Butterflies, those marvelous delicate insects splashed in tropical colors inhabit a parallel universe as quirky as an Alice in Wonderland. Indian butterflies must be the most creatively named critters of all Lepidopterans (lepis-scale, pteron-wing i.e. scaly-winged). Out here we have exotic Emperors, oriental Nawabs, royal Rajahs with their mischievous Princes, lithe Courtesans, gaudily painted Jezebels and a host of staid Barons, Dukes, Archdukes, Seargents, Admirals, Earls, Counts and Knights- colorful characters that would put Queen Elizabeth's court to shame.
Most butterflies are fearless creatures, finding joy in intoxicating nectar and numerous affairs in their rather short but eventful lives. At first glance, Mormons seem to be the exception, with long trailing coats and sombre expressions. However, like most godmen, they will indulge in frequent salacious behavior, behind flower curtains of course. The edible Common Mormon butterfly of India mimics another unpalatable butterfly called the Common Rose. This innately ruthless fashion-designer quality of blatantly plagiarising unsavory rose-filigrees ensures that the Mormon can carelessly stroll past hungry birds without a care in the world.
The royal court also has a Jester with large round eyes, an upturned nose and the typical striped clown uniform. Additionally, the modern butterfly kingdom is home to Pansies (slang Apologies) as brilliantly colored as a pride parade. Shady corners of the province are taken over by drunk Sailers, swaying and hurtling past passerbys in search of high spirits. Wanderers and Vagrants- the hippies of the butterfly world, flit in and out of the realm like cotton fluff on wind. Devious Demons, pale ghostly Psychs and brown wizened Wizards that turn dung into food add a touch of magic to the mundane.
The ‘wild’ side is represented by stealthy Leopards, Tigers splattered in fiery oranges, sky blues and dark coal stripes, Zebras, salacious Tits, urbane Jays and pesky Ravens. The Oriental Map butterfly is an expert geographer, and carries the entire map of the empire on its fragile wings. He is helped in his expeditions by Angles and Flats, the best mathematicians of the century. The Mime butterfly caters to the masses, his highly entertaining antics leaving onlookers in splits.
This colorful diversity of bizarre members of the butterfly society will definitely leave you wanting more...
The butterflies of northeastern India were my faithful companions, fluttering about our campsites, settling on bare shoulders in the middle of icy cold baths, lighting up the browned forest floor and splashing our dirt-covered sweaty bags with shades of fiery orange.
P.S: I am merely an amateur when it comes to butterfly identification. Please do correct this article in case of incorrect captioning.
A river- its waters a magical blue- the blue of the eyes of an elf queen; boulders: grey, peach, white; gold sands studded with pebbles the color of pink roses, marble whites, Venus-blues, old parchment yellows and sunset skies; sands that turn to glistening pearls under the waning moon; the Milky Way snaking its riverine course across the ink jet sky; steep greyed cliffs that frown down with dried grassy eyebrows; a deciduous forest lining the river- dark emerald greens covering a silvery nakedness; pitcher plants stashed with delicate butterflies in chambers filled with the Devil's nectar; fresh pugmarks of a leopard as it emerged from its forested abode for a drink in the coldest hour of the night, shy hoof-prints of the barking deer; slinking footprints of the civet as it nosed around in the food-pit for last night's remains; fish nibbling at your toes- nibbling off the day's tiredness; human palm-like mongoose prints disappearing into the waters; bottom dwelling fish with bright blue bellies and orange fins slinking into rocky crevices; the silence of the night interjected by gurgling riffles; dawn's silence broken by the muntjac's bark; veins of fire lighting up waters as transparent as a damselfly's wings; a rock to sit on, a blue pool to stare at, pen and paper in hand, some friends to write to...
The above describes our campsite at Kundelgoff by the banks of the Mahadeo river within the Balpakram National Park, Meghalaya. It is part of a letter written to my friend Partho on 30th Jan '15 from unarguably one of the most breathtaking places on the planet.
Which is the most beautiful place you ever visited? Share your experiences in the comments below.