In search of the Summer Angel
This article contains material written on trips made in the months of February to May. However, the events are not represented in a chronological order, but as per the flow of the article.
May 26. No one – man or woman – feels an angel when the hot weather is approaching. This year when we were enjoying the coldest February (8 degrees C), the temperatures abruptly rose to 39C on the 27th of the same month. Such heat-waves are rather infamous in this coastal city, though, and are never welcomed.
Yet if you wander away from the urban desert – concreted and paved, harsh on the eyes, burning your soles, and ideal for heat-strokes, you will find the summer angel that Rudyard Kipling only briefly mentioned in the classic Plain Tales from the Hills.
|A Langur infant enjoys the early morning breeze at Karnala Bird Sanctuary|
Yet if you ask me about my experience with the summer, I barely survived any of these trips. Like many, I can’t wait for the first rains. There is a pair of nesting crows outside of my office window – and when the crows are nesting, it is traditionally known that monsoon is on its way.
June 9. It is here now. The fledglings have fled. I experienced the first premonsoon showers on June 7. It is time I talk about the summer angel before I mollycoddle with the monsoon!
|The Sahyadri in summer - taken from Mahuli fort|
|Swarm of true flies|
|The only source of drinking water on the top of Mahuli Fort|
|Tender leaves of Mahua|
|Meadow where vultures dine at Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary|
|Erythrina indica - the Indian Coral Tree|
In the night, we visited the forests again, and came across many geckos that were out and about, with their vertical pupils dilated to hunt for creatures unaware of danger.
|Deciduous landscape of Karnala Bird Sanctuary|
|Calotes versicolour - Garden Lizard basking in the morning sun|
June 2. Although we sought the angel in the scorching mountains of Sahyadri, it was not until a field-visit to the remotest villages of Wada and Jowhar regions of Maharashtra that I really felt the angel. It was a warm feeling, almost reluctant and harsh – surprisingly different than what a city-dweller would imagine her to be.
We had come to meet the people of this region, the Warlis, one of the most famous tribal communities of Maharashtra for their culture and artwork. Our interactions were very pleasant. They greeted us as their relatives, and we didn’t have the slightest hesitation one feels as a guest to gatherings in a city.
|Pachghar village with solar panels on the rooftop|
It was a world I had never seen before. No where have I experienced the sense of remoteness, and if I did have a slight feeling of it, these kind folks were there to take it away. We sat together, laughed, had tea, and discussed problems. It was in these villages that I felt a sense I cannot describe, which grew stronger and stronger since I returned. I believe I felt an angel.
She may appear harsh for an outsider, but she is softest, kindest, most modest, and extremely friendly when you open your mind to the world around. It wasn’t long before I realized that these people are the angel of this region, and the angel does not merely dwell in them. They carry her in their nature. In their eyes dwells not the regret of not having electricity, but of knowledge of hard work, and thoughtfulness for every action, for danger lurks in their lives in the form of a venomous snake, drought, rainstorm, or worse, an illness.
It hurts me when I know the problems faced by these villages are not going to go away so soon. When a respectable government officer says that electricity will not be coming in their generation but it certainly will in their children’s, they smile. I don’t know if they smiled in hope or in longing, but their smile always lasted for the longest time.