I recall one summer noon, as I sat in my balcony engrossed in my thoughts. I had lost track of all the dog ears I had created in my book. I had lots of reading to catch up on. But right now it could wait till I finished mulling over something.
But my thoughts were broken by a commotion that had gathered around this huge bee hive across the street, hanging by the terrace wall opposite me.
I kept my coffee mug aside and watched the hired village folk, wearing lungis and a tribal belt. I didn’t recognize the state they were from but could see the lost look in their eyes on the streets of the big metropolis they had gotten sucked into.
But right now at this moment they looked totally comfortable in their skin. They knew how to take the honey from the hive like the city slicker knew how to manoeuvre traffic on a busy street. Perfectly natural and graceful in their common surroundings of life and habit.
They had huge sticks and a bit of fire to ensure the bees won’t attack them. I saw their confident smiles and sanguine sinew as they went about their work in collecting the fresh golden honey.
As they broke the hive piece by piece and extracted honey into a large vessel, I could see him in his practiced environment of truth. He filled it drop-by-drop with fresh honey and started selling to the people around in bottles. I was pleased to notice that the city had taught him commerce.
I couldn’t stop my excitement, left my book and quickly went to him with an empty Old Monk Rum bottle and filled it with the fresh nectar from the miracle of the bee and its keeper.
As I delved deeper into the bee business, I learnt that bees are one of the most important beings in this delicate ecological system. If bees perish the entire pollination cycle of the plant kingdom is affected and in turn the environment and the rest of us also get affected. You can’t farm without bees. Half the fruit from your table would not exist. Many of the natural cosmetics we’ve come to love and rely on will not exist with the byproducts of beekeeping communities. The bee business is important business, do not be fooled by its seeming smallness to the planet you inhabit.
I carefully kept the Old Monk bottle at the corner of the kitchen window and I silently watched as the hour of the sun shifted, the colour of the honey mellowed or got darker. It’s almost magical to watch the change of this gift from nature, sweet, pure and delicious.
It’s not just about the birds & the bees, pun intended, because: honey is a great love ingredient in times of trouble.
Have you ever tried cajoling your angry lover with honey soaked almonds, raisins, sunflower seeds with pomegranate and home made muesli mix? Try it! It works wonders.
Give yourself this treat of a teaspoon or tablespoon of honey every morning, when the butterflies come to your garden or every night before sleeping, when the moth gets attracted to the candle! Marvel and watch the lines fade on your skin as you hear the flowers sing and the bee attracted like a mad lover to its nectar.
Once we understand magnanimity of energy behind the bees and their honey, we will handle it with care. In the same way we ask the universe for its nectar with folded hands, take the honey that the bee offers you generously and remember the bee also stings. Preserve, respect and bow down to its divinity.
Check out the work groups like Tenacious Bee Collective are doing to reinvigorate traditional beekeeping communities in India, preserve their knowledge, help market the pristine honey these communities produce and build awareness about just how important bees are to so many of the products we take for granted.