There are two words for ant in Urdu, chunti and chuntaa. Chunti, with the cute little ‘i’ sound on the end of it means a little ant, an inconsequential and harmless little ant that sometimes floats to the top of your chai.
Chunta, with a big fat ‘AH’ sound on the end, is the kind of ant that carries your cup of chai away on its back and then comes back to tote off your biscuits. They’re the big black ants with the big black pincers. They’re not harmless. They bite, and having bitten, they latch on and refuse to let go.
The unassuming little chunti is most commonly seen in homes and kitchens, foraging for crumbs or sugar crystals on the floor at night. The chunta, however, is not usually seen in homes, so you can imagine my surprise when I found one in my fridge today. And he had brought along three of his friends.
I don’t know how the ants got inside of the fridge. Judging by their size, I’d say they stood on each other’s shoulders to reach the handle on the outside and just let themselves in. If they came seeking Nirvana then they may have found it in a way. If not, then I hope they get reincarnated as something nicer- something that I won’t have to chase out of the fridge and then dispatch with my sandal.
It’s amazing how this is not even unsettling to me. True, I am offended that the ants refused to honor the sacred precincts of the fridge, but I’m not paralyzed with the heebie-jeebies. Life in Pakistan does this to you, it teaches you to deal with things that you never thought were normal. When Aniraz and I came to Pakistan four years ago we had to reevaluate the way that things had been dealt with before. For example, in the US, if an ant had been in your food, you threw the food away. If you did that here you’d starve to death. So Aniraz and I came up with two golden rules of living in Pakistan, two ideals by which to live and coexist with our new surroundings- Rule number one: If it looks like an ant, don’t eat it. Rule number two: If it looks like a roach, run away.
Thank you and goodnight.