The Tale of the Shimmering Pearls

Bzzz, bz, bzz, bzzzz…no, it was not the whirring of wings even though there were plenty of dragonflies and damselflies around. These were grave murmurs which were rising by the minute and had risen to fizzy levels by the time the beetles, bugs, crickets, bees, and flies joined in. So much so that the presiding officer of the Insects’ Grievances Cell, the Praying Mantis, had to bang his rosewood gavel several times on the head of a Rhinoceros Beetle to call the house to order. Once there was a semblance of quiet, Mantis began the proceedings of the evening.

“May I call to attention the one-point agenda of today’s special general meeting? A week ago, in a written representation before the cell, the Whirring Odonate Wings (WOW) had levelled some serious accusations against the Butterflies United Gang (BUG). This meeting is called to look at all evidences that WOW wishes to place before the jury to further their grievance and, as per the jury’s call, to decide on the further course of action, if any is requisite”, Mantis was at his official best, which was quite unlike him. “May we have the charges read out, please”, boomed the voice of the grasshopper who along with the ant, termite, bumblebee and moth formed the five-member jury. On cue, Mantis continued, “It is the contention of WOW that the BUG has discovered Shimmering Pearls within the designated limits of our forest, the presence of which it has failed to divulge to fellow insects”.

There was a collective gasp in the audience. Shimmering Pearls! The name itself evoked a divine mirage of the sparkling drops of rain accumulated overnight on leaves of the rose plant and which, after having absorbed the leaf exudates, metamorphosed into chilled, delightful, fragrant, delicious, Shimmering Pearls!

“The jury conferred among themselves before grasshopper spoke in his usual false baritone, “That is indeed a serious allegation. Do we have a presentation of proof from the WOW?” On a signal from Mantis, Zing, the ground skimmer dragonfly who was also the Wing Commander of the WOW, rose to present his case. “Honourable members of the jury and fellow insects, around a fortnight back Chomp and Chew, two scouting leaders of our gang, spied BUG members going into the Deep Northern Woods in huge numbers and far more frequently than the usual daily visit. Suspicious, they followed the butterflies at a safe distance till they finally came upon a rose thicket growing at a secluded site where the BUG members were found to be frolicking; and on the leaves of the plants was an abundance of Shimmering Pearls. Chomp and Chew both clandestinely took a sip for confirmation – it was indeed the Pearls!” Zing paused, looking accusingly at the row of BUG members in attendance. “Hmmm”, the jury members seemed to be mulling it over. The moth suddenly piped up, “Under the clause of conflict of interest, being related to the butterflies, I rescind from jury duty for this case”. “Yes, yes, we shall see about that later”, grasshopper brushed the moth aside, “I now call upon the BUG to present its defence”.

Flutter, the spokesman for the BUG, rose and cleared his throat, “Firstly, let me state unequivocally that we have indeed discovered Shimmering Pearls.” There was chaos in the audience and Rhinoceros Beetle had quite a headache from the gavel banging down on him till the house was back in order. Flutter continued, “Now that that part is clarified, let me present our case. The bushes which my hyperactive friends here spied upon are Nootka Rose thickets. It is very rare to find this species growing in our forest; in fact the absence of the Nootka Rose is the primary reason why our cousin, the Tortrix Moth, is highly endangered – since their caterpillars feed only on the leaves of this particular rose! Our Wandering Advance Survey Party (WASP) discovered the thickets quite fortuitously, and it was a bonus that the rose was also in bloom. It was therefore our primary responsibility to help pollinate the flowers and thus ensure prompt propagation. Further, we gathered together and led as many female Tortrix Moths to the patch as we could so that they could lay eggs on the right plant species at the right time.”

“It was sheer providence that it has also been raining intermittently these two weeks, and in the process Shimmering Pearls have been created. But we have been so engrossed in our call of duty that none of us, bar a few of our enthusiastic youngsters here, have feasted upon the pearls. We know very well, as rule-abiding members of the Federation Insecta de Forest Association (FIFA), that under section 7, clause 1, Shimmering Pearls are shared property of the community irrespective of order, family, genus and species of the insect. We had at no point in time considered concealment of the pearls and would, upon completion of our single-minded aim to help a fellow species survive, have revealed the existence of the pearls to the community. This is all that I have to state.”

The audience sat in stunned silence. The jury had their heads together in conference. There was considerable humming in the ranks of WOW. Suddenly Zing stirred up and spoke, “Before the jury comes to a conclusion, I wish to say something.” Upon a collective nod from the jury Zing continued, “After due clarification from the BUG, it does seem to us that they acted in good faith and for a noble cause. Nothing is of greater value than the life of our fellow creatures. It lies at the very core of our constitution. We therefore are of the view that our complaint was based on erroneous interpretation of the circumstances, and hence plead to withdraw the same.”

The jury got up and unanimously nodded in agreement. The grasshopper spoke, once again in that exasperating baritone, “We are pleased that WOW recognises the efforts of BUG and acknowledges the importance of serving the cause of the brethren. We have no hesitation to declare that the case stands dismissed!”

Amidst smiles, cheers and much wing slapping all around a tiny shrill voice piped up disappointedly, “Momma, does that mean I will not be able to taste the Shimmering Pearls?” The jury roared with laughter. “Well, tiny fellow, you will – once the BUG give their all clear”, chimed in Zing looking at Flutter with a questioning grin. Flutter smiled back…

– Narendra Nayak © 2018

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