Tag Archives: nature

The Missing Koel and a Quiet Dawn

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It was unusually quiet this morning. The koels have abandoned the treetops that encircled our building.  I miss their crazed, relentless cooing, their jugalbandis. I wait for them to return home. But, do they think it is? They are free birds. They have wings. And, the skies beckon them, as much as other climes and new, strange, faraway lands. Who can stop them? The kingfisher, with his striking turquoise feathers, his ever-watchful gaze, his wedge-shaped, eager beak, poised to hunt for the little fish swimming furiously about in the pond beneath the gazebo, is a silent operator. He perches on the wooden fence which encloses the pond, gazes at the water hopefully, and before you know it, flies off with a wriggling fry held firmly in its beak.

With the koel gone missing, the raucous seven sisters have begun to babble even more gregariously. Such attention-seeking birds they are! I greet them as I walk, and as they hop about. Even their boisterousness doesn’t make up for the vacuum the koel’s departure has created. The sun is shy, peeping out hesitantly, its rays warming up my skin, where the morning chill has settled and made it dry. As it rises, slowly, a glowing ball of fire, I’m on my little terrace, reading aloud from a copy of ‘Asvashtha Shatakaachi Kavita’ by Vasant Abaji Dahake. Rich, metaphorical verse, which I have discovered late. Hopefully, not too late. I could read these poems all morning, if I could, but chores beckon.

A new early morning chore is sweeping the inert bodies of scores of tiny black insects, who had come visiting last night, lured by the fluorescence of the night lamps. They have been arriving at dusk, swarms of tiny black specks, drawn magnetically to the luminosity. They offer their all to their passionate interlude with light, giving up their lives, as they make love to the glow, fall to the ground, and are reduced to dust. More arrive, unfazed, night after night, and are deceived by the very light whose seduction holds something irresistible. They find gaps in closed windows, tap their miniscule mouths on the glass, begging to be let in, and squeeze their bodies inside, to hover about the glowing bulbs, to collectively serenade their common lover. In vain. Or perhaps, it is their chosen way to depart. While in the throes of passion. From light to darkness, and towards light again. Who knows?

Today, the temple courtyard is quiet too. The ektari is silent. The chorus–its collective voice–has been hushed. No kirtans. No bhajans. I should welcome the silence. But, strange as it may seem, I actually missed the discordant morning notes. Chaos has its way of making one get used to it. So, when you get some reprieve, that too requires getting used to. Even as I write this, and I know I’m managing it because these words have come out of the peace that has descended, I’m already loving it.

A raven is croaking. Cr-r-ruck, it goes. It’s time this black, mysterious bird got a chance to make itself heard. Tomorrow, the koel may return…

Today’s #writing quote: “You see things; and say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?” GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

Breakfast: Saboodana Khichdi. Khichdi, yes. Not insipid, convalescent food this. The dish was hot, and soft, and had just the right spice. Seriously yummy. Ginger tea is a great accompaniment.

Today’s alphabet: S: In my encyclopaedia of household things, S stands for Steamer: A three-tier, steel utensil, that has halved my cooking time, as it helps me serve piping hot meals, and retains the crispness and flavour of the vegetables.

On my mind: Marie Kondo and her Kon Mari clean-up method. The wardrobe needs a massive overhaul. Long pending.

Books to read: The racy thriller I’m currently editing, another chapter from: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, a chapter from Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, and I so look forward to choosing a new novel from my long wishlist.

Thought: I read the headlines today, as I ate my breakfast. The khichdi is my body now; the headlines–brutal, sad, euphoric–have settled somewhere deep inside. They will germinate someday. Some words bloom late. Or only in a particular season. I’ll wait.

 

 

 

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Petrichor on My Breath

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It’s a petrichor morning. The magical medley of wet earth scents invigorates. I breathe deeply. Even the alluring aroma of freshly brewed ginger tea pales in comparison. It’s a day to step out, to open my arms and gather the tidings of the early rains and hold them close to my heart.

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Strangely, the koel is silent today. Bathed at dawn, her madness has been mitigated. Pacified, she sits benumbed, behind a tapestry of mango leaves, her crimson irises drinking in the wet nakedness around her. The rain has stolen her voice. The squirrels are out though, running up light poles, chasing each other on the boundary wall, scampering across the lawn, and leaping from branch to branch.

A speck appears from nowhere on the page I handwrite this post on, its stillness misleading. If my alert eye had not spotted its almost invisible movement I wouldn’t have known that it was a breathing, living being.  Afraid that my breath will blow it away, I hold it for as long as I can.  It stands, almost lifeless, on invisible legs, unaffected by the flight of my pen on the paper, or the black trails it leaves behind or the smell of ink. Suddenly, it shoots up, a tiny tornado, if there could ever be one, its miniscule wings in rapid motion, making me recoil. I am shocked by the energy in its itsy-bitsy body. Yet, I muse, how gentle must be the fingers that shaped this mite’s wings, how full of love! Gratitude wells up. Such wondrous beings inhabit the Universe.

The sun peeps out, looking to its right and left. The coast is clear for it to emerge. As the rays fall on the mango tree, they wake up the koel from her momentary stupor. Her insane call ruptures the serenity of the nippy morning.  She is unmindful of the discordant note she strikes. She revels in her lunacy.

The cool breeze causes the strands of my hair to streak across my face, creating a trellis, veiling my view. The world starts looking different, striated. The frangipani  tree, under which I sit on an iron bench, sways gently as its blooms drop down one by one, like parachutes, to kiss the earth and perish, as they emit a powerful citrusy fragrance.

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Soon the grass is strewn with white plumeria–some looking up at the sky, their open yellow cores vulnerable to the sorcery of the elements. Some blooms point at the clouds with the tips of their stems, their faces buried in grass, shying away from the sun. Some lie on their sides beside felled leaves, toasted brown by the sun, as if knowing that they will soon merge with the soil and return home.

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There’s the breeze again! It shakes the droplets of water off the leaves of the frangipani tree and I raise my chin to welcome the shower. “Stay!” I implore. “Stay awhile.” I know it won’t. It’s such a vagabond. Its wanderlust won’t permit it to do more than traipse a bit, and twist and turn crazily. And then, the compulsive pilgrim will be on its way, ignoring my pleas. I take a deep breath, and fill myself up with its bohemian spirit.

It’s futile to expect the rains to linger. They’ve arrived a trifle too early, fickle guests, whose bags stay packed, just inside the door, ready to  leave at will. I prepare myself for their departure. The flicker of hope always hides within it the possibility of disappointment.

I could sit on the wet bench forever observing the tremulous dance of the leaves of grass. I could listen till eternity to the ballad of the bulbuls or the ode to the rains composed collectively by the sunbirds, the mynahs, the sparrows, the wagtails, the fan-tailed birds and the Bharadwaj. I could sit here and write till my fingers protest.

But, the mundane waits. It needs to be attended to. In the neighbourhood, someone is frying puris. The sizzle of the oil and the aroma of a spicy curry mingle with the air. My reverie is broken. Petrichor. It had cast a spell on me. I’ve inhaled it.  I am petrichor. I am the speck. I am rain. I am the earth. I’m intoxicated. Words flow.

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Mother Nature and Other Such

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Last night, nature did a tandav. Lightning streaked across the sky, splitting it in the middle, maniacal in its ferocity, flashing and disappearing. The eyes had but a split second to register its dazzling brilliance, before it vanished. The roar of thunder followed it, reverberating, bouncing off the wet earth and the damp, hardened surfaces of concrete structures.

When the winds started blowing, raising the dust off the ground, stirring particles of earth lying in wait, their breath held for months, to embrace the force that would transport them to unknown lands, there was a heaving, an audible sigh, before they surrendered. They let themselves be carried, whirled about and twisted and turned, till they were settled on unfamiliar territory. How the winds wooed them, and how they danced and swayed, with not a care in the world, allowing themselves to be sashayed, making love to their abductor.

Soon, the scent of the earth permeated the air, every particle soaked to its core, emitting the joy of being bathed after months of being scorched by a merciless sun. It was both spectacular and awesome. As nature is. Nurturing and unpredictable. Mother Nature. A woman, who has given birth to millions of offspring, each so different from the other, entities held together by millions of invisible umbilical cords, diverse in character but united by their blood. Mother Nature, ever pregnant, with a fertility that is unmatched, unparalleled. Every day is her day, every moment, her moment. She lives it to the fullest, dressed to her teeth, flaunting her assets unabashedly, even those weathered by time and human abuse.

Red earth and pouring rain leave their unmistakable stamp on the mundane business of living. The house plunged into darkness, as there was a spontaneous outage of power, and the inverter struggled to keep it illuminated through dinner time. It kept the fans running but the refrigerator lost its cool. Slumber is a saviour. So, as Mother Nature unleashed her marvels outside, my pillow comforted me and I woke up to a cool morning, with the rain still lashing at my window, but the skies showing no trace of being sliced up repeatedly by unrelenting frenzied firebolts. Peaceful and whole, the clouds look down with pride.

A new day has dawned. It has infinite possibilities. I sip piping hot ginger tea and stare at nothing in particular, the steam rising to my nostrils gently. Soon, the newspapers will arrive. The chores will begin. A cuckoo calls. ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ I greet her back. She’s an unusual mother. Adventurous. She lays her eggs in another’s nest. A crow caws in the distance. She knows that she has been conned into nurturing another’s child. But, there is love for the alien chicks in her heart. She is a mother, after all. Strange are the ways of mothers, much misunderstood and much blamed as they are. But, warm, giving, loving, nevertheless. It takes all types to make the world that much more interesting.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

 

How About Being Just Human?

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“Muslims Cremate Forsaken Hindus”, I read the headlines in today’s newspaper. It spoke about how a group of Muslim youths had taken the lead and performed the last rites of a 65-year-old Hindu man, whose own flesh and blood refused to show up to do the needful. Not only did they pacify his grieving, incapacitated widow, who was worried that the body would decompose, but they also contacted a Hindu priest, procured the death certificate, obtained the required permission from the cremation ground, prepared the bier and carried the corpse to the grounds. Just as one of them was about to light the pyre, the man’s son walked in, did the needful, and walked away without so much as a by your leave.

How the story warmed the cockles of my heart. This is how it should be. This is what the media should showcase. Brotherhood. Solidarity despite differences. The height of compassion and kindness. All that it sure was, and yes, the Muslim youths were undeniably the epitome of humanity. Then, it struck me. Isn’t this what any human being should do in these circumstances, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sex? Isn’t it innate to reach out to another in need? Aren’t we hardwired to do so? Isn’t it our nature to spontaneously  offer a kind word, a shoulder to lean on, maybe some money if we can afford it or whatever it is that we can extend at that moment, as succour?

Perhaps, in an inharmonious world, where differences are used as weapons to alienate, create strife and ghettoise, such gestures have become so rare that they need to be held up as examples–reminders of our true nature. We are actually amazed that some individuals can rise above the contrariness, listen to their untainted hearts and allow their humaneness to surface, and that they do so despite professing a different religion. If we feel that religion is such an impediment to being our natural selves, we need to revisit it, look at our interpretations of it and do away with that which warps our minds and hearts and hold on to that which nurtures our indigenous humanitarian core.

I’m in no way undermining what the youths did. They are heroes. I’m only saddened that today, we have to mention that they did what they did despite their religion, as if the act is an oddity, as if our diversity is meant to alienate us, and that acts of natural grace are unexpected and superhuman. To be true to one’s nature is anomalous. In trying to ‘protect’ our uniqueness, we are afraid to embrace this diversity. How much richer we would be if we celebrated it, and instead of trying to be exclusive in a sickening, alienating way, we are accepting and inclusive.

As I ruminated upon this,  I couldn’t help look around and marvel at the wondrous mixed bag that nature is. Despite its multi-hued faces, it exudes harmony through every blade of grass and every drop of rain. It cradles all kinds of seeds in its soil, and allows them to blossom in their own special way, creating a medley of beauty and coexistence. It doesn’t play favourites, doesn’t hold back, and gives judiciously and without discrimination. It is generous and benevolent. Ask, and it gives…

We are nature’s children. How could we be any different? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

Birds, Walkers and Sun-gazing

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Today, I visited the garden in my locality. The sun was out in all its glory. My favourite wooden bench, that is right under a mango tree, was empty. The grass looked greener than ever, springy and lively, drunk as it was on the sweet early morning showers. The fragrance of wet red earth hung in the air. I sat on the bench and took a deep breath. Instant invigoration! Something moved on the tree above. I looked up to see a crow perched on a branch a little away from me, guarding its nest. A breeze blew, the branches shook and showered me with drops of water that the rain had soaked them with.

I tried looking into the sun’s eyes. Its resplendence blinded me, but only for a moment. Slowly, as I adjusted my eyes to its fiery brightness, the scorching rays seemed to recede and mellow and I was able to gaze at its core–a dull golden ball, with tiny concentric half circles around it–unblinkingly, for a few seconds. The dull grey cloud that cocooned it took on an orangish hue. My eyes began to water. This is ‘Sudoor Trataka’, a yogic shuddhi kriya, that works wonderfully for the cleansing of the eyes, while it centres and stills the practitioner. (Sudoor: in which the object the practitioner is gazing at, is at a distance; Trataka: ‘Ata’ means ‘to roam’ and ‘Trayate’ means ‘to protect’. So, ‘Trataka’ is an act, which protects the mind from roaming constantly.) This needs to be practised with caution, as sunlight is very powerful, and befriending the sun does not mean being under its glare at any odd time. It’s best done before 9 am in the morning and after 4 pm in the evening,  when the rays are friendly and mellower. Another way to gaze at the sun for a longer time is to look at it through a green leaf.

As I dabbed my eyes, the cloud covered the sun and it began to play hide and seek with me. A strong breeze blew and the dry leaves strewn across the green carpet started doing somersaults. Two mynahs and a baby squirrel hopped about on the grass, looking for food. One of the pair, chased the squirrel away, and took flight. The other ignored the squirrel completely and the two kept a safe distance between themselves as they continued with their individual searches. The crow began to caw menacingly on the branch above. I had done nothing to intimidate it or to be perceived as potential danger to its babies. I sent it a silent message that I meant no harm.

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It’s a calm and peaceful morning. Intermittently, the silence is broken by the pounding feet of the joggers. There are walkers too, with different rhythms. There are the strollers, who trudge aimlessly, staring into space, their arms limp, their legs reluctant. The talkers walk to talk. Their pace quickens or slackens according to the intensity of their conversations. They gesticulate wildly, their faces contorting, their heads nodding or shaking. The thinkers have their chins lowered, fixed inside their jugular notches, their eyes glued to the ground beneath their feet. They stay at the edge of the track, lost in their worlds, refusing to look up. The runners are an impatient lot. The sign saying ‘Keep Left’ tells them they have right of way, but the right side of the track is blocked by the strollers, who ignore the sign and couldn’t care less. To thwart these human hurdles, they make exaggerated thudding sounds with their feet and pant and puff loud enough for the strollers to warn them, to make way for them. They can’t do much about the watchers though, who visit the garden only to look around. They stare at the meditators, frown at the strollers, watch open-mouthed as the breath-catchers go through their Pranayama practices, watching their bellies expand and contract; laugh at and with members of the laughter club, whose raucous laughter shatters the silence; and glare at the runners, who push them aside to surge ahead.  Then, there are the couples, who refuse to ‘uncouple’ to make way. They are joined at their hips, their hands clasped tight, their fingers intertwined. They move as a unit. A good morning walk entails manoeuvring your body through the spaces between, knowing when to twist and turn or move aside and ahead.

The cloud has covered the sun completely. It gets darker. Monsoon showers, during the month of Shravan, have a peculiarity. There is this wonderful play of darkness and light. Now, you see the sun and the next moment, there is a downpour. By the time you open your umbrella, the sun is out again.

A cool breeze caresses my face. The squirrel and mynah are nowhere to be seen. A stray dog has sauntered in, escaping the watchman’s eye. It licks its brown coat. A yellow butterfly flits about on the grass. A large black ant runs about near my feet and disappears into the wet earth. It’s time to return home. I haven’t had my fill of the outdoors. Tomorrow holds great promise.