I’ve never really been one for mosquito nets for beds. I’ve always found them to be more of a bother than anything. But recently, the mosquito situation in Chennai, particularly the part of the city I live in, got really, really bad. The evenings were all-out war, with the mosquitoes launching coordinated attacks, and coming at you five at a time in continuous waves. Kill one lot with some Samurai mosquito bat wielding, and another would swoop in from five different angles. The bat was constantly crackling, the ground was littered with a morbid assortment of mosquito fragments, and the air was redolent with the smell of… yuck… burnt mosquito. Sitting up late into the night was impossible, unless you had three or four pairs of hands to simultaneously murder mosquitoes coming at you like bomber pilots from all directions and still do whatever it is you wanted to do… even if was just holding a remote and pointing it at the TV.
The worst, of course, was once you went to bed. Laying still in the dark, you were a soft target, especially if you were stupid enough to actually try and sleep. The fan would be going at what felt like supersonic speed but that made absolutely no difference. The entire night was spent scratching and swatting and tossing and turning. And if you actually did manage to fall asleep for a few seconds, you awoke to find multiple mosquitoes feasting on you. They were like diners who’d stuffed themselves beyond caring at an all-you-can-eat buffet… they couldn’t even be bothered to move when you swatted, and you’re left with a gross smear of your own blood on your hands and a very dead (but I suspect sublimely happy… “what a way to go!”) mosquito. In the mornings, our bed sheet looked like it was part of a murder scene (which, in a way it was), covered in blood stains.
After a few completely sleepless nights, I gave in and ordered the latest in mosquito nets for our bed. These weren’t like the old ones I remember seeing in my grandparents’ house as a kid, which needed to be tied to the window grills at the four corners to suspend it over the bed. This clever contraption folds and unfolds like the top of a convertible. When open, the net is stretched over a semicircular array of slim, almost flimsy rods, and the base rods perch along the edge of the mattress. I don’t know why they don’t use firmer rods… that would have probably made this whole post unnecessary (see below). I suspect it’s more for ease of transport and storage. This way, the delivery guy came carrying our 6 ft X 7 ft monstrosity with ease, with it neatly folded over and covered in plastic, looking for all the world like a bendy pipe. And once we ‘re done with it, we can store it away like that too.
Our initial experience with our convertible mosquito net, or the mosquito tent as my toddler calls it, was blissful. For the first time in days, we actually slept through the night and our bed sheet had nary a squished mosquito on it in the morning. We were like mosquito net televangalists, singing its praises to whomever would listen, thrusting the phone number on them and telling them to order now! I loved everything about it, including the little strips of lace the aesthetically-minded net maker had pasted on. I loved the ‘ivory’ colour I’d chosen over ‘baby pink’ (the only two options). It was, I thought ecstatically, positively beautiful. But then… the honeymoon period ended and cracks started appearing in the relationship.
First of all, we realised that there’s really no graceful way of opening this wide, wobbling structure once it’s been set up. It’s okay if you lift it just a foot or so and scramble in or out. But lift any further, even by mistake, and the entire thing goes flooomph! and crashes open entirely, beaning whoever is still lying down in bed right on the head. That someone is, unfortunately, usually the husband, since I’m the one who gets up in the night to tend to the fussy toddler sleeping in the crib next to us. But there wasn’t too much damage done, on the whole; the bendy rods are really light, so he’d just mutter and grumble and go back to sleep.
The next step, though, is even trickier — pulling the darn thing down again, in the dark, while half asleep, all by yourself. Keep in mind that it is 6 ft wide, and as wobbly as a house of cards. It’s fine when the husband and I pull it closed together when we first go to bed, smiling at each other smugly like a cutesy couple in a mattress commercial. Doing it with a just-fallen-asleep two year old next to you and the husband snoring on the other side at 3 a.m. is a whole different story. What usually happens is that I tug and tug with increasing desperation, and the whole thing comes up increasingly crooked and sways alarmingly like a 6 x 7 ft ivory-lace jelly this way and that. Then, one base rod invariably falls off the edge of the bed, and then, yes, flooomph! on the husband’s head or face…
Things were especially bad recently because our little girl has been sick and that has meant more middle of the night wake up calls than ever. Last night was the worst ever, where she managed to clock in three rounds of fussing. And each time the net got worse and worse. It floomphed this way and that. It got tangled on this end and that. When it finally fell off on my husband’s side for the third time, he cursed, kicked it soundly off the bed, and went back to sleep. I sat on the bed for a moment, feeling bereft. The super tent-net lay on the floor at a pathetic angle, and I didn’t have the energy to pull it up in all its unwieldy glory. But… but… would I be able to sleep without it?
As it turned out, the mosquitoes were sleeping on the job last night, and I was in fact able to doze off without the net. Tonight, however, is a different story and we need it again. As I sit here writing, I see it has been resurrected by the husband. For now, all is quiet. Baby is asleep in her crib, husband under the jelly-net. I’ll crawl into bed carefully, but all bets are off for the rest of the night. Will peace reign, or will there be floomphing? Only time will tell.