When death becomes air: Fruit bats

During late evenings, colonies of fruit bats fly across pale orange skies in my city. With militant grandeur, they soar. With purpose and showmanship. But I see them so often that I don’t look up in admiration anymore.

The only time I notice bats is when I see one electrocuted – having made fatal contact with some overhead power line. Electric grids are a menace to these creatures. They die from cardiac fibrillation, electrical burns or starvation.

But it makes for a beautiful sight. The resilience with which its cold claws still clutch onto the wire. The fragile grip of its melted rubbery skin on the rotting skeletal frame. As if the two were star-crossed lovers in the middle of their last dance. Or perhaps, the tenderest end to a quarrel. And all they want to do is never let go of each other.


Fruit Bat, Kodaikanal

I think about the time I spent with them at the Theosophical Society campus in Chennai. I used to lie down on the ground, with my palms cradling the back of my head and watch them go about their businesses.

Over there, hundreds of fruit bats have made banyan trees their haunting grounds. Amid the shrill squeaks, and the flapping of elastic skin, there is silence. And solace. It’s remarkably different from being in a crowd of people. While the decibel level may be higher when surrounded by flying foxes, the signal is much better. The vibes – more positive.

I thought I was morbidly fascinated by death, and the still photographs it leaves behind. But every living organism on this planet is affected by mortality. It is the great equalizer. And it’s not as though people with sky-high career aspirations are seen as being morbidly obsessed with life.

Death simplifies existence.

It may hurt when it happens to you or it takes away someone close to you. It also brings us together by lending itself to beauty and strength, now and then.

Fruit Bat, Theosophical Society - Adyar

The night
devours the wronged,

even those with charmed lives;
it leaves the boldest,
with benevolent urges and
the restless – bored and
tongue-tied.

(Photographs – Theosophical Society campus in Chennai)

Many people wrongly assume that all bats navigate using laryngeal echolocation. In fruit bat family, only the Egyptian subspecies possess such abilities. Those found in Chennai, and several parts of India, use the clicking sounds in their wings to move around.
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33 comments

  1. Loved the pics of the fruitbat – our earlier home in Andheri (West) Mumbai, had lots of them. They’re beautiful to see, with a wingspan of 3 to 4 feet across. They’d all fly out of the badam (almond) tree where they lived at sunset – about 50 to 100 of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating! Bats are so cool!
    I did not know that most fruit bats do not use laryngeal echolocation, and instead use clicking sounds in their wings to move around.
    Also, isn’t the flying fox the world’s biggest bat? I didn’t know it lived in India!
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve become a fan of your writing and these cute birds. It’s funny how until today I was creeped out by bats. But after looking at that forlorn claw hanging onto the line wires…I’m a changed woman. Thanks for writing these articles Christy. Keep writing, Keep us in awe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What is about death today! read about one of my research idols passing away early morning. And then your take on it. I know its inevitable, but cant life (death) spare some who show promise to keep contributing for the sake of others.
    Yes, night does devour the wronged!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww yeah death is such an overwhelming force that it is difficult to think about it without letting the mind wander to sad, and frightening places. I hope it fades away soon from your thoughts today, too much of anything can’t be good.

      Liked by 1 person

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