Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mosquito Coils

In the evenings, my maternal grandmother would carefully take out her box of msoquito coils, kept safely in a Jacob's biscuit tin. almost with the greatest of care, her small gentle hands would take two twinning coils out and slowly separate them. then she would light one for the "landoh", the covered bridge between the kitchen and the main house where we would sit and tell stories under the pressure lamp. And she would bring one coil upstairs , to be placed in front of her room.

Thus mosquitoes were kept at bay in our riverine paradise. Most of us were still under the age of ten at that time.

In the day time, we would bring a small piece of mosquito coil whenever we went to the outhouse, built about 100 feet away from the main house. Some of us were terribly afraid of going, so we would get three or four to go along. My grandmother's outhouse had four cubicles. They were very properly built.

The flush toilet came to our village many years later when my uncle built a smaller house further in land, after the huge currents caused by the Express boats had slowly swept away our land and lastly our wooden mansion. By then she was already completely visually disadvantaged. So the modern sanitory facilities were a boon to her old age.

In later years an American Peace Corps told me that it was part of their orientation course to separate two twinning pieces of mosquito coils. It was one of the most difficult living skills for an American to learn. Perhaps he had big hands, or perhaps he was not used to applying gentle pressure, and that particular "break" on the most important leverage part of the coil to separate the two coils, so well meshed and factory placed together.

The nostalgic fragrance from a burning mosquito coil invokes memories and the magic of yesteryears. My grandmother's stories, her sense of humour, my uncle's laughter and the shrieks of playing children would just come floating back. It is no wonder that Shirley Lim, in her poem, Monsoon History, wrote about mosquito coils as part of her memories forty years ago.

On the down side, mosquito coils have been known to cause home fires, burning of babies in their cots, and bad asthma attacks.

In industrial description it is a coiled clay-like material which is set on top
of included stands which will serve as a biting and nuisance flying pest repellent when lit. When burning, they will release a pleasant odor to people but one that is highly repellent to pests. They will burn slowly and generally will last 2 or
more hours per coil.

Today, with camping and outdoor living becoming very popular, the mosquito coils have become a heaven sent gift indeed.

A company producing them advertised that they are made of nature's own insecticide (camphor) and using these coils one can get hours of constant protection. Perfectly safe and pleasant! 12 coils per package. Wt. 7oz.

In Malaysia a decent pack of mosquito coils are about RM1.80 for 12 coils.

As a Sarawakian, I would always travel with a packet of mosquito coils, kept safe in a biscuit tin. This would be what my grandmother would do. then there would be no frustrations from mosquitoes. And the nights would be as wonderful as days. Some extra anti insect repellent would help too.

But strangely with all the development around us, we should have less mosquitoes or no mosquitoes at all. But instead, we have mosquito netting on our windows and for outdoor activities around the house we still depend on our ever faithful mosquito coils!!

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