Treasures from nature

Treasures from nature
For Pia Meenakshi, a tattoo artist, a curiosity for nature began when she was young.
  
By ten, she had a 
natural curiosities collection’ as she calls it, comprising intriguing finds from land and sea. 

Regardless of what people said or thought, she proudly started picking up animal skulls, bones, spiders, beetles, butterflies, wasps, feathers, snakeskins, crab exoskeletons, seeds, flowers, fungi, teeth, shells, starfish, stones etc that came her way. 

Recalling her childhood days, Pia says, “I grew up in Bangalore and spent my summers at a family estate in Coorg. I used to love it there being in the outdoors with plants and insects. This fascination and connection with the outdoors grew stronger and stronger as I grew up and lived more in the city. It was almost like a longing I felt for the outdoors. Nature also started inspiring my art work quite a bit.”

She adds that she often visited a family friend who did conservation projects in 
Bannerghatta Forest and owned a farm there. 

“I used to go there almost every weekend to spend time with him talking about wildlife and began collecting when I’d visit him. That spark of interest in nature soon started consuming my work and I found myself finding some deep-rooted happiness in being surrounded with nature. It soon turned into collecting anything natural and beautiful on my travels, even within the City. Since the house my parents live in is a very green area, I also came across and still find a lot of collectables in my own home,” shares Pia. 

The first item in her collection was feathers, she reveals. 

“We had lots of parakeets and kites nesting around our house. So I’d find huge kite feathers everyday when I’d walk around. At the forest farm, I started collecting insects. I once went up to a hill in the forest where I found an ox skull, the first skull I’ve ever found. Soon after, I found many more bones and skulls and even started receiving contributions from friends,” she adds.

Asked about the challenges she faces with this hobby, Pia answers, “It’s a slow hobby and I don’t go out of my way to go looking for something. Another thing that gets complicated is whether someone’s going to get offended by the collection, so I hardly display it. Another problem I know I’ll face in the future is if I go travelling out of India and find things to add. I don’t know how I’ll bring them back and clear customs!” 

While her most elaborate collection are the insects, her favourite are the skulls. 

“It’s so amazing to look into the face of something that once lived. I also love the insects as they’re all so different and beautifully crafted. There’s always variety with insects — from colours, shapes and textures to even smells!” she describes.

The young artist confesses that this collection has helped her grow as a person. In fact, she doesn’t even find decomposition strange anymore.

“Noticing the details in things and thinking back on how a creature once lived and how 
it can still leave something beautiful behind after it’s gone is humbling. And the way 
nature functions is so elaborate that you learn to love the little things and not be put off by natural tendencies. This somehow gets transferred to your normal life where you 
notice people, how they function and you have more compassion and understanding towards them,” she explains. 

Did she find it weird that she was attracted to something others might not have found beautiful in the conventional sense of the word? 

“When I was young, my father and I used to foster a lot of 
fallen animal babies and we had lots of dogs, fish and birds around. There was always some communication with animals. So though people knew that I was crazy about animals, when the bones and skulls initially came into the picture, they were grossed out and asked me what’s wrong with me! But I never found this new fascination weird. In fact, I only wondered why I had never seen dead things beautiful before that!” admits Pia.

What’s nice is that Pia has a companion when it comes to this curious passion of 
hers. 

“My fiancé and I both collect with great enthusiasm. Our trips out of town usually consist of carrying lots of zip lock bags and snooping around beaches and hills for interesting finds,” she wraps up with a smile. 

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