gorgeous landscape through the journey

meeting the twinkling bums: fireflies at purushwadi

twinkling bums… that is what they are right? the twinkling back-sides of fireflies. imagine fireflies on the road as you walk by, fireflies on the bushes and trees, fireflies crisscrossing… and imagine a firefly on your hand, twinkling along your palm… that’s what happened at purushwadi, off the mumbai-nasik highway. but wait, let me start at the beginning.

day 1 at purushwadi… 

we reached purushwadi in the evening after a long and circuitous route (that post is coming up!)… after a quick loo break, some hot & extremely sweet lime tea, and steamed bhutta (corn on cob), we stood around the chairs and spoke to sushma from grassroutes. why didn’t we sit on the lounge chairs? well i did, but ended up with a wet backside on the only pant i had carried with me! the chairs were all wet with the rains…

grassroutes has been running these tours to three villages in maharashtra for around 6 years. fireflies is the selling point during the monsoons at purushwadi, off the mumbai-nasik highway. i was most apprehensive about going as i thought it would be one of those ‘touristy’ villages, where everything is done for the tourist who visits from a city for a glimpse of village life but with no discomfort. and where the little kids pose for a photograph and then put out their hand for money.

but, it wasn’t so.

it was uncomfortable….
it was windy, my shoes got wet and stuck in mud, every meal demanded a 15 minutes walk up a slope and then a slippery walk to a villager’s home…
it was raining through the time we were there, the tents howled with every passing wind and the plastic cover all over it made a ‘kuch-kuch noise through the night’.
it was real, true without any sugar-coating. and i was grateful for that, as grassroutes showed great respect to the villagers and their way of life…

the entire camp is run by the villagers. from the cleaners to the guides, from the food to the location head… through these initiatives grassroutes provide employment to villagers who farmed just for sustenance. they didn’t sell their crops.

night came down upon us quickly, as in any village. we had to make our way to a home in the village for dinner. the entire group is divided and sent in small sets to one house. the villagers also earn based on the number of meals they feed you… it goes on a rotational basis so that each family in the village gets a turn at feeding the visitors and earning…

it was raining. we huddled under our umbrellas, switched on the solar lamps and walked up towards the village. the tar road took us only half the distance, then we turned off the road and entered the village… then there was a lot of slush, some close calls, a mosaic of slippery stones, too many breaths of cow-dung and finally heerabai. with just one light and a shy smile, she welcomed us in. right into the heart of her house.

dinner was in her kitchen, right by the chula where she had just cooked. we chatted with her as she doled out the food. under one solitary light, with the promise of hidden lizards, the fear of a rat and the nervous fluttering of moths, we sat and ate. the meal was simple, wholesome but it was special, festival food!

there was puranpoli – chapatis stuffed with a mixture of jaggery and lentils, heerabai’s special amti – a lentil curry seasoned with a stone, called dagadachi tadka and plain steamed rice with home-made mango pickle… we sat cross-legged on mats, ate out of steel plates, and were served food by heerabai with a hand wiped clean on her sari…

post dinner, we headed out for firefly walk. the reason we were there!

imagine the scene now…

its pitch dark, given that clouds are covering whatever little light the stars would have thrown down on you. the flash lights are all switched off and you walk in silence and darkness… remember, you are 150 odd kms away from mumbai in a village, there are no street lights, no city lights… but there are these small flickering lights that you spy in the bushes and trees. then the guide comes to you and says, ‘he ghya, kajava… firefly…’ you put out your hand, and he places a blinking light on your palm. the light has a yellowish tinge, but no warmth. it tingles… mildly as mrs / mr. firefly walks across your palm, accompanied by that bum-twinkle! it is really small, really quiet and really pretty.

all i could see was a tiny blinking light moving my hand… i asked for the torch to see how a firefly looked, and then got a little ‘eeked’ out when it looked just like a common roach! after that, i wanted it on my hand and wanted it off my hand, at the same time!

there weren’t as many fireflies as the previous weekend… but it was still beautiful. we walked down the road, onto a field, stood near a tree, switched off the torch and then watched them slowly come out to show off their lights… maybe we didn’t see as many as we could have, but it was still beautiful. and i will go back next year as i want to see ‘the mexican wave of fireflies’ to quote a fellow firefly seeker who was on his second trip…

and no, i’m sorry, but i don’t have any photos. it was raining quite heavily and was pitch dark, so you will need to rely on your imagination and me, on my memory!

make this happen. book your trip through grassroutes.

9 thoughts on “meeting the twinkling bums: fireflies at purushwadi

  1. nice post bhavani! as kids, we used to go to Palakkad in Kerala every year during summer vacations..i remember watching with amazement these fireflies swarming around the candle light during the hourly load shedding! ofcourse you could see them twinkle only when they flew into the darkness!


  2. Bhavani ,your travel narratives bring the reader right into your world…I have traveled the length and breadth of Maharashtra and the Konkan and your writing brings back very fond memories.Keep up the good work!
    best wishes and blessings,


  3. thanks angelee… your comment means a lot to you 🙂

    uday… thanks for sharing that story! they would come towards the candle? oh poor things they must have thought it was a cooler male or female firefly… given that the blinking is a mating ritual!


  4. hi magiceye, hope you get to go too! last couple of weeks. but given the delayed monsoon you have a bit of a breather – more time!


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