Kartik Shanker and Madhuri Ramesh
Originally published in Current Conservation 11.2
(illustrations by Deepthi R)
She crawls in beauty like the night
Of cloudy climes and starless skies;
And as steals across the bight
Salty tears trickle from her eyes
Hiding her eggs away from sight
She the prowling dog denies.
The fluorescent tide washed the beach clean
A darker night was never seen
The wind blew soft and then the clouds it tore:
And the mechanised boats came trawling-
The mechanised boats came trawling, right up to the shore.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Hatchlings out of dead sand, mixing
Instinct and survival, stirring
Baby ridleys into juvenile frenzy.
Hatchling to right of them,
Hatchling to left of them,
Hatchling behind them
Fumbl’d and flounder’d;Storm’d through the egg shell,
Scrambl’d up while others fell,
They that had jostled so well
Came thro’ the jaws of sand
Up from their incubatory spell,
All that was left of them,
Left of one hundred.
When old age shall this eon waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a flagship to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty is turtle, turtle beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
The Turtle and I
Madhuri Ramesh and Kartik Shanker
Originally published in Current Conservation 12.4
(illustration by Vidyasagar Saple)
I wandered lonely ‘pon the shore
A windy night with restless seas,
When all at once I saw a score,
A swarm of nesting olive ridleys
Upon the beach, beneath the moon
A lumbering, bumbering turtle typhoon
Whose turtles these are I think I know
I thought they were in Gahirmatha though;
They won’t mind me standing here
And watching them nest ungainly and slow…
I tagged a turtle with great care,
It swam away, I know not where;
For so effortlessly it glided,
All its tracks were elided.
Long, long afterward, on a beach
Someone found it, once more within reach.
Upon reading the tag, she wrote to me:
‘Tis the turtle that has the measure of the sea.
How do I study thee? Let me count the ways
I track thee to the depth and breadth and height
My telemetry can reach, when you dive out of sight
For the ends of science across the bays.
I follow thee through almost every twist in the maze,
Data columns to be filled in by months and by days
A fierce need, by moon and torch-light
I obsess over thee, and for authorship will fight.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Write, for example, “The dogs entered the hatchery
And now my paper on TSD has receded into the distance.”
The turtles no longer come ashore and nest.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I watched them every night,
and sometimes they watched me too.
Through the months, I collected their eggs carefully, gently
I counted them repeatedly under the starry skies.
They watched me sometimes, and I watched them too.
How could one have foreseen the eggs were all destined to die.
Somewhere I have never travelled, dived beyond
An unimaginable depth, your flippers move in silence:
In your most mundane movements
are things which enthrall me
Or which I cannot fathom because my text books fail me.
Your slightest shift will easily confuse me
Though my mind is closed by science, as a clam’s
You bewilder always slowly, subtly as an underwater current
(tugging, pulling, carrying) a little hatchling.