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Showing posts from 2017

Two Wings, But Not A Bird

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I cannot put my finger on an insect and call it my favourite. Yes, the banner-bearers of the insect world, the butterflies and the moths, mesmerize me; I have an infatuation for the eagles of the insect world, the dragonflies and the damselflies. I adore the champions of this age, the beetles, the musicians, the piercers, the jumpers – one name is not enough to describe them – the true bugs. And the most industrious, the ants, bees, and wasps, the immortal cockroaches, the architects – the termites, the hunters and the herbivores, and all the rarities in-between with their own ingenious lives – they all amaze me equally. But the one that held my fascination for the longest time are also the most infuriating to understand, and they happen to be omnipresent. This bias lies in you too. After all, it is not the butterfly that we recognize as soon as we begin to identify with the world. Nor the birds. It is that other two-winged entity: the fly. In our lives, we’ve fixated on flies more t…

Barefoot Notes: Wood-watching

Every time I go on a walk – anywhere I go on a walk – if I happen upon a dead or a decaying tree – standing or fallen – I pause a minute or two and look. I look for the peeling bark revealing patterns underneath it, at burrows and pinholes into the sapwood, and pathways carved unto the cambium. I look at the texture of the trunk, the hardened sinewy cellulose-muscles running the length of the heartwood. Trick is to not just see but peer into the tree; at the mineshafts and alleyways carved by dwarvish insects and unassuming fungi.
Wood-watching is not exactly like tree-spotting where you observe a living tree. It, too, whether the tree is small or big, takes its own time; the colours and the warts, the creases and crevasses on the cork, gashes on boles, and natural protrusions, all represent a visible record of the tree, after all, leaves are only temporary, and roots invisible. Loggers have their own way of identifying a tree fit to be felled. Botanists often look at the trunk as th…

Barefoot Notes: Who does Sahyadri belong to?

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It does not take long for a murmuring river to turn into a raging cascade, yet it is no match to the prowess of the tall terraces of northern Western Ghats. The rapids are strong to make crossing the river difficult, but not enough to complete the journey to the foot of the mountain. It falls, only to rise in countless little fractions of its former self as mist, dancing to the tune of the winds orchestrated by the mountains themselves. It is only when the waters rage on, fueled by the south-west monsoons, do they spill down the amber facades of the Ghats, touching their feet as they reform their ancestral channels. The range officer pointed to a high precipice from where a river came crashing down, and he said, that’s where we’re headed. Under a shroud of torrential rains, we could glimpse at the full glory of the fall whenever the clouds dispersed. To the right of this gorgeous fall of the Kalu River, an inverted waterfall rose into the skies, inching slowly to the ground with the …

On the Book of Revival

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Looking at a tract of forests, I hardly believed that this was once an open, degraded patch of land reminiscent of a rainforest that stretched beyond the mountains. The photographs we saw, and the photographs we took, showed a stark contrast: in the beginning, it was a bramble of invasive herbs and shrubs, suffocating native trees and forbidding their growth. Fifteen years on, a canopy of tall trees races skywards in a thunderstorm-like profusion, chasing the heights their ancestors once achieved in another age. What began as a story of lost faith appeared to be rising in hope, and the plot of the story we missed in between, of upheaval and invasion, resurrection and renewal – a crucial mass of any story – we were fortunate to listen to from the caretakers who helped revive this story. The stalwarts have now passed the quill to nature, and this fragment which borders a road on one side and rows of tea plantations on the other, now writes for itself. A small signage alerts us that thi…