In Dharamsala, ladybugs proliferate.
They alight on clothes drying in the sun. They land on golden arm hairs as you sip your tea. They flank the hyacinth and rose with their tiny red shells.
They also land on the endless stone steps that crisscross this mountain village. Steps are everywhere, like ladybugs. They link restaurants to guesthouses to monasteries. They carve the faces of the hills that rise and fall in every direction.
To reach my guesthouse from the main road, I must navigate a treacherous set of stone steps. They twist and wind and wander over the hill, eventually depositing me at a rugged dirt trail. The trail branches right, leading away to the Pink House, where I stay.
Because of the nature of these steps, it is imperative that I watch my feet closely. Otherwise, as I descend, I might trip and twist an ankle. Therefore, I am afforded an intimate view of the steps every time I walk to town. And sadly, with my eyes fixed on the meandering, crumbling steps, I am forced to see what I don’t want to see- countless dead ladybugs.
They are like smashed art, gorgeous but tragic. They lie splayed on the stones, their wings mashed out, their red shells cracked. If you looked closely enough, I’m sure you could see their tiny legs.
As the sun beats down, and they zoom past my head, I want to scream to them, Land on flowers! Land on trees! But it’s hopeless.
I watch one ladybug zero in on the step ahead of me, like a pilot guided by radar. I tactfully avoid stepping on her, but I hear the heavy footfalls of backpackers behind me, and I know that her untimely death is only a matter of time. No doubt her shiny shell will soon be splayed out, a splotch of red on the somber gray steps.
But as gauche as their tiny deaths are, I am forced to see the silver lining- at least they make bright decorations!