The lush environs of the Theosophical Society hold within a treasure trove of flora and fauna
When you enter this green heart, you hear Nature's strong beat. The world outside blissfully vanishes and the concrete jungle is a distant image. There is not even a hint of the traffic that rushes madly outside. The recent power point presentation by Dr. T.P. Alaganantham and Geetha Jaikumar at the International headquarters of the Theosophical Society at the Adyar Estate, showcased the changing seasons and the varied flora and fauna within these lush environs.
It took you to an enchanted environment straight out of James Cameron's “Avatar”. The banyan tree with its enormous roots bears shades of the giant Home tree in the film. Warblers of many hues and shapes perch delicately on branches elsewhere. Dainty insects attired in trendy black and red repose on sparse twigs. Or, cluster in fiery-looking piles. Squirrels sip at flower stems holding them elegantly like straws. The ground is a sheet of blossoms sprinkled like confetti of pale pink and bright yellow. Close-ups of the spider's legs show such beautiful spots that Miss Muffet would have been tempted to consume her curds and whey. And, above all, there are the trees — vast and invincible — nurturing even in death, with the fallen barks, twigs and branches too sheltering life — insects, worms and birds. A highlight of the Estate is the Bodhi tree “grown from a sapling from the original under which Lord Gautama attained enlightenment”.
The presentation was organised by the Adyar Lodge of the Theosophical Society. While the doctor's photographs vividly captured the life of the flying, crawling and creeping denizens of this patch of green, Geetha, through her script and comments, brought out the state of the ecology and the need to preserve it.
The most moving image of the spirit of survival is the hermit crab, Geetha mentioned. Trying desperately to adapt itself to a changing environment, it curls up inside a bottle cap instead of the shell it usually borrows. For, the shells have all been taken off the seaside for being changed to lime powder or converted into tawdry ornaments!
Not many are aware about the wealth of Nature and the biodiversity that is enclosed within the Estate. But all is not all well in this precious path of green. Excessive use of pesticides and the destruction of natural vegetation have led to a decline of many species in this woodland and scrub jungle, the duo tells you. Tree felling and poaching of small animals pose threats as do pollution and the intrusion of sea water. The number of migratory birds has decreased. And above all, is the looming threat — the proposedelevated highway, which, if implemented, will snake its way near this little Eden, disturbing all that is rich and rare.
The Wild Angle
Dr. Alaganantham, a surgeon with the Sundaram Medical Foundation, has been photographing Nature, especially wildflowers, for the past 10 ten years. A resident of Besant Nagar, his daily walks in the Adyar Estate provided him the opportunity. “The Garden Superintendent Krishna was very helpful, and let me know when the flowers bloomed,” he says. “Even the Guindy National Park does not have the stunning wealth of biodiversity found here,” he adds.
“In the library of the TS, we found a wealth of information,” says Geetha, who resides in the Estate and is Secretary of the Adyar Lodge. She is Associate Professor of Commerce at Meenakshi College and has a Ph.D in “Environmental Management in Industry”. She has recently completed her book on “green management”.
“It's surprising how little we know now of the natural world,' they both say. “Most people find it difficult to identify even tamarind flowers in close-up.”
Being out on the Adyar Estate is a fragrant experience – literally. “As you walk through the paths, you are met by different fragrances from the flowers and the plants. Sometimes, the scents mingle and it is really heady. “Maybe they should bottle it and market it,” laughs Geetha.
The presentation revealed there are 109 species of birds in the campus of the Theosophical Society in Adyar. Of them 67, species are resident, and the rest migrant, with 25 migrants from other parts of the world. There are numerous varieties of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and bugs. Jackals, monitor lizards, mongoose, civet cats and jungle cats make their home here. Snakes include the cobra, the krait, Russell's viper, apart from rat snakes, tree snakes and checkered keelbacks. Many varieties of plants thrive in the Estate, indigenous and introduced. There are 250 species of flora-herbs, shrubs, creepers, plants, bamboo, grasses and weeds and aquatic flora.