Rain And Rhythm
As moisture-laden winds bring welcome rain to the Indian subcontinent, the earth is transformed. This is when a myriad insects, frogs and toads emerge, when herbivores’ young are born to feast on the bounty of green pastures and the forest reverberates with the mating calls of birds. The monsoon is a season of plenty. And of magic. Streams and brooks now break their banks and provide nourishment for saplings and shrubs that sprout from every available niche. Snails gorge on new buds and butterflies tango with multi-hued flowers. Elephants, tigers and eagles sit atop this living pyramid.
“The great elephants, being happy with the smell of the screwpine flowers and disturbed by the sound of the waterfalls, roar, along with the peacocks, in the forest brooks.”
1. Asian elephant Elephas maximus – Dr. T. Shivanandappa
For elephants in most parts of India, the monsoon brings relief from weeks of water and food shortage. They must consume 80 to 160 litres of water every day and are never far from a reliable water source.
2. Fruit pods Family Malvaceae – T.N.A. Perumal
Related to hibiscus, this fruit pod, photographed in the monsoon in Bangalore, also has medicinal value.
3. Cricket frog Limnonectes limnocharis – Anish Andheria
Frogs herald the arrival of the monsoon with an orchestra of mating calls. Seen in Matheran, this ground dwelling frog is little-studied, but may be threatened as scientists fear a global decline in amphibian numbers.
4. Lotus leaf Nelumbo nucifera – A.S. Kalra
Rain drops roll off the surface of lotus leaves, washing away dirt particles. Termed as the ‘lotus effect’, this is believed to keep the leaf healthy as spores and disease causing fungi are washed away. The lotus’ water-repellent properties are the result of an impermeable thick wax or lipid layer that covers the leaves.
5. Coral mushroom Clavaria sp. – Anish Andheria
The monsoon’s humidity promotes the proliferation of fungi. This species gets its name from its resemblance to marine coral and is usually found in the deep shade of the forest, growing on humus. Coral fungi come in different colours, but most are white.
6. Land crab Paratelphusa (Barytelphusa) guerini – Anish Andheria
Early in the monsoon, land crabs will lay eggs that will hatch into young crabs, without passing through a larval stage. These crabs are found in fresh water, or paddy-fields, and are very susceptible to pesticide pollution.
7. Spider web – Hira Punjabi
Surface tension causes rain drops to ‘pearl’ around the glue spots on a spider’s web, made from silk secreted through apertures on the spinnerets.
8. Waterfall and vegetation – Thakur Dalip Singh
The point where the landscape steepens causing the water to fall vertically is called a ‘knickpoint’. As it falls, water snatches oxygen from the air and erodes minerals from rocks. Dead plants turn into nutrients for aquatic fauna. Water is life.
Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXI No. 4, August 2001.