Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ants and Karma

The other day I was eating breakfast in my compound, sitting next to my mother. There was a slight commotion, she said something to my brother, Baba, and pointed behind where she was sitting where, I’m not sure how I didn’t notice but there were thousands of ants swarming between my steps and the entrance to the kitchen. I was about to jump up and get the insecticide I keep in my room when she explained to me that the ants were asking for a sarax, the term used for the food or money you give to people who beg. She asked Baba to give them some millet and as he scattered it on the ground I thought “Oh no, now there will be even more ants swarming.” She turned to me and said “Just watch, they’ll all be gone in 5 minutes.” And sure enough, the ants took the millet back to their nest, wherever it is, and all but a few were gone in 5 minutes and as far as I know haven’t come back.

After the ants were given their sarax my mom told me a story that she prefaced as being “a true story,” in mixed French and Wolof. According to the story there was a young pregnant woman who once encountered the same problem with swarming ants. Instead for giving them the sarax she threw boiling water on them and killed them. Later, when her baby was born, it was born deformed and would never walk. When she went to the spiritual leader to ask why that had happened to her he told her that her baby was born like that because she had been cruel to the ants.

…a very Buddhist idea for a Muslim country.