Thursday, 19 May 2016
It was drizzling with thunder and lightning. She was coming from a neighbourhood marriage party with her parents. It was rainning cats and dogs when they were having the dinner at the party. So they were in a hurry. They did not want to get stuck in rain. So they chose to walk back home in drizzles. She, with her 5" wedges, found it hard to keep in pace with her parents who were walking very fast. She was also enjoying the rain. Her parents were about 10 feet ahead of her. She was starting to feel a bit scared of the passing cycles and rickshaws. The reason lied in past. She had been assaulted many a times by passer by scoundrels who came in bikes, cycles ; touched her body, molested in the mean time and fled in the wink of an eye so that she could not even ask for help. Once a boy had stopped her as she was coming back from tuition on a dark rainning night and manhandled her. She had kept on asking help from each of the passers by, rickshaw pullers, autorickshaws, but none of those cowards stopped to rescue her. That incident still kept on haunting her. So naturally she was scared in spite of her parents walking just a few steps ahead of her, as even her parents might snap at her. In such a turmoil of thoughts, suddenly she heard a bike coming behind. She edged to the left corner of the road. The bike soon came beside her and as she looked at the biker startled, she saw two eyes of a boy of around 25. The burning eyes were fixed on her as if they would molest her with such gaze. She skipped a beat. The biker zoomed ahead and turned left to another road. She was relieved and heaved a sigh. But as soon as she crossed the turn, she felt a pull from behind, someone pulled her latkan. Before she could try to balance, someone grabbed her waist. As she tried to look who it was, the biker zoomed ahead in a great speed. But she could figure out that it was the same person who had looked at her in an intimidating and vulgar way before. She somehow catched her breath and ran with those 5" wedges towards her parents who were much ahead of her then. She tried to call them but something had stuck in her throat.With each breath she was feeling her limbs breaking down....will she ever catch her parents? Will she be safe?
Rain: A Pluviophile's pleasure. You know what's a pluviophile? Someone who loves rain.. She was a pluviophile by all means. She was strong, she was beautiful, and she liked to dream. There were many sorrows in the core of her heart, but she always smiled. She liked feathers. She had a hobby collecting and treasuring different types of feathers. She had just ordered a beautiful shoulder-length feather earrings from an online store and the day it was delivered, she was overjoyous. The girl living beside her house was getting married in a few days and she was invited too with her parents. She had decided that she would wear the earrings on that day of the marriage ceremony. The day came. She dressed up in a white anarkali embroidered with royal blue threadwork. She made a beautiful hairbun with her waist-length dark brown curly hair. She wore a maang-tika. On her left wrist was a white stone embedded thick bracelet and on the right wrist was an oxidised metal bangle. There were three rings on her left hand fingers. One of them was a small diamond embedded platinum ring given by her parents. The other two were also white stone embedded silver rings. She applied purple lipstick. She beautifully applied light pink eye shadow, then carefully ran the mascara, and finally the eye liner. She had beautiful eyes to die for. She then tried to take a decent selfie to send to the person she gave her heart to. But she was not a selfie-person and so could not get one. After clicking 56 pictures, finally she got one to send. Then she glanced at the mirror again. "Is this too much?", she thought. Her mom entered her room meanwhile ; "stop fumbling! You are perfectly alright. Now come to the drawing room and take a selfie with us." The selfie session followed till her father coaxed them to go out and reach the venue!
It was midnight. She was standing beside the window of her room. Gust of raindrops was drenching her. Her hair was let loose. Her eyeliner was smudged with tears. Her eyes were bloodshot, her nose was flared. She had in her fist a strip full of anti depressants and sedatives. She had supressed her tears somehow. No, she did not collapsed on the road, she ran and reached to her parents. But she did not tell them what had happened. The whatsapp notification of new message rang from inside the plastic bag which she was carrying to protect her mobiles from rain. Her mobiles were protected, but she was attacked. Her soul was ripped open. Nothing could heal that. It was her beloved who was messaging her on whatsapp. But even he could not help. He was unaware of the incident like her parents. Who knows, he too might snap at her saying that it was because of her dress or because she was walking much behind her parents on the lone road, that she was attacked? She again realised, she was so alone in this male dominated soceity. None would stand by her. None would heal her inner wounds. She was still standing by the window. The rain washed her eyeliner, lipstick...the rain would surely heal her. Will it? Yes, it will....it will have to....Her sedatives cannot, her anti depressants cannot....but the rain can.... may be the rain can... but where is the rain? The rain had stopped, she don't remember when...and her mind drifted away...
P.S - ALL THE PICTURES ARE TAKEN BY ME AND THE STORY IS PARTLY INCIDENTAL.
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Tuesday, 3 May 2016
DEORIA TAL THROUGH THE MYSTIC SARI VILLAGE
Gorging onto chocolate croissants with quick slurps of steaming tea gave me ample moments to marvel at the lush green canvas of the picturesque village, sometimes stair cased, sometimes sloppy below the road. We had started at about 6 in the morning from Makkumath with Yashpal Singh Negi as our guide, covering a good distance by road shaded with pine, oak and birches almost blocking the view of the sublime blue sky and passed the snow-clad mountains as the sun emerged sprinkling rays over the peaks. We had halted here at Sari Village to grab hasty bites of breakfast and to dump our warm garments inside the car before kicking off our trek to the mesmeric Deoria Tal residing in the lap of Garhwal Himalayas as per scheduled on the last day of our Uttarkhand trip.
|SUNBEAM SWATHED SNOW|
THE LOWER REGIONS ARE STILL IN DARK
|JOURNEY STARTS AS OUR CAR SPEEDS THROUGH THICKETS|
The 3km gravel trail laden through the Sari village welcomed with the alpine trees as well as the thorny shrubs. Sari village is a small and remote village based in Rudraprayag district near Ukhimath at a height of 6554ft. Meanwhile it is the outlandishly romantic base camp for the majestic Deoria Tal at a height of 7800ft. The first 1km or so is not strenuous enough even for the first-timers, however one can still hire pony or mule on the way. We could get breaks from continuous trek at regular intervals as Negi would spot Himalayan birds fluttering on the branches of the trees and the shrubs.
Beautiful Rosefinch (Carpodacus pulcherrimus), Spot winged Rosefinch (Carpodacus rodopeplus), Himalayan
Woodpecker (Dendrocopos himalayensis),
Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides),
Rufous breasted Accentor (Prunella
strophiata) etc enchanted us throughout the trek along with Lammergeier or
Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
hovering high over our heads. A stone temple namely Kedar Temple stands erect
on the way, with the hymns enchanted on the loudspeakers. The birds seem to be
adamant with the sound system and its relieving to see those hovering in flocks
freely. The temple stands as a landmark
from where about two and a half kilometers of steep trail has to be conquered
before experiencing the aesthetic delight of standing beside Deoria Tal. Sudden
jerks of exertion engulf us as the uneven path turned steeper and grueling. Quick
bites on chocolate bars as well as moderate sips of water helps in acclimatization
for a few minutes and one can inhale more oxygen thereon passing amid the dense
Rhododendron and Oak forests. The Rhododendrons were budding as the full bloom
time was ahead in March-June.
|THE BIRDSEYE VIEW WHILE ASCENDING|
|WE SAT DOWN TO DRINK THE BEAUTY|
|MADHYAMAHESWAR OR MADMAHESHWAR TEMPLE|
|WE LEFT BEHIND THE TEMPLE AND GO ON TREKKING UP|
|LAMMERGEIER OR BEARDED VULTURE|
|BEAUTIFUL ROSEFINCH (FEMALE) TAKING OFF|
|BLACK THROATED TIT|
The summer sun in Deoria Tal trek remains warm and pleasing, regarded as the best time to visit the lake as the strong chill is reduced and one can experience the euphoric delight of the full bloom Rhododendron forests on the way. After that the increase in landslides and hence road-blockage causes hindrance to the trek, so it is recommended to avoid during that time. Spring months from mid-September to late October is also considered a great time to visit alongside the summer months because the winter starts to set in at that time and the chill is not beyond tolerance level with the charming weather and the warm sun favouring the trekkers. Finally it is recommended to bypass the winter months i.e. from November to February as the extremity of cold and snowfall blocks the trail. Meanwhile it was the December end while we were striding across the stony trail. The last 1km almost churned my body; the glaring sun sucked all the energy leaving me dehydrated, exhausted and exasperated with the sweat that rose beneath my cotton clothes. With the increase of height, the oxygen level reduced to some extent which made us panting. But snow had also increased to a great level with the increase of height and I left a sigh of gleaming relief. The glistening snow, the village huts scattered here and there underneath the slope and the layers of mountains covered with layers of clouds left me simply speechless. The breeze mixed with the wild scent had casted a spell on me. We crossed the plump reddish-cheeked village lashes and wrinkled skinned old women who were returning from the uphill carrying loads of timber, dry leaves and twigs weighing more than them. After covering 500m more, we met Negi sitting beside a food stall who told us to follow the snow laden path downwards. A few slipping and stumbling through the snowy slope and finally I was standing in front of the ultimate destination –Deoria Tal.
|WALKING AMID THE SNOW|
|SOME MORE TREK|
|DEORIA TAL FINALLY!!!|
|WELL, YOU WOULD NOT FIND MANY DEORIA TAL SHOTS WITH SNOW AROUND IT|
|THE MAGNIFICENT REFLECTION|
Deoria Tal, also spelled as Devaria Tal at an altitude of about 2438m in Garhwal Himalayas has a reverential legend in the Hindu mythology. It is believed that after being utmost tired and thirsty in the Vanabasa phase, the eldest brother Yudhisthira of the mighty Pandavas asked Bhima to look for water and he saw a lake at a distance perching on a tree. The youngest brother Sahadeva was ordered to go and fetch water for all. Just as he reached and tried to take a sip of water from the lake, Yakshya appeared and asked him a question. As he denied and was about to gulp water, he died. Same thing happened to all the other Pandavas until Yudhisthira came and answered all the questions. Pleased, Yakshya asked him to choose any one brother whom he would make alive again. To his bewilderment, Yudhisthira chose Nakula and seeing such dedication towards the brother from the second mother Madri, Yakshya gave life to all the brothers. The lake maintains its amazing beauty and purity till date.
|CHAUKHAMBA PEAK AHEAD|
|PHOTOGRAPHERS PHOTOGRAPHYING LOCAL CHILDREN|
|THE MIGHTY Mt. CHAUKHAMBA|
|RUSSET SPARROW (MALE)|
It being the ending of year, the whole meadow or Bugiyal was swathed in knee-deep snow. Mules and Horses were roaming here and there. The chilling month of December did not encourage crowd and hence all over a silence and serenity prevailed in the heavily wooded, lush green surroundings. The spectacular Mt Chaukhamba, Neelkantha, Bandarpunch, Yellow Tooth, Kedar Range, Kalang stood erect with pride as the guards in command. The afternoon chilly wind had not started gushing so far and offered an ethereal view of the reflection of the mountains weaving a dreamy palette in the green lake water along with the green bushes in the backdrop. Forgetting all the stress, dipped into the intoxication of the magnificent vistas, I stood in the knee-deep snow, drinking each moment as eternity. After a few spellbound moments of ecstasy, I at once got over the reverie and struggled to make my way across the snow which sometimes got up to my waist level. Finally I found a suitable place at the lake side under a trunk of a huge tree beside. This dragging through the snow and the shelter under the hole presented me a 300°panorama of Deoria Tal with the lush greenery and the mountain range in the backdrop. A stroll in the surroundings made Mt Chaukhamba appear in walking distance. The snow was less there and the yellowish grass had made their way to welcome us. Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Green-backed Tits (Parus monticolus) sprang here and there.
|THE REMOTE GUEST HOUSE|
|FOOTSTEPS NEVER BEFORE|
|FOLLOWING NEGI JI FOR BIRD SHOTS|
After lunch we started trekking downwards through the dense jungle to Sari Village. In that virgin area, the snow was untouched without any scratch or footmarks. It was the kingdom of silent mountains with the penetrating calls of the birds. The crooked tree branches made peculiar angles throughout the way. Thorny shrubs, nettles blocked our way sometimes. The path was uneven with no distinctive trail amongst the shrubs, snow, twigs, dry leaves and mud. The excitement in exploring such a pristine place was adrenaline-surging –the woods stood still, the blue sky serene and the mountains silent. After a few minutes of scuffling through the woods, slipping in the mud and snow and adjusting the cameras through them, we were finally in a sloppy meadow stretched downwards to the proper village through the jungle.
|RUFOUS BREASTED ACCENTOR|
|RUSTY CHEEKED SCIMITAR BABBLER|
|COMMON ROSEFINCH (MALE)|
Thorny bushes and alpine trees accentuated the meadow. A few huts were seen on the outskirts of Sari village and Negi brought us water from one of them. Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), Russet Sparrow (Passer rutilans), Rufous -breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata), Yellow browed tit (Sylviparus modestus) , Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus), Rusty cheeked Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus erythrogenys), Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus), Striated Laughingthrush (Garrulax striatus) etc gave us company to the whole trek down to the village.
The village is not an upgraded one but the villagers are jovial, leading a simple life. There are orchards in the village beside Oak, Rhodendrons. There is no local market here; however the nearest one is at Ukhimath. Tourism and farming is the main source of income of the local garhwali villagers. It is a hard fact that although the village offers a mesmerizing view of the mountains and a serene life amidst the beautiful villagers, it does not find any distinctive name in the popular tourist spots of Garhwal Himalayas ; it is the authenticity of the Deoria Tal that attracts nature lovers from all over the world to this remote pristine village.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Oriental Rat Snakes in TERRITORIAL COMBAT
|ORIENTAL RAT SNAKES (MALES)|
It was around 1pm this summer. The sun was scorching right over the head. As I got down from the rickshaw, I found a crowd gathering on the road. The commotion was high and they were pointing at something in the bush. I paid the fare and tried to see what they were pointing at. Mom was with me too. As I followed their fingers pointed at the bush, I found two snakes jumping from the bush around 2feet up the ground. They were brownish grey coloured. And they were entangled. Being a freelance photographer, I have seen numerous works by emminent photographers. Many photographs document courtship behaviour. And hence the first thing came to my mind seeing those entangled snakes was that they were mating.
So obviously it was the best option to let them be in their private moment. BUT the local people made a great commotion. As my mom tried to make them understand that it was not at all a good idea to disturb them in their habitat, I quickly rushed home and picked up my camera and rushed back to the spot again. Its not so common sight of the snakes entangled about 2feet up the ground and hence i had to cover it. As i reached the spot trying hard to catch my breath, i found the snakes more aggressive and ferocious with the chattering people hovering around them. I was shocked as my mom showed me that some of the local people were throwing red clothes (gamcha) at them. What a superstitious population is there in the locality! These illiterate people even taunted at my mom's words as she kept on forbiding them to throw the clothes at the snakes. They were excited with full of pride ; its their belief that the touch of the entangled snakes to the clothes bring luck. Its the colour red that attracts the snakes. How mean it is to disturb the snakes in their habitat! But it was vain to make them understand. People were so close to the snakes that finally the snakes had to retreat inside the bush.
Later on, I found my concept (that the snakes were mating) wrong. After i posted a picture on Instagram an ace-photographer corrected me saying that the episode was not about courtship, but about a territorial combat. Those two snakes were both males and they were engaged in a territorial combat. These Rat Snakes try to subdue each other while entangled ; they try to protect their female partners by this. The snake that loses the combat, has to find a new habitat with its female for reproduction. The whole combat lasts for about an hour or so. Its not a common sight as they fight in a remote place. Perhaps its the rapid urbanisation that led them to engage in combat in an open place. I was hence lucky to catch this sight and photograph them.
The photos are given below: