To me, flying termites (ngumbi) are just one of the things that characterise December and the rainy season in Malawi.
Every year without fail, they come out in droves, fluttering around lights until their wings fall off and they crawl away; if they are lucky enough to escape being caught by someone looking for quick delicacy, that is.
During my childhood, when we all had a curfew, flying termites gave us a great excuse to get out of the house and have jolly good time outdoors. My brothers and I would troop out under the pretext of catching them when what we actually wanted was the excitement we got staying out late and running around at a Ã¢â‚¬Å“forbiddenÃ¢â‚¬Â hour.
Last week, in a moment of boredom, I spent a few minutes observing the termites and their flurry of activity. It dawned on me that they seemingly spend their entire lives underground, primping and preening, growing their wings so that they can throw it all away in one night of glory. And, after that night is over, their lives are basically over too. They are either left without wings or caught by people and other predators. I have observed, on several occasions, a carpenter ant dragging off a flying termite more than twice its size at the end of the night, always in an orderly manner. I think human beings could learn a thing or two from these two types of ants.
How do we live our lives? Do we jump from one day to the next, in no particular order and with no future plans like teenage students? Do we spend time and money primping and preening ourselves for a life of reckless fun without thinking of the implications? Because if we do, we might just wake up one day and realise that we have partied or enjoyed our life away. Then, we will be horrified at the fact that people who were previously at our level have advanced tremendously, be it in their careers or personal lives and that life has passed us by. We might panic, we might try to cram everything into a few months or years as an attempt to catch up but the sad truth is that it will be much too late.
It has often been pointed out that lifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s little pleasures ought to be enjoyed, but in moderation and I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree more. We all need a little light-hearted fun to keep us going but if we become hedonistic, then perhaps itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time we sat down to remap the course we want our lives to take.
Would you rather be the frivolous flying termite or the organised, resourceful ant that works hard and pounces on every opportunity it gets to accumulate food and building material to ensure a secure future? Ponder on this for a bit and let me know what you think!