This is, truly, beautiful.

We are always in search of something. Today, I have found, for myself, peace.

It has been a tiring week; I was coordinating a training camp for some students in preparation for the International Biology Olympiad, here this year in Singapore. You can find out more about the competition here. I was once a participant, so this year I had the privilege of helping out with the training of the Singapore team. Going through the camp once more, even as an alumnus, brings back a lot of memories. Three years ago, I was once a student like them, putting my heart and mind into everything about Biology. I won myself an honour, but my greatest takeaway was how it has opened my eyes to the living world.

The living world is so full of wonders, but living in a mostly urbanized country makes it difficult to appreciate all that. Nevertheless, wonders still exist; you’ll just have to look and listen hard enough. Most recently, I have taken to visiting the Botanic Gardens every now and then, partly because I work there in a restaurant as a barista/waiter. (Among my discoveries, I was most deeply enthralled once by the sight of a Crimson Sunbird feeding on a Heliconia plant. I will never forget that red sheen flickering about in the leaves and flowers!)

I was on the verge of a mental burn-out today (because it was indeed a tiring week, and I had much on my thoughts), and so I decided to make a trip down to the Gardens, 8pm in the night. I suppose some would find that ridiculous, but I say it never hurts to see things from a different perspective. And that’s where and when I found that precious something.

It started out as a frightening proposition, to take a night walk in a huge park, alone. Will I get mugged by the sinister waiting in ambush for the innocent and never to see the light of day again? Will I run into something supernatural and get the shock of my life? Will I lose my way and trespass into forbidden grounds and never to return again? But of course fear doesn’t stop me, and I went ahead with my daring idea.

I think NParks has done a fantastic job in their light installations in the Gardens, making it an intriguing place to visit in the dark of the night. Some parts were a little too bright, but there were sufficient paths dimly lit for some quiet reflection. Artfully lit trees were aplenty, superimposing the eerie and the mysterious. Unlit trees gave spectacular silhouettes, especially the tall bamboo clusters. I really did enjoy the walk, and at one instance I stopped to listen to the insects. When I made my exit, I felt so peaceful, the fatigue washed away, the worrisome thoughts vaporized. Feeling anew might have to do with a decent cup of coffee I had on the way too; maybe it was a synergistic combination of the coffee and the night walk that made my day night!

Anyway, the point is, never dismiss the importance of such natural wonders. They are beautiful in their own rights, and we often blind ourselves with pragmatism, neglecting the part of us that is innately inclined to the natural world. A friend once mentioned how the absence of such wonders in my country is what makes the people here so materialistic. There is little else to value, so money, assets, status and wealth form the bulk of our moral/cultural framework. But as I’ve said, we just need to make that extra effort to observe our surroundings. Visit a zoo, a natural reserve, or make a trip down to the Gardens.

“It is only when we understand something that we begin to respect it. And what we respect, we love.. and what we love we protect and conserve.” – Mike Pandey.

This is why schools or the Ministry of Education need to rethink what we’re teaching our students in Biology these days. Molecular and cell biology are indispensable disciplines, but missing out on studying the natural world misses the whole point of Biology – essentially, the study of the living.

This may seem like an article written by a naturalist or an environmental activist (I am neither), but really, put yourself in experiences like this and you’ll understand why people are protecting the vanishing environment. For a start, take a look at the video above, “TimeScapes” by Rapture 4K. Check out Mike Pandey’s documentaries like The Last Migration and Broken Wings. After that, tear yourself away from your computers and get some fresh air.

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