Luxuriant Wilderness…

It was that time of the year when Spring steps in on tinkle toes and the harsh winter winds surrender to the cheery breeze. Our anniversary; though the cheeriness was limited to the two of us only. Oh, not that our folks weren’t happy for us, but whoever heard was like “Again?!!!” Well..Yes again…our anniversary trip to our favourite places- Corbett.

Corbett; now obviously everyone has heard about the Jim Corbett National Park; the bountiful natural surrounds with abundance of varied flora and fauna – mainly the majestic monarch, the tiger. The relative arrangement of the physical features make it one of the biggest national parks in our country. Geographically speaking, it’s located in the foothills of the Himalayas. The variety of verdancy ranges from conifers to deciduous vegetation.

A large portion of the area dominated is by Sal trees, the other kinds of trees include Khair, jamoon, bel, kusum, mahua, bakil, chir pine, banj oak that are scattered in the forest park varying with geography and climatic conditions favorable for them. The holy Peepal and Mango trees are found abundantly too.  And adding color to the verdant palette are the flowering trees like Kachnaar bearing pink hues, Semal – a cotton tree bearing big red flowers, Dhak with radiant orange ones, Laburnum with a happy yellow blossom to name a few. Teak, eucalyptus, jacaranda, silver oak and bottlebrush are some of the trees that are cultivated in the park.

 The river Ramganga along with three major tributaries- Sonanadi, Mandal and Palain make sure that the water supply is perennial in the area.

The entire reserve is divided into five major zones Dhikala, Jhirna, Bijrani, Durgadevi and Sonanadi.

There are trains, and then there is the road…and the likes of us find the latter more suitable for our trip. So my husband and I work early on our anniversary after catching a few winks (literally because as a ritual we had finished the packing only by 1 AM) So after taking greetings and blessings we started off with a promise to Mom to keep messaging about every stop/milestone covered. With our choicest music tuned in, with snacky stuff packed; we were going with my hubby’s ruling we tried and crossed the major traffic- stricken areas before the “office time” which brought us to a good coverage by a 3 hours where after the sight of McDonald’s made us realize that we were low on glucose…hence stopped for refueling of our systems, stretched n freshened up    , we got back in our Rapid.

 The weather was just right, like I mentioned earlier, Spring in the air and everything was just right for a drive like this one. The maddening metropolis crowd, the hustle bustle of the so called civilized society seemed to be rushing backwards as we raced ahead into the sparsely populated area of Ramnagar, heralding our scenic sojourn.

Now Corbett for us isn’t just another National Park, it’s a home away from home, read on to know what makes it just that.

A drive through the open meadows, crossing some tilled land, with the hills in the far sight and freshness in the mountain breeze leads you to a place that looks no short of a fairytale mansion, The Homestead. This sprawling countryside property, surrounded by arable land, fenced by Mango and other fruit trees on the horizon is owned by an elderly couple Anil and Ameeta Puri who became Bunny Uncle and Amu Aunty before our first visit ended. It isn’t one of those clichéd home stays with 5 star facilities that you find mushrooming around the tiger reserve – some very big names at that, but this is something else.

The Homestead has deluxe suites, deluxe rooms, and a couple of cottages. The main mansion has a huge landscaped garden with a riot of flowers, through which a path leads to the flowering trees and the waterfall landscaped swimming pool. Further on are the spa and the gym area. Beyond this is the relaxation area complete with the hammock and a little stream with fish and lotus in full bloom leads to the barbeque region.

The moment we got there, we saw Aunty and Uncle both standing to welcome us with open arms. The manager and the entire staff have taken after our loving hosts in affability. After the exchange of pleasantries we were ushered into the open dining area – an area beautifully done up with lovely plants and many objet d’art. Our tiredness seeped away as we quaffed homegrown sugarcane juice with a dash of mint and ginger.

Now we two have this advantage of getting the cottage to ourselves on visit. And when we went in, apart from the impeccably done décor to suit our taste, to our surprise there were gifts and chocolates placed in our room! That was such a sweet gesture really!

The meals are categorically to our liking and after the evening tea, Uncle took us to present his new found hobby of star gazing; there was this huge telescope and he had a lot to tell us about this new venture.

We retired into our cottage to rest for while and joined Uncle and Aunty for our special anniversary dinner with them. Where after we talked over dessert and finally retired for the night…with the excitement of going on a safari the next morning.

Usually getting up in the morning is quite a task back home but there we didn’t seem to need an alarm at all! We got ready in no time and packed up for our amazing time ahead.

Now in most of the places in our country 4 AM isn’t really the time of bustling activity in the market place- but here you’d find just that. All shops are open barring a few showrooms, and the roads brimming with people and vehicles. Their day starts early because of the tourist movement in the wee hours.

The moon was still governing the skies when we got to the gate of the reserve. To top it all there was a stall of steaming hot masala chai where all the who’s who of the tiger reserve fraternity were busy sharing their schedules and designated jeeps. So we got into our jeep with our guide and driver. We usually take the entire jeep to ourselves to enjoy our safari to our taste. We categorically told the guide and driver that our aim isn’t just tiger sighting, it’s to enjoy nature every bit of it. Dhikala zone is covered mainly by a canter unless one stays in the camps/guest house in the core area which wasn’t the case with us, so we were out into the Jhirna zone.

In the outskirts of the jungle one can see other mortals but as you go deeper you learn to admire the quietude. The spotted deer and sambhar are always the first to welcome us. Followed by Neel Gai and lemurs. As the dawn broke the chirruping of birds grew louder and we spotted some beautiful winged creatures.

Further on there was an apparent distress call by the monkeys…a distress call denotes danger lurking in the shadows …but who? Big question.

We drove ahead tight-lipped though there are certain tourists who don’t believe in the sanctity of silence – I personally feel they shouldn’t be allowed inside the part at all…

Well, to our good luck the noisy group left – they weren’t really patient to see what’s in the bushes. Our guide told us that the sound coming through the trees seemed like a group of elephants – and so it was, not really a group but a couple of them. The bigger one kept far and moved away, but there was this cute one, a little older to be called a calf but not yet an adult who was confused whether to scare us or run to mama! I got a perfect click of my hubby clicking it.

Moving through the stream that usually floods over in the rainy season, we drove over rocks, making way amid edgy creepers and thorny bushes into the wilderness. There was this area of yellowed but long grown grass when suddenly but tactfully our driver said “ Tiger” “Where?” “Just look in front in the grass” So we did…and with a walk that befitted a queen, Sharmilee the tigress came out into the path…crossed our jeep silently as we were busy clicking and relishing august company. It went away to the other side of the shrubbery. Wow … just wow.

It is a general human behaviour in Corbett that one gets a sense of achievement after a tiger sighting; and we were no different. So on our way out of the jungle we were even more actively soaking in the freshness of the pure breeze. Yes the deer bid us a ‘till we meet next’ on our way out too…

Uncle and Aunty were awake and the staff was bustling to set the table for our breakfast by the time we got back. Seeing our excitement they guessed our stint with royalty. We were back in our cottage showered, took some time off lazing around. We walked in the gardens relishing the riot of colours in the bloom all around. We prepped for an early lunch and started off for the evening safari (yeah some of you might ask – again? But you just had one in the morning?) OK yes, and to reiterate Corbett for us isn’t just tigers, it’s a wholesome experience. So we went off again for our confluence with the nature; and needless to say we enjoyed this one thoroughly too. We were back in time for our evening tea spiced up with stories of Bunny Uncle!

Next day we woke up leisurely to the crowing of the cock – a very punctual breed of poultry in our hosts’ farm. They have cultivations on their land all around, including orchards (lychee and mango), a mini poultry farm for eggs, an organic compost pit – so in a way they are self sufficient in all respects. We took it easy that day, drooled over an amazing breakfast especially planned by Aunty.

Finally a little before the sun went overhead we got ready for an adventure ride.

The ATV – All Terrain Vehicle- a comparatively new concept in India is a 4 wheeled vehicle that can run on any terrain – believe me I wished I could take one back home too… Well, my hubby was given a micro-crash course on how to drive it by one of the staff members there, and he was kind enough to pilot us through the ride too. I perched up behind my hubby and whoa what a ride it was! We went through the forest area in the vicinity (a few kilometers away that is) of the mansion, through all possible terrain…no I didn’t fall – but you must hold tight, literally!

Once back we had a quick lunch before we kicked off to our last safari of the visit. Our guide somehow wasn’t available but the driver said he would take us through the safari as we would like. So we went ahead with our driver cum guide into the hinterland yet again. The deciduous grows so thick in the deep core area that there is darkness even during noon. Due to the weather being warmer than usual, it had been forecasted that the tiger in that zone could move into the particular area called Machan Chaur during that time of the day. Now such predictions are made based on years of experience and research on the forest area and the animal behaviour native to that region. So there was no question of not waiting…though there wasn’t really a call, we managed to see the striped big cat through the dense bushes but it was just a ‘blink and you miss’ sight. Our driver told us that this animal would move to the other side now so if you guys want we could go there…we both nodded our heads and exclaimed “But of course!” in unison…safaris are one of the occurrences where our views are almost similar if not exactly the same…!

So we drove over to the other side and found hardly any jeeps close to our heels.. I mean wheels…it was a risk and we hoped to have a royal rendezvous and we did!!! It was Pandit – the grown up male cub- almost an adult, came from over the rocky terrain, and crossed our jeep – yes it was within a meter of our vehicle!!! What a sight really. It was just too good. Animals definitely seemed more well behaved than us mortals, even a tiger wouldn’t do anything if not provoked no matter how close you are to it, it wouldn’t strike unless provoked or it has turned into a man-eater…well well to make matters great the land on the other side was all plain with burnt grass so we could observe our national animal in all its pride and glory. After freezing the moments on our cameras, we started on our ride back to the entry gate. It was a very happy day and were we dying to tell Uncle and Aunty about our encounter!

They met us out in the front lawn for tea, and were all ears about our adventure. Afterwards we retired, took some rest and were back to Uncle and Aunty for to spend the evening with them. We chatted over snacks about Uncle’s flight in a chartered plane and more. Post dinner we packed up stuff and bid our adieu to our hosts- they had to leave for a family wedding infact had stayed back to meet us…but they made sure everything was in place for our journey back home.

At times one thinks, it’s impossible to hold time, make it stand still even if you want to you cannot, but these fun adventurous moments at Corbett read Homestead get etched on your heart forever. The experience is like a soul – detox to rejuvenate and that’s exactly how we felt as we drove back home, bidding au-revoir to our home away from home – only till we meet again…

Fate of Ferrum

It’s mined out from the depths of the earth, in its raw, crude form, with Oxygen seems to form a protective layer around it. Iron ore – the nascent existence of iron in nature. It exists in various embodiments which vary according to the quantity of the Ferrum presence. This may sound pretty dull but the polychromasia is vast. In various shades ranging from monochromatic gloomy greys to joyous bright yellows, from secretive deep purples to fiery rusty reds- Ferrum definitely seems multifaceted…

Once recognized by the miners, it becomes Iron which needs to give away its protective oxidized shell to move on. A xenolith is on its way to take on the world…but for that it must go through fire…literally.

It goes on to have a blast- in the blast furnace where the heat’s ballpark figure is 1300 degrees Celsius, it has no option but to smelt… a counter-current realtor where the solids (in the igneous form that is..) descend and the gaseous form ascends with numerous chemical and physical reactions produce the desired hot metal…

After the basics, start the prepping for the wide world. It befriends various elements to hone strength, endurance and power…whereafter there is absolutely no stopping. It goes on to conquer the world, right from the unsubstantial yet all important pin to heavy duty industrial equipment and paraphernalia, to the tiny wheels running chronographs to the magnanimous modes of transportations used for mortals and machinery, to the medicines and the spoon that’s used to quaff it…to our very own blood…Iron seems omnipresent- putting it to a near-Alexander pedestal…all in metallic silver-like iridescence.

It rules the world for eons…when the opalescent sheen sees grey… there is a rusty red alert…the oxygen which once formed a protective covering, seems to tell the days of glory are bygone…it tries hard to yell and tell- No I am fine! I can be just as good as before!! But invain…the illustriousness fades away…it is reduced to nothing but scrap, a smithereen belonging to the junkyard, it must go…must be renounced and so it does disappear into oblivion where no one knows what it was…forever…

The storm went on…

I tread along with my solitude

My sighs accompanied me

Leaving my footprints on the sands of life

Which are soon merged with the breeze of time

 

Everything was breathing low

When the trees bowed their heads down

And the wind blew mild

From who’s unseen presence

 

The leaves – dead, blown away

The storm like the swirling emotions

Churning in my heart

Taking everything in its stride

 

I try to hold every bit I want

But my grip seems to give away

The thunder voices my defeat

I look up with my arms raised in despair

 

My soul bleeds, and eyes overflow

I try to see a rainbow in those drops

But only to behold agony

They fall on the sands of hope

 

The dream I had created

Shattered infront of my very eyes

The lightening becomes my heart

Like sizzling embers aghast

 

I can hear the silence

That gives words to my calls

Echoes as annihilated

And the storm went on…

 

DESTINY…

From time immortal and today still

What ought to happen surely will

With threads of silken gleam

Thee weaveth many a dream

Like a thought on a sculptor’s fleece

To create a masterpiece

Taking the azure of the sky

Golds of the day and silvers of the nigh

Thinking for hours at a stretch

Putting thy imaginations forming a sketch

With feelings on high and hard-worked strings

Thee built ambitious wings

To fly tall above the trees

At the pace of the swift breeze

Thee put every effort to fulfill

Thy dreams, thy future, but still

Thou art invincible yet it’s strong

It sounds like an unheard song

Something that thy ears can’t hear

Something that thou arms can’t bear

It is beyond what eyes can see

The ultimate truth…the Destiny

Signature Sapiens

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Homo sapiens…is what we humans are labelled as when talking scientifically; have inhabited the planet from what we chronologically refer to as the paleolithic age ..we basically have been around like forever!

Evolving through the ages- anatomically, physiologically …well apparently pretty outwardly too. We all have appeared to have done that in tandem.

But that is just the physical manifestation-the outwardly cast or mold. The inside story is somewhat..rather a lot different…

It is said that our fingerprints are all unique, yes, in spite of the mold, nature has let us all have a sort of signature hands; whereby we can leave our mark, literally, on everything we respond to, tactically.

Going further, our eyes, our windows to the world around us, perceive things differently too; which is why the new bio-metric systems off late have retina scans; if you’ve read Angels and Demons (by Dan Brown) you would know what  I am talking about. 

Drilling down further, the amazingly efficient, musculo-circulatory pump which  has a two- way communicating channel, is as much of emotional importance as it is of physiologically- infact talking quixotically it is a storehouse of emotions-good, bad, ugly. Emotions expressed towards the inner self and the outer world.Oh! Well in case I ‘ve confused you, which I am sure I have, I am talking about the human heart…Though the basic structure and function of hearts is identical, the heartbeats and the emotional reasons for which the heart beats, are completely different…

What are emotions? Responses to various reasons and the reasoning of the perceptions or stimuli from the inner self or the world outside. Can these reasons and reasoning be the same? No!! The answer is a straight-forward NO!! The reasons may be extremely simple or really complicated…like if I see something pink, and that pink hue might range from a pretty pink rose to a candyfloss, to a rosy -mauve sky just before a summer sunrise in the hills- it gives me immense happiness and I feel my heart beat with joy.

However I have come across a whole lot of people who detest the color and some find it utterly frivolous.

Let me take you into a trans…Imagine an open space, say imagine sitting at the window sill-OK – at the bay window of your beautiful dream house that overlooks an exquisite garden; the breeze is blowing with tranquility when suddenly you see the azure of the skies being taken over by the grey nimbus. The breeze becomes a little agitated and before you know it, you see the little drops of rain on the pane. Now if I were you in this (oh so amazing!) scene, I would surely hear “Megh Malhaar” resounding in the airs and my ears (not that I am an ardent follower of classical music but I do appreciate the rain strains of our maestros) and would run out to my garden to feel the rain, the pure petrichor, music, melody and love….Now many amongst us would rather not be doing this for the fear of soiling their feet, drenching unnecessarily and so on…but yes, rain is another thing that is perceived differently by different people..it’s like Muck versus Melody…Responses- which are worlds apart.

Having said that, have we ever actually wondered why such varied reactions to the same impetus? Well the truth lies within…Oh did I pick that from some motivational, art/craft/draft of living? To be very honest I am a firm disbeliever of the fact that someone out there can change the way I think about life as I know it, unless I choose to. So the truth, the answer does lie within, in the internal workings …the wiring is all different.

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The tiny circuits, the microchips that the biologists call the genes are responsible for the anatomical, physiological stuff which all of us are made up of. And above all this, is the mind, mind you, I didn’t say brain, yes, there are the right-brained and the left-brained people too, but it is the mind, the centre of human consciousness as I know it, which has a part of heart and brain to it. And it is this which is the reason of us all being the same yet so very different. Each mind is definitely over matter especially the grey and the white matters and at the same time and many a times it is beyond all logical reasoning and human comprehension.

This level of consciousness also varies from person to person, which is why some of us are more perceptive and receptive of the wavelengths of others which are buoyant in the  realms around us. Happens with me quite often-say if I have been thinking of someone for some time, I get some sort of a communication from the person-be it a call/message or something..If there is a melody/song going in my mind-I surely hear it on the radio/TV without my direct interference..At times it’s really uncanny but it happens; and again doesn’t happen with everyone.

I hereby conclude that it’s best to leave people to ‘mind’ their own cups of tea rather than trying to impose your views on “this is how you should drink it” or “this is the way..” or “this person did this in this situation , you should be doing this too..” Well no!! Infact “never”You wouldn’t succeed ever by following a thing just because someone asked you to, unless you look within and seek the answers within the internal wirings of your soul… if there is a positive vibe- look no further!

Be your own self, because you, like your fingerprint, retina scan, tongue mark-have a unique aura and sui generis wavelength. 

So go ahead my fellow Homo sapiens and live in your signature sapient style!

A simple smile…

There was an ominous sign in the sky as the earth was exhaling fire. Well well, Friday the 13th I thought…And I heard the nimbo-cumulus thunder in agreement. I could hardly see a thing outside-the dust storm was strong and tried to block my vision of the world; it did succeed-I couldn’t open my eyes. I sat down in the sweltering heat, perspiring despite the fan frantically moving its arms to evade the hot air from the surrounds.

I was trying hard to recover from the dust storm’s fury when I felt the sound of the rain. Rain? I questioned my auditory receptors…but it indeed was raining. I went out to the balcony. With the sundown approaching  the sky seemed to be painted in various (if not 50!!) shades of grey! And there seemed to be a duel between the dust storm still roaring and the thunders growing back. Gradually the dust storm gave in to the downpour …and did it pour! Each pore of the fire-exhaling earth was soaked and pacified.

I opened my eyes to behold the verdancy that had come alive in the rain. The whiff of the quenched earth freshened up my soul – the rain surely did fill up my senses! I felt a strange thing-I was smiling…Can I be happy? On my own? The drops of rain shook me as if affirming that yes you surely can! I stood still experiencing  the magic…a part of which was remaining to unfold.

The greys grew dark when suddenly from the west some sun rays had braved way through the clouds and slowly started to paint the magical arc in the sky. Faint it was but I saw it, right there…the rainbow…I felt a child-like joy-I don’t remember clearly but I guess I clapped my hands too…and kept looking at it…The alto-cumulus was trying to subdue the arc…It kept getting faint with the downpour, that turned into a drizzle…but I wasn’t disheartened on seeing the rainbow get clouded, I knew even if I couldn’t see it, it was there and the thought left a smile on my face…I was happy…

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TURNING A NEW LEAF…

They have an age-old story entwined in their veins that spans their life and times ; times of sorrows, pleasant past and wondrous tomorrows. The times of verdancy, of vigor, when the breeze would be redolent with the freshness of the leaves, the newly-budded glistening leaves, prancing in the lush bright lime green aura…

The sun with all its gleam would proudly provender the nascent verdant growths; along with all the aide from the earth, rains and the breeze…

Rains…their favourite season, when they danced in merriment at the mirthful tunes of the wind bringing on the rain-laden clouds.

But life doesn’t always bring to you mirth and merriment…the  gentle breeze that brought coolness to the verdant aura suddenly turned tumultuous and awry. The leaves shuddered and clung to the twig for dear life.

The earth had gone against them as well…she let the broken fragments hay-wire in all directions. The storm was in all fury ….leaving the leaves lose their verdant hue getting tarnished with dust settling on their gleaming….they weren’t the same anymore.

A sense of fight had taken over the head of leaves, but in their hearts of hearts they thought may be the sun shine through their troubles….

The dawn broke and as the rays of the sun reflected a rainbow through the dewy drops on the leaves…smiles shone through. But as the day progressed the provender drew bitter, it started to exhale ire. The heat was getting too much for the leaves who had just got a relief from the exasperation of the storm.

The incalescence was getting too much for the dainty epidermis of the leaves, it was draining the moisture, chlorophyll, and hope..the verdancy was fading; giving way to a near pale coloration. The summer was at its peak; even the earth had cracked up in pain…Hope was seeping through the cracks when suddenly the heart-broken earth became damp with a little drizzle of a newfound faith…the Westerlies had finally found their way to this land. The thirst was quenched for one and all…the leaves after suffering a near-death experience felt a resurgence in their veins entwined with the tales of fire and ice. The leaves bloomed again, but not nascent as before, this time they shone with experience…

After the beautiful dawn that led to a beautiful days, it was time for evening to spread her veil on the warmth which was beginning to wither with the weather.

The air bore a sweet, musky undertone of autumn..though it wasn’t arid, the leaves began to lose luster…something was different this time. It wasn’t the pale sallowness alone that was troubling the surface but the shallow feeling inside…

There was a flicker in the soul that wanted life to resurrect but the means seemed to diminish day by day…rather night by night.

And then it was dark…a chilly, wintery night. The breeze  bore the fog all around, thick and dense , suffocating the very last flake of life in the leaves, exalted into a blizzard…it truly was an ominous night when some stories had to end…

End they did, the stories entwined in the latticework of the leaves…spoken out silently by the barren branches…they bespoke senescence of an era. The sunrays found a way through the dense fog after much travail; all they lit up was gloomy shadows of the lifeless leaves lying trampled in the soil. The wind too seemed to be whistling a melancholy…

Moments rolled into days and the harshness of the chill mellowed. The Winters melted into Spring and the wind’s melancholic strain fine-tuned into the musical chirruping of birds who seemed to herald the arrival of the nouveau vita…new life…the branches weren’t barren any more as in between them was a glow of nascent bloom…time had passed and turned a new leaf…