An inconspicuous news item caught my beady eye when I was riffling through my morning newspaper. The piece was headlined, ‘Britons can name a roach after their ex to mark V-Day’ — V for Valentine’s.
My sense of intrigue and curiosity thus pricked, I carefully read through the piece, the sum and substance of which was that, if you are dreading the onset of Valentine’s Day because you’ve just split with the erstwhile love of your life, fret not. After all, Valentine’s Day is when young lovers are expected to go all schmaltzy, buying trinkets and baubles for their loved ones. Valentine e-cards are singeing internet lines all over the world, now that printed cards have become all but extinct. That song from the hit Broadway musical of the ‘50s, The King and I, ‘Hello, young lovers wherever you are, I hope your troubles are few,’ could very well have been the theme song for Valentine’s Day.
Reverting to our news story, one which addresses sundered hearts as opposed to kindred spirits, an august body that goes by the name of Hemsley Conservation Centre (HCC) somewhere in the United Kingdom, is uniquely addressing those who have just separated from their loved ones.
The essence of the scheme is that HCC breeds cockroaches (it takes all sorts) for a noble cause. Let’s say you have just acrimoniously told your lover to take a long walk off a short pier. Rather than sitting at home, wringing your hands and moping, filled with angst, trying to figure out if arsenic is a better way to do yourself in than throwing yourself in front of a speeding truck or putting a bullet through your head, like the suicidal Richard Cory in Simon & Garfunkel’s eponymous song, help is at hand.
You can go to HCC, select a particularly slimy cockroach, and name it after your recently estranged partner. All this for a measly £2. The report helpfully adds, ‘You can name one of the centre’s resident cockroaches after your ex to mark Valentine’s Day. Deciding against the option of adopting a cockroach, the Centre will allow broken-hearted singletons to put it all behind them using its ‘name a cockroach programme.’ A truly novel way of dealing with lovers’ tiffs. The monies collected will go towards a worthy cause, namely to fund projects at a zoo which HCC is associated with.
And here I was, wondering why anybody in his right mind will want to breed cockroaches, of all things. It may be a delicacy in China, but seriously. Now I know why Kafka wrote Metamorphosis.
The obvious question then arises. Let’s say an impressionable girl has been hornswoggled by her two-timing boyfriend, who ups and scoots off with another girl, leaving our poor Jane bereft and feeling sorry for herself. That’s the wrong way to go about things, young Jane. All you need to do is trot off to HCC’s nearest branch, identify a particularly slithery male roach and name it after your ex-boyfriend, the odious John. Experts at the facility will help you distinguish between a male and female roach, in case you were wondering. You can then pay frequent visits to the centre, where John the roach will be brought to you in a little box. You can feast your angry eyes on him and call him all the vilest names you can think of. Get it off your chest. For an additional £3, John will be set free, thus enabling you to stamp the scurrying insect to oblivion and scraped off the floor. The exercise can also be done in reverse if the victim is a boy, jilted by a glad-eyed Jezebel.
The matter has come to the notice of Indian authorities, who are seriously considering adapting the idea to our peculiar needs. Time was in our traditional country, once you tied the knot and took your wedded vows, no power on earth could come in the way of the couple staying married ‘till death do them part’. Though why anyone should stick by one’s spouse if things have gone base over apex is a fit subject for another discussion.
For now, let us focus on cockroaches, an insect which flourishes in a tropical country such as ours, along with lizards, beetles, bugs and other nocturnal creatures that infest our kitchens and toilets in gay profusion.
I say this in the light of the fact that India’s young boys and girls are frequently seen in flagrante delicto, only to separate disharmoniously on an idle whim. This has often led to violent behaviour brought about by irrational envy and sheer bloody-mindedness. Taking a leaf out of England’s HCC, instead of calling the pest control chappies, with their noxious gases, to obliterate the domestic insect kingdom, an enterprising NGO can find ways to capture these creatures and keep them in secure habitats. A small contribution of Rs. 20 per cockroach, Rs. 50 per lizard and Rs. 100 per rodent, and the Indian equivalent of HCC will be in clover. What is more, given the relentless reproductive capabilities of these creatures, the lizards will keep eating the cockroaches, the rats will eat the lizards, and the resident cats will feast on the lizards and the rats. It will be a unique self-balancing population programme.
Imagine how India’s young lovebirds will vent their spleen over a quarrel. The spurned Asha will traipse off to the nearest branch of the India Conservation Centre (ICC), place Rs. 20 at the counter and wait for cockroach Rajesh to be brought to her, and she can yell and scream, ‘kutthe, kameene’ (a strange way to address a cockroach, I grant you and a gross insult to our canine chums) to her heart’s content at this heel of a boyfriend-turned-roach, Rajesh. What relief, what joy! If her budget runs to Rs. 50 or even Rs. 100, she can watch the rat Rajesh being consumed by Billy the cat. I apologise if all this sounds macabre and Edgar Allan Poe-ish, but needs must. As Poe himself wrote, ‘Sleep, those little slices of death; oh how I loathe them.’
Suresh Subrahmanyan is a former advertising and brand communications professional, now a prolific columnist with humour and satire his chosen areas of interest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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