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The Painted Lady of Kabini

Common Jezebel, Kabini -

If you’ve ever stopped to smell the flowers in Kabini, chances are that you’d have made the acquaintance of a very pretty female member of the jungle glitterati. Flying at canopy level, this temptress invites you to look up, and gives you flashes of her undergarments that look like they’re straight out of a designer’s psychedelic lingerie collection. It’s only when she deigns to descend to flower level, for a sip of her cuppa nectar that you realize all that glitters isn’t golden. When she settles down at her floral table, you notice that, while her undersides were a seductive patchwork quilt of gloss, the rest of her is plain dross. If you know your Bible, your mind will hearken immediately to the original ‘bad girl’ of the good book; the Jezebel who led men and prophets astray. Named after this Hebrew Queen of Sin, the heroine of this issue is the Common Jezebel, preening for the camera, at the Butterfly Park at the Orange County Resort, Kabini. What’s ironic is that while the Biblical Jezebel coloured herself to attract attention: she even went to her death dressed in all her finery, with gaudy makeup (leading to the tagging of women using cosmetics as ‘Jezebel’ or ‘painted ladies’ with questionable morals), the contemporary version uses her war-paint for a more prosaic purpose: survival of the brightest! Her distinct colours are a warning to potential predators that their intended prey is highly toxic, due to the accumulation of toxins from the host plant they feed on. The only thing in common was that while the means were different, the end was the same: those who partook of the temptation would always come to a bad end!

Photograph: Jose Ramapuram Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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