Fewer Gekkos seem to grace our walls in recent years; I seldom see a big old one, so it is plausible that many die young; perhaps it is only by chance that I’ve noticed the slow deaths of the six who died in my company in the past few years, perhaps many die like this unnoticed. Each has taken three or four days to die – a very long time in Gekko Life. They have all become little skeletons covered with pale, pale skin by the time they are no longer there, so I guess they starve to death also.
The first time this happened I took many photos because in the case of this one only, the process coincided with or involved the loss of skin, and because the creature didn’t move about the skin ruffled around its neck, feet and hands in a curious way, and one eye grew into football proportions relatively speaking; I was disturbed to be witness to a cruel death and motivated to question the cause. So photographs were sent to university departments in India and Australia; the relevant departments responded but they couldn’t specify the exact cause of death although they, like local farmers I asked, suspected agricultural chemical poisons.
This did not seem plausible to me since the nearest agricultural lands are about half a kilometre away, which seemed a long way for a bug loaded with poisonous chemicals to fly before being snapped up by another bug or Gekko and in addition, when there is power in our village there are many more powerful lights on in between my candle and oil lamp and the chemically poisoned fields. However I had no knowledgable basis for speculation although the burden of our collective culpability was no less intolerable.
The dying of the little one these past four days held no picturesque features so I didn’t think of photographing its untimely end until my rage against the dying of its light commanded a mention among the events of the time on this blog.
The first two days it faced me just inside the door as I took bath or washed clothes – as happens frequently in this climate and where Gekkos are a friendly normal occurrence. I didn’t realise that it was dying because it had moved just a little from time to time within one small spot and could have been roaming around anywhere meantime; when its colour was noticeably faded and its ribs began to be prominent I reframed its immobility otherwise. Then one morning it had moved out onto the cement rooftop outside the bathroom door and later in the intense heat of midday I carefully moved it into the shade, then realising that it was very very sick since it didn’t object with any usual Gekko scurry.
Within another day it became very skeletal and pale with the tiny breaths still visible so I brought it under cover of my balcony where I could keep it shaded, it no longer made any movement by then. It was taking so long; I’ve seen this before, It is excruciating. The next morning I placed it on the petals of the Hibiscus flowers that seemed more comforting. There it lay all morning yet the tiny chest still showed movement. I hung a cloth to make sure the sun’s heat didn’t fall there. I took a photo, intolerant of injustice.
The placement of a dying sentient being on a sacred stone is nothing new, neither is it iconoclastic.
For an hour I lay down thinking about Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but later when I checked the Gekko I found it had moved from the flowers on the stone down onto the cement and big ants were all around it, latched on to it’s body. The Nectar in the flowers could have attracted the ants – they were stinging ants with little nipped-in waists; the Gekko could have marshalled precious little resources in a vain attempt to escape them. While I picked them off in a desperate hurry, my marvellous mind momentarily revisited the fighting off of crows from dying lambs. I brought the Gekko into my room where I could keep an eye on it, as I’ve always ended up doing.
The Gekko lay immobile in my palm while I searched for a safe place; that became a patch of Bentonite that I sprinkled on a flat plate. Bentonite is a healing clay, it is soft and very comforting and I wished I’d thought of this before. After some time the Gekko wiggled a little bit, seeming to manoeuvre its head a little upward on the side of the plate; it’s still in that position now and I don’t know whether it’s still breathing or not, there’s been no sign of life for a few hours and it’s sunset, a good time to die. Its eyes are still open.
They close their eyes when they die.
I wonder if their sense of hearing remains – the last sense to lose, as it is for humans.
When Devi was growing up we had exquisite little frogs behind all the picture frames hanging on the walls, and behind curtains, stacks of books or in other ingeniously quiet hidden places inside the house, especially during summer months, and when it rained they all came out to squat on the window bars or on the bamboo slats on the verandah. But I’ve only seen one such little frog here in a decade, and that was a tremendous surprise.
India is a rogue country when it comes to use of poisons in agriculture.