Its a film today!

7th January

The visits from the young ones have been quite regular much to my glee. It follows a pattern. The first knock on our door is at 6:30 in the morning. A little chatter and morning tea together they are on their way only to return at about 11 and then again between 2 to 4.

Since they flip through the wildlife magazines with great pleasure, we felt they might also enjoy watching some films on it. Nimesh and his colleagues have been working through schools on conservation education and film screenings and discussions have been one of the means used, so organizing this was not difficult.

The group was here as has been their routine at about 2:30 and they were in for a surprise. Tables and chairs were being re arranged for them and the laptop was being set up speakers and all. They comfortably ran to the seats and observed all of this wondering what was in store.

The film was Point Calimere and since I’ve seen it before it was good to sit with the kids as audience and watch them discreetly instead. Mild mannered Marin kept her eyes firmly on screen, an attention seeking senior kept shushing and correcting the others, while Vidya seemed to be commenting on most things on screen and off it. Jenny came in a bit late but fresh from a bath and was very concerned when a friend pointed out that she had some mud on her sleeve. The group seemed to be enjoying the experience.

My language handicap hit me quite hard today. It would have been wonderful to truly be privy to their discussions. Since that was not to be, I watched John interact with them in his soft tones and warm eyes.

Next they looked at the field guides and were talking about whatever they recognized. John later shared that the discussions were indeed quite colorful. The children informed him that somewhere close a pig had given birth to an elephant and while the elephant kept growing the pig obviously had died in the process. Pointing to a picture of a dead elephant Vidya claimed it that it was killed in Aizwal , Puja was quick to point out that the people standing around were not Mizo so it couldn’t be in Aizwal! We gathered Remrem gets quite creeped out by snakes. A book on snakes was lying open, she flipped a page accidentally and jumped back and fell down in fright when her hand touched one of the images! She did get bak to the book but shuddering at every page. Nimesh went through the pages with her.

Vidya ran through the bird book with great interest pointing to birds he’d shot at with his catapult. He also took on the role of explaining to the younger girls the different categories of birds which I think broadly were parrots, ducks and pigeons. I had noticed him on a previous occasion weave stories about the birds in a magazine to the younger ones I now realize some of it may have been autobiographical encounters!

We had a swell time! We must do it again.


More the merrier

6th Jan
They were back, but in hoardes! A commotion outside our front door made me take a peak. In a semi constructed house just opposite our own there were about 15 children! I then noticed that at the point most visible from our door, they had set up kitchen again, and were handling the task in manner which took care that I had almost unobstructed view! I think, they thought of the activity as bait! What they also wanted I got a sense of was to introduce their new friends. The ones who were known to me yelled out my name in greeting and soon it was a chorus of sorts, Vidya made some vague gestures which I thought meant camera and I promptly obeyed him. By the time I got back with the camera the kitchen play had been abandoned and a group song was in process!

The half built house across our own serving as stage.

We couldn’t do much shouting across to each other so they decided to come over to where I was. A few found the prospect uncomfortable and about 10 of then turned up including a three month old strapped to the back of a nine year old! They looked around office and seemed to love the posters made out of drawings of children. The original four lead the others around the place, supplied all with magazines, chatted a bit. Then we sat outside and there were impromptu performances of song and dance and I gather that for my benefit they picked English songs to sing and Hindi songs to dance. The sensitivity extended really took me by surprise as did the spur of the moment fashion show! Then like the last time (yesterday) they raced out yelling bye-byes and thank you way promising to drop by tomorrow.

Making friends - How we met.

5th Jan

A strange phenomenon is unfolding these days and we're caught in the midst of it all. Children aged 3 months to 14 years have descended into our lives and taken over my days. Here is how it started and more in later posts on how it is catching up.

While returning from a delicious but taxing walk I met a couple of children, playing house (or should I say playing kitchen?) . This seems to be a popular game with children all around. The game has rarely held any fascination for me apart from when i went visiting to Kerela and on another occasion in Dungarpur, Rajashthan. I’ve now added Saiha to my list.

Here, with half a piece of blade, the little ones were cutting cabbage and beetroot (I think!) remains. Mixed with water these were served/displayed in the lids of wee little tobacco containers. An empty fruity bottle stood by many other such beautifully colored proxy meals in surrogate crockery.

The kids aware of my curiosity moved aside for me to have a dekho. I asked them if I could click and to their nods of assent I took out my camera. The eldest ran away yelping spotting it and the younger ones carried on their game semi conscious of the gadget.

We tried to learn each other’s names and I failed miserably and their success was unknown to me till today morning when they yelled out for me from the road opposite my home!

A little later the foursome plus a new addition marched into office and began their explorations of the area. Pictures of tigers, tortoises, and snakes etc on the walls seemed to hold their fancy. Egged on by their hyper curiosity I offered them seats around the office table and put a bundle of magazines at their disposal. Hungrily, the turned from page to page scanning the colorful images of animals and birds. I was scared of questions as I wasn’t equipped with enough knowledge on the same. But they seemed to be happy looking at these images and  V charmed the baby of the group  with what I thought were stories of various birds that she was looking at, slowly slowly she moved closer to him completely mesmerized by the tale she was hearing.

Wanting to be hospitable I offered them some aval a Kerala snack made with beaten rice, jaggery and coconut. I asked them to try a spoon each and eat only if they thought it was ok. They kept it thoughtfully in their mouths and I gathered …mmm maybe not and left the room to give them privacy for exclamations. My return found one of them furiously spitting out the vile stuff in her mouth out of the window! I fell into a helpless pile of laughter and pleaded with the others to spit it out if they so detested it!! As though waiting for the go signal they all but leapt out of their seats and spitting it all out with a ferocity that made me feel terrible for having put to them this taste. So it was bananas next and this was received with great joy!!!

Bananas and their curiosity for the animals were almost done, when one of them spied the dustbin in office and nudged the others too into throwing their peals in it. V, the big brother gathered all the magazines from the table including the table’s original contents of diaries and notebooks and arranged them all on the rack. They were done for the day and ran  out the door with loud byes-byes , leaving behind the echo’s of their chatter and a beaming me!

Rivers,swimming pools and the case of a mistaken identity

Nimesh announced last Friday eve , “kal Kawlchaw chalte hain.” and before I knew it I was doing an outrageous dance of joy(I’d been craving to visit Kawlchaw since I’d heard of it).

Kawlchaw is a small village, 40 kilometers from Saiha. Two rivers meet there, a swift and rumbling Koao joins the meandering Kaladan. The water levels had fallen considerably since Nimesh’s last visit (a video of which he had shared). On this trip the water in Kao didn’t even attempt to lap at my knees. Nonetheless, as every waterbody hungry soul who has lived in landlocked Delhi and had only a very sewaged Yamuna for sorry respite, I decided I had to take a dip in this stream like river. We sat for an hour or two in it, our backs resting on rocks letting the waters do its magic, kneading our flesh into a sleepy relaxed state.

Walking along the pebbled banks of the greater, calmer river we sun dried ourselves while trying to keep an eye on the kingfishers swooping down for fish. Suddenly there was a loud boom ….an explosion under the water. Dynamite! A group of boys were fishing. The dynamite would kill fish within a certain radius and then these fellas would swim fetch them. Hadn’t seen that before!

Another interesting sight infact one of the highlights of this visit were two swimming pools. One was in a valley and built by a man who apparently enjoys experimenting but it’s the other one that takes the cake icing, the baker and Monjinis. It was on the banks of the river Kaladan, inside a nursery ! Why would you need a swimming pool on the banks of a river? It would be an interesting question to ask, but then I’d just rather like to believe it was a dynamite fearing eccentric who commissioned it and takes an annual dip in it earplugs in place.


Through the journey to and fro Kawlchaw we stopped on occasions to watch some visiting Wagtails and giant spiders lying to rest in their roomy hammocks that spread across the roads. On our way back we also saw the body of a beautiful green and red snake. It was run over by some vehicle.

While I soaked in the larger feel of the ride cushioned by the thick green on the sides it was Nimesh’s eye that spotted all these creatures. By the time we sat down to watch kingfishers I was trying to do some spotting of my own. I sat on a rock close to a pool of water on the banks and watched the little frogs jump around and float. There were swarms of tadpoles and just outside the pool small white balls – Frog Eggs?My, wasn’t this my lucky day! There were clusters of these safely wedged between rocks and pebbles. I remembered seeing pictures as a kid of frog or fish egg. They were transparent I think. White (!?)I had never imagined. I called out to Nimesh and we examined them from a distance and clicked some pictures of the same to send to an acquaintance of Nimesh’s for identification. We did all the right things, shot macros of the eggs, placed a pen in some images for size reference etc. When suddenly Nimesh says they look so like thermocol balls no? I agreed and wondered what if they actually were? Shadows of doubt flickered in our eyes and Nimesh reached out and touched one of them! We all but fell down laughing!! The Kingfisher dropped its catch and the official in the pool too must have taken note of the shrieky helpless laughter …….They actually were thermocol balls. A hysterical me and a very embarrassed Nimesh were last seen in Kawlchaw scrambling onto their bikes and heading homeward.