Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dalhousie & Dharamshala: Bird and butterfly list (June 2016)

There will be more on this very intense ten day trip to Himachal but the bird and butterfly list had to go here first! I was thrilled by how many of these are new to me and just how many I was actually able to grab on camera. How lucky for me that I was born in the land of the Himalayas!

Birds
1. Oriental turtle dove
2. Blue whistling thrush
3. Great himalayan barbet
4. Slaty/grey headed parakeet
5. Blue fronted barbet
6. Green backed tit
7. Plumbeous water redstart (male and female)
8. Scaly breasted munia
9. Himalayan black bulbul
10. Himalayan white eared bulbul
11. Barn swallow (with nest and babies)
12. Great tit
13. Common myna
14. Jungle crow
15. Median egret
16. Egyptian vulture
17. Grey bushchat
18. Oriental magpie robin
19. Verditer flycatcher
20. Black drongo
21. Yellow billed blue magpie
22. Alexandrine parakeet
23. Crimson sunbird
24. Common sparrow
25. Streaked laughing thrush
26. Grey hooded warbler
27. Common hoopoe
28. Rufous treepie
29. Asian paradise flycatcher
30. Black redstart
31. Rock pigeon
32. White bellied drongo
33. Pied bushchat






Butterflies
1. Sorrel sapphire
2. Green veined white
3. Large hedge blue
4. Lesser punch
5. Common spotted flat
6. Nepal ringed argus
7. Yellow coster
8. Large cabbage white
9. White bordered copper





Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ode to a cosmos

And you grew
delicate and tall
sublime and rich
with infused gold 
on your petal tips -
all hours waiting
by your side have
been turned to sunlight.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

About a seed

It was originally a packet of portulaca seeds. The more common name of the plant is moss rose. It is a bit of a magical plant because sometimes it grows different coloured flowers like the sleeve of a magician. Its a succulent so its good for arid regions and i am told it does not need very much loving.

But I am learning about seeds. And I have learnt something recently which i suppose most people who grow things know well enough - seeds in packets cannot breathe. Often sitting inside the silver foil, treated with many chemicals, their desire to grow begins to cramp and retreat. It recedes and recedes till sometimes there is no return from the sleep.

So, I made a tray and filled it with a mixed beautiful assortment from composts of different types. I added in an organic supplement just to be sure that there was enough for the sleepiest seeds to awake and then laying them gently - i did what one must with great patience - wait.

For a few days there was silence. It seemed like an endless long blank following the sentence: and then there was .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... life!

Just like that one fine day! Fine little threads of red heads had awakened and emerged. There were not just one or two or three or four - there were so many little heads that I could not count! Joy!

Everyday i watched closely, watered regularly and kept them safe from the terrifying elements. They were so fine and so small that I showered more supplements and changed their place if there was too much sun even in its place in shade.

Meanwhile, I had cosmos saplings growing in another tray. Tall hardy and quick to grow, they were the magic beans already hunting the sun with their hungry leaning. As i wondered if it was time to transplant them - i suddenly noticed a tiny little fine red being at the feet of the giants.

It was one sole portulaca. A tender almost invisibly thin crimson stalk with the two smallest little leaves.

I looked up close and pondered how one little seed had travelled here. I would have to guess that this was indeed through the sleight of my unknowing hands which had been planting and moving from one plate to the other. Anyhow. Here he was. And I was not sure what to do with him. He wasn't in the way. Securely to one side, away from transplanting woes - my worry was more in lieu of its ability to survive outside the cozy environment that the others had. I supposed, albeit sadly, that it would not survive.

The coming days were curious. My little oasis seemed to be inadequate. Little clumps of delicate portulaca would be wilting each morning - impossible to recover. As the numbers began to sink, I began a desperate bid to move the possible variables around - sunlight, warmth, water, soil, supplement - all were shifted and changed. Yet the little plants continued to wilt. I scoured the online spaces looking for any method of reprisal but to no avail.

All the while, the little lone stalk with no protection - stood the same. It didn't grow but it stood its ground. I wondered if the soil in the tray had something to do with it. So, I decided as a last effort to save the final clump of portulaca - to shift them to the other tray.

For a while, it seemed to work. The last few stood in defiance. Nodding at a little distance from the lone fellow. I was heartened. Maybe I would have my few roses after all! Yet the next morning I woke up to a wipe out. I could have wept! I wondered what I could have done differently. How could I have saved my little crop? I had tried everything that I knew.

Then I looked at the lone stalk - still small, still frail - but standing.

Thus, began a strange ritual. I decided to stop with the fussing and make do with the basics of watering. The cosmos were transplanted much before so now it was just him and his two green leaves - representing life on that desolate looking much too large tray.

I planted asters. Then I planted marigolds. They quickly raised their heads and began greedily growing. Taller and taller each day. The portulaca remained the same, as if in meditation. I watched it curious by learning to be patient. It did seem that its stalk was brighter somehow - more infused with colour but who could really say? My heart was cautious now. I could not allow it to be ruined on this last hope.

And yet the last one stood. Through the cycles of plants moving in and out of its vicinity. Night and day passing. It seemed the moon and the sun were beginning to join in my vigil. They moved in the clockwork of the sky. On some rare days the little sapling would even have an accompanying sliver of a shadow at its feet - and yet, there remained no further stirring. Was this just a creature being exemplary and holding its little fist against the world till its inevitable collapse?

As it turned out - I had the lesson wrong.

One morning, as i undertook my usual round of surveying the saplings I found to my utter surprise - the little portulaca had proudly grown two even tinier additional leaves! It seemed to me that it held them up as its prize showing, glittering as they were in all their newness to the world. The little plant in this big big world seemed somehow even more fragile and frail with them. Looking so proud and so young - that it almost broke my heart. I felt this overwhelming out pouring of love for this last remaining sentient creature from a brigade, that had indeed stood its ground in the battle for life.

How it had seemingly spent weeks absorbed in patient silence as the world around it blew in a seeming storm of growth and decay, waiting! And now indeed, its moment had come.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Never time enough for all the nothing!

"I come to your place and stay for lots of time?", inquires my five year old nephew Ved with that air of a fellow who has already taken the decision and packed his bags.

Literally. Last time for a day's visit he packed his Superman bag with five underwear of which he thinks two are too cool, featuring as they do robots and rockets, to be kept on the inside and should be treated as shorts, three pajamas and one t-shirt. Clearly the boy knows a thing or two about hygiene and packing. He did almost forget his toothpaste but his mother knowing his preference for treating his bottom with more respect, added that in.

So, our conversation continues.

Me: How come you want to come here?
Ved: Because you'll make me paaanncaakes!!
Me: But your mum also makes pancakes.
Ved: Yes, but you have special ones. (ahem, not really but sure!)
Me: Then what will we do rest of the time?
Ved: We can play all the games we played last time!
(where I had to pretend to be a waiter and get the sauce while he chomped on the pancakes)

When he's around we also have intense philosophical conversations.

Me: I think you should not grow up. What do you think?
Ved: I have to grow up!
Me: Why? Why can't you be five forever? Then I can still pick you up otherwise you'll get too big.
Ved: That's okay. I'll grow up and you can pick Dev (younger brother).
Me: No no. Let Dev turn 25. You be 5.
Ved: No! That cannot happen. I'll be 25 he can be 5.
Me: But why do you want to grow up?
Ved: (Thinks... then) To eat ice cubes.

Clearly.
What other reason could there be to grow up?

We also do drawings together. So, once we did the big mouth big teeth who can eat whom hypothetically series:

Ved: I am a tiger!
Me: Hahaha. I am a hippo - I have a huuuugggeee mouth!
Ved: I am a crocodile!
Me: I am a tyrannosaurus rex! I am going to eaaatt yoouuu!!
Ved: (running out of animals, changes the game) I am your tyrannosaurus rex baby.
Me: What? That doesn't make any sense. I'm still bigger than you.
Ved: Yes, but you can't eat your baby!

Stumped and trumped.

We have a common love for books. Once when I asked him what he was reading: he dramatically held his head in his hands shaking it with mild exasperation: ohho, with you its always books and books! But then with a big skip and hop he pulled out his usual set from my cupboard where he knows I keep them. I am expected to read the Dr.Seuss ones with tension and drama - doing voices for Horton, Cat in the Hat etc - while he takes over to read Miffy (by Dick Bruna) "all by myself" (as he puts it). Then we read our joint favorite 'The Lonely Firefly' by Eric Carle together - I read the text, he reads the illustrations - till we get to the last page where the fireflies with real lights in their bottoms twinkle back at us to our great delight each time. We switch off the lights sometimes and watch them in the dark (but not all coz "then it gets too dark, you see").Then without fail he explains to me where the button for the lights is located and how the light mechanism of the book works.

Its a ritual.

Oh for these rituals to last forever.
There really isn't time enough for all the nothing one wants to do!


  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The struggle

It is very strange to figure out
that you have stopped doing something
that you had felt once was essential
to your being. It should hit you like a tonne
of bricks and throw you into a tizzy
but life will make it such that one day -
you might find yourself brushing the lofty
idea off that anything could be essential
other than just trying to keep
your head above the churning waters.
My five year old self would curl in horror
at this submission to this state of affairs.
She had an opinion, a sureness of self
a will to express her little fistful
against the largeness of the big world.
In the haphazard stacking of time
on the shelves of a spreading life
maybe it is dissipation one should be
most careful of. This spreading thin
and becoming a weaker ink. How does
one keep to the task of maintaining
the thin incisive bite of clarified being?
We are programmed to live as
automatons. Too easily does the grip slip.
To harness your soul for battles
of growth, to blow the ennui that
settles and whispers empty nothings -
a costly wakefulness, deep vigilance
a breaking isolation must separate your
tasks from those of most others. You must
give up simple paths of unquestioned sanction
the comfort of conformity and prepare
for unrequited love with a wayward world.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A time for Faiz

There is in various forms across the world, a new fear surrounding speech. Maybe it is the surveillance society and some because speech has been the first frontier where many battles of differences are fought. In a world which is coming closer and closer irrespective of whether it wants to or not - the latter is an important consideration. Worlds which were closed and isolated suddenly find themselves cracked open and challenged. Views which remained in a state of suspended animation for eons are being aired out of the closet and in many cases have been found wanting.

I have been restlessly trying to find wisdom that defines the difference between hate and challenge. I have been trying to understand how when we recognise the difference do we then deal with it? A democracy is, if not anything else, a space for conversation, a dialectic. How do we moderate the conversation with argument and nuance instead of violence? How do we break away from polarised views, from partisanship?

I have no clear answers yet though some thoughts are broiling. Meanwhile, I find solace in the fact that these questions are in fact to my relief - old, asked and pondered over. One of my recent favorite things to do has been to go back to Faiz's poetry. He began, as I understand, a regular love struck poet, but the political scenario and the persecution he faced transformed his poetry - the pain and love erstwhile expressed for an individual was transformed and directed to the broken state of humanity and the world. Below are some of my recent favorites to return to:  

From “Poems by Faiz: Translated with an introduction by V.G. Kiernan”, here is a  classic Faiz Ahmed Faiz poem:

Bol, ke lab azaad hai tere:
Bol, zabaan ab tak teri hai,
Tera sutwan jism hai tera –
Bol, ke jaan ab tak teri hai.

Dekh ke aahangar ki dukaan mein
Tund hai shu’le, surkh hai aahan,
Khulne-lage quflon ke dahane,
Phaila hare k zanjeer ka daaman.

Bol, ye thora waqt bahut hai,
Jism o zabaan ki maut se pahle;
Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak –
Bol, jo kuchh kahna hai kah-le!

Translated to:

And then there is this haunting rendition of his poem, Rabba Sachiya; below, is Noor Jehan's beautiful rendition of his ever so famous poem, Mujhse pehli si:






Thursday, November 05, 2015

Note to self

Growing up sneaks up on you.

I wrote through a fair bit of my twenties in this blog. It was hardly ever a forced event. I wrote because i needed to or because i wanted to. I never wrote for an audience, I just wrote.
And then one day accumulated over another and weeks turned into months and - nothing. I was gone. That me who wrote here with a rather touching sincerity and hope - gone.

Noone really cared because I am not one of those social media magnets and I didn't have big significant things to say - only little small things crafted out my own moments. My blog hid safely ensconced under the name of Dylan's famous song so that even a google search has difficulty dredging it. (This is really Googles flaw if one thinks about it. It finds what wants to be found. I'm sure this has never occurred to anyone there as a negative.) And I, the seeker of dark corners, invisibility and cloaks, would have not liked it any different.

What is strange is that I missed that significant event completely.

Every once in a while a promotional comment comes calling to my mail box and for a few minutes of regret i tear through the years reading blog after blog - rediscovering the many people I have been. I ache a little at the many losses I have suffered unknowingly in my bid to move on. It is a built in mechanism to shield one from the blows I suppose - this impetus to grow. Yet i'd rather feel them than pass by not acknowledging the effort it takes to reach the present.

So this is for the woman who will return again. To remind her, that its painful sometimes, these recollections of hope and the words wrapped in the happy tinsel of youth - but they are all folded within your nooks. Don't forget them. Go meet them and take a walk. Chat and laugh - get to know them and love them with all their flaws. For they lived before you and didn't know better. But are you quite sure that they didn't?