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A Gluttonous Caterpillar
by Dr. Raj Vatsya

A caterpillar made its way through shrubs, eating everything it could chew, leaves, flowers and even soft stems of the plants. It had a voracious appetite. The caterpillar came across a small plant with juicy stem and leaves. It poised its teeth with a smile and proceeded to take its first bite at the plant. The plant spoke quickly, “Wait; do not eat me, please. I have just begun my life. Let me live a little. Besides I am so tiny. I won’t be much of a meal for you. There are many large plants around with juicy leaves and soft branches and stems.”

The caterpillar looked at the plant rather amused. “What a silly plant!” it thought. “But I eat everything I fancy. I live to eat, everything, large and small. And you are so different. I would like to sink my teeth in you just to know how you taste,” the caterpillar said with saliva dripping from its mouth. “My real taste is beyond your reach at this time,” the plant said, “I promise some day you’ll taste it, when it is out and you can savor it.” “I am already so fat and beginning to feel lethargic,” the caterpillar argued, “I am getting old. My time to go will come soon. Therefore I should eat whatever I can, before I die.” “Let that not worry you,” the plant reasoned, “You must die to be born again. You’ll have a new life and the taste buds to savor the taste I’ll have then.”

The caterpillar posed for a moment, and then said, “I’ll spare you for now, but I am not sure if you are making any sense.” It crawled away devouring the plants on its way.

The caterpillar visited the plant occasionally and had a little chat each time. The plant was getting taller and the caterpillar was getting fatter. The caterpillar began to believe that the plant had tricked it. However, it enjoyed the newly developed friendship with the plant and did not care much about eating it anymore. Then one day, the caterpillar said to the plant, “Well my dear little plant, it is time to say good-bye. I am so tired that I can sleep for ever and so I will.” After a brief pause, the caterpillar added with a smirk, “I will never be able to hold you to your promise now.” “Oh but you will; I will keep my promise!” the plant responded. The caterpillar moved away sluggishly, still smirking.

The caterpillar weaved a cocoon on a branch in a shrub, well hidden among the leaves, and slept. Many days passed. Then colorful buds appeared on the plant and bloomed into beautiful flowers. A butterfly came and perched on one of the flowers. “Say, aren’t you the little plant, the friend of an old, fat, sluggish caterpillar?” the butterfly exclaimed. “Yes I am,” the plant said smiling, “and you must be the new life that came out of the old caterpillar.” The butterfly nodded in affirmation. “I knew, we would meet again,” the plant said, “you would never have known the taste of my nectar then, for it was hidden inside me.” “And I didn’t have the taste-buds for it, they were hidden inside me,” the butterfly said smiling.

The butterfly visited the plant regularly all through the summer. Every time they met, they embraced and kissed each other. Then the fall came. The flowers started to wilt and the butterfly grew old. “Well my dear friend, once again it is time to say good-bye,” the butterfly said, “I must lay eggs and go sleep some place.” “And I must shed my leaves and die, so that the new life may begin,” the plant responded. They hugged their last good-bye.

Soon the flowers reduced to dry, round pods and the plant, to a dry stem. Winter passed slowly. Spring came and the pods opened up, scattering seeds around on the ground. The seeds grew into many tiny plants like the one before.

The eggs of the butterfly hatched and an army of little caterpillars made their way, devouring everything they could chew. The caterpillars came to the plants and many stories like the one before, began all over again. Soon the whole forest was filled with plants with beautiful flowers and colorful butterflies.

Images under license with Gettyimages.com

5-Jan-2008
 
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