Mother often knows best

Did you know that the world’s finest pearls have always been formed under a rainbow? Not just any rainbow, mind my words, but the permanent one. The chances are even that you have not heard about it yet, so let me tell you about it.


The permanent rainbow is there all the time, but you can see it fully only if you go to this place called Wilderness, take a boat  to cross the gulf between it and Vibgyor and stop the boat exactly in the middle, when you feel suddenly that the breeze is getting warm. You turn around to your left and this full magnificent bridge in heaven seems to come out of nowhere and stands majestically before you, spanning the Wilderness shore to your left and the Vibgyor to your right! The Vibgyor end of it however is always visible from longer distances and can be seen easily from the Wilderness shore itself.

An old inhabitant of Wilderness tells me that people do not actually reside in Vibgyor. He talks to me of the volcano on the gulf bed, closer to Vibgyor shores. No eruptions are ever noticed in Vibgyor proper, but the sand of the beach is warm day and night.  The sandy beach is narrow and is covered by the yellow band of the rainbow all the time.

Immediately after the beach you have an elevation, a stretch of topaz, which should have been yellow ordinarily, but is actually bright orange, perhaps because the rocky mineral is always at or near the temperature when water can start boiling. A thin mask of ‘orange steam’ hovers above it and the end of the orange band of the rainbow dances above the haze. Beyond the topaz, you have a still higher narrow stretch of bright red ruby, red hot as well! The end of the red band of the rainbow plays on it enhancing its tonal beauty.

Old Willi of Wilderness tells me sorrowfully that he always had some rainbow-tourists who would not take his advice, but went on towards Vibgyor against his warning after getting an eyeful of the rainbow. These had earlier arrived at Wilderness with own boats and shovels and pickaxes and must have dreamt of fortunes from topaz and ruby sales. None of them ever returned to Wilderness.

Willi tells me too that the water immediately next to the sandy beach of Vibgyor is not very warm, just lukewarm. Bright green seaweed, with unusually large leaves that sway on a narrow strip rhythmically, occupies an area covered entirely by the green band of the rainbow.

A grey blue throng of sea birds not known or classified elsewhere in the world closely adjoins this seaweed stretch and occasionally feeds on the nearest available fish. But these birds appear to be more thirsty than hungry all the time and greedily pick up drops of pure water that land in their open mouths distilling from above the topaz and the sand. The end of the blue band of the rainbow seems to provide a blue blanket over their heads.

A dark band of mackerel foolishly crowds under the canopy of the end of the indigo band of the rainbow, immediately next to the stretch of birds. The fish occasionally nibble at seaweed floating to them through and beyond the bird stretch, also feeling thirsty all the time and keeping their mouths open for drops of pure water. Every now and then, one of them gets picked up and eaten by the birds, which Willi calls drymouths, but the fish do not desert their indigo band territory.

The violet band of the rainbow touches sea water directly next to the mackerel stretch. Willi tells me that the temperature and speed of movement of this stretch of sea encourages a steady passage of oysters to pass from the depths of the gulf almost to the surface, under the violet umbrella, and continue of course, in a wide arc, back to their depths. As the closed oysters surface under the violet shade, they open momentarily, catch a drop from the pure water spray, close again and pass on to finish the last stages of pearl formation within them.

There must be something special in this oyster ritual that helps pearl divers in the Wilderness gulf region to get some extraordinary pearls, I remark to Willi. Willi grins and tells me that I have learnt only a part of the story. So many of these oysters pass under the violet shade and all of them pick up the topaz water drops from Vibgyor, he points out to me. Why is it that only some of them turn out to be real queens among pearls?

Search me, I say, ready for more fanciful yarns from the wily old man of the sea. He says, take this pair of binoculars and look at those jets of fine water drops spouting from the beach on to the drymouths and mackerels. Is there anything special about their course? I watch carefully and tell him yes, there are some strange things happening. First, not a drop seems to fall from these jets on to the seaweeds under the green shade of the rainbow. No big deal that, just the angle of the trajectory, says Willi. He assures me that the green band takes care that every leaf under it has one drop, which glistens full of life. You will not take my word for it, but don’t you find drops up there, one apiece on every leaf in the green stretch? I agree and tell him there is much more happening out there. Drops seem to be hopping and mutually exchanging leaves, staying quiescent for a while and resuming the exchange with other neighbours. Some keep increasing the hopping lap as if practicing for a special event.

To my horror, I see an occasional drop jump away from the green band and falling either straight into the mouth of a drymouth or a mackerel or getting lost in the sea among these thirsty creatures.

Why am I horrified? Am I getting deluded that these drops are not just water, but some conscious entities? Suddenly I find one drop jumping all the way on to the violet band and an oyster lapping it up. Willi, who is having another pair of binoculars in position, shouts to me, you have the mother of a queen pearl going there!

I am ready to faint in disbelief, but we both down binoculars and Willi explains. Out of the water jets distilling out of the beach, a very small portion is gathered by the green end of the rainbow, which rations it out to the leaves on the weed-bed, Willi says, on a strictly one drop per vacancy basis. Something magical happens to the drops as they glide through the green band of the rainbow to be fed to the leaves. They are granted a will of their own and awareness. A mother drop occupies the largest leaf at the head of the weed bed. She has arrived there long ago and does not leave it till she is gathered to the clouds. When that happens, the senior-most occupant of the bed is able to hop on to the mother seat and assume her functions.

Whenever new drops arrive on the bed, mother tells them the rules of residence. They can stay where they are and glisten like pearls. They can exchange positions by hopping. They can learn to hop in longer and longer laps so long as they land within the green band. Mother also tells them that in time, through seniority, each of them has the possibility of occupying the mother seat, before ultimately being gathered to the clouds.

Mother knows there is danger on either side of the green bed. But during her stay on the weed bed she had been a moderately intelligent drop, willing to obey rules and had traveled to the mother seat, when her turn came. Of the drops that arrive on the bed, there are a definite number who are adventurous and get bored obeying rules. Of these the intelligent ones soon become aware of the heat that radiates from the shore and do not hop that side at all. The very intelligent among them practice hops to take them beyond the drymouths and mackerels, but they do not know what lies beyond these thirsty birds and fish. They only have a hunch about special opportunities. Some of these fail to make it to the violet band. The few, who make it to the oysters, get the privilege of helping to make the finest pearls in the world. These have the enterprise to think beyond the rules of mother, prepare properly for their journey into the unknown and then take the plunge.

Needless to say, the stupid ones among the adventurers hop on to the warm sand, steamy topaz or red hot ruby with predictable results. Their lack of preparation, born of stupidity, cannot lead them to any better. They do not know that it is safe to restrict their movements to within their green territory, following mother’s directions, as a large number of their fellows, most of whom are wiser, always do.

I believe Willi. If you come to Wilderness and see what I have seen, you too will.

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