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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pit Elephants (കുഴി ആന)

This summer we were in Kerala  to participate in a family function. It was extremely humid and hot and there seemed to be no end to sweating and that too quite profusely, despite all the greenery. Kerala summers were never that harsh, thanks to Global Warming. 

Before dropping the Ant

After dropping an ant
One afternoon, I was just loitering around my  ancestral home. I came across some familiar soil formations on the sides of the pathway. Instantly my childhood memories came alive. They were the Sand Pit Traps laboriously created by “Ant Lions”, a term I have borrowed from wikipedia, but we knew that they are the abodes of “Kuzhi Ana” (കുഴി ആന) or literally “Pit Elephants” as they had  long noses. They are a bit different from the one wikipedia describes. The tiny, elephant like insect, used to position itself under the sand awaiting its prey which were usually the ants and other tiny insects. Myself and my sisters used to dig up the pits to catch the insects (Elephants!). Thereafter we used to amuse ourselves by organizing a race for those tiny creatures. Every one of us  used to shout to cheer up one’s own Elephant! as if we are in a horse race.   

Upon spotting the Sand Pit ant Traps, I could not resist the temptation of showing a live demonstration to children at home. They were summoned and a camera was brought in, an ant was caught and put in the hole. Lo! the ant just disappeared. The Antlion or our Pit Elephant living under the sand just dragged its prey in, in   a fraction of a second. There was only a depression in the cavity left behind. We could not, however, photograph that particular action. We should have applied the video mode instead.