If the present government has its way, Hyderabad, will not just lose her lungs but a tiny mite will also lose one of its last remaining homes.
The velvet buchi or birbaboti (Family – Trombidiidae; Species – Trombidium grandissimum) is often associated with childhood, happiness, warmth, security … life … rainy days and steaming cups of chai, bhuttas toasted on coal and bhajiyyas deep-fried in oil. But this tiny, red velvet insect is fading fast, soon to be a memory… for what chance does this little mite have against the power of politicians whose vision is so impaired and outlook so imbecilic that they can barely see beyond their nose?
Apart from being an integral part of growing up, and a picture of comfort the presence of this bug is a testament to the fantastic ecosystem that is Kasu Bhahmananda Reddy National Park. According to a scientific paper published by Maria E. Gulvik in 2007, in the Polish Journal of Ecology, mite communities are very, very, very sensitive to any and all types of soil disturbances. The study goes on to review several other scientific studies on how the presence of mites in the soil reflects human impacts on ecosystems and landscapes. While this is just one such study, there are a few hundred more that talk about how insects, butterflies and itty-bitty creatures tell us the conditions of a space. In plain speak, the result is this: the fact that there are velvet buchis in KBR means that it is a thriving albeit fragile ecosystem in the middle of a mad tangle of streets and plumes of toxic exhaust spitting from vehicles that have tympanum-splitting horns – an ecosystem that needs to be preserved.
I first heard about birbabotis from my Nana who died in January earlier this year. She used to talk about these red, velvety-cushions crawling on the green grasses of the Nizamia Observatory campus. She lamented the destruction that verdant space, and the old, large trees that once lined the roads through Paradise and Patny. She used to say, “Ab jhadhan chale gaye to yeh birbabotian bhi chale jaate (As go trees, so go birbabotis).”
When we think of big cities, we don’t just associate them with bright lights and big malls. We also think of the lung spaces they have to offer – Central Park and New York City; Hyde Park and London; High Park and Toronto … the list is endless. And here I don’t talk about cultivated and manicured parks such as Indira or Sanjivaya Park. I talk about a piece of wilderness in the middle of a concrete jungle. Never does a day go by when at least one of these flagrantly greedy politician touts Hyderabad no less than any world class city – NYC, London, Toronto … So, if these short-sighted politicians truly want to put their money where their extremely large mouths are, then tell them to drop all plans of ever cutting any tree in KBR … save our little lung space, and the home of these velvet buchis. Let them be more than just a memory…