Saturday, July 19, 2014

Towards the light

The dark underground space was full of small chirps and whistles. Almost unheard among these was the faint sound like paper being torn as the first baby pushed out of its egg. This was immediately followed by more rustlings till the entire brood had emerged from their eggs into the warm darkness of their nest. Aimlessly, they stumbled around till the first of them felt a far-off thunder and sensed a glimmer of light above. This faint radiance drew the brood towards it with the all consuming passion of  going home.

Its siblings stayed back as the first baby turtle struggled up from the nest and poked its head out onto the beach. After several suspenseful seconds, it clambered out and was immediately followed by the rest of the brood. They were going home.

There it was. The sparkling horizon reeled them in, all instincts led the turtles to scurry towards that light. Where the light twinkled, their bodies told them, there it was. There they would find home.

They continued walking around, over, and through traps that their instincts could not warn them against. The plastic bags and discarded nets and rolls of twine trapped some, but the others went on and on towards home.

Stray dogs claimed some turtles and terrorised the others. But it did not matter, there- just in front of them- surely was home.

They couldn't reason, but their bodies knew what to do. Over the beach they struggled, filled with an overwhelming sense of urgency that drove them on. And so the turtles eagerly panted on and on, towards the distant rumble and twinkling lights of the East Coast Road.

Far away behind them, the sparkling Bay of Bengal continued to call its babies.

*  *  *




D, my colleague, told me of the disorientation of the Olive Ridley hatchlings due to the road along the beach. Very few of these hatchlings survive that first walk to the ocean, even fewer reach adulthood. There are some efforts being made to lessen the extent of the damage that humans are doing. The Chennai Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network I've been told, are doing stellar work.

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