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Halftones

the motley musings of a maverick

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Countryside

CORRIDORS OF TIME AND THE WITNESSES

The eucalyptuses swayed, embraced and kissed, and swayed away. The wind blew harder and they swayed again, this time embracing each other for a longer moment before they swayed apart. On the backyard, I stood amidst the bamboos and wilderness, withdrawn from the world, my eyes following the movements of the two eucalyptuses.

The wind had not blown so fiercely in the last two years. The scene outside was exhilarating. In fact, coming from a world where sounds of drilling machines, horns and loud stereos reign, I didn’t have any idea what it was to see and hear nature dancing to its own tunes. I came out of my room to feel the first drops of rain on my face, to inhale the scent of earth, to turn nostalgic.

“Laal? Where are you heading to in this storm?”

“To fetch the cows, they must be frightened. This time we are going to get a good harvest, though.” He went on, whistling.

Laal was the oldest man alive in the village, still hale and hearty in his mid-eighties. He often whistled while feeding or rearing his cattle. I caught the festive mood too; I brought my umbrella out and stepped on the first puddle, then the second, the third and marched ahead, splashing mud and singing to myself without any destination in mind. Yet, I knew I would struggle between my heart wanting to cut short in front of Deepti’s house and pay her a visit and my mind forcing me to shed off any hopes lingering at the back of it. I turned to take the outer road, the road which passed behind Deepti’s house and in front of the richer part of the village with wealthy settlers and a buzzing market area.

“Samiran, it seems you are enjoying the weather. What about a hot cup of tea?” Nirmaali offered, standing sheltered in the verandah of her house.

I halted at their entrance. “No thanks; some other day.”

“Out on business?” she asked again, smiling.

“Yes.” I lied and sauntered on.

I reached the abandoned rice mill from where the main road divided into the inner and outer road. I saw the eucalyptuses moving to and fro. Tall as they were, it was easy to notice them from any point in the village. Some used to say a young girl hanged herself from the large peepal tree behind the mill and her spirit roamed about.

A while later, I crossed the largest grocery shop in the village; it was owned by Dhanuaa, a short and stout man in his seventies. His son Mantu ran the business now. He was younger to me by a few years but he looked older and wiser; unlike me, he had stayed in this village since his birth.

“How is it going, Mantu?” I greeted him.

“Good! Good! Where are you heading to, Doctor?” Mantu asked, as he pushed a carton of uncle chip packets inside the shop.

“Nowhere in particular; just enjoying the weather.”

Thunder cracked again and the wind blew harder. Shivers ran along the exposed part of my hands. I bade him farewell and walked ahead. My heart thumped louder as I approached Deepti’s house. She always brought the worst out in me; at all times her eyes were aflame Continue reading “CORRIDORS OF TIME AND THE WITNESSES”

Pichavaram: the aquamarine charm of Tamil-Nadu

The sight of a family of seals staring back at me, through the patchy openings of a thick mangrove forest, with their round and gullible yet inquisitive eyes, was incredibly delightful. At least for those rare moments I was delivered from my certainty of a distinctive existence to that of one where I might be the alien instead: unfamiliar and ready to be accused of trespassing or experimented upon! Thankfully the population of these curious seals is way too less to be a threat to us humans- the constantly burgeoning mass- on the surface of earth. We- my friend, the boatman and I- travelled for some distance, rowing through a narrow waterway between two mangrove islands and them-the family of seals- travelled parallel to our route through the forests on our right. To listen to the squeaks of the little seals was another delight, and I asked the boatman to row the boat closer to the forests.

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The head of one seal: My reflexes aren’t good enough to capture “the” moment; it usually passes by the time I recover from my awe and remember that I need to capture it, nor was my camera pro enough to capture telephoto shots. Hence, the pointer to help find the main object of my focus.

 

Pichavaram is the first mangrove forest I have seen closely in my life. The boatman- a robust Tamil fellow in his early twenties perhaps- told us that the mangroves are not only home to the seals, the fascinating migratory birds, the fishes and crabs but also the only major livelihood alternative to farming for the villagers. They have shaped the lives of the villagers as much as they have for the estuarine biome. If it were not for the mangroves, there would have been irredeemable damage to the villages of the region during the devastating Tsunami on 26th of December, 2004 that ruined many coastal areas in South-east Asia beyond recognition.

What makes it a wonder:

At some places, as we rowed, the route turned pitch dark, the prop roots and branches of the relatively short Rhizophora trees hung over us and some prop roots protruded lower near the ground to interweave with their neighbours, creating some forbidding motifs, all of which reminded me of fictions and movies plotted in the Amazon rainforests and the like: eerie! Numerous unfamiliar small insects and butterflies abounded these zones. Now and then, I spotted small crabs crawling on the roots as well.

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A tiny crab

However, silence is no stranger to me and to anyone who’s familiar with nature’s Continue reading “Pichavaram: the aquamarine charm of Tamil-Nadu”

A little reflection on the name: Odysseys 

A wayfarer scouting for Arcadian tales: this is what Odysseys is about. Odyssey: a journey that changes life; a journey full of quest; a journey inward as much as it is outward.

I am not the regular tourist. I suppose I am not a traveler either. It is the call of the soils that I listen to and have been listening to since I was a child. Primarily a nature lover, all my moves in this life have been steered by this unquenchable thirst to drink in the rusticity of the countryside.

Deserted dusty roads of the autumn; the same turning to muddy grooves with deeper chuckholes during the monsoons; wicked chameleons changing colours and then in a blink of an eye disappearing into dense woods; tamed elephants passing by without a sound and with perfect tranquility, while the herds of untamed ones appearing in the middle of the night, intensifying the silence; breathless rustling of leaves in windy evenings in acknowledgement of the wildness of nature; faint commotions drifting from a neighbouring village in an otherwise quiet ambiance; giggling girls on the riverbanks, whistling boys on their cycles, sweating farmers and their caring wives; and most of all the villagers’ remarkable rationality, despite the visible naivety of thoughts and actions, untainted by modern homogeneous knowledge: the remote countryside is another world, from another era.

It is not the omnipresent alienation of a post-modern life which shoves me towards an escape to this another world; another era; neither is it the zeal of an adventurer, nor the curiosity of a zetetic. Being a bird of passage, constantly seeking change and growth, I scour the countryside often, in search of the wealth beyond the visible backwardness of the places; in the culture, history and the daily life of the people.

Having wandered only in India, I start this section with tales from India. Hopefully in some time, I’ll have tales to tell from other parts of the world as well.

Wonders never cease and so do the tales of backwoods in this world…

 

Photo credits: Bhaskar Adhikary

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