One of my themes of this journey has been transformation. This was represented by the butterfly mask I had attached to my backpack. I rainbow-coloured party mask I had picked up in Perth. Having this theme attuned me to looking out for butterflies, and I was happy to see quite a few along the way.
The first, incredibly, was on the tube from Vauxhall towards King’s Cross. Goodness knows how the poor butterfly got in there, but there it was, sitting on the floor in the carriage, right in front of me.
The second significant butterfly sighting was on one of the Iranian buses from Yazd to Zahedan. Despite the rough and ready nature of the crew, the bus was decorated with at least one pretty butterfly.
When at Navdanya, we took a short trip to the Wildlife Institute of India. Quite an interesting place, with a great library, though with a somewhat academic, quiet air about it. A short talk was given to us by one of the senior people there on pollinators, which I enjoyed. It was mainly about bees, but included quite a bit on butterflies and bugs which are also some of the (very) few species of animal which perform perhaps one of the most important and irreplaceable ecosystem services – pollination of plants that provide the food we all eat. Given the short lifespan of bees, and butterflies (1 month), the dramatic impact on their populations of chemicals or changes in vegetation or climate, it is actually amazing they are still hanging on to do this important job for us. We are in big trouble now that their numbers are seriously starting to decline, as has been widely reported over the past couple of years in North America and Europe. These reports have been often accompanied by Einstein’s observation:
While in India, contemplating the many Hindu gods, I started to contemplate creating my own god to worship. In one morning yoga session I invoked the god of chocolate, and later considered what would be the appropriate characteristics of a butterfly god. Certainly their importance to agriculture suggests they are worthy of God status and their ephemeral nature makes it easy to segue into teachings about the impermanence of life and physical reality.
I hope that my butterfly mask now sits atop a suitably multi-coloured pedastal, surrounded by worshippers and offerings, somewhere in eastern India. At some point during one day’s bus and train journeys in Kolkata it disappeared from my backpack, presumably taken by an admirer. Sad for me, but in-line with the nature of butterflies. This is one long migration that this butterfly did not complete.