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Monday, July 01, 2013

Spiders in the Sump

While checking to see if our reliable Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board had supplied us with enough water the other morning, I noticed two tiny webs in the corners of the  manhole-sized opening that we gaze into to see how much, or how little water has flowed into our “sump”. Have to admit, I'm more used to using this word in a more reservoir-for-waste-water sense, but it's fairly commonly used in India to refer to an underground tank storing water. I don't know if they associate the "su-" part to mean "subterranean", but you'll usually find that the underground water tank is called a "sump" and any overhead water tank is called a "water tank" or "tank" in short. The landlord had the foresight to build two underground storage areas, or "sumps" as I've just established, for the water the city supplies. However, and most unfortunately, some of the best laid plans in this regard are very often thwarted at the source, thanks to irregular supply and erratic amounts of water being pumped throughout the year; more in winter, and much, much less in summer, for example. Anyway, getting back to the spiders, I went back to my room and got the trusty little point-and-shoot to see what it could reveal about these little guys, or ladies, as they are.

I couldn’t get in too close, lest I lose my footing and go for a swim in a simulated cave-slash-flooded-catacomb. And even though I ended up pretty much laying on the ground in what appeared to be an attempt at kissing the water in the sump, my new concerns in this compromising position became losing focus and dropping the camera into about eight feet of water. Not only would that have "sucked big-time," it would have been a sad day to be observed, every year for the rest of my life, or something to that effect. I was also concerned about my delicate balancing act because I didn’t want to get too close and end up destroying the web, because I noticed both of them had a large egg sac each that they were protecting. The one in the right corner (sounds like a boxing match when I say it like that, and would have been, if not for the “adjacent“ instead of “opposite“ arrangement they should have been in to make it hilariously true) seemed to be the less colorful of the two. Either that or she was doing a great job of only showing me her belly, and positioning herself so that the rest of her body was concealed by the big pouch of eggs that she was guarding, leaving the possibly exquisite designs of her abdomen to my imagination. So tantalizingly arachnid, isn’t it?

The other spider, just next to the first one, but to her left, sported a shiny black abdomen with white markings on it. It was only then, when I glanced back at the first and saw her shifting around that I saw she was the same and had the exact same design on her abdomen. How cool would it be if they were sisters, right? Imagine Charlotte’s Web with Charlotte and her sister helping the little Wilbur out. Or maybe they may not have gotten along, who knows. Anyhow, clumsy old me happened to brush gently across a strand of fine silken webbing, sending the female into protect-the-eggs mode, as you can see here. I couldn't believe that in spite of attempting to make every single strand of my being be in tune with getting a good shot without aggravating any of the subjects had gone so horribly wrong. Damn the unwieldy prostration! I was terribly apologetic, but the damage was done, and for the next five minutes, in spite of the number of times I blinded her with the flash, right in her face, she didn’t let her guard down once. No matter what the life form, the maternal instinct is something else to be admired, perhaps even revered.

I don’t know how much longer until the eggs hatch and the little ones come bursting forth into the world, trying to figure out their place in the great web of life, and survive, just because. I don’t even know if I’ll go back and check up on them like I did with a couple of really colorful spiders a couple of years ago. But, as always, I will remain fascinated thinking about all the cracks and crevices that life manages to thrive in. Next-to-nothing all around, but still, a couple of spiders, over a large, deep pool of water, guarding egg sacs, and continuing the perpetual cycle of life. So poetic, I think I shed a tear… :’-)
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