Friday, June 17, 2005

Flitting Thoughts

[ FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2005 12:36:11 AM ]

When was the last time you saw a butterfly in your garden, asked a news report recently, referring to India’s dwindling butterfly population. Hey, when was the last time you met someone with a garden to speak of? As a flat-dweller — as most metro residents are — how can one answer this question? At the breakfast table one day, I broached the subject of endangered butterflies when my daughter dropped her buttered toast and looked intently at the butter-dish. "What are you doing", I asked her. "I’m looking for the fly you spotted in the butter", she said, holding her sides, laughing. No, she wasn’t being insensitive, she said sincerely — it was a statement on butterfly-starved city life. Like many of her friends, she, too, had grown up in a home without a garden, not counting the few potted plants that line the verandah. I felt a twinge of sadness. Growing up in a home with a garden is like growing up in an enchanting world. There’s always something to see or do. One can spend hours following the silvery trail of a missing snail. Or just feel happy counting or watching butterflies, a suitable warm-up exercise to introspection. A symbol of metamorphosis, the butterfly is often associated with spiritual transformation.

Dwindling butterfly numbers is being attributed to increase in smuggling, habitat loss and pesticide usage. The repercussions of this would be felt in agriculture, since the butterfly is the second-largest pollinator in the world after the honeybee. Private collectors sell butterflies abroad as decoration art and to labs engaged in species research. I cannot imagine why anyone would want a dead butterfly as a pin-up. The thought is as revolting as hanging a carcass on your wall. More gardens and less use of pesticides might reverse butterfly mortality rates. For a flat-dweller in the city, the balcony is the only place where she can create the semblance of a garden, with potted plants. But in most homes balcony-space is the preserve of coolers, shoe racks, old newspapers, storage cartons and clotheslines. My own verandah is spilling over with thousands of paper-cuttings, magazines and old books that I intend reading some day. Perhaps community gardens would be the answer.



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