Each one, plant one

What better day than World Environment day to write the post I wanted to, since a long time now. Being a nature lover, I was quite disturbed when the Ridge forest was cleared up majorly, for the Dhaula Kuan flyover. It was clear that the trees felled were not being substituted for, by planting new ones, once the flyover was completed. Finally I chanced upon some public service ads in the newspapers about a year back which mentioned that the public can get saplings of trees, free of cost from the forest department nurseries in NCT Delhi (this is to encourage plantation of trees). What they did not mention was the location, phone numbers of those nurseries or even how to go about the whole thing. The most intuitive way to find out was to google it. After some searches I did land up on the phone numbers and locations of the nurseries (with most of them being wrong numbers) but it wasn’t very useful since by that time I already knew about my 6 month stint in Finland and hence planting trees at that time would have been futile.

Some time back I resumed my search again and finally got in touch with some nurseries. The people there confirmed that free saplings are indeed distributed (which is so unbelievable because this is something that’s very likely to be exploited big time). But they were going to distribute the saplings only from June onwards. This weekend I went to one of the nurseries and got myself 11 saplings. I was quite embarrassed to ask them for such a big number (lest they thought I was going to sell them) but my thoughts were put at rest when I saw a couple, stuffing sacks with saplings. I later learnt that they had taken 60 saplings with them. Various plants like the saplings of Neem, Jamun, Mango, Peach, Gulmohar, Kanner, Peepal, Alstonia, Kachnar, Arjun, Bombax, Papri, Philkan, Jungle Jalebi, Sheesham, Amaltas, Rose, Bougainvillea etc., are available with them.

I also learnt from the forest department webpage that I had landed on, that felling any tree, anywhere, is illegal and one needs to obtain permission for it, according to the Delhi tree preservation act. I certainly think that hardly anyone is aware of this rule since tree felling is as common as pest control! Even for lopping off some branches, one needs to fill up some forms and seek permission. Come winters and everyone is lopping off branches of the bare minimum trees in Delhi (of course without permission)! Only in the case of emergencies when a tree is hindering life, traffic or property, can the tree be felled first and then reported.

What’s more, there’s even a tree helpline. One can even complain against the illegal felling of a tree. Now that’s precisely what I was looking for. This FAQ may be useful for fellow enthusiasts.

Talking of tree helplines, and world environment day, is anyone aware of any bird helplines? There’s a family of house sparrows living in a verandah in my house. Every day one or two chicks drop down from the nest and die (probably because of the rains). Some of them break their legs and face a slow, painful death. Apart from trying to give them some grains, water, milk and a makeshift cardboard house, I couldn’t do much. If anyone is aware of some such thing like bird shelters (one the lines of dog/cow shelters), please let me know. Let’s contribute back to our environment before we are left getting nostalgic about how things were “back in old days”!


Puppy Love

There she was, not very neatly dressed, cowering over something or rather someone in her lap. ‘Must be her baby’, I thought. That was the only seat empty in the bus. I decided to grab it before anyone else rushed to stake their claim. I went and sat besides her, glancing casually at her baby. ‘What!’, I glanced again. Instead of a human form there, I saw something else. A little one nevertheless, albeit not of the human variety but of the canine! (no wonder the seat was empty!) She had a small little puppy in her lap and she was trying to make the puppy sip some water from a small ice cream cup. She held the pup carefully in her palm with its legs dangling out. The tiny little thing had the tiniest paws. They were about the same size as the lady’s thumb. I dont need to say anything about the Delhi heat. It speaks for itself. The pup was only too delighted to have something to drink. As I watched, the tiniest snout sniffed about and the teeniest weeniest tongue popped out to sip the water.

‘Aw.. li’l ones are always so cute, be it any species’, I pondered.

The lady seemed to be turning more and more onto one side (towards the window). She somehow blocked my view partially. I could not understand why she would sit in that crooked, discomforting position. It seemed as if she wanted to hide something. Umm.. could she be thinking that I and a couple of others who were watching intently would cast an evil eye (‘nazar lagana’) on the pup? Well, I wouldn’t blame her if she had that sentiment. In sometime she turned a little outwards and I could see her patting the pup gently. As the bus had reached my stop, I got off the bus with a big smile on my face.

Picture this…

….a small island with beautiful, clean, pristine beaches, huge groves of Casurina trees and small convenient looking bamboo log huts for you. The huts are on a higher level than the ground on a ‘Machaan‘ of some sort (like cottages in Assam etc). Just outside your hut you have a hammock tied, to pamper your sense of lethargy and revel in that ecstasy..the lazy afternoon sun streaming through the trees while you are napping with a book (that you have been reading) on your face..aah!! bliss…of course, you have all kinds of nature sounds to keep you company.. the waves bashing against the beach, the crickets making their sounds, small little birds twittering around.. peace, quiet and could live here forever.

The innumerable dry twigs from the casurina trees form a carpet on the soft sand. You already feel like walking barefeet. The fresh air makes you take in gulps of it. You switch to exploring mode and head straight in any direction. It’s a small island, you are bound to reach the sea. You notice that the trees suddenly stop after a point and from there starts the virginal beach..the sun is blindingly bright but thankfully the trees form a cool green canopy over you. The waves are gleamingly furious and lashing with full force. It’s high tide. The sand also gleams and gives the impression that you would be burnt alive if you step on it barefeet. You take in the expanse of the neverending Arabian Sea in your view, spot a couple of small islands and then look beyond where there’s just the water bobbing up and down and marvel at the way the ocean seems to have a life of its own..and the way it reminds you of a wild animal wanting to break free.

You promise yourself to come here the first thing when the sun weakens a bit. You notice makeshift showers erected at regular intervals, just before the beach starts. They have been put up to wash your hands/feet from any sand. (you can also do a ‘satyam shivam sundaram’ if you feel like it 😉 ).
You get a notification from your stomach in terms of a groan (mebbe a growl) that it’s time to put something in it. You head for the central bamboo log cafe but suddenly remember that you should wash your hands and also check out the bamboo log hut assigned to you. You head for the hut, climb the wooden stairs and get in the room. Whoa! The room has a comfy spic and span look about it, with all necessary basic amenities thrown in. There’s an attached bathroom which is bigger than you would expect on a small island like this. There’s arrangement for electricity (through generators at specific hours). The beds look *really* inviting and the sound of the sea is actually lulling you to sleep. Hunger wins over sleep and you wash and go to the cafe.

After a sumptous meal, you decide to go to the beach. You head for the beach and this time, the sun is almost kissing the ocean over the horizon. The waves seem to be reaching out just so to catch a bit of it. It seems to work.. the sun is sinking deeper and deeper.

The beach looks much bigger and the ocean much farther. Lot of water has receded and it is low tide now. You eagerly step on the sand and almost sink in! The dry sand is so soft it takes you in..all over the place you see small little crabs scurrying around hastily as they see a Goliath (You!) approaching. You are left to see the zillion patterns they have made on the sand while digging a home for themselves. They actually dig, collect a lot of sand, make globules out of it and deposit them on the outer surface.

You reach the wet sand and its easier to walk. It has retained a lot of water. The splash of the loud waves excites you and you discard your footwear (you could do the same with your clothes too, the beach is pretty private) and run into the water. The cool water kisses your feet and recedes back as if taking blessings…LOL:-).
You notice more crabs scurrying around for dear life and a lot of starfishes embedded in the sand. In a lot of places the starfish has just left a deep impression in the sand whereas it is actually not there..
It’s getting darker now.. and the sky has various shades of purple, orange, yellow, grey..Every passing moment gives you a newer and more amazing, picturesque sunset. The colorful hues of the sunset reflect on the wet sand and it gets on a deep orange sheen. At the same time, a nascent moon peeps out in one corner of the sky, almost going unnoticed. It’s twilight! You feel one with the nature.

The colors on the sand become deeper and deeper and finally merge into darkness. The sun has completely set and the twinkling lights on the neighbouring coastline can be seen. A lighthouse flashes its rotating light after every few moments and it vaguely reminds you of that story ‘The Foghorn’ that you had read in your english text book at school.

There! How would it be to spend a couple of days in such a place?
Add to it, adventure activities like kayaking and parasailing, nature walks and island exploring, some fun stuff like a volleyball court on the island and a carrom board in the cafe, indescribable experiences like the chance to play your flute with the waves bashing in the background and the serene solitude that the place offers you and it becomes a perfect vacation.

We also had a motorboat ride somewhere into the ocean. This was another nice experience.. the spray of the water on you when you are speeding, the boat bobbing up and down when you shut ignition in the middle of get to feel the ocean up close and’s almost as if it’s alive and breathing.. a giant amoeba, inhaling and exhaling.. you wait and watch with bated breath to see dolphins.. suddenly you see a whole group jumping in and out of water! But it’s too sudden to be clicked.. a couple of handycams are able to capture it though. A couple of gulls come down and fly very low, suddenly they swoop on the surface of water and you realise that you have seen them lunching. The dolphins play ‘aankh micholi’ a couple of times. The tour includes a close up of all small little inaccessible islands with jagged rocks as a coastline.

The place is Devbagh – a small little, relatively unknown island on the coast of Karnataka. Although the actual stay on the island was just 2 nights and 3 days, I cherish it much more than the rest of my vacation. which I spent at Bangalore (with one day in Mysore thrown in).

Close encounters of the 3rd kind

Flights of fantasies apart (not to forget the various scientific concepts I might have overlooked in the previous fictional account) let me write something about the actual thing. On 27th, I went to office by my car so that I could leave for Nehru planetarium on my own time and also get back conveniently. Despite my efforts, I could set out from office only at 6 (which is the official closing time anyway, but quite early for me). The moment I reached National Highway – 8, I was accosted by a huge traffic jam, spanning 2-3 traffic lights. It seemed to be unusual. Anyway, somehow managed to crawl through and decided to take Rao Tula Ram Marg and then the Moti Bagh crossing. It turned to be another big traffic packed segment. Unusual again, that road is pretty empty usually. To top it all, there was a lot of police around and some turnings had been barricaded for some reason. The Mumbai blasts had happened just a day before. The idea that the whole junta might be going for a view of Mars, also struck me and I abhorred the crowds already. Before Amit points out that I could have taken the ariel route, well, I didn’t want to rob Mars of its attention. Had I done that, all junta would have accumulated to watch *me* flying!

I managed to reach Nehru Planetarium after a 1.5 hr ordeal. The parking rush outside gave me an idea of what to expect inside. A show on Mars was supposed to be shown after which ppl were to proceed to Teen Murti Lawns to view Mars through a telescope. I got inside since I was under the impression that some special arrangements would be there to project something on the dome, on which normally all stars and planets etc are shown during regular shows. That was a mistake. I had gone alone and after waiting for ½ an hour, somehow managed to jostle my way (or rather got jostled) into the dome. Once there, we were shown a powerpoint presentation! The poor folks didn’t even have much of an idea of how to set up the projector! Somehow they managed to get the show started and some senior lady urged everyone to maintain decorum (expected lecture), after which she proceeded to explain something about the celestial event taking place.

She talked about Mars and oppositions and Mars’ retrograde motion. The retrograde motion has also been mentioned by Kalidas in one of his works and by Shakespeare in ‘As you like it’. Interesting facts, but nevertheless time consuming for someone eager to view Mars through the telescope. After the show we were asked to proceed to the lawns for the viewing of Mars. I literally jogged to the lawns to get a good position in queues (if any, though a thing *not* to be expected). When I reached there, the spectacle resembled that of an open air exhibition. Small crowds seemed to be sprouting everywhere, wherever feasible (something like the flash mob concept in US). I trudged to the circumference of a mob and with some difficulty could spot a woman as the centre of it all. Realising that it was a news channels crew and nothing to do with Mars, I tried my hand at several such mobs, before I finally spotted a telescope at the centre of one such mob.

Mars was clearly visible till then by the naked eye. The moment I reached somewhere near the telescope, the clouds descended on the skies and that was the end of everybody’s hopes. A collective sigh could be heard from the crowd (the ones interested in Mars. The ones interested in getting their face on TV were probably already swooning over the female presenters). Within minutes, the same senior lady turned up there, trying to calm the crowds and urging them to fall in queue. Before I knew it, she had actually pushed me in some kind of queue there. Far from the maddening crowd was what I wanted to be, but since I had gone all the way there, and spent all that time I decided to stick around *till* I saw Mars through the telescope.

One could prominently hear a lady in the queue shouting at everyone around her and questioning their right to be where they were. She made an interesting sight, especially since she was the only one shouting irritatingly, much to the amusement of everyone else. No one was reacting to her so far, but finally when she asked a young man to get away from the queue since she could not breathe, she got an interesting retaliation and an argument ensued.

Bitchy Lady: Get away from here, can’t you see that I have kids along with me and that they can’t even breathe because of you ppl standing here?
Young man: Why? Do you think that the air that you are breathing comes from this direction only?
BL: Just get lost. Get away from here.
YM: What’s your problem? We aren’t getting in the queue and we can stand anywhere we want.
BL: Such ill-mannered ppl! You won’t understand. When you get married and have kids, you’ll understand.
YM: Have you? (wonder whatever this meant, it could have several meanings, and one of them or maybe all of them surely pissed off the lady, beyond control)
BL: Get away or I’ll give you a tight slap.
YM: Oh really, just try to.
Somebody Intervening: Please stop it, please move away or a fight will start..

Now the lady cast her attention to all others around her and she spotted me. Suddenly she started questioning me, about since when had I been in the (so called) line. Before I knew it, all eyes were on me and not to forget all lights too, and all cameras too, just watching the action!! It was an amazing feeling, knowing that you might be on camera and having to fight it out for your position in the queue. I gave BL a straight look in the eye that meant ‘Don’t you dare mess with me’ and her husband started in a typical bhaisaaab drawl – ‘Sister, mein aapke haath jodtaa hoon, please line banaeeye’. I told him there’s no need to ‘Haath Jodo’. Had half a mind to tell him to just ‘tame the shrew’ and everything would be ‘as you like it’. Somehow the cameras had had their fill and went away. In the meantime, some ‘eminent’ people came with a group of photographers, just to pose and get their snaps clicked as they put their eye next to the telescope, with the crowd sniggering behind their back at the fact that they were doing this ‘exercise’ when Mars wasn’t visible.

The clouds still blocked everyone’s view. The crowds were urged by the ppl incharge to go home and come the next day. The crowds dispersed somewhat and BL and her family also left thankfully. Suddenly there was lightening and ppl started cheering as if there were some Martians about to land. Someone in the crowd, took a cue and started singing ‘Koi Mil Gaya’. That made the atmosphere a li’l lighter. In a couple of minutes, the clouds moved and now came the last leg of the long journey. The telescopes were focussed and I finally got a dekko at Mars through the telescope. The viewing was pretty disappointing as the magnification of Mars was very little. However I would like to imagine that I saw an intensely red planet with some dark spots on it. After all I did have a close encounter with it. 🙂

Close Encounters of the Cosmic Kind 1

As 27 August draws nearer, my spirits soar higher. Every night, as I look out at the South Eastern skies, I see the reddish looking prominent planet. At times it’s covered by clouds, which look like the fluff of a cosmic lamb, running across the skies and exposing a bright red dot once its whizzed past. At times, it looks like a bright precious stone embedded in the sand, being exposed after the sea-wave-shaped clouds have rippled past. Still at times, my previous date, the BIG moon, looks down on it and me alike. I can almost see the amused moon faced smile there. I bet, it conveys – “I couldn’t handle her.. you try it this time”

Even as I write this, I am hurtling 20kms closer to Mars every moment. Like me, this friend of mine, shows its true colours only after twilight.

Intrigued enough by its regular appearances in my balcony every night (As Juliet would have been with Romeo’s), I wonder whether it’s time to take off on a journey, yet unexplored. Would the proximity of 55.76 million km have some unexplained effects on our own planet? After all the last time it happened, only primeval primates inhabited our Earth. I better check it out for myself and for the cause of humanity.. err..ahem…

Are there really any green little men out there? Is there any intelligent life out there? Are we going to establish alien contact? (No, Koi Mil Gaya has nothing to do with my musings, and neither do I plan to see it). Are there already some Martians masquerading as earthlings, observing us, studying us…?

I can’t contain myself any longer. I better check it out on my own while I can. So here I go in search of some intelligent life. Men are from Mars or so I heard. On our planet, I have come across twerps mainly. Beep Beep Blip Blip Beep Beep .. I can make out some inviting signals. Being the true Venusian that I am (After all Women are from Venus), here I come Martians…

I wonder what life would be like on Mars. Would they understand freedom, peace and love or would they be akin to hatred, enmity and the like.. would be reporting about my adventures soon… whoosh..

10.000 Lightyears somewhere out in space
They practice love and they know what it takes
No competition and no jealousy
Living in freedom and humanity

10.000 Lightyears away, lightyears away far from pain
Came to a place full of grace and of peace
10.000 Lightyears away from our fear

Suddenly it’s ringing in my ears
Why is it now I don’t wanna be here
I feel like flow in that clock at the wall
God, how I wish that this dream would go on

– 10,000 Lightyears – Boney M