Pandemic gave us a second chance to make right choices about environment

As I watched my once neatly kept garden turn into a jungle during lockdown, a strange pattern of beauty and harmony began to emerge through the disorderliness. As if nature was putting things in order

Pandemic gave us a second chance to make right choices about environment

Diti Sen

There’s a trellis, frame to support climbing plants, over the main entrance to my house and is covered with a vine bursting with dense clusters of tiny red and white flowers. Come evening, this Madhabilata/ Madhumalti/ Chinese Honeysuckle gives off a gentle yet intoxicating fragrance that hangs in the air like a gossamer cloud.

There was a similar Madhabilata covered trellis in the garden of my childhood home, which was a source of great interest to us as children because we had discovered, as most children do if allowed, the timeless secrets of the natural world. In those days of no television, the garden was our Discovery Channel and our discoveries were endless.

We found out for example that the delicate Madhabilata flowers could be woven into garlands without using any string, that the nectar in the Ixora flowers could be sucked out but left the poor flower sap-less and dead. That the lines of the vicious, tiny red ants and the bigger but more amiable black ones, climbing up the huge Jamun tree, had to be artfully dodged to get to the juicy pink and white fruits, hanging plentifully in the upper reaches and that the mango trees followed a natural pattern that yielded one good fruitful year followed by a bad one.

We observed how the black and yellow speckled caterpillars, feasting off the fleshy leaves of the spider lily bushes, would suddenly transform into a host of multicolored butterflies and hang suspended like a rainbow haze. We chased the frogs which jumped out of our way and set up an almighty chorus when the rains came and turned the lawn into a mini swimming pool, without knowing that they were so important to maintain the ecological balance.

We knew nothing of botany or ecology, only (and that too unconsciously) that plants and trees including all organisms living in them, were our good friends and that we were interdependent with them. No nature study nor life study class could have taught us better than the gardens.

During each of the lockdowns of the past two years, my present garden, for want of any help to cut the grass or the taller plants and trees, started looking a bit like a rain forest.

The grass grew unhindered, the surrounding hedges and bushes burgeoned and some of them even inter married and produced hybrid flowers. The flowering perennials ran riot in pinks, reds, whites and yellows, the Peace Lily bloomed quietly under the flaming red Hibiscus, guarded by the shade of the Shiuli tree. A lone papaya tree began growing from a rogue seed and started bearing fruit buds. A spindly Jamun plant fell over and died in the cyclonic weather but quickly sprouted new shoots.

The sparrows and bulbuls carried on nesting in the nooks and crannies, nameless, vividly coloured little birds flitted in and out of nowhere to inspect the new wilderness. A kite, with an injured wing, took shelter under an overgrown shrub until it was rescued. The air was thick with the chatter of the squirrels, bird calls, the buzz of the crickets, the lizards, earthworms and other unknown insects multiplied and the alley cats prowled the area like their predatory big cousins.


As I watched my once neatly kept garden turn into a tropical jungle, it seemed to assume another dimension, a kaleidoscopic world of many different living species, co-habiting peacefully with each other, according to natural laws of bio diversity. Through the wild disorderliness, a strange pattern of beauty and harmony began to emerge. It was as if nature was reclaiming its own, imprinting it with its own indelible stamp of chaos, burying the previous human efforts at taming it and putting it in order.

It occurred to me that while human nature wrestled with the total upheaval of a man-made world, caused by an allegedly, man-made virus, Mother Nature continued its work silently, needing only the sun, wind, rain and soil to survive. It didn’t need, and indeed never needed, our approval or sanction and the cycle of birth and death and renewal, both physically and inwardly, continued daily, just as it did in our lives too.

What struck me too, was its resilience. None of the plants rooted in the garden soil, died. They drew from the five elements and flourished, whereas the potted plants needed daily upkeep and care.

It took a child, Greta Thunberg, to remind us that we are governed by the same laws as Nature and that we are all part of a cosmic whole. Children are always better at instinctively recognizing and accepting what we as adults choose to ignore. The good news is that we seem to be taking the lessons to heart, re-learning that we have to work symbiotically with and not against the laws of Nature, if we are to survive.

The pandemic and the climate changes all around us, have been good teachers and it’s as if we are being given a second chance to make the right choices, this time around.

As for myself, I’m already feeling like one of those frogs in my childhood home, which sang joyously when the rains came, consciously and responsibly partnering a sounder ecosystem and a protected world.

(The writer is an independent writer and blogger)

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