Category Archives: Nature

The Light

The light that falls over a lovely passage in a book, and you feel something shift within you.

The light that catches the floating steam off a coffee cup as it mingles with the mist in the mountains, and on this wisp, you can hear the call of the highland birds between the sounds of cutlery at the breakfast table.

The light that entangles with the ridges of a smile, casting shadows on the creases of a face that you have fallen in love with.

The light that shines through a leaf as it stands stoic and silent in the summer heat, allowing it to pass through, making it transparent like muslin.

The light that falls on a baby’s sleeping face as the mother checks in on her, opening the door gently, slowly, so that a wedge of beam sneaks into the room and washes over her closed eyes.

The light that slants through the kitchen window and falls on the dented contours of pots and pans used for many years, their spaces fragrant with stories of many shared meals, conversations and silence.

The light that brushes against the silver sheen of a woman’s hair as she carries a basket of fresh vegetables from the market, and winds through the wrinkles on her face as she crosses the road, her hands full of all that sustains life.

The light that slips in through raindrops, and forms rainbows in your eyes.

The light that weaves in through the delicate fray of a well- worn cotton top, snuggling in between the air and comfort that breathes through.

 

That kind of lightness. That kind of Light.

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The Call of the Crow

The Call of the Crow

 

Common, they call me, a common crow,

I am chased from their windows for creating a row,

In their city, where everyone clamours to be heard

Above the din- each one merely, a part of the herd.

 

Cars honk, people rush, chasing success, going for the kill

I track them from the star apple tree, or a window sill,

Grabbing what they can, clamouring for attention

Jostling and juggling, their lives a constant friction.

 

Dazzled by the unusual- for to them, that has glamour and beauty

With binoculars and cameras, they run after migratory birds that fly through their city

While I, black and grey, with a croaky caw, am not worth a look,

They dismiss me with stones, a sharp shout, as if I am a crook.

 

I know, though, that I am intelligent and street smart,

I can even count, and am determined to finish anything I start,

So let them ignore me, I will still sing for myself,

And I have learnt how to get by without any help.

 

In my eyes, I am beautiful, my coat a black sheen

Making a pretty picture, a striking contrast amidst the green,

And I bet this city wouldn’t be the same, without me swooping high and low,

For, can you imagine Mumbai without a single crow?

 

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Home By The Sea

It’s a Sunday morning on Mumbai’s Juhu beach. Enthusiastic day- break joggers have gone home and the long stretch of sand is largely empty, save for a few hawkers and strays who are curling up on the warm grains, too languid to stir from their place, even as we walk around them.

We have come here for a marine walk. To get to know the rich sea life that inhabits the shores of this vast city; the original residents of the megapolis that, though was formed of seven islands, is still a large island flanked by the Arabian sea.

We are ensconced by an expansive biodiversity of marine life, and in intrinsic and essential ways, more than we know, and care to acknowledge, our lives, ecosystems and our very survival hinges on respecting these life forms that create an invisible synergy between our lives, quite like the delicate dance of the moon and tides.

Though the rambling curve of Juhu beach is divided into the sandy part that begins somewhere near the Ramada Plaza hotel, the muddy section that snakes alongside Juhu Tara road, and the rocky portion that forms the backdrop of a native fishing community on the outskirts of Khar, -this demarcation is fluid, seamlessly flowing into each other. Just as our walk is getting into the rhythm of the sand, our feet feeling its shifting quality, it starts getting heavier and we realise that the loose sand has given way to a denser, cloying variety that sticks to our shoes and soon we are wading into an inlet that leaves our footprints in the mud along the shore. Gradually small pebbles get under our feet, we feel their crunch and roundness beneath our shoes and soon we are up against the big rocks.

We notice all this because we are walking gingerly, for when we move with awareness and look beneath our feet at the immense variety of life forms that permeate the waters, we are mindful of where we place our step, of what we step on.

Glinting on the shore, against the shimmering sand is a spectrum of bivalve molluscs and gastropods, with shells in colours and patterns so mesmerising that they are miniature masterpieces under the sun. In fact, sand is formed as the waves break these shells over time, and pound them into the proverbial million pieces like a clear night sky scattered with stars.

So many shapes, structures, shades and symmetries. We flit from one to the other, holding a magnifying glass and admiring the way nature has created such complex rhythms, such intricate systems, such sheer diversity- all working in complete and cohesive harmony to produce a symphony in the sea. We hold each gently, on the palm, for we now experience its life, its contribution to the whole of creation, its innate strength to survive over thousands of years, and yet these life forms look so fragile, so vulnerable in their beauty.

The ethereal sunset shell, a bivalve, whose outer lilac casing is designed to form the slanting rays of the sun; the turban shell whose spiral turns are akin to the human headgear; the Olivia which is slender and conical with a slit towards one end, quite like a lady wearing a shimmering slit gown; the Ambonium that is a bright red and is also called a button shell and it is indeed as cute as a button; three types of Donax, pearl white and pretty; my favourite, the window pane oyster whose shell is translucent and gossamer, like a glass painting, stained with hues of blue and purple, used to decorate chandeliers and as we hold it up , its timeless colours sparkle in the sunshine; the Psomania, with its sheen of white flecked with pink; the blue barnacles, immortalised by Captain Haddock to Tintin as he thundered, “billions of blistering blue barnacles!” Yes, they sting!

The hermit crab borrows the discarded shell of other molluscs and moves around in them- the original recycler! We see colonies of hermit crabs all in a variety of shells scurrying across the sand bed and marvel at the way Nature has a way of valuing and reusing everything She designs. And how wonderful Her mechanisms of coexistence are. For instance, the Decorator Worm gathers discarded shells, sticks them together with its saliva and makes tunnels to house itself! And all that in a space of a couple of inches. We see the Kavdi, a common sea shell that we have all gathered as children, the inside edge having teeth like structures. This was used as currency hundreds of years ago.

We watch the pink sea anemone sway its tentacles like a bevy of dancers synchronising to a beat. And on the boulders, we find oysters embedded in the rocks, the bivalves opened out like a fan. Climbing the rocks, we dip into the waters and discover the first multicellular animals in the world – the sponges, in a burst of colours -orange, yellow, blue and sapphire green- which have a singular opening through which they take in whatever food the current brings in, and the outgoing current carries away any waste material that they expel.

We have not only travelled to the outer reaches of the beach, but also to the edge of time. Overhead, the Terns, on white wings fly across the silent sky.

And we know we can go forward only by taking care of our marine life, helping preserve what was gifted to us, honouring all life forms, respecting the balance through which Nature functions, and understanding that we are but a mere part of the big picture, a speck in the ocean of time.IMG_6509IMG_6511IMG_6513IMG_6530IMG_6551IMG_6553IMG_6568IMG_6608IMG_6620IMG_6647IMG_6677IMG_6681IMG_6703IMG_6741

Conoor : Nature Unplugged

Only the widest angle lens can do justice to the sheer spread of Nature that is Coonoor.

Snuggled next to its more popular cousin, Ooty, that is teeming with tourists, Coonoor retains its serenity and sanity, as a happy result.

Remnants of the British who regarded Coonoor as a summer retreat are evident in the names of streets and markets, bakeries and quaint cottages spilling over with a profusion of vivacious flowers.

Perched on the mountains in spontaneous rows, the houses spring up in daring shades of pink, blue, green and even neon, as if trying hard to match the vivacity of the flora.

At 8000 ft above sea level, Coonoor has some of the highest tea estates in the world. As the car hugs the winding road, a gorgeous green thick carpet of neatly arranged tea plantations looks like a pattern of glistening waves.

Through the rolled down windows, the mist swoops down the blue mountains, and brushes your face, and brings in the unmistakable fragrance of eucalyptus infused with the sharp scent of pine. Interspersed with the birdsong of the Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Indian Blackbird,Brown-breasted Flycatcher and the
Square-tailed Bulbul.

Coonoor. Every scene is framed and feted with all the senses.20171021_17164620171021_17332920171021_17344220171021_173504IMG_4176IMG_4178IMG_4202IMG_4203IMG_4206IMG_4243IMG_4247IMG_4250IMG_4255IMG_4256IMG_4314IMG_4317IMG_4323IMG_4324IMG_4325IMG_4403IMG_4471IMG_4680