Welcome Tenants

birdTwo weeks ago that I looked up from the road, I saw a largish structure on my roof. Intrigued, I went up to try to figure out what this large mud structure was. I first thought it was the hive of some kind of wasp. But looking at the parapet below the nest, I noticed some bird droppings. And it did not take too much mental work from there on to figure out it was a bird’s nest.

But ‘which bird?’ was the next question. Using conventional bird books, it is not easy to go from nest to bird, I realized. And since I had not sighted the bird, I could not go through that route. I knew it was probably a swift or swallow, so I googled based on that. And kind of figured out it was a Red-rumped Swallow, but could not be quite sure till a bird-watcher friend looked at the nest and confirmed it.

I haven’t met my tenants yet, but bird books assure me that they will be 16-17 cms in length, with generous amounts of rufous-orange on their wings and underparts, and forked tails. They will feed almost entirely on flying insects, catching them on the wing, at a height of up to 100 metres or so.

The amazing ‘encroachment’ on my terrace must have been built by both adults who would have collected mud as pellets in their bills, and worked for 5-15 days to build the flask-shaped nest with a  tunnel-like entrance. They would have lined it with soft grass and feathers.

I suspect the nest was built in the last mating season—between April and September, and 4-5 eggs may have been laid. They would have incubated the eggs for about 2 weeks, and the chicks would have been ready to fly out of their secure home in 26 days.

I missed all that.

But my bird-watcher friend has assured me that these birds tend to re-use their nests for a few years, so I hope to see them this spring!

–Meena

Happy 2020—To a Year of Peace, Prosperity and Plant Health!

farmerThe UN General Assembly has declared 2020 as the International year of Plant Health. The purpose of this is to ‘raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.’ (http://www.fao.org/plant-health-2020/en/)

Plants are the basis of all food chains—in that sense, all life on earth depends on plants for food. And as important—plants give us the oxygen we need to sustain life on earth. The role of plants and trees in regulating climate cannot be over-emphasized. So in very truth, plant health is fundamental to food security and environmental sustainability—the very basis of PEACE and PROSPERITY.

Yet, we don’t pay attention to keeping plants healthy. And that is why the UN has thought of declaring a special year for this.

As we step into the new year and are in the mood of making resolutions, here are a few related to plant health:

  • Ensure that the you minimize use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in your gardens and lawns. This is essential for long-term health of soil and plants.
  • Avoid transporting plants and bio-products across borders while travelling, as these can become pests or lead to major pest attacks in alien ecosystems.
  • Grow local plants, and support locally grown and local vegetables, fruits and other produce.
  • Buy organically-grown produce.

And while we are on the subject, a tribute to one who worked in the area of plant health all his life.

Dr. HY Mohan Ram was one of India’s pre-eminent botanists. He taught Botany in Delhi University for over 40 years and guided over 35 doctoral students. He wrote textbooks, popularized science, was an eminent planner and science administrator. He recognized the importance of reaching out to young people in inculcating scientific temper. To quote: ‘A demanding but satisfying assignment taken up by me was as Chairman of the Committee for the preparation of biology textbooks for Classes XI and XII, sponsored by the NCERT.’ He mentions the goal of such an endeavour as inculcating in the student ‘a spirit of enquiry, creativity, objectivity, the courage to question, aesthetic sensibility and environmental awareness’. India owes him a huge debt–he was guru to generations of India’s botanists in one way or the other.

Another dedicated botanist-environmentalist is Seema Bhatt. And her message is for aspiring women field scientists: ‘I have often worked in situations where I have been the only woman—a fact that has never bothered me. I have never been made to feel any different. I mention this to emphasize the fact that being a woman should not deter anyone from choosing a career like this.’

May we make and keep many resolutions to contribute to a better world!

–Meena

 Quotes from: ‘Walking the Wild Path’. CEE.

The Shortest Day

The days grow shorter, and darkness is longer than light. It is winter in the Northern hemisphere, and nearing the time when the year takes its final bow with the Winter Solstice. The date is 21/22 December, the day when the path of the sun in the sky is farthest south in the Northern Hemisphere and the Sun travels the shortest path through the sky marking the twenty four hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year. That is why it is known as the shortest day or longest night of the year. Though the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, it is also popularly used to refer to the day on which it takes place.

Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun. Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 degrees, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. The tilt of the Earth – not our distance from the sun – is what causes winter and summer. At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year.

While 21 December marks the winter solstice for the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere marks the same day in the year as its summer solstice, and sees its longest day and shortest night.

The word Solstice itself is rooted in sol, the Latin word for ‘sun’. The ancients added  stit (meaning ‘standing’) to sol and came up with solstitium. Middle English speakers shortened solstitium to solstice in the 13th century. Translated literally it indicated the ‘standing still of the sun’ which was so perceived because at the solstices, the Sun’s declination appears to “stand still”; that is, the seasonal movement of the Sun’s daily path (as seen from Earth) stops at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction

But centuries before the science was explained, cultures around the world lived and marked time by the movement of the sun and the moon. Time was governed by the patterns of light and darkness, warmth and cold. For the ancient people living in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, the period of the seeming death of light, and harsh conditions of the long winter months which made survival a challenge, the winter solstice was a significant event signalling the start of the change of seasons; and symbolising the transition from the cold and dark to the renewal of light. This regeneration of the source of light and life was marked by rites and celebrations to welcome back the light, and celebrate the rebirth of life.

“So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.”  (Susan Cooper The Shortest Day)

Today this day is marked on calenders, largely without rituals and celebrations, as an astronomical event. But as we roll towards the end of yet anotsolstice.jpgher revolution of the earth around the sun, it may be a good time to use the longest night of the year to reflect on the year that was, and give thanks for the warmth and light that we have begun to take for granted. In the dark and chilling times that we live in (literally and metaphorically) it may be wise to remember the ancient reverence, and celebration, of the renewal of light, hope and faith.

“As never before, our world needs warmth in its cold, metallic heart, warmth to go on and face what has been made of human life, warmth to remain humane and kind.” Henry Beston

–Mamata

Words of Warning

As an environmental educator, one that did not academically have a ‘science’ background, my own ‘learn as you teach’ education included the building up of a glossary of environment-related terms. As environmental educators, our learning needed to be well-grounded; we had to correctly, but creatively communicate the concepts related to the words. In the early 1990s one of these terms was the Hole in the Ozone Layer. We developed an information and activity package to share the causes and consequences of this aberration to Nature’s way of protecting life on earth.

Over the decades that followed, the same exercise was carried out to communicate the issues of global warming, carbon footprint, unsustainability, and other words and concepts that held within them the frightening story of how humankind, in its race for technological and lifestyle progress was carelessly and callously destroying the very foundations of a sustainable life for all living things on earth.

While we struggled as educators to reach out, speci

climate change.jpeg
https://www.cathywilcox.com.au/

ally to the younger generation with the plea to tread lightly on the earth, the world galloped ahead—consuming more, wasting more, and damaging more, in the race to becoming faster, bigger, and stronger. Nature, overwhelmed, responded with increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters. And scientists introduced, what soon became the ubiquitous  term Climate Change.  This became the blanket word describing the frightening state of the world we live in; the core of international conferences and agreements, and the harbinger of the worse that was still to come. Millions of words were written and spoken on the subject, paying lip service to the concerns about climate change, while actions demonstrated the very opposite.

One way to mark this year that has seen probably the direst impacts of climate change, is the selection of Climate Emergency as the Oxford Word of the Year.  This has been defined as ”a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”

The annual Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the past 12 months. Every year, this word is selected from a list as the one that best reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year, and is perceived to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. Surprisingly this year the shortlist was dominated by words related to the environment including ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘eco-anxiety’, ‘extinction’ and ‘flight shame’. But the term Climate Emergency stood out like a flashing danger signal.

Interestingly, last year, climate did not feature in the top words typically used in the context of ‘emergency’ which is generally associated with human health, hospital, and family emergencies. The attachment of the word Emergency with Climate reflects, for the first time, the fact that the health of the environment is being viewed with the same sense of urgency as the health of humans. As the editor-in-chief of The Guardian said: ‘We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase “climate change”, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.’

Climate Emergency–Words that warn of impending cataclysm, even as nations and leaders talk and talk at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference COP 25. Hopefully there will be some words, (and more actions) of wisdom as a fragile world teeters into a new decade.

–Mamata

 

Close Encounters with Al-Seshan: Tribute to the Man Who made Elections Free and Fair

TN-seshan-_16e58b8495a_largeWe who worked at the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) were lucky. The list of luminaries with whom we had the opportunity to interact was beyond belief.

Mr. TN Seshan was one of them. During his stint as Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, he was on our Governing Board, as CEE was a Centre of Excellence under the Ministry. Apart from that, since CEE was part of Nehru Foundation for Development founded by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai (whom Mr. Seshan counted as a guru), he took interest in the institution beyond his term also.

When he was on the Board, he made it a point to visit CEE whenever he was in Ahmedabad. And review the programs. He could pick holes in any presentation in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, and ask the most unanswerable questions. And his questions were certainly not put gently! While it was traumatic, when we dried our tears and reflected back on the experience, what he pointed out were indeed basic shortcomings in the program design or implementation.

All of us at CEE used to get all primed in the weeks preceding The Visit. We tried to ensure that everything was in order, but sure enough his perfectionist eye would catch just that smallest detail that we had overlooked. And someone had better have had a convincing answer for that! As Mamata remembers: “My personal Encounter with Mr Seshan was when I had to present some parts of a compilation of what was, in future, to become a publication titled ‘Essential Learnings in Environmental Education’. As someone who was still very new and untutored in the subject, this was an absolute trial by fire. Mr Seshan ruthlessly ripped apart every sentence, and reduced me to tears in front of the entire gathering of CEE! In the many years that followed, the Day that Mr Seshan Made Mamata Cry, became one of the memorable milestones in the institutional, and my personal history! As I grew older, and perhaps a little bit wiser, and Mr Seshan became a national icon, every time he was in the news, I remembered with greatest respect how he ingrained in me the importance of working towards ‘excellence’ in whatever one did”.

During his tenure as Secretary Environment, he gave CEE the task of doing a review of the state of Environment Education in the country. And a ridiculous deadline. In those unimaginable days before internet and Google and emails, we set about physically gathering reports, syllabi, textbooks from each state and UT. Almost 30 people worked day and night for about 20 days trying to make sense of the mounds of material. And then the day of the first presentation was upon us! Our director, Kartikeya Sarabhai and a small team of us were to take the 8 a.m. flight to Delhi. We were in the office till 4.30 a.m. putting the report together. While we went home for a quick shower, a team continued work printing and photocopying the report. We and the reports just made it onto the flight!

The meeting was set for 11 or 11.30 in the morning. It was a large Board room where about a dozen officials and our team were gathered. We had about 3-4 copies of the report. We put one at the head of the table where Mr. Seshan would sit. And waited, with butterflies in our tummies. He walked in almost on time; gave us barely a look of acknowledgement, picked up the report and rifled through it. For exactly about 7 minutes. And then tore us and the report to shreds! He started with the shortcomings in the framework that we had created for the analysis, the data gaps, the facets we had not even tried to look at, etc. etc. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. He spoke in a flow for the latter 8 minutes, tossed the report back on the table, and told his office to fix another date for the next presentation the following week.

It was a learning like no other! We had worked on the report for days, but he was able to get a better perspective in 7 minutes!

The story had a fairly happy ending in that we completely re-thought our approach, and worked on the report over the next month, with interim presentations. The report became a baseline for our work on Environmental Education, and definitely impacted subsequent policy directions.

I had the chance to interact with Mr. Seshan on many occasions, including teaching him how to use the new Apple Computers, a big novelty at that time! He would often call us home for meetings early in the mornings, and his gracious wife would give us wonderful coffee. After the official work, over the coffee, he was not averse to chatting about this and that, including Mamata Kulkarni and Shilpa Shetty!

It is indeed a privilege to have seen Mr. Seshan in action, and worked with him in a small way. When media referred to him as Al-Seshan, he would joke that Bulldog might be more appropriate than Alsatian! Well, from my memory of him, his bark and his bite were both scary. But they did set India’s democracy on a solid footing!

–Meena

 

Tribute to India’s Birdman: Dr. Salim Ali

330px-Salim_ali_mnsSalim Ali’s birthday falls on 12 Nov. He was born in 1896 and passed away in 1987. He may be credited with single-handedly bringing ornithology to India. And this interest in ornithology, as it spread, led to interest in wildlife and biodiversity; in environmental issues; in conservation; and in sustainable development.

He inspired generations in India and created a culture of systematic and scientific study of wildlife. If his ‘Book of Indian Birds’ is the easy guide which every bird watcher starts with, the landmark ten volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan which he wrote with Dillon Ripley is the authoritative guide. Dr. Salim Ali was respected across the world, and decorated with the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.

On this his birth anniversary, here are excerpts from an interview of Dr. Salim Ali (when he was 85+ years of age!), with Dr. HSA Yahya of Aligarh Muslim University, and taken from http://wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/ envis/doc97html/biosalim24.html. My only contribution is to have picked out two sections that I found of particular interest.

MONEY MATTERS NOT A JOT

‘Then I told Prater ” look we have so many places in India and we know nothing about birds.”  Hyderabad for instance, was a complete blank on the ornithological map. So I said ” if you write to the British Residents who are really interested in these kinds of things we can probably get some financial support. I do not want any pay. I only want my expenses paid and I will be quite happy to go, study and collect birds.”So the Society got in touch with the Hyderabad Government which had largely British heads of Departments. They were very glad. But it is really quite laughable, the amount we asked for and which we got and in which I was able to complete the survey. I think for the whole of the Hyderabad State survey for six months we got about 6000 Rupees (NOTE: THIS WAS WAY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE!).  Yes, six thousand which included the food of the skinner, our own food, cost of travelling and everything (laughter)! We were able to do it with a lot of trouble, many of our camp shifts had to be done by bullock carts because there were no roads in the places where we were camping. After Hyderabad I did Kerala which was then two states, Cochin and Travancore. Then one after the other Central India, Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal. So all these were done under the same system: asking for small amounts and doing it. I could do it because I had the time, I mean, I was just doing it and nothing else and I did not have any ambition to try again for some bigger job somewhere and so on. Not because bigger jobs were not there and perhaps I would have not got them, but they were not in the line in which I was interested.’

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF A LIKE-MINDED PARTNER IN FOLLOWING A PASSION

‘I tried all kinds of jobs for a long time. Finally, I said that, well, I have all these trainings and I have my chief interest in birds so why should I not do this on my own. My wife had a little money and I had a little investment and so on. Then we worked out and found that we had just enough if we left Bombay, which was very expensive and went to live in some quieter place which would give more facilities for bird study, we will be far happier. My great fortune was that my wife who had had all her education in England and been used to quite a different sort of life to what she would have in the kind of work I wished to do. She insisted that I should take up only the work that I was interested to do. She said ” now we have enough to live quietly, we would go to some small place, I will be quite happy.” She was keen on poetry and Urdu and various kinds of reading and so on. Then she got very interested in birds too, and in outdoor life and in things she had never had any experience in England of.’

From: TRANSCRIPT OF AN INTERVIEW WITH SALIM ALI by Dr H S A Yahya Reader, Centre for wildlife & ornithology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

–Meena

PS: ‘The Fall of a Sparrow’ his autobiography,  is a must-read.

0 to 51 in 10: The Panna Tiger Story

The verdant forests of Panna, Madhya Pradesh. We were able to visit two weeks ago. And were lucky enough to see a tigress and her cub. What a majestic sight! The tigress was pretty big and healthy, the cub frisky and curious. The mother was contemptuous of the humans in their vehicles going into contortions to catch a look, to take a pic, to exclaim to each other. She moved when she felt like, sat down and relaxed when she felt like. Not looking in the direction of the vehicles even once, though she knew we were there. She was the queen of her territory and saw no reason to acknowledge us.

It was a wonderful feeling. To see the healthy tigress and her confidence in her security. The active cub, about 5 months old. The number and variety of herbivores. And the thick forests and healthy, lush greenery.

falls

It would be good to have seen this in any of our protected areas. But especially gratifying when we go into the story of Panna. Panna was declared a National Park in 1981, and subsequently a Tiger Reserve in 1994. The tiger population in Panna was down to zero in Feb 2009, thanks to poaching. It was a sad time indeed for India’s conservation efforts.

Things started to change with the posting of Mr. Sreenivasa Murthy, who took over as Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Panna Tiger Reserve. They speak of the tough measures he took in securing the Park, coming down hard on all incursions, trespass, illegal activities and poachers. Even as he protected the area and worked on the morale of the Forest Staff, he built on the already initiated plan for re-introduction of tigers into the Park. Starting with one tigress in 2009, six of the species were introduced from different parts of the country. And it was not an easy task. As the Panna website tells it, one of the re-introduced males strayed out of the protected area into unsafe terrain, and 70 Park staff led by the Field Director followed it on elephants for 50 days, securing it from gunshots, poisoning and electrocution, till at last they were able to tranquilize it and bring it back into the safe area. All the hard work paid off and the re-introduction worked, with the first litter of cubs born in Panna in 2010. The results are obvious today, with the Park now home to 51 tigers. Several cubs have been born this year too.

Nothing is achieved by one man alone. But equally, individuals make all the difference. And in the case of Panna, this individual was Mr. Murthy. He has been posted out of the Park, but even today, drivers and guides speak his name in hushed tones, in tones of awe. And when respect and admiration penetrate to all levels, it is surely the greatest homage to the real difference someone made.

 

bear

So a huge THANK YOU Mr. Murthy and all our Forest Dept. staff who work in extremely difficult situations to ensure that our biodiversity and natural heritage are safe. The thick forests of Panna, the variety of animals and birds we saw, of whom of course the tigress and cub were at the peak, the flourishing trees and plants—all of these stand testimony to your efforts.

–Meena

(There are many trees like the pic, with nail marks made by bears climbing them to get at honeycombs.)

 

PS: We did not get any pics of the tigers—we were too busy looking at them. And anyway, they were far away and our phone-cams were not up to the task.

But a few other pics from the Park and Pandava Falls nearby. Photo credits: Prof Samir Barua.

Technology And the Sweet Smell of Success

c51a218268e55a64559428ab06f2eff5Last week, at a Rotary event, I heard Kavita Misra speak. She  is a woman-farmer-entrepreneur from the backward district of Raichur, Karnataka. A diploma and PG in Computer Applications, she was married into a traditional family. Though offered a lucrative job in an IT major 20 years ago, she did not take up the offer as her family was not happy to have her take a job. Her husband threw her the challenge to stay in the village and do something. He gave her an acre of land—which was rocky, barren and water-less. Because that was all that was available there. From there to becoming the millionaire famer-entrepreneur she is today was a long and hard journey.

The most important lesson to me was the role her technical education and training have played in her success. Her actively seeking new and better methods of farming, and quick adoption of innovations has been at the heart of her achievements.  And it brought to me that if we want a paradigm shift in the way farmers do agriculture, they need to be more comfortable with technology, in sync with scientific developments and more technically savvy.

To give an example, Kavita is one of the most successful sandalwood growers in the country, and has sandalwood nurseries which sell sandalwood saplings all over India. Sandalwood is one of the very high value trees, and farmers who cultivate it can earn in crores. The tree fetches about Rs. 1 crore per tonne. A 15-year old tree yields about 15 kg of heartwood (though waiting 20-25 years gives more yields), and one acre can support about 300 trees.

One of the biggest challenges in sandalwood cultivation is theft. Given the high value of the wood, thieves and smugglers are constantly looking for ways to get into plantations and make away with trees. Farmers usually deploy guards and guard dogs, apart from physical and electrical fences.

Recently, Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), has developed a microchip which can be inserted into the growing sandalwood trees, and linked to a smart phone. And you can monitor your tree from anywhere in the world! Alerts go to the farmer as well as the nearest police station if any movement of the wood is detected.

This has been developed, field tested and improved over two years by IWST and Hitachi India Pvt. Ltd. There were many problems to overcome..from the battery size which was too big for the tree trunks to bear, to need for increasing battery life, to the sensitivity of the chip to wear and tear and exposure to the elements.

Even though it is expensive, progressive farmers like Kavita have been able to see the potential and have quickly come forward to adopt the technology and popularize it among others. It is this mind-set and appreciation of the benefits of technology which will be game-changers in agriculture.

–Meena

Environmental Scolder-in-Chief

E_SDG goals_icons-individual-rgb-13“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!’ said Greta Thunberg to world leaders at the UN.

And that is a scolding they will not forget in a long time!

Greta, the girl, who in her teens is shaking up the world! Deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and even more concerned that world leaders were not taking it seriously, a few years ago, Greta took off from school to protest outside Sweden’s Parliament, calling for action on climate. She tried to get some of her school mates to join her, but no one was interested. So she took time off from school every Friday, and sat alone outside Parliament for three weeks, holding signs which said ‘School Strike for the Climate’, and handing out pamphlets. Her strikes found their way to social media and started attracting worldwide attention.

As time went on, inspired by her, more school children joined in, and organized protests in their own communities. This developed into the School Climate Strike movement, or ‘Fridays for the Future’. And there have been strikes involving tens of thousands of school children in major cities of the world.

So strong were these voices of the youth that Greta was invited to address the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2018. Her advocacy is forcing governments to acknowledge that they need to do more for the future generations by taking climate action.

Greta is not just about advocacy and telling other people what to do. She challenged her family to adopt more a more environment friendly life style and reduce their carbon footprint. And she succeeded! Her family is vegan now, and her mother has even given up her career as an international opera singer—which involved a lot of air travel– in order to reduce her carbon footprint!

Greta herself made the headlines once again when in August 2019, she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, UK to New York, US in a 60ft racing yacht equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines to participate in some key meetings. The 15-day voyage demonstrated that it was possible to reduce emissions and do a carbon neutral transatlantic crossing serving. Greta attended the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City and COP 25 (Conference of Parties) Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile.

Greta has told the world what young people expect. Will world leaders and adults like us be able to step and do what it takes?

–Meena

Dragonflies

The beginning of autumn

IMG_20190924_094337.jpg
Photo: Revati Pandya

decided by

the red dragonfly

Shirao

The September morning sky is dotted these days with dragonflies. It is an uplifting sight—to see them gliding gracefully, flitting, swirling and swooping like dancers against the canvas of blue sky and white clouds. I remember several Japanese Haiku that celebrate the dragonfly.

Dragonflies play an important part in Japanese life and culture. They are associated with autumn as well as spring, and are seen as harbingers of life and prosperity, birth, and renewal, happiness and strength.  Japanese art, literature, textiles, and design, as well as literature (especially haiku poetry) reflect this close association and respect. The red dragonfly is considered to be sacred. One of the popular traditional pastimes of Japanese children has been catching dragonflies.

The dragonfly is one of the oldest of the insect species, which has inhabited our planet for almost 300 million years. It is natural that these insects have become an integral part of folklore in many cultures which have developed their own beliefs associated with the form and life cycle of insect.

In China, people associate the dragonfly with prosperity, harmony and as a good luck charm. Amongst Native Americans, it is a sign of happiness, speed and purity.

In many parts of the world the dragonfly also symbolises adaptation, transformation and renewal. In Native American culture it was seen as a sign of resurrection after a hard struggle. This is probably associated with the metamorphosis that the insect undergoes in its life-cycle, from a drab larval stage in which it spends most of its life before it emerges as a graceful and colourful adult. Once it emerges, it has a very short time to live its adult life, but it seems as if it flies freely with no regrets. The Dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life. Thus it symbolises the virtue of living in the moment and living life to the fullest, while at the same time looking deeper.

Across cultures, the dragonfly has been associated with magical qualities and mysticism. This may be associated with the fact that they exhibit the phenomenon of iridescence, which means that the body of the dragonfly can reflect and refract white light to create beautiful colours that change depending on the angle of light or the angle from which you look at them. Thus they also symbolize illusion–making others see you the way you want them to see!

Dragonflies are respected by fishing communities. In some places it is believed that plenty of dragonflies over a particular spot meant there were plenty of fish around. If a dragonfly hovered near the fisherman, he took it as a good luck sign.

I had not realised what a deep and rich association the dragonfly has in so many cultures. However I have not found much about this association in Indian culture. We do tend to somewhat overlook, let alone write poems about, these flying insects as they neither catch our eye as butterflies do, nor intrude into our daily life as flies and mosquitoes do.

But I did come across something that makes immediate sense for me. Seeing swarms of dragonflies means that rain is on the way; and as our  monsoon still lingers this year, maybe they will bring more rain! And, more practically, that dragonflies are very useful in helping combat the mosquito and other pests that constitute their prey. I definitely consider having them around my house as a symbol of health and good luck!

See this dragonfly….IMG_20190924_084456_Bokeh__01.jpg

His face is

practically

nothing else but eyes.

Chisoku

–Mamata