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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…

Insects On My Mind

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The air is crisp. There is a faint but shrill, pulsating but monotonous call of the Indian house cricket somewhere in the corner of my house. It is too cold for insects to be out and about. He is the only one singing. Since last few monsoons, tiny little insects are hibernating somewhere in folders carefully stored away. Every winter, as and when time permits, I set to bring a few out. The usual ritual in getting to know them is to be able to photograph them from all angles possible, cataloguing them so that you know where they were and what they were doing when you found them, and ultimately – this sometimes takes the longest – sitting down to getting to know them.

Some of these are quite a handful, and there is no shortage of them. They are either rare or they are so special in their habit – such as leading a highly secretive, parasitic life, tucked away under someone’s abdomen or in someone’s nest. I liken them to some of the secretive, nocturnal mammals, they are just so specific …

An Ode to the Mountain Fort

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I spent most of the year exploring Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, more-so for the tigers than any other animal, and while the alarm calls of chital and sambar, and the occasional roars and growls of tiger still echo in my ears (thanks so much to my colleague’s ringtone), I witnessed a place that is much more than just about tigers. There are also ants here – yes, ants – I stumbled upon a trap-jaw ant (Anochetus cf madaraszi), a first for central India and a new record for Madhya Pradesh while I was contemplating a few seconds before deploying the last camera trap one summer evening, and observed one of the most adorable behaviour among the ant Brachyponera cf luteipes of tandem-carrying, where a fellow sister-worker carries her companion in her jaws to the site of food – a second for India after I saw it first in Valparai. Fascinating what all is hidden or happens beneath the feet of tigers. I lost count of how many tigers I saw on how-many-an-occasion – yes, tigers are more common here …