The Emperor Who Lost His Empire – the Phouska Maker

The tale is one told many times over. Once upon a time, his family owned the whole neighborhood. Then, due to a Shakespearean turn of luck or plain greed, his family lost everything but the tiny phouska business.

The phouska seller in his shop.

The shop is located in a typical Dhaka locale. Off a main road, down another smaller street (alley is how some would describe it), and then left onto yet an even smaller street.

Phouska with sauce.
He tried to refuse our money.

Phouska are the traditional golf ball sized fried shells filled with chick pea (garbanzo) and spices appetizer/snack served at weddings and street corners. The way to eat them is to make an indent into the chick pea filling, pour the tamarind and chili sauce into the hole you’ve made, and use your hand to pop the phouska into your mouth.

The phouska seller was so pleased that my colleague had come back to his shop (he had had him cater to his wedding), that he didn’t want him to pay for our food. But, fortunately, my colleague paid for it (20 Taka/25 cents per plate).

Drinks were bought at another store while we waited. We ate quickly and ate a second round quickly as the mosquitoes were swarming around our ankles making us all do the tappy dance with our feet while we ate.

The phouska kitchen.

We will be back (with bug sprayed feet).

Mosquito Tennis

They take their tennis seriously here in Dhaka. Before coming to Bangladesh, everyone told me that I would be taking up tennis as it was one of the few sports to participate in here (and the lessons only cost $1.25 per lesson). But with 99 percent humidity, I did not plan on playing tennis. Then I got here. In every office, I saw brightly colored tennis rackets lying about. In every home, I saw tennis rackets. Wow, I thought. I was impressed with this level of dedication. Nay, obsession. Then, the other day I too began playing — and here’s why — Despite having had fourteen shots injected into me to protect me from various diseases, I still get bitten by mosquitoes every day. Every day. Every day. Every morning, I wake up, crawl out from under my princess-like mosquito net, sit down with a cup of coffee to read my emails and blog… and the itch starts… then another… and then I look down to see a mosquito happily sticking me!

Then, I go out my door, lock my door… and get bitten again. I go down to carpool and two or three mosquitoes buzz about in the car.  I go to the office followed by an entourage of mosquitoes buzzing like fawning groupies. Once inside the office, I am back to one or two stalking me.

So the solution?

Mosquito Tennis!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I had to get one. So I paid the foreigner price and bought mine for 465 Taka ($6.50). These neon electrified rackets are fully equipped with a light, a wrist band (are you dangling a two foot racket off your hand?), and two prongs for re-charging… in China. Ha! These are made in China (surprise?) and need an adapter. But because of their size, it’s hard to find a place to plug them in.

To deal with the mosquitoes, I spray my feet and ankles with Off “deep woods” spray every morning when I put on my shoes. I also have 98 percent Deet which I intend to use (liberally). I have a Deet cream bug repellent to slather on. Just haven’t done it yet. I don’t like icky sticky gunk on my skin… but, I’ll do it eventually if I can remember it. They say that the mosquitoes at night give you dengue and the ones during the day give you malaria… or is it the other way round?

Sadly, yesterday was a day of note because I managed to not get bitten all day long! Put a star in the calendar, mommy!

A word on technique: You can swing at them but I have yet to hear that satisfying sizzle and crackle as the little suckers get zapped. But I’ve seen really experienced zappers do a sort of gentle scooping technique, a sort of underhand, with great effect.