This one isn’t about tea or its receptacle. Nor remotely about W. Shakespeare. (Neither is it an attempt to plagiarise any of his revered dialogues.) It is titled thus since I fear there being a fair chance that at the end of my exposition you may feel that it is much ado about nothing; but I rather liked the mild alliteration in my selection (or did you prefer making a mountain out of a molehill?)
So a guess – educated or brash – would bring you to the insipid foregone conclusion that it is about nature and one of its myriad ways (as if the pictures did not give the plot away!). Except, this time around the shoot is indoors (no, no, budget constraints don’t make a difference to any of my productions – they are anyways used to sustain themselves on miserly considerations). And before my soliloquy entices you to scroll away with a yawn, I ought to promptly get to the matter at hand.
It was towards the end of winter that I first noticed aphids beginning to eye my tulsi plant. These greedy suckers (I said suckers!) don’t stop at simply feasting on the plant sap – resultant of their avarice they also excrete a sweet sticky honeydew which attracts the ants. So here I was with a reluctant 1+1 offer which I had no intention of redeeming. But I had an ace up my sleeve (rather, four of them). My sparrows! Surely they would help me out by ticking off the aphids? There was only one way to find out – a mutual introduction. But in that lay a problem. I did not have the vital signboards in Chirpese to direct them to the battlefield; neither did I have access to the Chirp Maps app to send them the location!
So I had to resort to the age old technique of subterfuge – I moved the bird feeder to just above the tulsi plant. And that morning (cruel me), I forgot (oops) to put the sparrows’ usual foxtail millet seeds in the feeder. The pampered foursome pompously descended upon the feeder at 6:15 am sharp, and imagine the rage when they found the breakfast spread missing! Luckily, before they could go on a rampage and inflict life-threatening injuries on the feeder (it’s happened once before), the youngest of the lot spied upon the aphids jumping about in anticipation of a sweet breakfast of their own. And voila – they themselves became breakfast!
Over the next few days it rather became a routine for the sparrows to take a small detour for an aphids hors d’oeuvre before heading to the main buffet above. And by the weekend the aphid populace had been decimated to local extinction. But consequently the poor ants no longer had honeydew to pack and take away for their meals; so as a cordial gesture I started placing a few grains of sugar on a flat piece of stone that I stuck into the soil in a far corner of the tulsi pot. And then something unexpected, but delightful, happened.
Here you have to understand the sparrows’ procedure of eating foxtail millet seeds, which is outlined hereinbelow: pick up grain in beak, crack open, spit shell (away from feeder), crunch seed, munch munch, nom nom, gobble gobble; optional addition: sip sip, gurgle gurgle, ahh (water!) Now, since I continued to keep the feeder in the present location (fearing a reprisal of the aphids), some of the seed hull started falling and accumulating in the tulsi pot below. Some of the husk started decaying and teeny weeny mushrooms started putting in guest appearances every now and then. The oldest residents of my tulsi pot, my two pet earthworms – Wriggles and Burro, just couldn’t have enough of the mushrooms! (So the mushrooms remained just that – guests of a few hours.)
Along with the hull an occasional whole seed too would make its way into the soil (how careless of the sparrows!). These seeds started germinating and soon I was looking at a whole cluster of this grass species growing cheek by jowl with the tulsi plant. The only thing missing in this mini-forest (yes, I started to think of it as one!) was a water source. So I put in a flat black pebble with a depression in the centre, which I filled up with water (neither the earthworms nor the ants, I fear, cared a hoot about it – it was just my pompous ego!).
My overworked imagination gave it a rather fanciful designation of a mini-ecosystem (yes, I agree, it’s not self-sustaining) where the ants, earthworms, mushrooms, a floor of composting millet husk, (oh, did I forget to mention fertilisers? Occasional sparrow droppings!), a forest of a bunch of monocots and one dicot, and a waterhole (yes, yes, my pompous ego) – all lived in (imposed?) harmony (I warned you – my fatigued imagination). Whatever be the descriptor, the fact remains that, every morning it is pure bliss to just stand there and watch the tiny machinations of Mother Nature as they go about their routine.
So that is it (no, no twist in the tale for this one). Ahh, yes – the title. So if you are still hanging around racking your brains as to the purpose of this torturous piece, and are starting to feel that it is a T in a T, I hold no grudges. Personally, I would rather call it a Forest in a Claypot…
– Narendra Nayak © 2019