My Wriggly Friend

  Vidya Dengle |     June 8, 2016

"Oh, my God! Mummy, there is a snake in the house.”

"I am dead and yuck!” I heard the desperate cries of my two daughters, Badki and Chutki.

Alarmed, I ran towards the room from where I could hear their voices, to check whether it was actually a snake in the house or something else. As soon as I crossed the threshold of the room I spotted three earthworms wriggling in through the space between the main door and its frame, into the house. My younger daughter Chutki was calling it a snake and the older one Badki was so scared to see them that the glass fell from her hand and broke!

Earthworm: I was really hurt by the girls’ behaviour even though, very often, we are treated like this by human beings. Why do you have to scream so much and you even broke the glass in your hand? Haven’t you seen earthworms before? Truly, I don’t think these girls have ever seen our species before.

Badki added, “Yuck, they are wriggling away!”

Earthworm: Well, girls, this wriggly movement of ours is called ‘locomotion’ and this is how we plough the soil in your garden. That prevents the soil in your garden from drying up even if you forget to water your plants.

“How on earth did these enter our house?” asked Badki and I replied that I had bought them to put in the garden that I plan to make outside the house.

“Oh, please. Don’t put such disgusting things into our garden. I cannot even look at them,” Badki retorted.

Earthworm: Oh, come on! Don't call us disgusting. We are poor animals with no eyes, ears, noses, hands and legs.

“Mom, what’s this? Oh, it looks as if you have already made a house for these creatures next to our kitchen. You have asked us to throw all the wet garbage of the house into this pit? After a few days, they will all start rotting and the house will stink of all this garbage. I don’t like the idea of having these earthworms in our garden. Either I stay in this house or these earthworms,” Badki stated her mind clearly.

Earthworm: I don't think these children are aware of the fact that we do not like to move about anywhere during the day. We love the darkness of the night and that is when we venture out of our burrows in the soil that we keep digging throughout the day.

The next morning, a lady from their neighbour’s house saw a pile of dry leaves and cow dung and commented, “Who has kept all this here? The dung will start smelling and will be full of flies."

Earthworm: The cow dung may smell but not ours. In some time, you will only smell the moist soil that we create in your garden. Our ‘wormcast’ will add to the fertility of the soil. It will make the soil rich with nutrients and your garden will flourish.

My younger one, Chutki, picked up an earthworm on a stick and was trying to inspect it closely.

She observed, “Mom, have you seen the colour of these earthworms? They are dark reddish, and under their belly, they are pale.” I heaved a sigh of relief that at least Chutki is not as displeased with them as Badki.

Very soon my house was being filled with dry leaves and wet garbage from the neighbourhood. As my garden was new it did not have enough dry leaves. I could not control myself when I saw them lying around near my house or around the colony…. I would pick them up to add to my pile before they are burnt by the ignorant neighbours. They were unaware of how all this could be turned into organic fertilizer by my earthworms!

Earthworm: Oh well, we can’t just survive on dry leaves, you know. Please give us some of your lovely kitchen waste…. your old fruits and vegetables, peanut peels, wet tea leaves, etc. Please do not forget to add some cow dung!"

Very soon, I started eyeing the piles of cow dung lying on the side of roads.

I knew how important it was to include that in my garbage pit. While going for my walks in the morning, I always carried with me a plastic bag and two pieces of stone to collect all the dung from the roadsides. I started building my garbage pit outside the kitchen. I placed dry leaves at the bottom and the cow dung on top of it. The wet waste from the kitchen went on the top layer.

Gradually, the heap of garbage started rising on top of the earthworms. Two months were over and the garbage turned into compost. The earthworms had vanished. I got scared! I thought my earthworms had died. I turned the compost upside down and there they were, all coiled up together! The new compost smelt of damp earth with the first drops of rain… Such a welcome sight and smell! You could pick up this compost and throw it in your garden and your hands will remain absolutely clean. "What a wondrous job and a miracle my earthworms had done!" I thought.

Earthworm: Now call your Badki. Did she see us around anymore? We were busy doing our job all this while to give you this wonderful fertilizer for your garden.

That year the mango tree was full of mangoes. The bananas were more than we could consume so we had to distribute them in the neighbourhood. Apples were so plenty that we made ice cream with it and fed people.

My earthworms became famous, I became an expert in vermicomposting. My friends took advice on how to make a compost pit and started collecting garbage from everywhere.

Finally, all my family members and friends realized the importance of garbage. All the mango seeds, peels, orange peels and vegetable peels were being collected.

Earthworm: Watch out, people. Don’t throw too much on us. We are not too fond of orange peels, you know. The rose stem pricks us too.

Spring had arrived and my garden was in full bloom. It was Sunday and we were expecting guests to come to admire our garden. We started cleaning up the house and garden.

The guests arrived and could not stop praising our house and garden full of beautiful flowers and different fruits in large numbers. “Uncle, meet Tommy, our cat," Badki came out into the garden with her favourite pet in her arms. “And, these are our earthworms,” she suddenly said with a smile.

Oh! Today, for a change, I noticed the happy and proud expression on her face. I was happy too.

About the Author

She writes children’s stories and has published two books in Marathi, both of which won literary awards. She is also a violinist, painter and sculptor.

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