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Image by Krzysztof Maksimiuk

Fireflies On the Hillside

The evening was dark and gloomy. Black clouds threatened rain and thunder. Strong winds had begun to churn up the air. The heavens opened up and rain pelted down on the parched earth. As was to be expected, the lights flickered and went out in anticipation of the thunderstorm that was clearly imminent. Without the creature comforts offered by the ubiquitous fans and air conditioners, the oppressive heat was suffocating. I decided to step out, despite thunderous rumbling and lightning that cut a sharp swathe across the sodden sky. I gingerly opened the door leading to my terrace garden. The strong winds snatched the door out of my hands and slammed it with great force against the doorframe. But the cold wind and the refreshing shower of raindrops on my face made me brave the vagaries of the storm.

The ‘tandava’ of nature, did not last long. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. The rain-drenched landscape heaved a sigh of relief and settled down to a night of equanimity. I sat in my chair drinking in the peace and serenity of the night. I looked at the silhouette of the hills of Kasauli, slumbering and silent.  My gaze caught a flickering light in the distance. As I looked on in surprise, the hillside seemed to glow with dancing lights. My surprise turned to amazement as the entire hillside glowed with warm lights that flickered and beckoned with their golden warmth. They were obviously not the fires of hearth and home that beckoned a tired wayfarer. My brain told me with bruising clarity that they were the lights of urban dwellings. And yet my poetic imagination rejected the promptings of my brain and believed reverently that these were fireflies dancing on the hillside.


I remember how as children we would eagerly wait for the rain to stop and the fireflies to emerge. We would often cup these fireflies in our hands or place them in transparent glass jars where they glowed with a greenish-yellow hue. Life then was simple and uncomplicated. The joy of standing in the open with outstretched hands waiting for the touch of the first rain drop, the joy of waiting for the fireflies to emerge and shine after a monsoon shower, the sense of childish exhilaration when the rain stopped and the rainbow arched across the sky, were little joys that made our life happy and serene. Such joys are lost to the urbanized generation of today who has probably never seen a firefly. With so much of pollution marring the environment, rainbows have also become a rarity. We took these sights and sounds for granted, not realizing that these sights and sounds would soon become a part of our ‘Once upon a time’ bedtime tales. The firefly is perhaps a metaphor for the destruction of nature at the hands of man. As I watch the flickering lights on the hills side, I am reminded of a line from a poem we often read as children- ‘Jugnoo’ by Harivansh Rai Bachchan -‘Andheri raat mein deepak jalaye kaun baitha hai?’  This is my heartfelt eulogy to the fireflies, the lost sentinels of light.

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