Ovalekar Wadi: The Butterfly City
7 AM SHARP, said the text on my phone. I calculated I’d have to wake up only thirty minutes early. The alarm clock went off at thirty past six. I saw myself wake up and, as I finished the routine in a blink, stood near the gas station. I sat in the car that approached from the highway connecting the messed up old city to the new unplanned one. The scene flew by swiftly, and switched to me sitting under tall shrubs with low thickets; a late morning sun filtering green sunlight through scarce but broad leaves.
Everything was glowing softly, but it was very hot. I was looking at a boulder. Out of curiosity, I upturned the rock, to find a dead Bronzeback Tree snake lying there. What on earth was an arboreal snake doing under a boulder? I turned to look up to a passing lady, and my eyes met hers. She was slender and tall, and hung delicately from the lean shrubs. She was Mrs Bronzeback, wearing a necklace of turquoise jewels beneath her scales.
She investigated me thoughtfully with her large unblinking eyes, considering me with inquisition as her tongue flicked thrice in front of my face, almost touching my nose. I did not move. I simply said I did not kill him. My phone rang, but I did not answer it. I couldn’t move. I don’t know how, but I knew it was a she I was talking to, and that he had died, somehow crushed under the boulder. She then turned to look at him. And for the first time in my life I saw a snake cry.
My phone rang again; subconsciously I pressed it against my ear. Hello? I said. Where are you? It asked, it’s thirty past seven! I stirred in my seat, almost panicking, and threw myself away from what had been holding me down – it was my blanket! I regained my bearings about my bed, and gathered my belongings. They wouldn’t have reached far, I thought. I can reach them in time!
|Delias eucharis, Common Jezebel on Stachytarpheta jamaicensis|
|Euthalia aconthea, Common Baron, sipping water from the lawn|
|Lethe europa, the Bamboo Treebrown|
|Chilades contracta, Small Cupid|
|Euthalia aconthea and Limenitis procris, Commander, puddling on wet cement floor|
|Fighting over a drink!|
We left the place after a few photographs. The sun was getting really hot – my dream had turned slightly true. The week before had been rather pleasant for Mumbai – a welcoming change from the sultry October heat, but it was seemingly hot that day. The humidity had suddenly poured in from the sea – as the westerly winds brought it on land, blocking the north-eastern current from pleasing the city.
Back on the road, I beheld a sight I did not wish to see – a dead snake. I quickly connected to the dream – was it mere coincidence, or an insight into my morning’s trail? It was probably an insight. My mind was probably trying to tell me that this is what I’d be seeing on the walk!
Who am I kidding? It was just a dream, of course! But the dead snake was reality. It was a brutally killed Saw-scaled Viper – it could have been killed deliberately or by an accident – but an accident can be prevented. You can see the live one here.
It’s never a pretty end to a nature walk with a vision of a dead animal, or a deforested landscape, or a littered forest – but these have been really frequent endings to most of the treks. What is it about humans that take ignorant pleasure on doing this I don’t know, but there sure is no conscience in these folk.
As for Mrs Bronzeback, she never returned, and I’ll never know how she’s doing now.