Bloodsucking Leeches… !
Maxwell Pereira

maxpk@vsnl.com

We policemen are at times referred to as leeches. Bloodsuckers, who do not often hesitate to grab the opportunity to suck, even from the poor, the victim and more often as alleged, surely from the one who has transgressed the law! Giving us a despicable image - of not upholding the law in support of the honest citizen, but being seen as supporting the law-breaker by our acts of omission and commission! As is often alleged against us, that our acts are aimed only with the objective of what's in it for us, how to exploit a situation to make a fast buck… to hell with ethics, morality or justice! As is alleged in the instant case of the traffic cop who even shot at the taxi driver for supposedly not coughing up illegal gratification sought to be extorted! Warranting the police management to without hesitation act - in a manner that sends a clear message, sets a clear example!

But then, what exactly are leeches! Those crawlers in sizes next to invisible, to ones that extend to a whopping mass at times of three inches or more! Those that bite and penetrate to access correctly the vein or the artery and suck blood - and grow with the sucking from its tiny self to its rubbery flabby mass that rarely is satiated even when bloated beyond limit. Leeches are parasites that live off other organisms without benefiting the host in return. Do we see an allegorical simile here!?

Leeches are classified as annelids, or segmented worms. They are related to earthworms and share many traits. They are found in shallow ponds, lakes, and marshes. Some leeches have even been found to live in small desert water holes as well as in Antarctic waters. While most live in water, some leeches are amphibious. There are other land leeches that live in moist regions around the world. Most leeches are nocturnal and avoid light. Leeches can often be found in shady areas of ponds or in dark places under rocks, logs, and debris or the bottom of lakes. There are about 700 to a 1000 species of leeches world wide!

Food requirements are different for each type of leech. They do not eat often, and they can live for months on a single meal. A few live water snails a week make a great meal. Some larger bloodsucking leeches make a meal from a turtle or frog every month or two; others of the type thrive on earthworms, frog eggs, insect larvae, or even blood sucked from and raw meat, of animals.

My first encounter with leeches was when Pater bought his first coffee estate in Sakleshpur in the western ghats. They abounded in areas we termed in local terminology as 'golla's inside the estate… and in the paddy fields and marshy water logged regions where cardamom was planted …..and crawled up our legs unannounced, unnoticed; till they dropped off after their bloody feed, leaving an irritable painful sensation around the bite from which your blood would continue to flow. Later I encountered leeches in the Sikkim forests while trekking with a young Minister Paudyal in the Himalayan mountains just below the snow line! Not only the ones that crawled up your legs from below, but those large ones that jumped on you from low foliage of trees, to suck at your veins round the neck and elsewhere. By and by through experience, we also learnt how to keep them at bay… by application of salt and tobacco inside the collar and the socks in your boots; and when already on you, by touching on it the glowing end of a cigarette, that forced it to let go. Nothing else normally would!

Down the ages scientists have found many medicinal applications and uses for leeches doctors used them to bleed their patients - but they can be a nuisance. In 1799 when soldiers serving under Napoleon marched from Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula to Syria, they drank water from any source they could find - including waters contaminated by leeches. Resulting in problems when the leeches attached themselves to the insides of noses, mouths, and throats; where they began to gorge on blood and enlarge. While many soldiers died from suffocation due to enlarged leeches in the air passages, others died from excessive blood loss.

A latest study on leeches from Australia's Monash University has found that some species of leeches breed like birds and animals, carrying their newborn and nurturing their young! Although the word 'leech' is often considered synonymous with selfishness and exploitation, many leeches are found to have devoted parental tendencies for caring and protecting from predators. The study reveals, that it is "fascinating that an invertebrate is also exhibiting vertebrate like parenting".

Perhaps there is a message in this for the compulsively erring policeman. The one that cannot but do without exploiting for reasons malafide. The one through such behaviour provides the media and the propagandist, the activists and the masses, the opportunity to tar and tarnish the entire force with the same filthy brush. For him to take cue from the 'leech' otherwise considered selfish, the parasite, the exploiter…. To yet reform and rely instead on the attributes already there - of caring, protecting, of up-holding what is right, and enforcing the Rule of Law… !!!

850 words: dated 12.07.2004: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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