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CREEPY CRAWLIES

There are many ways of reflecting on the European Union’s ban on the import of Indian mangoes. Alphonso mangoes from India carry hordes of the (ironically named) whitefly. They do not harm human beings but batten on salady stuff like tomatoes and cucumbers. This could wreak agricultural, and commercial, havoc in countries where eating salad is more important than eating mangoes. Expectedly, British interests — commercial, culinary and phytosanitary — have been stirred most by this new regulation. With a high number of subcontinental immigrants in the country, who both eat mangoes and feed them in many delectable forms to native Britons, there have been ripples of alarm and exasperation in Britain. India has also challenged the ban, since Indian exporters have been made to pull up their socks recently about standards of hygiene, packaging and transport while sending off home-grown edibles.

Anybody who has contemplated a trapped fly on an international flight — in these paradoxical times of territorial insecurity heightened by the freeing of markets — would agree that the movement of flora and fauna on the globe, including that of micro-organisms like germs and viruses, provides a fascinating counterpoint to the movement of people. There is an organic and biological dimension to perceptions of good and bad Otherness. It is the threat not just of guest-workers taking over the jobs, but also of harmful strains of less controllable forms of life infiltrating into what is being grown, ingested and assimilated locally. Pests, germs and diseases, like seeds, fruit and vegetables, have their own forms of travelling, invading and colonizing — striking back, as the cliché goes. So, the problem of borders and immigration need not be restricted to inconvenient human beings. Tiny, wingéd creatures will continue to frighten the wholesome nation-states.