In December 1993, I spent three weeks in Bihar, India, on a consulting assignment with the National Institute of Hydrology. I was stationed in Patna, with an occasional trip to the countryside. The local weather is humid subtropical, with mean annual precipitation of 1,200 mm, and significant amounts of precipitation occurring in all seasons.

At night, I would huddle under the mosquito netting and feel confident that I was protected against the many bugs, some of which appeared to be very mean. However, once I turned the lights off, after a few moments, a shrieking and persistent sound would start somewhere in the room, as if many insects were busy eating away at something. When I would turn the lights on to inspect the surroundings, the mysterious sound would stop. This went on a number of times, until I would invariably tire out and fall sleep.

I never figured out exactly who or what was responsible for the sound, but I am certain that I was not alone during those nights in Bihar.


Location of Bihar, close to the Himalayas, in Northeastern India

Location of Bihar, close to the Himalayas, in Northeastern India.