Missing Leaves

All of us, urbanites, enjoy the fluttering of butterflies in our immediate environs. It brings back childhood memories of chasing a butterfly while on a picnic with family or when playing with friends in the neighbourhood park. It seems to bring out the child in us and also somewhere deep down establish that ever diminishing connection with Nature.

As we grow up, we learn a lot more of butterflies and their lifestyles during the biology class. But, all this learning is lost somewhere in the process of growing up and becoming “successful”. Yet, many of us indulge in a bit of gardening to keep in touch with Nature. Some of us even spend considerable time watering and tending to plants in our gardens – be it a sprawling one (a luxury in today’s cities), a kitchen garden, a terrace garden or for that matter even a few potted plants in the balcony of our apartments (seems to be the norm of the day!).

Most of us are working hard to make ends meet and are “free” only during the weekends. This is the time to enjoy a late morning cuppa and to immerse oneself in the many Sunday newspapers. Catching a recent movie (blockbuster or otherwise), eating out and some weekend shopping are all in order.

During the week it is the duty of the maid to keep the garden alive. Over the weekend, if and when we find a little time from all other activities we tend to devote to the garden. During this time, if we see that a leaf or two is damaged, we even go to the extent of using pesticides, insecticides and such chemical concoctions to keep the plants in our little gardens “healthy”. This is not without cursing the maid under our breath for negligence. We indulge in all this, without even trying to find out the reason behind the damaged foliage. Also, we have not been around enough to chance upon the reason for the few damaged leaves.

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If only we observed a bit more carefully and applied what we learnt during the biology class, we would realise that the leaves have often been devoured by caterpillars. These caterpillars are the result of the eggs laid by the lady butterfly when you were away at work. These would eventually go on to become pretty butterflies. If this realisation sets in, we will desist from using the chemical potpourri that kills the larvae, not giving it a chance to become a pupa and then eventually a butterfly.

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You may ask me – “Why should I spare the caterpillars that eat up my plants”? Just think, go back in time – wouldn’t this small act help relive our childhood memories? This said, it does not harm the plant if a few leaves are gobbled up by hungry caterpillars. They have after all lived together for millions of years. However, if you are worried that the leaf cover may go down, then move things around and add one more plant to your garden! Believe me you will not regret it because they more than compensate. Wouldn’t this also help bring to life our environment and re-establish that connection with our roots – Nature!

It is worth, even if it means that this revelry is possible and restricted only to the weekends when we are out of our air-conditioned offices.  You can also derive immense satisfaction when you chance upon a butterfly resting on the plant in your garden.  Or for that matter, when you admire the freedom of spirit symbolised by the delicate beauty of the butterfly fly past while waiting at a wretched traffic signal. May be, while you are enjoying your cuppa on you balcony amidst your plants, you may be treated to the incredible transformation of a caterpillar changing into a pupa or an adult emerging from a pupa that remained hidden from your sight during all the time you spent with the plants. All this is reason enough to give life a second chance to co-exist with us in the chaotic urban landscape.

Just give it a thought. You will suddenly realise that you have a lot in life to catch up on in the rat race that all urbanites seem to be running!

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