It was a hot afternoon. Not sultry and humid. Most afternoons weren’t at our place. It was the pleasant early summer day in the town of my childhood.
We had summer breaks at school. Ours were really long unlike in the other cities. My brother liked going to explore new streets and places. I had to tag along because my mother practically shoved me out of the house to accompany him.
I saw my brother reach the end of the street and come around to our house on his bike. Red faced, he seemed irritated by my intentional delay. I hurried with my sneaker laces, climbed up the Golden-Shower infested wall and grabbed my bike from the other side.
I had to paddle very hard to catch up with my brother, who was going faster on purpose. We raced till the tuft of trees started getting thicker and then we stopped, on consensus, to decide what route we would be taking today.
The younger you are the more you want to take things the harder way. He was younger and like always he wanted to take the slim dirt track through the Litchi trees. And so we did.
It was an undulated path with patches of smooth grass broken only by grainy anthills. People said there had been deer here once. I had never seen one though.
We were in a small clearing when I saw this dull brown, seemingly weathered fold of tissue that once had been a live butterfly. Few days previously, Papa had taken us to the Forest Museum. I had seen a hall with walls festooned with sundry butterflies. I knew butterflies were collectibles. And so when I saw this one on the ground today, I had wanted it. Though trying to not to lag behind I just the passed the butterfly by and went on. I thought I would look for it on my way back.
That day we only found a dilapidated old servants quarter and a large field of paddy by the end of the bike trip. I insisted on taking the same road back, which didn’t go down well with my brother.
On reaching the same clearing, I gave the area a swift cursory inspection. It was easier than I thought. I only had to follow the track and I found it right there. My first butterfly. It wasn’t just that; when you carefully opened its wing, it revealed this mesmerising blue luminescence. I hypothesised that it had only just died and that’s why it had the life like glow.
I brought it home, a little late, which was enough to get my mother hyperventilating. She gave me the – “you are in trouble, missy”- look and then I was interrogated.
Inside, the brunch sat on the table, fuming, lying in wait. My brother had already disappeared with his bowl. I headed first for my closet, took my dictionary out and interred my new priciest possession between the pages.
Satisfied, I took the brunch: so a week passed until I could return to the dictionary. My butterfly had lost its life. But I would still keep it. And what I wouldn’t do, is to return to the dictionary every week to check up on it. My young restless heart had moved on to other things that shone.
Years later, I am given my own room and I move my stuff out. I find the dictionary which I had seen sitting in the same place everyday since that day but it held no allure for me, till today. I opened it up, flipped through the pages, all of them. Took the book from its binding and shook it. Still nothing. The thing I was looking for, was gone. Probably my mother or brother took it out sometime and dropped my butterfly.
I tell myself now that I don’t get to call the butterfly “mine”; because I never cared for it. And only because I had lost it forever, I wanted it so much. That’s what’s wrong with us, humans.
In the end, I didn’t find it, since obviously, I was past that age of finding and exploring. But maybe the reason why I doodle butterflies, or basically butterfly-fy everything, is that loss of the thing I found once.