Like the wings of a butterfly

Like the wings of a butterfly

Representative image.

Someone had nibbled on the curry plants in my earthen pots. A black and yellow striped caterpillar sat pretty on a woody branch. I was sure the pudgy fellow must have fed on my curry leaves to fatten itself. Since it was a green pupa, it hung camouflaged under a leaf. Having caught the ‘culprits’ red-handed, I tore them off the branches and flung them away without thinking. 

A week later, I was at Bannerghatta National Park. Herds of chital (a kind of deer) with their young ones greeted us. The macho stags flaunted their brand-new velvety antlers. “They shed their antlers annually. The velvety sheath on the new ones is shed, and the hard, burnished look emerges,” informed the wildlife official accompanying us. The ‘heavy-duty’ Indian bisons milled around, grazing in the meadows close-by.   

Perfectly camouflaged in cement cubbyholes, ash-coloured jungle owlets were hard to spot. There were scores of them in cozy cubicles. A pair snuggled in a single hole, retreating coyly as we gawked at them. Zakir Hussain, our loquacious escort, pointed to a metallic blue kingfisher here or a snake-necked cormorant or a rusty-hued white-headed brahmini kite there, perched on low-hanging tree branches hoping to catch sumptuous fish. 

Post a hearty breakfast, the sloth bears were lying helter-skelter snoozing in the January sun. Some of them were being tended to by wildlife SOS volunteers. An NGO has been working tirelessly to rehabilitate these adorable teddy bear-like creatures rescued from kalandars, the traditional bear trainers.  

A young male tiger stood in our path as we moved further ahead. Barely a few meters away, our guide stood staring at another wild tiger as it trudged up majestically behind the electric fence. “He is aching for a fight with his wild rival and had attacked the fence separating the two a few days back,” Hussain told us, showing us a fresh gash over the tiger’s eye. The magnificent cat looked ominous as it brushed hard against our jeep. 

Moving from the ferocious to the gentle, the butterfly section was teeming with the winged beauties in such breath-taking colour combinations, avariciously flitting from one flower to another. Inadvertently doing what they do best, cross-pollinate. “Oh, this is probably the same species of caterpillar that I had uprooted from their cozy habitat on my curry plants and in turn, unwittingly, risked their lives,” I bristled at my insensitivity as I recognised the tiger moth at the breeding facility. I would never do that again, I resolved. With a tinge of regret, I revisited the lyrics of Queen’s The Show Must Go On— “My soul is painted like the wings of a butterfly; Fairy tales of yesterday grow but never die; I can fly, my friends; The show must go on…”