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Behra Bhaloo, Kanwa Bhaloo, and other Bhaloo Kind

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A mother bear and her cubs foraging for termites one fine afternoon. As we huddled around the fire-stove, two big pots – one of daal and another bhaat – simmering with flavours and warmth, I held tightly a small cup of black coffee, eagerly waiting to ask a particular question to our cook who has been a part of the history of Guru Ghasidas National Park. It was cold and dark. There was a rustle of leaves and a crackle of breaking sticks as if something walked on the outer side of a thin wall that separated us from the dense forest. The question was about a Sloth Bear – bhaloo in the common tongue. In 2019, a bear fell in a well across from where we put up our base camp. Ropes and a ladder were put in for it to climb up, the story goes. Since this area is away from human settlements, spectators did not throng to the place of rescue, nor did it make into national news – the only reason it came into local news was that when the bear climbed out, instead of running into the forest, it ch

Bajār

I. That blue ripple in the tarpaulin pulled taut in the cool breeze the first farmer pulls up his sleeves, two bamboo poles and a few jute strings hold his shop, his business, his offerings; one morning among many centuries. The tilted-goats, the hunched-dogs, the burly-bulls the dupatta-women, the dyed-men, their mouthfuls I stand in the distance, watching this timeless commotion watching dealers deal, buyers buy – those customs. The shirtless boy bringing chai on naked feet the eyeless hand touching the paper cup to lips eyes caught up with money stashed ‘neath the feet. A bajār treasury is capped by the light, that taut blue tarpaulin that dust settling upon the skin. I watch with attention at this ancient system in this timeless happening, I see one figurine exhaling tobacco clouds, ballerina of the crowds he moves to the center, that corner, then back again he heeds the serenades, the auctioneers, the marketmen his handfuls multiplying in plastic gr

Winter, or, A Rambunctious Ramble

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These are three very disorderly, disjointed, disproportional thoughts that haunted me much before this year began – since the end of the last year to be exact. That year, I rambled away after coherently trying to make sense of the world as a flower-collector saw. While time has taken us a year ahead since, space has brought us back to where we think time ends and starts anew. Come to think of it, I was out of place and time, and over the hill and out of my mind. At this junction, I revisit that time and that mindset with little sense of what it was – or is – all about. Picture One Part One: What Makes Me Inept At an interview many years ago, I was lambasted by a probably well-meaning but perhaps ultra-inquisitive interviewer when I uttered ‘natural resource’ in some human context. The gullible me scampered to defend myself, but I’ve always wondered why is it wrong to call something a resource. If an ecologist can use the term ‘resource partitioning’ relating to species interaction,

Saunter, or, On the Art of Imagination and Perception

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A dried-up leaf. A rolled-up leaf. A blotchy leaf. A pooped-upon leaf. After seven months of no respite, I found myself looking at these enthusiastically. Everything moved. Everything was something. Something resembled something else. Sometimes, something tried to be something else. I may have been imagining things, who am I to blame? The soggy boughs, cloud-diffused skies, a slight mist, a faint song of the birds. Add to that the huddled trees, clustered canopies, a subtle breeze. I perceived things differently. Who am I to blame? A leaf tumbled up a tree in front of my eyes. Another flew off. One burst into ridiculous shades of colours. The extravagant - or ridiculously colourful - Orange Oak Leaf ( Kallima inachus ) butterfly of Kanha Tiger Reserve. Someone, somewhere, imagined that this butterfly looks like the leaf of an oak. Somewhere long before, something perceived a limbless leaf to be a safer bet than donning ridiculous colours. And then it decided, hey, why not have the best