When Silence bestows Gifts
After a month-long sojourn in picturesque jungles, the first thing that hit me hard as I landed in my beloved “bustling Bombay” (yes, I still think of it as Bombay), was NOISE.
This has been a sweet November, with immeasurable beauty, peace and stillness all around. Sure I was working amidst lots of people and there were moments of commotion in my head. But in the physical world around me, the loudest shrillest sound I probably heard was the pressure cooker whistle going off.
When I got back, I missed the occasional jungle safaris, tiger sightings, trees and fresh air. But I missed the silence the most. And as if, the Universe itself agreed with my feelings, I stumbled upon a beautiful children’s book called Quiet. Written by Tomie dePaola, this simple little book captures some quiet moments that two kids spend with their grandfather on a park bench.
As I read and re-read the story taking in the gorgeous illustrations, I couldn’t help but think back on my trip and revisit some quiet moments I had enjoyed. Each moment had given me an unforgettable gift.
One of the first magic moments had been quite surreal as I sat lost in a daydream by a clump of creepers. Without realizing it, I’d been staring into the dark leaves, when a slow movement distracted me. It was a snail. Snails have always fascinated me and, since there was nothing better to do, I decided to study this one. It crawled (or do they glide?) right onto the underside of a large leaf.
As I watched I saw a miniscule mouth open, stay open for a second and close. I believe that had actually seriously been a snail yawning! Just as I wondered whether that was my imagination, the snail yawned again. Then it curled itself into it’s shell and stayed put – probably gone off to sleep.
Am not sure how many people must’ve ever seen that happen! This definitely made the moment extra extraordinary.
Another morning, as I absent-mindedly walked to the work area, a glimmering shimmering patch caught my attention. Curious as to why a tree stump glittered, I went closer and saw another enchanting sight. A pristine white spider’s web with hundreds of dew drops clinging to it. It glittered because a light breeze had touched the web making the sunlight fall on the droplets making it an almost fairy forest.
Yet another morning, I had just stepped into the shower when I heard a sweet tune trilled just outside the bathroom window. Being in a tree house, I was already well high into a tall tree and as I glanced outside, a cute little thrush sat there staring at me! I smiled and whistled back gently. The bird responded! Maybe it wasn’t responding to me. Maybe it was just doing it’s own thing, singing it’s own song. But the thought that a bird “chatted” with me is more joyful so I will stick with it. We had a good long conversation – the most charming I’ve ever had!
Of course one could be strolling around anywhere and would anyway see lots of colourful birds and butterflies. This time of year was special though because migratory butterflies abound in Indian jungles and if one is quiet enough and observant, one can see numerous pupa hanging from twigs and plants, holding within them a butterfly-in-the-making.
One peaceful afternoon, I stood staring at one such pupa, admiring the work of the caterpillar who’d made it, when a stunning Jezebel butterfly fluttered past. Being crazy about butterflies and particularly fond of the Jezebel, I followed it. It flit to a creeper that grew in a patch of very soft light. It landed first on one leaf, then on another and yet another. It seemed to me this forest fairy was trying to decide where she wanted to settle.
And I was right! But it was more than just “wanting to settle”. As I stood perfectly still holding my breath out of fear of making even that much of a sound, I was rewarded with a spectacle I doubt too many people have had the privilege of witnessing first hand.
The painted Jezebel settled on a leaf and started laying eggs!!!
Neat rows of tiny white eggs, the size of a single grain of semolina. She must’ve laid about twenty or thirty before flitting away contentedly. This time though, I really wished I could share this moment with someone. Luckily my friend was around and had his camera with the desired lens fitted on with him. He’d been wondering why I’d been staring, squinting, smiling into space and when I showed him the egg-laying beauty, he excitedly captured the moment. (For once, I was grateful to the people who invented and made cameras – generally, the incessant clicking irritates me.)
Speaking of staring into space, even that proved to be rewarding. Once, as I waited for people to come back from their tea break, my gaze followed a graceful dragonfly. As it glided smoothly through the air, I saw a patch of “shivering” leaves. The air was completely still so the shivering patch intrigued me. I saw a naturalist nearby and asked him what that was. He dashed away impatiently and was back right away with a camera and tripod. As he recorded the sight and zoomed in to give me a closer look, he explained, “you’ve spotted a very stunning moment. Those are a bunch of butterflies going to bed for the day”. One may wonder why I speak of these moments as gifts because as someone asked me recently, “what did I gain from them?”. Tangibly, nothing. But the fact that I was in the right places at the right moments to be able to witness them is nothing short of a divine gift. And I only have Mother Nature to thank for this gift bestowed by Silence itself. One for which I will be eternally grateful.
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