About Glowworms


This last weekend I was in Raglan, a small cute little town along the west coast of New Zealand. I did a lot of things that I have never done before. I jumped off waterfalls, walked in a forest in the dark ( and made new friends? ). It was a great weekend. I had the privilege of seeing glowworms.

Yes, it was a privilege.

We were canyoning along a stream, stream’s name I never bothered to ask. I knew I was gonna see glowworms as that is what we went for. The glowworms just blew my mind.

glowworm-cave
I couldn’t find a suitable image glowworm canyoning, so glowworms in a cave it is. Credits: http://wallpapersdsc.net

I have to just close my eyes to see them again. The river was dark, the sky a shadow of light and the trees silhouettes against the faint sky. The trees’ branches swayed and leaves made rustling sounds as the wind flowed. The sound of water splashing against the rocks. Just behind some of the shrubs and weeds I would see a shining dot. Just a dot, no different that a star on a clear night.

A star that was a few inches away from me.

With focus, I saw more glowworms. It isn’t exactly apparent to know if what I was seeing were glowworms or a reflection of our head beams but soon I could see the difference in the colors. I grinning from ear to ear at the beauty around me. I would frequently tell everyone to shut off their head beams so I could look at the glowworms. I slowed them as I kept stopping to checkout the glowworms.

Of course I didn’t really need to slow down and turn off my head beam. I could also shine a red light that allowed me to see glowworms but I didn’t know that. Our guide, Anne,  told us about glowworms and how they actually shine lights. It is a long story and you could read about it here.

The story is not beautiful and in fact it is carnivorous. Regardless, the glowworms’ beauty didn’t diminish in my eyes. We were at the last leg of our trip, it was pitch black now and we had shut off our head beams completely. There was no light, the moon was hiding behind clouds promising rain. We were the only 5 people in the stream. But we weren’t really alone. We were sitting down on the rocks in the stream. Our guide poured us some cinnamon tea which we shared, the beverage being the only source of warmth around us; it made me aware of how tired and cold I was. Our guide said that the last part was like a scene out of Avator.

Avator had a scene out of our world.

There were eels and there were snails in the stream. These snails secreted a glowing chemical so the water also glowed in patches. And the glowworms, oh the glowworms were surrounding us, in their hundreds, nay, in their thousands all around us.

They were in scattered without any apparent pattern but their randomness gave birth to multitudes of connections. In those last 5 minutes of story time in the stream, with the thousands of glowworms, not only was I not alone but I could see that I was not alone.

 

Privilege


In recent times, privilege has been branded as a word to describe to Whites. The use of the word is many a times justified, but I am not the judge of that. I am not perceptive enough to pick out subtle race differences, to spot the minorities. I am not writing a post about racism, nothing has warranted it. But now, I have  a taste of privilege.

 


 

Last night, after a hilarious evening with some friends I took the midnight bus home. I didn’t want to read a book. I sat with music reverberating in my ears and looked around. For the midnight bus, there were still a lot of people riding home. Auckland doesn’t sleep either. I saw faces mirroring mine: tired, sleepy and listening to music than talk to each other. The only sound was the roar of the engine (which was not much) and chatter of a couple. I raced my brain to draw some inspiration in the scene, to get inspired and write a fictional story from the dark passage home but I couldn’t. How could I?

 


 

We all are going somewhere. One station at a time #train #blacknwhite #auckland

A photo posted by Mayur Wadhwani (@mayurdw) on Feb 29, 2016 at 10:26pm PST

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On my way to work in train, I was reading a collection of personal essays. I was mundane, another commuter more engrossed in his phone or his book than to observe people or talk to people. This changed until the person next to me took out a novel. Her interests and mine were different, I read novels for fun and she read because of curiosity, which was now focused on understanding New Zealand’s aboriginals Maoris. I could see her interests in tracing Maori philosophical & cultural roots

In my time in Auckland, Maoris look physically big, scary. It is difficult to comprehend their accent their sense of humor is eclectic, only to be understood by them. After I actually got to know a few of them, I can say now they are simple-minded and enthusiastic about everything. (Exclude a gregarious roommate I had in my previous home)

We spoke first about Maori culture, I already knew a little about their mythologies as I have read some novels. I don’t know everything about them after reading a couple of novels. On the other hand, she is trying to understand the customs, their drive. She said she could draw many parallels between her Buddhist practices and Maori practices. One peculiar custom we spoke of related to their ‘Mana'(or in how I could understand the term: respect) is when a person wronged and their Mana been damaged, the same person must restore their Mana by damaging the perpetrator’s Mana. From my sessions in my University’s debate society, I know there is a property law founded on the same principle.

However, we quickly moved on from books and spoke about the city life, which is lonely as compared to rural life, rife with communities and mutual care. She said that she is trying to help out in her own way to take care of the surroundings, to give back to the country she is staying in and trying to understand the wealth gap existing particularly in Auckland. She mentioned that she feels privileged to have enough food, shelter and livelihood.

 


 

If you ever ask any foreign national to describe India, or Mumbai specifically, they will say it is very poor. She said the same thing while reminiscing her last trip to Mumbai. She was torn at the sight of so many poor people living without basic amenities. I wanted to tell her that she was a magnet for all the beggars as she had dollars. The heartlessness of my own words shamed me. Our conversation had quickly moved on from Maori culture to the poverty prevalent in my home city, the intensity of our conversation didn’t. As for the homeless in Auckland, I could say I have seen worse. Became immunized to worse conditions.

Probably why I never complain about buses running late in the city, as I have traveled buses which were running with a joke of timetable in my hometown. Why I never complain about the traffic or for that matter the standard of living here as I know it is four times what I was used to. And I am still scrapping the end of the barrel here.

When we spoke, for me it was very easy to fire up, and be outraged by her pity to call India poor. After all we are improving. However, the truth is we have to fight for basic amenities in India. The biggest of which is, and forever will be, water supply. There is too much in rainy season, too little in summer. I tried to defend my country by quoting Rang De Basanti ‘No country is perfect’ but at the end, I knew she was right. The ceaseless struggle, my city which never sleeps, city I left behind. I moved to a place with better living, with hopes of making a better life.

I have no conclusions to draw from yesterday. Because we never reached a conclusion. Maybe there will never be a conclusion.