The Giant Insect (Mohapotongo)
By Abu Ishaque
Translated by: Md. Saber -E- Montaha
A small house in a small town. A pair of sparrows used to dwell in a hole in the north-facing wall of that house. One day they had gone to the meadow to peck at grains; suddenly, they were left startled to hear that loud and strange noise. They looked at each other raising their heads.
A whirring sound was coming floating from far away.
The sparrows had become frightened. They flew away briskly to sit on the branch of a tree. The sound was increasing gradually. All the birds around were shirking away breathlessly. The sparrows looked up furtively through the leaves. Something gigantic was flying in their direction from the far horizon. They hid into the dense leaves. The thing flew away above their head with a terrifying noise.
Their hearts had started beating fast. After a while, coming back to his senses the sparrow asked his female companion,
“Come on! Father told the story of this very thing, don’t you remember?”
“Oh! The giant insect?”
“Yes, yes… it is.”
It was during the juvenile days of these two sparrows. Their parents had their cote in a hole in the wall of an old house. They used to hear the stories of monsters, demons, devils, and genies hiding their faces under the wings of their father and mother back then. Their parents usually talked more about the snatching-demon, meow-monster, hiss-devil, and caw-demon as they are their main enemies.
One dusky night, the mother was telling the story of the snatching-demon,
“The snatching-demons are ariel creatures with wings just like us. Their vision is very sharp. They hover in the sky keeping their eyes fixed down on the ground; whenever they get a chance, they snatch their prey away in the blink of an eye, piercing them with their curved claws. Then, they nibble out their eyes, heart, and liver.”
Both the sparrows had hidden their faces under their mother’s wings. Their fear abated as the moonlight appeared. The male sparrow then asked,
“Which one is the biggest bird, mother?”
“Ask your father, he has seen it. Honey, why don’t you tell them the story of the giant bird?”
“Well, listen then. It was a long ago; we were in the country of droughts at that time. Your mother was incubating her eggs then. I was away to search for food. Suddenly, I heard a horrifying sound. Looking up, I saw a giant bird fly away creating a whirring noise. It was flying very high, where the sky had almost touched the tip of the trees. I haven’t seen such a gigantic bird ever since.”
“Does it snatch like the snatching-demon?”, the female sparrow had become completely curious.
“I cannot say that, darling. I saw it for once only that day… how does it look like?”, the father replied with hesitation,
“Well, it looks quite like a grasshopper. Haven’t you seen those grasshoppers with long tails? Just like those I brought you to eat that rainy day.”
“Yes… yes, we remember.”, both the sparrows replied.
“It has wings and a long tail just like those of a grasshopper. That’s a hell of a giant insect. You won’t even imagine how big is it if you do not see it yourself. It flies with a whirring sound.”
Today’s gigantic insect completely matched the insect their father described. The ariel creature they just saw today could be nothing but that very giant insect.
The entire bird community had become terrified. They never came across such a bird in this country before. They called for an emergency meeting.
A bird assured, “There is no reason to be frightened. I think it eats grains only, it’s not a carnivorous monster.”
One bird readily protested, “No, no, this is a monstrous bird for sure. What a terrifying sound was it making in rage!”
Another bird supported it, “Right, this one is monstrous. Don’t you get that from its howling? It will grab and gobble us one after another. If you want to be alive, just flee away from this country.”
Many birds had actually fled away. Most of them migrated to the country of droughts. But the sparrows did not leave. Because, despite the suffering from rain and storms in this country of heavy rainfall, they could eat to their heart’s content here. Apart from that, the giant insect was spotted in the country of drought as well. Their father himself had told them that he witnessed it with his own eyes. The sparrow couple brought cotton, feathers, and dried straw to store in their cote. They built a tidy and comfortable nest there. The inhabitant of the house, the two-legged monster was very happy to have them. Calling up his wife and children he said, “It’s a good sign. The sparrows have built a nest here. They come only where there is something good; they avoid sorrowful places. This year is going to be a happy and peaceful one.”
But the year did not prove to be happy and peaceful. The country had gone underwater during the flood. The flood increased day by day. Those who were unable to leave somehow saved their lives by taking shelter on the roofs, house-sheds, or on the trees and lamented over their fate. Many of their neighboring sparrows had already left the country. But they did not have the scope to flee away. They had two hatchlings who were very close to their hearts. So, they could not move to leave them alone.
In such a dire situation, the gigantic insect came producing that whirring sound. The sparrows kept on staring at it from behind the dense leaves sitting on a twig. Hovering around a while, the insect came down to land on the flooded ground.
The insect’s arrival created a bustle among the two-legged monsters. It swam towards a big house and stopped on the roof near the staircase. A two-legged monster came out of the stomach of the giant insect. At his call, a group of two-legged monsters came consecutively one after another and went inside the stomach of the insect. Then it flew towards the sky producing that terrifying sound. It went straight to the west after twirling around a couple of times.
The giant insect came many more times the same day. It took the people sheltered on the roofs, house-sheds, and trees in its stomach and disappeared into the unknown.
This had left the sparrows stunned beyond any limits. That night, sitting in their nest the female sparrow said,
“The two-legged monsters are real tricksters, I see!”
“Yes, terrific tricksters. How have they tamed even the giant insect!”
“Really, their wisdom and tactics deserve an applaud.”
“Why, mother?”, the boy hatchling asked from beneath her chest.
“Well, you will see yourself when you grow up enough to go outside. They have tamed moo-moo, baa-baa, bow-wow, coo-coo, quack-quack, meow-monster, trumping-tusker, neigh-neigh, and what not animals!”
“I am often at a loss whether to laugh or to be sad when I see a moo-moo. The two-legged monsters not only work them hard all the day, but they also extract their white juice pulling at the loose skin bellow their stomach to quench their thirst.”, the male sparrow added.
The female sparrow burst out into laughter, “Again see, how they roam around riding on the mighty trumping-tuskers and the neigh-neighs.”
The translator is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, Northern University Bangladesh