Purushwadi – A night lit by fireflies

I remember running behind tiny specks of light in our unmowed lawn. Cupping my hands around one of the many fireflies that surrounded me, I’d peer curiously to see if it continued to glow between my palms. In the rainy tea gardens of Assam, it was a usual sight; one that delighted me but never took me by surprise. However, this particular day of July was a completely different story.

I was in Purushwadi, a scenic village that lay about 220 kilometers away from the chaos of Mumbai. The Monsoons had arrived but I reached there on a scorching Saturday afternoon. Dropping my bags in the assigned tent that overlooked the valley, I placed myself under the shade of a large tree with a book. Sitting there, I slowly began to breathe in the fresh countryside air and feel the blowing wind. I was completely engrossed in the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but if not for the pebbled ground that formed a hard cushion and the slope that dropped down just an inch away from me, I would have gladly drifted to sleep.

Purushwadi

Exploring landscapes during the sunset trek.

Purushwadi

Kalsubai, the highest peak of the Sahyadris, at a distance.

Like many others who curiously escaped to the tiny village that weekend, I was there to watch the enchanting fireflies. It was their breeding season and these glowing bugs, lit up the whole night while letting out optical signals to attract mates.

After the slow afternoon and a rather satisfying sunset trek, we wandered back to the campsite. Just as the clear sky began to flicker with stars, I caught a glimpse of a few fireflies glowing at a distance. The show had begun. Our local guide suggested we join him for a walk through the wooded village roads.

We followed him in the dark and minutes later, we found ourselves surrounded by large lit trees that seemed to each have a glowing pattern of its own. On the road in front of us, about a hundred bugs imitated the lightning of a thunder, while further ahead, the conical stacks of hay we had crossed earlier in the day, now looked like a neat row of Christmas trees decorated with fairy lights. During the hour that we spent walking through the village, I found myself rooted to the spot observing a beautiful circular rhythm at one point, and sitting on the edge of the road to compare the patterns of two adjacent trees at another.

Later, we climbed a small hillock, hugged ourselves tight against the wind and sat watching about a million fireflies synchronise their glow in a hundred different ways in the vast valley in front of us. Somewhere at a distance, a river gushed loudly. And in the midst of the luminous show, I befriended darkness for the night.

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This story was first published in Travelyaari.

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