Published: 04th September 2019
This Christ University student from Kovai goes on butterfly safaris into the wild. This is why
Coimbatore-based Geethanjali Raghunathan not only loves spotting butterflies in nature but also rears them. This is hw she got interested in this delicate form of nature spotting
As kids, most of us have chased butterflies at some point or the other, enchanted by the allure of their colourful wings flapping in the air. Catching a butterfly was even a sport, something that we enjoyed doing with our siblings and cousins when we were young. But what was just a childhood pastime for us, continued into adulthood passion for Geethanjali Raghunathan, a butterfly enthusiast whose life revolves around chasing and spotting butterflies in their natural habitat.
A nature lover and an amateur photographer, Geethanjali became part of organisations like the Coimbatore Nature Society and The Nature and Butterfly Society right from her school days. “I was involved in photographing different species of birds at first. But the practical difficulties of bird-watching (you need a bigger lens and other advanced paraphernalia, which isn't affordable for a student) made me turn to butterflies,” says the 21-year-old who is pursuing her MA in English with Communication Studies at Christ University, Bengaluru.
Although Geethanjali was self-motivated right from the start, it was the members of the Coimbatore Nature Society — an NGO that aims to get people closer to nature — whom she credits with helping her interest grow into a full-blown passion. “I did not know anything about butterflies or how to spot them, what kind of lenses to use and where to procure them, and do on. It was only after I met Theivaprakasham Hari, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Butterfly Society (TNBS), and Pavendhan Appavu, President, that I learnt more about this activity. They helped me develop my interest and guided me throughout the journey. I can never thank them enough," she gushes.
Official flapper: Tamil Yeoman is the State butterfly of Tamil Nadu (Pic: Geethanjali Raghunathan)
Following her passion, she has taken solo ‘butterflying’ trips to Madurai and has been to butterfly havens like Kotagiri and Valparai with TNBS members. So, which is Geethanjali's favourite butterfly hotspot? "Siruvani Hills!" her eyes light up as she says excitedly, "It is a place where you can see amazing butterfly activity, especially after the monsoons when there are puddles, which are sites of mud-puddling, an activity where the butterflies absorb nutrients from rotting plant matter and mud. Where the conditions are suitable, they also form aggregations on wet soil. But it has many restricted areas as the place is pristine and the drinking water purification for the entire city happens there. But we make sure to catch sight of as many butterflies as possible."
Geethanjali is also involved in rearing butterflies. Yes, you heard that right! She carefully captures photographs of each stage of development, sometimes sacrificing her sleep as well! "Theivaprakasham introduced me to rearing butterflies. Rearing butterflies is not as easy as we think because sometimes, it grows till the pupa stage where it may get affected by a bacterial or fungal infection. So, we should be very, very careful," describes Geethanjali, who also has a butterfly blog on Instagram.
Perfect shot: Patience is important in photography (Pic: Geethanjali Raghunathan)
Seeing how Geethanjali’s love for butterflies is unmatchable, we wonder whether they reciprocate the affection. "I am not sure. But there was an interesting incident that happened when I reared a certain butterfly. I had hand-fed that caterpillar from the beginning and when the pupa hatched, the butterfly became reluctant to be held on anybody’s palms except mine. So, I am not sure whether they recognise us, but I sure hope that they do," she concludes.