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Finding Nature in the City

Towards the end of March, I discovered a rather unusual plant on the side of the road. On the part of the footpath where there was a rare absence of concrete, I found a small isolated strawberry sapling. With a few unripe strawberries nestling behind the serrated edges of its dark leaves, this was an unexpected finding in the middle of a metropolis!

By masking every available corner of cities with concrete and tar, humankind is trying to tame the little nature that at times spills out. Over the last few years, I have made it a tradition to occasionally go out and record the tiny changes of the suppressed natural world around me.

Five years ago, spring dawned on our city and my parents and I set out on an expedition. It was early on a Sunday morning, the atmosphere was humid. We walked to a park near our house. Our goal was to discover the tiny changes that the previous night's rain had brought, along with recording the signs of spring.

Walking past the vine-covered gates of the park, we moved onto the damp soil releasing reduced amounts of petrichor that was triggered by the rains. As we pushed past the wild strands of grass covered in condensed water vapour, we hunted for subtle signs.

Ladybugs feasting on fallen white mulberries

Across the pinwheel flower bushes, at the point where the untrimmed grass met with the rocky soil with decaying shrubs and leaves, I discovered an entire nest of spotted red beetles feasting on fallen white mulberries (or Morus alba). These playful ladybugs (or ladybirds) presented themselves in striking contrast against the dull ground and colourless berries.

As I write this in 2021, I can only hope to recall such memories of these fragile bugs because it is evident that ladybugs are slowly disappearing from urban outlets across the world. From being an omnipresent insect that was once a symbol of spring, these beetles are now rarely seen in cities.

Ladybugs feasting on fallen white mulberries

black mulberry on the ground

Trying to not disturb the beetles in the middle of their feast, I moved along. A few parts of the ground were completely stained into a dark indigo shade with squashed black mulberries. Giving some colour to the otherwise unappealing mud, this was a festival of aroma and food for the insect community that resided in this park.

Bird prints on soil

Moving forward, I almost walked over a set of prints made by the talons of some bird I couldn't very well identify. These prints gave me an idea of how diverse such places can be – with bustling wildlife in the middle of a metropolis.

Early morning sunrise after a rain day
An early morning sun following hours of rain in May 2021

Coming back to this year, I spent the past few months trying to discover such signs of nature.

Woken up by the thundering clouds towards the end of May, I stood a chance to witness the beginning of monsoon in North India as the early morning gradient sky transitioned into a sombre, cheerless state. With rain dripping down, percolating towards the ground, I stood on my veranda as petrichor permeated the atmosphere around me. Immediately triggering the nostalgia to my trip five years ago, I could almost sense the gigantic eruption of life of even the microscopic organisms that dominate our world. From the parasitic fungi on dead logs to a multitude of ant colonies and wild grass concealing the nests of insects and amphibians.

spring flowers blooming

Having been under a strict lockdown for the past year, grappled by the fear of Covid-19 (but maybe even more so of renewing physical human interactions), my personal connection with nature has deeply eroded, contrary to how it should have strengthened. But this allowed me to venture out and explore the new life that a single day of rain brings with it. Having had some experience in discovering new signs of nature after a rainy day, I again set out on a trip.

Walking past the newly built gate of this new park embellished by bright green paint, I stepped upon a hard concrete pathway only to become aware of the explosion of concrete and man-made infrastructure that now dominate such pockets of nature within cities.

Rain oasis, water puddle, miniature natural wonder

One of rain's blessings is the biophilic designs of miniature oases scaffolded by lush foliage. The fallen and decaying leaves and shrubs under and around these water puddles add to their environment and appeal. Once the mud in the water settles, the labyrinth of decomposing leafage is exposed and reveals an entire ecosystem with bustling enthusiasm.

Paw print on wet soft ground with fallen berries

As I continued walking around the park, strolling on the damp soil veiled by a layer of slippery green algae, I chanced upon a rather picturesque paw print on the ground. An unintentional piece of art, this multi-layered composition created by an insignificant creature has formed such a riot of colours with a barrage of minute natural elements. Every singular depression of this print seems to have a small nest of its own – sheltering leaves, flower buds, individual stamens, and a whole host of other tiny specs of various plants and trees.

Humans and animals use such prints to track and identify fellow creatures and organisms in their areas, particularly non-urban spaces. This paw print, in the picture above, seems to be quite old given the amount of natural litter it has accumulated over time.

Ant colony after rain

Walking past the trimmed and manicured grass, I discovered mountains of ant colonies flowing like lava from the ground. Such openings and entryways into the underground communities of ants and insects are a common thing one can often find after heavy rains.

Ant colony after rain

Moringa (drumstick) tree flower
Moringa (drumstick) flower
Moringa (drumstick) tree flower

Pomegranate tree with fruits

After completing my exploration, I discovered a pomegranate tree spilling over into the streets from a neighbouring house while returning. The tree had clusters of young fruits and flowers waiting to grow into ripe pomegranates. Pomegranate is one of the oldest fruits in the world with a fascinating history.

Native to Persia, its original trail continues to the Himalayas in Northern India. The name was derived from the medieval Latin word “pomum granatum”, meaning an apple of many seeds. The crimson fruit has become a symbol in several cultures and has a prominent presence in several regions and religions across the world.

From being depicted on the pillars of temples to having been embroidered into the robes of high priests, the pomegranate is a much-decorated fruit that has also inspired several facets of the literary world.

"Eat a pomegranate and visit a bath; your youth will haste back." An ancient Egyptian proverb.

In ancient Greece, it was said that pomegranate trees sprouted from the blood of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.

Recently, the pomegranate has been part of a debate surrounding the Forbidden Fruit of the Garden of Eden. Several Jewish scholars have suggested that the original Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden could have been a pomegranate instead of an apple since apples came into cultivation much later while the seeded apple was a native to that place.

It's interesting how deeply intertwined the natural world is with our cultures and communities, yet so often, many opt to overlook its significance.

Amaranthus viridis, slender amaranth or green amaranth
Amaranthus viridis

As I look back, I can see how rapidly the world changed over the past five years. Observing nature in cities has become all the more difficult and finding plain ground without the presence of concrete and tar is almost impossible. The blue and green world is becoming greyer by the second and we must work towards preserving the little that's left.

Chaga mushroom

A marmalade hoverfly in my backyard
A marmalade hoverfly in my backyard



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3 comentários

The Writer Talks!
The Writer Talks!
19 de ago. de 2021

Adi, this is so evocatively weaved in with striking pictures. Both, the words and your pictures bear testimony to your keen observation and sensitivity towards nature. It is ingratiating to see this among the youth, infuses me with confidence that perhaps climate change could be offset by the likes of you.

Loved the originality in your expressions and the gentle persuasion you have retained throughout the post. Kudos.

Asha G Kumar


Writing an article so extraordinarily original is no easy feat. The writing style and the use of photographs are extremely commendable. The post, most certainly, promises the arrival of a budding polymath.


Waking up to this, felt so refreshing! ✨ Very well written, Godspeed Adi :)

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