It's the magic of metamorphosis

It's the magic of metamorphosis

When Anupreet Dhody was gifted a caterpillar at the age of seven to watch out for the ‘magic that would happen’, little did she know that one day, she would become extremely passionate about watching caterpillars turn into butterflies. But that’s exactly how her full-fledged hobby began.

When she was a young girl, Anupreet’s father handed her a caterpillar during one of the vacations. “We were at a station when I saw him looking keenly at some plants. 

Suddenly, he gave this tiny creature on a leaf to me and told me that magic would happen,” she recalls. Excited to be the “mother of a pet”, Anupreet constantly watched over it. “Initially, there wasn’t much change. I remember even skipping school to see what happened. I was so worried that if I didn’t monitor it constantly, I would miss out on something,” she reveals. “And then one day much to my surprise, magic did happen. The caterpillar had turned into a butterfly,” she adds.

A similar gift from one of her teachers, over 20 years later, got her thinking of the childhood incident that she had forgotten about. “When I got married two and a half years ago, one of my teachers gave me the same gift saying the same thing my father had said. And something about the gift and those words got me thinking. I felt I should actually take it up as a hobby,” she says. At the same time, she felt disconnected from her job as a stockbroker. She thought it was the right time to pursue her interest in butterflies. “I was bored with my job and was sure that it was the right time to start working on my hobby,” she recalls.

That’s when she started filling her terrace garden with flowering plants. “Initially, there was a lot that I didn’t know. For instance, the kind of plants that caterpillars depend on are completely different from the plants that butterflies depend on. I have learnt a lot though trial and error,” says Anupreet, who has lost count of the number of plants on her two balconies. “I choose the plants carefully now,” she adds.

The process begins with her spotting caterpillars on her balcony. She then places them in a plastic container. “That requires a trained eye. A week into the hobby and anyone can pick it up,” she explains. She keeps the box open for a few seconds everyday and watches out for a coloured line on the pupa (as the pupa picks up the colour of its wings in some cases) which is an indication that a butterfly will soon emerge. On the morning that the butterfly emerges, it is put on a jaali or dupatta. “The butterfly’s wings are damp and can’t flap when it emerges. Hence, it needs some support. But once it is put on the jaali, it usually flies away,” she says. But if she finds out that it’s already at the pupa stage, she brings the flowerpots inside the house and keeps a watch on them.

The best months for rearing are February, March, September and October, she says.

Describing it as a “three-week pet”, Anupreet says there have been times when she has reared anywhere between 50 and 100 caterpillars a month. But due to her extensive
travel, she sometimes finds it difficult to pursue her hobby.

“When I’m in Bangalore, I do it full time. The good part is that my family has also become interested in my hobby, which helps. It’s really nice to see the entire family getting involved.”

What fascinates Anupreet the most though is the life cycle of the caterpillar. “Watching the life cycle is simply amazing. But more than that, I also feel that there is so much imbalance in nature which needs to be set right. At least on my part, I want to help protect some butterflies.”

Ever since Anupreet has taken up this hobby, she has never had a problem when it comes to gifting. “Gifting a pupa is unusual and always appreciated,” she says. Inspired by her, many of her friends have also started rearing caterpillars. Wrapping up, Anupreet says, “It’s more than just a hobby. For me, watching the life cycle means emerging as a better person irrespective of the changes one goes through.”

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