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Namaskaram says the Mirigam*

It was a sweltering Sunday morning on the islands when I decided to walk the entire beach stretch of Agatti , Lakshadweep. On these walks, I always kept an eye out for turtle tracks, poop or anything remotely turtle like. It had been two weeks since I had arrived on the islands and there seemed to be absolutely no trace of any turtles. I had begun to get a little desperate to see one. Like any other day I set out that morning in the hope of catching a glimpse of a turtle or at least collect some poop samples.

Setting out on one of my turtle walks.

Setting out on one of my turtle walks. Photo: Divya Panicker

It was noon when I finally reached my favourite part of Agatti in the Southern tip, with not a single soul around. Oh! how rare it is to find such a tranquil place with no trace of humanity. Three hours in and I could feel my body going limp after all the walking. What kept me going was the music I was listening to and the spectacular afternoon blue hues of the lagoon. I remember swaying to the tunes of the Walk of Life by the Dire Straits, when I suddenly noticed something in the distance. It was circular and kept bobbing at irregular intervals on the surface of the water. TURTLE! I thought, and immediately unstrapped my sandals and ran towards it. As I got closer, the bobbing got slower and much to my dismay I discovered that it was only an old plastic bottle.

South of Agatti and not a soul around

South of Agatti and not a soul around. Photo: Meenakshi Poti

I was sleepy, hungry, and, out of water but determined to walk back from the southern tip of Agatti. I plugged in my earphones and set out once again. This time I was singing aloud and dancing to the tunes of the music playing through my earphones. I felt like a free spirit on that uninhabited stretch of the beach. Jumping to the catchy tunes, I almost stopped mid air with my mouth wide open. I knew for sure that I saw something and I really hoped it wasn’t another drifting bottle. I continued staring into the waters in anticipation. Then, I saw it emerge from the turquoise blue waters with both its front flippers spread out. My first green turtle and what a sighting!! It took me a few seconds to believe what I was seeing. I took a good look at it for a minute and it disappeared into the bright blue seas. I like to believe that this turtle was greeting me with its arm wide open to Kingdom Chelonia!

The Mirigam emerges from the turquoise blue waters

The Mirigam emerges from the turquoise blue waters. Illustration: Meenakshi Poti

I still remember every detail of this turtle- its face, flippers and greenish-brown carapace. It almost felt like this entire scene was staged just for my eyes. Everyone who goes out on field waits for moments like these. It’s not always that you see your first turtle in such a dramatic way, to the perfect background score and clear blue waters.

The sighted green turtle captured in a pencil sketch

The green turtle captured in a pencil sketch. Illustration: Meenakshi Poti

I later found a spot under the shade of an Artocarpus  (bread fruit) tree and scribbled away in my diary….

*Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are locally referred to as Mirigam by the inhabitants of Lakshadweep.

About Meenakshi:

Meenakshi just returned from a very exciting field season in Lakshadweep. Her research work focuses on green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and seagrass interactions. A large chunk of her time was spent underwater or walking the beaches looking out for turtle poop and a whole bunch of exciting encounters with the beautiful underwater life.