Kabir The Weaver Poet, Jaya Madhavan

Kabir , the word/name and possibly the person as I have heard/read of him all stand italicized in my mind. Too wisplike for bold and too finespun for an underline. Ringing along this is the chant of his couplets we'd studied in the otherwise largely dreary Hindi classroom. I recall that even the most bored -with -her -job -teacher would turn almost radiant and beatific while speaking of him and reading his work.  Possibly many childhoods like my own must have felt its tranquil reflective touch when in the confines of a choking syllabi and the rote learning rut.

Would this be reason enough to make a fictionalized account of his life a treasured reading? I’m not sure

The story runs through a day in Kabir’s life , his encounters with the extremist clergy , the conspiracy they hatch and the twist in tale that leads these antagonists to fight over his body on his death. Laced with his couplets along with the narratives from the wind and Dhaga you get a peek into the various incidents in  Kabir's . Was he a Hindu? A Muslim? Did he have a family? All such speculation finds space in the story through memories of characters that Kabir interacts with. Jaya Madhavan turns Kabir's companions of the loom into characters animated - speaking to the reader, bickering, laughing, conspiring against conspiracies and protecting their friend who seemed to attract trouble by the double. Dhaaga (this too shall be rendered italicized henceforth) the round-bellied-gossip-loaded string,  leaves an impression more lasting than most human characters in the narrative. You see him gossip, speculate, swoon and panic. The racket in the Kabirs home is palpable when the panic stricken tools talk amongst themselves and lament Kabirs lacking in discernment. Kabir in my mind becomes a broad shouldered handsome man, only a seemingly passive participant and incisively active observer and analyst.Throughout the narrative he's surprisingly enticing, provoking status quo and speaking the truth to power.

A must read i'd say for those who'd like to relive their childhood enchantment for stories.

Lets Paint

Guilt has been gnawing at eachtime I icaught sight of the paints brushes and paper lying at home. I had found these treasures after a lot of scouting in Saiha and finally found them in Aizwal. The idea was to doodle around a bit and keep boredom at bay. But thankfully I was not bored often enough to warrant much use of these.

Had been contemplating giving it to the kids who drop in every once in a while , but then again there was not enough to go around. So this week when a small bunch landed home we let lose the colors. I'd decided on just handing it over to them without any suggestions on what to paint or how to use. Well they took to corners and sides of the chart and it seemed enough for all.
Initially, all bottles were opened and colors tested and their appeal could by judged by scrunched up faces or some excited shriek. A little paint on the paper a lot on each other finally they set to what seemed like serious business. I loitered around and came back for a dekho in a while and found the TV to be the most popular image.

I'm hoping its cause the straight lines are easier to paint! 

Wildlife Week Lawngtlai- Behind the Scenes III - Ending on a colorful note

The rains were on and umbrellas out.
Adding  more than a dash of colour to the cloudy days.

Wildlife Week Lawngtlai- Behind the Scenes II -Good Shot

Hmmm.. so the context was wildlife week and a range of issues from Conservation, to hunting and the children found an animation film especially hilarious. A second film was repeated probably 6 times during the  programme and each time the laughte was louder than the last! I couldn't follow a lot of the discussions as they were in Mizo but I was all alert when the arms of little boys shot up in response to a query? Some stood up and the others followed.
Count me in
I was a tad puzzled but i felt I had an inkling too of what this might have been and my doubts were soon confirmed. Post the programme in Cheural, we were sipping some piping hot tea at our hosts home, when I heard the all too familiar  ( we have a group in Saiha , that anounces their arrival in this manner)thudding of children's footsteps. They paused at the door, hesitated for a bit , trickled into the room in  twos and threes, plonked their catapults on the table giggled and ...poof ....vanished. Some others shook hands with the elders around and were patted on their back for their good deed.

us too
For those of you who haven't understood let me elaborate. The marksmanship required for some methods of hunting is acquired at an early age.  A catapult is a preferred and accessible tool. Easy to make at home with a well sculpted piece of wood and a taut rubber strap, one finds that this little weapon is a prized possession of most boys. Birds , geckos and the like are easy game. 

Post the discussion with the children , many had volunteered to surrender  their catapults and stop chasing after these birds and animals. I was most surprised. Yes it is easy for them to make another , but how many times have I impulsively decided to curb a passtime/sport/entertainment just because I attended a discussion at school? I cannot remember any instance. 

Abandoned midway 
We felt the need to talk to some of these boys in whatever limited (is it really? I wonder now)  conversation was possible. So while clicking images of the catapults or what would have been catapults (some of them were still in the assembling stages, i.e we got fresh sculpted pieces of wood and the strips of fresh unused rubber intended for it)  , we chatted. 

They shared how mud bullets were made and provided their assessments on the catapults surrendered. Good , Not good and aaaaaaaaah  Baby's catapult!!! 

...and how did he get this big without
 learning to hold a catapult straight???
Turns out one of them was the expert in making these while the other seemed to be quite a shot. While frowning at Nimesh's attempts to take aim , he picked up one said "that "and before we tuned in he hit the   electricity pole over 50 feet away. Bullseye! 
Nimesh made no further attempts apart from this last one below.   

Destroy the evidence!!
  But I lived to tell the tale.

Wildlife Week Lawngtlai - Behind the Scenes I - More than welcome

In complete agreement  with Mr Tlana when he shared that homestays were the highlight of the visit to the villages. I am humbled by the generosity extended by families in sharing their homes and meals with absolute strangers and am reminded repeatedly of my adolescence where visitors were people you had to grit your teeth and tolerate.

Our Hosts Home in Cheural
We stayed with two beautiful families in Cheural and Lungpher. Over dinner , at tea between the programmes we had the opportunity to talk to the families. I have found these interactions very interesting. While running through some wildlife magazines and field guides and photographs there is space for discussions on the village,forests and wildlife around or of Samrakshan's work in Saiha etc. Rarely have these interactions that I've been part or witnessed disappointed in their content, especially when there are people over 50 around and often even with younger people. Sometimes , you can feel almost tangibly the intimate connect they share with the forests around , the wealth of knowledge that comes with the dependence and so much more. 

Lunch at Cheural
Coming back to the hospitality , it is usually assumed in most households that Nimesh and I are vegetarians and there is such care taken to ensuring that there is plenty for us to eat. From pumpkins to cabbage and carrots..... i cringe with embarrassment when I see the effort. When its time to leave , I'm at a loss. Do not know how to tell them that we're touched and grateful. It usually is a handshake with a sincere invitation to visit us in Saiha and Kalome  i.e thank you.

Unfortunately (or maybe not ) we had such a blast with the children of our hosts in Lungpher that the camera was all forgotten about. Being higher than Saiha, Lungpher was cold and after a walk in the rains we warmed ourselves beside a lovely family (kids , parents , grandma and neighbours!)  and i remember thinking its we've been lucky to receive such warmth of home and hearth in a places so far away from home. 

Wildlife Week Lawngtlai - Oct 2010

The first week of October was wildlife week and we visited some villages in the neighboring Lawngtlai district. Started with  Cheural and moved onto Lungpher and Bualpui. All of these villages  lie outside the Blue Mountain (Phawmpui Tlang) National Park , which is currently on our must visit list. The road to blue mountain has been blocked for a while owing to a landslide and prolonged monsoons. So Blue Mountain remains on the wish list as opposed to the been there  list .

The programmes in most of these villages involved at one level interactions and discsussions with the Village Council Members and Youth Groups and at the other Children from the local schools. In both instances films were shown and this was my personal favourite part of the programme. In long dark town halls or homes , post dinner , the youth and village council would slowly trickle in while the projector and screen were being set up. With the young ones we had interactions in the daytime.

House Full
Walls were screens in some places, while bedsheets were quickly quickly put together in the others. electricity was a concern, and amidst all of this I was quite surprised at  how quickly and efficiently the generator , screen and seating was organized. I was expecting a more laid back process but in most instances we started on time and the participants seemed quite interested.

Me too!
While there was very little I could understand of the the discussions it was indeed interesting to observe the reactions of people to the films and photographs. Pictures of familiar animals would lead to a sudden perking up or nodding, creases on the forehead when the not so familiar appeared and of course nudges and discussions. The children of course were delightful with unrestrained laughter and curiosity.There was one little girl who chose to sway on a pole while watching the films and some others creeping upto the laptop and checking at the consistency of what they saw on the screen and what they saw on the laptop.
Not without my pole

or in my case my umbrella 
Overall the trip was great , I got to be in places that were quite different from the one's i'd been to earlier in the year and it also gave me a taste of how programmes like these are organized locally.  But as is usually the case with me ...its what happened behind the scenes that left its mark............To be Contd in the next post

A visit to Sultanpur - Sep 2010

Found my self pleasantly surprised at my mother's enthusiasm in making a trip to Sultanpur. Sultanpur is about 15 kms from Gurgaon and hosts a bird sanctuary we hadn't ever paid a visit to. Many plans for the same had turned to dust largely owing to my mortal fear of having to move through Gurgaon, but with my parents excitement  so palpable dilly-dallying was not an option i considered.
Brace yourselves - would be my warning for anyone trying to get to Sultanpur cause post Gurgaon , the ride gets terribly bumpy. But getting to the sanctuary is worth the effort. We reached close to eight in the morning and had to stop for breakfast for fear that our growling stomachs might causing the a retreat of the migrants. In hour or so we were inside the gates and merrily walking down the paths.

As is evident my attempts at photography took quite a lashing. The sun was up and brightly shining down on the lake making it close to impossible for this amateur to click anything worthwhile.  I remember similar disastrous attempts at the Palak lake.  Honestly? (and no its not just a case of sour grapes) i had a greater time discussing the Malayalam names for the birds in sight with my folks. Of al the birds around the Indian Roller caught their fancy as it darted around quite close, with its blues catching the bright light.   

Needless to say birds were plentiful and my skills at identification limited. Painted Storks , Black Crowned Night Herons, Black Winged Stilts, Eurasian Spoonbills and the egrets were the only concrete identifications i could make based on the images we had.

Neelgais were close at hand but what led to a whoop of of excitement was a sprinting  alert  earred rabbit. I went chasing in the direction that it disappeared in ,  feeling pretty much Alice like and laughing all the way
Preeti , tells me that she read about the blooming of some lilies in Sultanpur after about two decades! I wonder if these were the ones. And yes the images have been edited to black and white so that appear presentable!

A walk around the campus - III

I was at Delhi yet again and the weather was lovely (many would disagree). It made up for my gloomy feverish self. It had been pouring cats and dogs and  the Yamuna was swirling around and threatening to flow over. Between bouts of fever and the almost incessant rains I managed to do some scouting around the campus to get some images of the avian residents. 

A surprise was in store, for right outside our home in the car parking i saw Lapwings strutting around in the little puddles. I had heard them calling during the day and had just assumed that they were flying over the campus towards the barrage like the egrets (they never stop by). But the Lapwing couple was in the sparsely populated parking each day and they seemed not to mind much my intrusive gawking.         

The Tawny Eagle, or thats what we figured these are, are more numerous than the crows I can safely say. Their eerie calls can be heard through the day and a look skyward (especially close to the laundry would definitely reveal a couple of them. However , this is the only remotely presentable image i have from this visit.

Of all the joys of re-discovering the campus , the one held most precious is the growing familiarity with the whereabouts of some of these birds. The owlets on the laundry clothes lines post 9 at night , the Yellow Footed Green Pigeons in the almost deserted lane beside the herbarium etc. I've learnt that this flameback can usually be spotted between 7-8 in the morning or close to 5 in the evening on this leafless tree each day.

It calls out loud and clear during its perch and just once have I seen it in the company of another of its kind. Frequently  it has been a red vented bulbul or laughing dove or collared dove for company. The sight of this Flameback (though now familiar) thrills me , the colours are rich and bright , just the kind of company a hospital campus needs!