He’s lived in this town long enough to forget the breath of the morning. Although he plans his escapades on practically every weekend, he longs for the smell of the warm summer air. In this town that he lives in, you can’t smell a thing. The first rains drips over the garbage dumps, restraining the petrichor from reaching your senses. The scent of Alstonia is overridden by the stench from the drains. When you walk on the street, you must watch your feet for cracks in the pavement. He maybe complaining like a subterranean homesick alien, but last week, he and his friends vowed to escape. For two days they remained aloof, cherishing the breath of the morning, the smell of the fresh air, and the sound of the sea.
By the coast of Maharashtra, a little over hundred miles south of Mumbai, lies a little town of Nagaon – a small, cosy place dotted with cottages and hotels, looking over the mighty Arabian Sea. It has been a place of nirvana for many, and dipping yourself into this sacred sea is how you attain bliss, and reboot your consciousness. You lose your routine here. You don’t rush to catch the wind, you sail with the wind. You don’t drown, you dive in. You don’t hear noise, you listen to music reverberating through your body. Did he really lose himself there? You may ask. He indeed did, and every word of it is true.
The sea was mesmerizing. The wind was fulfilling. And the scenes by the sea beguiling. We reached the cottage by noon, and quickly unpacked and set out to explore this coastal town. The soil was sandy, but mostly reclaimed by their owners. Most of the trees here were planted, but there were many wastelands that were now slowly restored by tall, dense grasses. By the roads, the most common trees were Casaurina, a tropical tree planted exclusively along seashores as windbreaks.
Under a small shady tree I saw some activity of a rather large Weaver Ant. At a closer glance, it was a startling surprise – an ant-mimicking spider in the family Thomisidae, the Amyciaea sp.:
|Amyciaea sp., Ant-mimicking Crab Spider|
It was busy feeding on a Weaver Ant, who had a nest a few feet above the spider’s lair. Unlike most ant-mimicking spiders that mimic an ant’s shape from head to abdomen, these spiders mimic the other way round – from abdomen to the head. The distinct black spot you see on the abdomen are false-eyes, to mimic the face of the Weaver Ants. The real eyes of these spiders are in the typical Thomisidae pattern, wide-set and tiny, except for the two median ones with a binocular vision. They lie in ambush, usually near their prey’s nesting, and strike when the target is close enough.
|Tanaecia lepidea, the Grey Count|
We emerged back early evening to explore the sea. The rolling waves were sending a hypnotizing chant our way. We could hear her, and we knew where she was located, but we couldn’t see her. As we stepped on the cool sand by the towering Casuarinas, her calls became stronger, guiding our way. We saw her at the edge of the shoreline, delicately bathing and churning the vast stretches of sands. It was about two hours from sunset when our feet touched the cool waters, and sank in its soft surface. The high tide was returning, and the moon had risen one-third its way into the sky.
After a dip I returned to land and set up the camera facing the horizon:
The sea rolled wildly as twilight approached. The east was darkening, and a few stars had begun to cast their light in our direction. Visiting the seashore without witnessing a sunset or a sunrise is like visiting a garden and not heeding the flowers. The Arabian Sea lies directly west of the coast of India, and therefore a sunset is always assured, and this being winter, the clouds rarely ever block your view. I was expecting to catch a glimpse of the rare green flash phenomenon, but a haze over the distant horizon blocked our view. The sun disappeared, drowning us in twilight. This is the time when you must strain hard to see, and a camera becomes your important tool of seeing the subtle shades of twilight:
The shell belongs to a Hermit Crab, who may have sought the shelter by defeating its previous occupant. It was too afraid to give us a clear view, but it must have been glad to be on the soaking sand, where they mostly roam around in search of food.
The evening star, or Venus, was shining brightly over the horizon – a sentinel planet that always carries the warmth of the sun over its surface. Seeing one over any water body, in any part of the world, is a divine feeling.
And as the darkness crept over the western sky, the sea suddenly calmed down. The music faded to a murmur, and the waves sailed smoothly over the sand without churning it. It was the time of peace, a time when diurnal creatures seek shelter, abandoning the seaside, and when the nocturnal creatures haven’t left their abodes yet. We then returned to our shed, our hearts satisfied with this magical quest. There was no doubt that we’d return the next morning.
|A mist lifts from the meadows|
|A warm-up race|
|A flock of Brown-headed Gulls|
We also saw many Pond Herons hanging around the shoreline, much away from the saline waters, as well as a Yellow-footed Green Pigeon in the trees, a Spotted Dove, Eurasian Golden Orioles, a Honey Buzzard, Red-vented and Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Black Drongos, and many Little Green Bee-eaters.
I became completely absorbed by the scenes unfolding by the sea. A trio of dogs ran along the water, trotting and playing around. They sure were glad to be living by the beach. A couple held their hands as they walked across the sand, leaving a pair of footprints that remained there until the sea reclaimed her sand. A noisy flock of the gulls now settled into the sea, diving and fishing into the waters. The bullocks were piling in numbers, their polished horns shining in magnificence. A team of cricketers placed their stumps in the sand, and another day of business opened to the cottage owners.
|The Crab City|
|A network of sand bubbles|
|Scopimera sp., Sand Bubbler Crab|
|Feathers and Footprints|
Our winger geared towards home. The city now felt different. My eyes saw things differently. It was no longer what I had described before. My conscience changed it.