Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was sitting in the lab today waiting for a reaction and I made a caterpillar from magnetic stirrer bars. Took me way back when I was three years old and over at my grandparent's for summer vacations. One morning I woke up with an itchy back. I walked straight out into the kitchen and when my ajji saw it, she diagnosed it as a caterpillar squish. It was the first time in my life I had heard about caterpillars and the fact that in my grandparent's house, these kind of pillars just fall from the thatched roof during summers. 
Then it turned into an obsession. Most of my holidays there after were spent hunting for caterpillars. Green, red,black,brown and even blonde. Sometimes my cousin and I would come back with a matchbox for my grandmother that was full of caterpillars neatly arranged next to each other! Someone also told us that if you feed them mulberry leaves they turn into butterflies. So we tried to set up the butterfly-fication experiment for our poor guinea caterpillars. Each matchbox had our hostage caterpillar and a mulberry leaf. :)
Since we had raspberry vine and mulberry tree growing out in the front yard it was very easy. 
One day went by and there was still no sign of butterfly. With our four and five year old patience glands, it was really difficult to carry on with our experiment beyond five days. There was severe grandparental pressure too, that came from some sort of humanitarian approach. At the end of four days we had a martyr. So we decided to stop the experiment because ajji told us that God would not like it. 
All along that summer, we used to get caterpillar bombs from the roof all the time. I remember waking up after several afternoon naps with caterpillar hair stuck to my neck or my back. Ajji used to rub marigold leaves on it to calm us down. The green ones were the worst. It was like getting stung by a bee. 
On days when the hot summer evening would unfold into something that fermented my thoughts, I used to use the caterpillar sting to get rid of all my four-year-old anxieties. :)
At others, I used to observe my caterpillar-squish-mark with great pride.  

It seems like a really long time now but it feels like it was yesterday. I went to meet my cousin at her in-laws house this time when I went to Kolhapur. She was dressed in a sari with a big "mangalsutra" around her neck. All day she told me how she manages her new house and what her husband likes the best from all her inherited recipes. I was still coming to terms though with not trying to look at her as the girl in our caterpillar experiments. 
I guess the reason why we revisit these kind of memories is because it is boring living in a world where there are very few "first times" left. Nothing I do now matches the joy of looking at a hairy worm and finding out that it is called a caterpillar. Of knowing that it is the raw-material for butterflies! 


Anonymous said...

"Of knowing that it is the raw-material for butterflies! "


Nice post...a fun read !

- Ajay Joshi

tris said...

we too had a raspberry tree, so I am familiar with these critters but never suffered because of them.

my sympathies.

Raj said...

Wow.. can't say I have much affection for caterpillers but butterflies i can take. :-)
yes its amazing how our memories are interwoven with small things.

Raj said...

btw this is very uncontroversial compared to the previous post :-)

Saee said...

@ Ajay and tris
Thank you for your comments!!
@ Raj
Yeah. It is safe not to express an opinion. :) Makes it less controversial. And no one cares about my opinion on caterpillars anyway. :)

शिरीष said...

Saee these are nostelgic moments of your life and I do agerr with you that as we grow we do ot have much of the "First" experiences left.

The time factor also sometimes puts us in puzzle! We feel that these nostelgic moments were just yesterday but the moments we do not like can be generation old.

Chilhood memories are always great!

RJ said...

Nice one...as always...although I was a tad surprised ...Could not quite imagine you and caterpillars quite in the same scene :) Me and a dear of mine had our own little caterpillar farm...we were a bit more concerned about their social life...so we put millions (at age 4 = 8/10 :)) together in a big box....of course fed them with some leaves....We were surprised to find them all go missing and a couple of my "terrace garden" plants missing all the leaves one day. Apparently, the kamvali bai (maid) picked up the box...screamed when she saw them squirmy worms..and dropped the box. She asked my Mom for a raise :) LOL...those caterpillars were forgotten as I was engrossed in a test match..and when i was back..they had moved on....and flown away....

Hmm....to think all the weird things we did as kids...and whats weirder is that the two of us did the same :)

Saee said...

@ Ranjeet
yeah..kids all over the world do same things. :)
Your story goes with your personality though. You used to give all the girls nightmares with your pranks in school!!