Friday, April 30, 2010

A Hectic Weekend Part 2 - Getting lost and finding birds.....

It’s been a while since I wrote my last post, and I have loads and loads of stuff to put up! So many things have come up recently, including an interesting freelance assignment that I shall write about soon! Meanwhile, I just hope I don’t forget all the interesting things I want to tell you before I get time to write them down!

Getting back to the last weekend, here is the second part of the series – our Sunday adventure. As I mentioned in the first part, we had returned late on Saturday, with no energy left to make plans for the Sunday birding programme…. To continue…..

I was doubtful about going for the birding at Nerul the next morning, but when the alarm went off, I was pleasantly surprised to see Samhith wake up enthusiastically. When I asked him if he really wanted to get up so early on a Sunday, and also reminded him that on no account could he miss school on Monday, he said, “But Amma, Aadesh uncle said this was the last chance to see the water birds…… we have to wait another year if we miss today….. Also, we are going to Nerul, not to Sewri, so it is a new place…. If it was Sewri, I would sleep, because I have already been there twice. So let’s go… its all right… I will go to school too” really, he can be quite the adult at times, and I had to agree with his logic and got ready for the journey.

We started off a little later than needed, since I refused to leave without fortifying myself with coffee. Of course, Murphy’s law had to work, with no autos available when most needed, and the only chaps available refusing to come for such a short distance as the station. We wasted some precious time looking for autos and finally found one only on the main road, and even he seemed to be reluctant to come, but this time I simply got in, and he started off, albeit grumbling a little!

This seemed to set the mood for the day, and we found ourselves missing a train as we waited for tickets, and then had to wait for 15 minutes for the next one! Even at Nerul, the auto chaps were reluctant to take us to the meeting place, saying that they wouldn’t get any passengers for the return journey. We managed to finally persuade one of them to take us, promising him some extra money.

Here is where chaos set in, for we reached the place only to discover (as expected) that the group had left for the water body from the meeting point! I finally called them up and asked for directions (since I had stupidly left the directions behind, hoping to meet the group at the meeting point itself). The instructions were quite clear, but our auto chap complicated matters by insisting that there was no water body in that direction, but there was one in the opposite direction! I should have stuck to the directions, and my instinct, but this was surely not my day, since I gave in to his argument and agreed to go the other way! he did take me to a water body – a huge lake with some birds – just a few minutes away, but it was unfortunately the wrong one!

Letting the auto chap leave, I decided to walk, but somehow missed the line of cars standing on the opposite side of the road on the way, and spent another half an hour searching for them!

Leaving out further details and boring you further, let me just say that at last my run of bad luck ran out and I spotted the cars and the group, and headed towards them! Unfortunately, they were just dismantling their telescopes and heading towards the sea shore, so we missed seeing lots and lots of waders in their breeding plumage!

However, you can see beautiful shots of the birds on Alok’s blog. It makes me wish I had reached on time!

We moved towards the shore, and did see a few more birds, but they were too far to be captured by my camera! We were so tired with all our roaming around, that we took but few photographs…… here are some of them…

just see the number of birds... and this place is just 15 minutes from Nerul! wish we had come in time to see them up close

a view of the place..

the group moving towards the shore...

walking on the creek bed...we found lots and lots of shells here...

some birds we saw while returning...... mainly gulls and plovers....

This bird probably took pity on us that we hadnt got a single good pic! It obligingly turned up just as we were ready to give up and leave.... this is a red wattled lapwing which walked slowly across the grass and allowed me to take a good snap!

This wasn’t one of our most satisfactory birding trips, but it makes me want more, and both of us are looking forward to next year when the birds will (hopefully) return again! Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that the open area isn’t taken over by our space hungry city by then, so that the winged migrants do find a home away from home again!

Thankfully, we were offered a lift while returning, and gratefully accepted, reaching home with no adventures at all! We were tired, but excited enough to try out the Times Summer fest at Bandra Kurla Complex. I have attended this exhibition every year, and have found some wonderful things too, but this time, it was an anti-climax to the wonderful week end that we had. The exhibition was full as usual, and did have some interesting stuff, but to my great disappointment, there were hardly any books unlike the previous years, when I found some great ones! The stalls this time were filled with clothes and eatables, neither of which interested me. We spent almost two hours there, though, and were too tired to stop by the Earth Mela while returning.

The weekend had passed by, like a blur, but it was memorable, though! Hope there are many more such hectic but wonderful weekends ahead!

Thankfully, this finishes my weekend series, though a week late! I still have lots more to write about my Binsar trip, so wait for them!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Hectic Weekend Part 1 - Earth Mela and a Reunion, after two decades!

As weekends go, this last one was probably among the most hectic ever. What with the Earth Mela and a school reunion on Saturday and a birding walk early on Sunday followed by a visit to an exhibition, this weekend gave us no time to relax, and I am facing a sleepy week ahead!

Earth Mela

We had been looking forward to the Earth Mela, but were able to start only after lunch. We reached late in the afternoon, and spent some time wandering around the different stall with eco-friendly stuff and admiring the Warli art put up by a group called 'Matsya'. The BNHS and the Sprouts' stalls also had some very interesting stuff, and we returned with our arms full! Samhith especially enjoyed just running around the place, and I must say, the Maharashtra Nature Park is indeed a great effort by the authorities… to convert a garbage dump into a nature park, the nearest one can come to a forest in a place like Bombay, is a fantastic effort. I must also commend the efforts of Sprouts Environment Trust, the organizers of the Earth Mela. They have done a fantastic job, and all I wish is that more people had turned up! Lots of people had told me that they would be visiting, at least for a while, but no one actually did! It’s a pity that such events see hardly any crowds, while malls are full and almost bursting to their seams!

The photography exhibition put up at the Earth Mela fascinated Samhith for a while, especially since he recognized a few of the bird photographs, and we also happened to run into Aadesh, who told us that there was a bird walk planned for the very next day – the last chance of seeing waders this year…. of course, that immediately decided things for Samhith, who was all excited at the idea!

He was even more excited when he found that there were adventure sports for kids – something he really enjoys. Considering that I hadn’t allowed him to paint his face since we had to go elsewhere too, I did not have the heart to stop him from having some fun, and we headed over to the open ground for some rock climbing, Burma Bridge and the like!

Once there, I shelved all my plans of seeing any of the films being shown in the audio visual room, since he enjoyed it so much that he wouldn’t leave till he had tried out every single thing, and we were getting late for our second programme of the day!

When I finally managed to drag him away, promising to enroll him in the kids section of Sprouts, Kids for Kool Karma, he was tired, but happy and asked me why we did not have more such programmes! Guess it’s high time I set my lethargy aside and take him to such events more often!

Look at Samhith having a blast!

And here is something interesting that we saw as we were leaving.....

Reunion – after two decades…

As expected, we were late for our school reunion – a group of us still in Bombay were getting together after 20 years! While we expected around 10 people, only 6 turned up, since the others weren’t able to make it! Sitting in the CafĂ© Coffee Day at R Mall, the six of us turned into giggling girls and made the most of it, reminiscing about days gone by! Samhith was the only male, something which embarrassed him no end! Growing up in a co-ed school, he isn’t yet able to grasp the idea of a girls’ school, and the fact that there were no boys in our class!

Incidentally, this photo was taken by Samhith!

By the time we realized the time and broke up, it was quite late and we reached home just in time for dinner. Of course, by then Samhith was so full of ‘mystery mousse’ and ‘cold choco latte’ that he skipped dinner and went off to sleep.

That’s how Saturday ended, both of us tired out completely! To see what Sunday brought along, wait for the next post!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Binsar - Part 6 - The Pre-Historic Paintings of Lakhudiyar

The route from Almora to Jageshwar takes us along forests of pine trees, alternated with bare rocks of all possible colours – from orange and red to yellow and grey! Needless to say, Samhith was fascinated, and we have brought back lots and lots of stones. But this post is not about them! This post is about something interesting and unexpected which we saw on the same route.

We were stopping often, especially since both Samhith and I are prone to feeling nauseous on mountain routes. The only way to escape the mess of puking on the road is to play games or notice every small thing along the way, and stop when the feeling gets too bad! Well, over the years, we have learnt to pay enough attention to the road and avoid the mess! This time, our attention yielded even better results, when we spotted an ASI (Archaeological Society of India) sign on the road to Jageshwar.

I immediately asked our driver what was there, and he replied, “Kuch nahin, madam. Wahan to sirf purane paintings hain. Who bhi kuch acche nahin hain. Bahut kam log rukte hain!” (Nothing special, Madam. There are just a few old paintings there, and they too are nothing great. Very few people stop for a look.) I was curious, and he finally agreed to stop over on our way back. While returning, I kept a sharp lookout for the stream which marked the place, and reminded him to stop. I am all too familiar with drivers who aren’t interested in showing their passengers anything that isn’t on the tourist circuit, but this man thankfully remembered and stopped.

The name of the place is Lakhudiyar (or Lakhu-udyar), meaning a lakh caves. This is information I found on the net after I returned. There is no mention of this on the solitary ASI board which marks the place.

In fact, there was no sign of a cave at all, and Samhith and I roamed all over before we realized that the cleft of rock hanging over like a snake’s hood was the ‘cave’.

We even climbed some steps made of concrete in the cleft and found nothing but a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside!

Finally, we walked up to the overhanging rock, and tried to see what was of archaeological interest in this place.  

We were the only people around, and even Shankar had elected to stay back in the car. We spent a few minutes wondering where the paintings were, and Samhith peeped around, trying to find some miniscule entrance to a cave, but finally, we realized that the paintings were on the inside of the overhanging cliff!

The board mentioned ‘colourful’ paintings, but we could see only paintings in red. On returning, when I searched the net, I found a set of photographs showing paintings in red and blue, but I am sorry to say that we saw nothing of those….. Maybe we should have scourged the area above too…..but it looked too precarious for me to attempt with Samhith!

At first, Samhith was not too enthused, but then I explained about our ancestors and how they had lived in caves and drawn their day to day life, and pointed out the only clear figure of an animal – a deer and a stag. Only then did he show some interest and joined me in identifying the different figures and patterns.

Stick Figures of humans, probably dancing. This is the main motif almost all over...

more figures

Thicker figures... more like arrows now.

interesting pattern, isnt it??? I wonder what it meant... wish someone was there to explain

more figures, but are disappearing now.. wonder if they will be there a few years from now!

A decorative pattern with a cat?

a closer look at the feline

a stag and deer.. one of the few recognisable ones...

these look more human, dont they??

We spent just a little while in the place, but it has served its purpose, for Samhith is now a lot more interested in learning about evolution and the different ages. A much better way of learning such stuff, wouldn’t you say?

the only recent sign of life.. a beehive or wasps nest, and even here it looks abandoned!

However, there was just one thing which nagged me all along – this place is of interest to archaeologists, and must have been a lot more interesting a few years back, when the other paintings were still visible, even if they have succumbed to the weather now, but isn’t the place worth at least some kind of a protection other than just a rusting board which surely will not last more than a few more years? Shouldn’t there be someone posted at such a place to make sure that no one meddles with the paintings; no one spoils it by adding their own art to it? We Indians are notorious for leaving our mark behind. Just for argument sake, what is to ensure that these paintings survive a few more years, or that some of them are already the work of not our simple ancestors, but the budding artists of our time? It was a short visit, but it brought up a lot of questions for me! I would love to hear your feedback on this, especially if any of you have visited the place before, so please do leave your comments!


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