anopheles. Members of these clans first picked up these pathogens from human beings or animals and then passed them on inadvertently to those whose blood they sucked. The mosquitoes that originally inhabited the US were malaria-free, until European colonists arrived. Already malaria-ridden, they had infected the mosquitoes on board the ships. Both passed on the pathogen to the innocent local American mosquitoes that bit them, and then passed it on to the native American human population, 95 per cent of whom died. The human species is to blame. Even so, mosquitoes have been ruthlessly persecuted, with fogging by toxic chemicals, to which they’ve been desperately trying to develop immunity. Besides, mosquitoes are vital to the health of planet Earth: they provide food for millions of birds, insects, fishes and animals. And they have saved the rainforests from total annihilation by humanity! If it weren’t for mosquitoes infesting every swamp, marsh, jungle and rainforest, humans would have built malls there, making global warming go through the roof! The mighty Amazonian rainforests, those in Africa and the Western Ghats, are standing because they’re guarded by the great mosquito clans!

Prosecution: This still does not justify Shrimati Dengue to suck my client’s blood every night and wail in his ear! Isn’t it pure malice? Can’t she be vegan?


Shrimati Dengue: (In a sob-choked Hindi-film-actress voice) Milord, I suck blood solely for the sake of my innocent babies! Our menfolk are vegan wimps who get drunk on kaddu (pumpkin) juice! We mothers are left to obtain the iron our babies need to develop healthily.

Defence: And, now, the human species is trying to emasculate those wimps even more, by genetic manipulation to make them infertile. We’re talking here of the eradication of entire species.

Prosecution: My client’s fundamental right to a sound night’s sleep is being violated! All night he has spent slapping his ear! You can see how red it is!

Shrimati Dengue: Milord, I was unable to take a single sip the entire night! I was dancing with death! Every time I landed on that warm, rubicund, luscious earlobe, for my fundamental right to a drink of blood for my babies, whap! a hand would come crashing down! I’m still traumatised and starving. This is attempted murder!

Prosecution: Milord, I rest my case! The accused has confessed that she was hovering about my client’s earlobe with the intent to suck his blood, thus disturbing his sleep!


Judge: You both have wasted this court’s and my valuable time. I find the defendant…wait, where is she?

(A sudden stir — Shrimati Dengue vanishes — is followed by a pistol-shot-like sound: The judge is ruefully rubbing his cheek, disdainfully flicking away something small, red and smudgy off his palm.)

Judge: Case dismissed!

First published on: 20-12-2020 at 06:35 IST
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