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By the Banks of the Tahan

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The Bumbun hide overlooks a small man-made meadow with two trees at its centre, encircled by a wall of tropical wood and foliage. This brown moss-and-fallen-leaves-covered hideout is a window to this little opening in the rainforest. The two central trees contain rope-tied salt bricks to attract animals into the meadow.

At six o’clock in the morning everything is pitch dark. I peer into the darkness, my mind stuck on my colleague’s narration of a rendezvous with a lone elephant the morning before. He saw the tusker emerge from the wall, gripping at the tender grass blades as he made his way to the salt lick, took a few large chunks out of them, and disappeared into the wall. It has been nearly a decade since an elephant ventured by the Bumbun hide, we’re told. The sky gradually turned a soft blue. If there were a scale to measure the seamless and smooth transition between night and day, it would have to be called by a new name. The scale is fine, immaculate, and works at at-least two …

'NEATH THE HILLS / ARATOREM

In the wee hours does he wake daily,               weary and dazed – under woodsmoke haze
To the eerie howls of jackals,                            he strolls And visits yonder fields of paddy,                     with a sickle in hand – frail and tanned To reap the crop ‘neath the hills of Maikal.

Enshrined by the cragged silhouettes,              old and somber – by the flicker of ember Under darkest sky with a tinge of blue,             he feels His hands hack the wetted spikelets,                cold and thin – cracks on skin As dawn breaks to clear the hue.
The rustling ears fall to the moist earth,          every grain godsent – on a lifetime spent And he gathers the golden seeds,                     he prays This is wealth that for him is worth,                 for the future – of nature and nurture For it is all his family needs.
His day ends with a mountain of tasks,           countlessly weighted – earnestly devoted ‘Til the Maikal shadows mask                          he hears As the t…

A flower-loving gutter fly

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Not five feet from an Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa) tree abuzz with insects is an open gutter. The sewer runs along the corners of houses, its soiled waters shadowed by an avenue of jamun (Syzygium cumini), kadam (Neolamarckia cadamba), and Indian almond trees. The almond and jamun trees are blossoming, their pale, snowy-flowers arranged as a whorl around slender, soft-green branchlets stick out from under a flush of broad dark-green leaves, liberating a strong sweetish aroma into the heavy summer air. This is in the middle of the city. Every time I enter or leave my office, I hear the trees abuzz with insects. Sharp, short buzz of insects hopping from one flower to another, lapping up the extremely sweet nectar contained in bowl-like flowers.

The gutter is riddled with tubiflex worms. When I was a kid, my father would purchase live tubifex worms from aquarium stores for his fishes, and occasionally weird worms would come with it. The one I have a distinct memory of was the rat-t…

The Cosmos in a Tree

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There is a cosmos in every tree,
Galaxies blossoming in empty space,
Worlds sprouting like leaves. A tree once told me:
If your place is among the stars, boundless and free,
By my roots and ‘neath my shade, I promise thee –
In this age or the next –
Is where you will find peace.”
The fellowship
A conflicted love story of a little wasp is all it took. Of the countless spore-like seeds, one went down a bird’s crop, and came out the other end only to be adopted by a half-a-century-old Peepul tree. Two Bargad leaves sprang to life from one of the many crevices of the Peepul, which stands to the north of a busy police thana. To the west of this new companionship lies a large water tank with a small stone-temple built right under its shade. The land, owned by one malguzar, was primarily a forest slowly being turned to farmlands. After his demise, it would be named Kamta Mal – the village of Kamta Prasad the Malguzar, and a small hamlet where this tree and her companion live would be Kamta Chak…