Barefoot in Kurne
I woke up to the merry laughter of birds, the melancholy music of rain, and a green aura, deep and longing, creeping onto the walls of the room and draping it in an indescribable glow. I spun my head seeking the source of the light and felt its warm glow upon my face, to which I stayed in my place, absorbing all the energy that emanated from the green fields filtering the early sunlight.
This little village of 1145 residents lies on the Konkan, that is western, side of the Western Ghats where they tumble down in succession of hills in descending order. Streams and rivers cut through these mountains, carving deep valleys as they reach the Konkan coast. The fertile soils and the monsoon rains have led to large swathes of lands being converted into agriculture fields, feeding the mouths of many down south and north.
|Lygodium sp. - a Climbing Fern|
I know what I say is hard to believe, but it is not so, for until the time came to catch train back home, we became one with nature, observing the tiniest details, and our feet covered greater distances every day – for the destination of reaching on time was irrelevant, and only the journey mattered. And we met the elements of nature, and her sons and daughters, who seemed to dance and greet us from close. The butterflies and the damselflies, the flowers and the birds know better about timekeeping without watches, besides my fellow friends and other naturalists who I’m sure feel the same without ever questioning the insane notion of time without time.
|Attacus atlas - the Atlas Moth|
|Calotes on a rice frond|
|Borbo cinnara - Rice Swift|
|Megaderma lyra - the Greater False Vampire Bat|
On the other side of the wall lies the forest, a sacred forest protected for centuries as the dwelling place of gods. The temple of the resident gods is situated on the edge of a lush green hillock with its verandah fallen prey to soil erosion. From here one can see further down the valley and yonder in the paddy fields. It was a fine view, even from the eyes of a leopard.
|Loxura atymnus - Yamfly, and a Velvet Ant (a wasp in family Mutillidae)|
Before we ventured into the grove, we were told to be wary of one of the most frightful animal of the forests here – the Wild Boar.
They’re stout and angry, and are known to run down their competitors – which can be you and me – and maul them with their heavy heads and sharp tusks. And they never come in numbers less than three. Only last night they destroyed a farmer’s rice field, ate and rolled and plucked rice merely for their entertainment.
It is the most feared and hated animal in these parts, and everyone we meet is talking about them. We were warned not once but repeatedly to watch out for them, which we sure did, but to our displeasure, we did not even get a hint of their presence. Walking in the gullies with water flowing under our feet, we couldn’t imagine being run down by a gang of hefty boars. But their fears, over our enthusiasm, are justified. The boars, as much as they are a subject of awe for us, are the destroyers of their livelihood. While in one corner of my mind I was tempted to see this wild creature, the other wanted them to remain as far off in the forests as the agricultural fields would permit, since this region is a major agricultural land, and forests are fast depleting. Man-animal conflict here therefore is of crucial concern.
There’s a folktale concerning boars which is quite famous in the state of Maharashtra. The boars, it is said, never look at the moon particularly during the festival of Lord Ganesha, which comes around this time of the year. One day Lord Ganesha was travelling on his vehicle – the mouse, and the moon, seeing them pass, laughs at the sight, and so Lord Ganesha thence curses moon, and says, “No man, not even the wild boars, shall ever look upon thee when I arriveth”. And we realized, by the end of the trip, that we never did once notice the moon. (And so I believe did gods dwell here.)
|Forests of the Konkan and rice fields|
|A pair of Red-rumped Swallows|
|Fishing in the reservoir|
|A Little Cormorant in the rain|
|Papilio helenus - the Red Helen|
|Ants relocating pupae|
They continued well into the night, as we did on our journey. The day was at its end; tomorrow we would be on the trip home.
|A member of Scutigerigae - the House Centipede|
|Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis - the Skittering Frog that got to safety|
A creature scurried along the path as we explored the village in the night. The flash of the light revealed a large bodied rat – a little over two feet in length, rushing into the little rainwater drainage. A beating was organized by the house where the Bandicoot Rat disappeared – the residents banging utensils, just to create enough noise, to scare the wild boars away.
We were hushed to the shelter of our warm home by a heavy downpour, but the Blister Beetle I saw in the house kept me awake.
|The expanse of Pandanus fascicularis|
|Libellago lineata - the River Heliodor|
This journey did open my eyes, something it would be hard to do if I were on a jeep safari rocketing through the national parks.
In the vehicle I let my eyes roll back and images flashed before me: the bubbling stream flowing under me, the forests swaying above, the girl in deep silence tending to her cattle, the stars and the Milky Way gazing down upon me. Under all the stars and other unearthly bodies, here we were, contemplating one tiny part of the gargantuan universe, dumbfounded by this most intricate connection: everything – everything from the scale of the universe to the scale on the Atlas Moth's wings – is in relationship to one another.