Goodbye is the new hello: Jewel bugs

It was around 5:00 PM. I was tonguing the evening air on a parrot-green grass hill at Mooppanpara in Kerala. Despite the cloudy weather, I wanted to stick around. It had been a long and tiring day. And the scenery was mesmeric. The sun resembled a dusty grapefruit trying to un-blush. It sunk, beneath the jagged shoulders of mountains. I felt calm, as though a blade of grass had found itself in-between my teeth.

But the weather wasn’t having any of it. Howling winds turned into hesitant whispers. The blueness of the sky gave way to a frowning shade of gray, as rain-fed clouds loomed. Unbeknownst to me, the stench of the struggle for survival was around the corner.


Disappointed, I started to climb down. When I reached my vehicle, a fist-sized object fell onto its hood with a light thud. It was a member of the gorgeous-looking Scutelleridae family. A jewel bug, also known as a metallic shield bug. Bathed in breath mint-blue, it laid there motionless for a few seconds. Slowly, it then shuffled to its feet.

But, a gust of wind had it turning turtle. It fell on its back again. I felt bad for it. So, I nudged its sides with my fingertip. The bug moved again; briskly this time.

I took a step back as the little fellow seemed to take flight. But it covered a few inches before plopping back on my car’s hood. It was getting late by then. So, I moved him to a small mound of grass. I wanted to stick around to see if it would fight to stay alive. Whether it might spread its translucent wings and take to the skies. But it had started to drizzle by then.

On the way back to my room, I kept thinking about it. I was bothered that I might never know what had happened to it. I went back to the same spot the next day. I looked around for any sort of evidence that might help in making a fair assumption of its whereabouts.

It wasn’t that I needed emotional closure. It was merely a bug that I had known for a few minutes. I had no reason to influence or investigate the details of its life and death. However, I wished that I had the fortitude to bid farewell to it.

I was reminded of it when I had met another jewel bug a few years later. A bright-green fellow decided to hitch a ride with me as I was driving to the local bird sanctuary. For nearly 15 minutes, it lounged by a soft corner on my jeans. And it only got down when I had stopped for a tea break. Thankfully, I managed to wish it good luck and health before we parted ways.

Because as relationships come to an end, a simple goodbye is all it takes. It means that you are aware that things happen. People come. They go. Bugs too. And you get to hold on to whatever it is that makes you feel better about the process.

I am sorry I didn’t say goodbye, dear metallic-blue jewel bug. Now, I am destined to miss you always.

(Photographs: Kerala, Vedanthangal)

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