Tuesday 20 January 2009

January 20th, 2009 - Pari

On days like this the world seems to be moving on 2 globes.

A large globe, frenzied, as Obama is crowned King, and a small, private one revolving anti-clockwise, like those physics experiments, causing a hideous backlash, spewing out a bloated, scarred face of a pretty, just-turned-20.

What is striking is the manifestations of both extreme emotions are the same. There are shrieks and screams and tears, at both places, one of joy, the other of anguish, followed by sudden pregnant silences, at both places, one in anticipation, other in resignation. Crowds have gathered at both places.

The thundering sound of the incinerator generator is replaced by the TV news thundering applause as the oath is taken. Both ring with resounding finality. While one globe moves forward hopefully, expecting a momentous change, the other one grinds to a halt due to a momentous change.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Sunderbands 4: Flying the Good Times

This place is known for rare birds, and loads of them. The most common one being Kingfishers. There are 7 different species of Kingfishers. It being the migratory season, the Black Capped Kingfisher, originally from western coastal India was spotted in abundance.
Besides Kingfishers I saw a huge Ajudunct Stork, free wheeling over head like a mini helicopter , Brown Winged Kingfisher, actually gorgeous gold with a flaming red beak, Great Egrets looking like flying swans and the best of all, a White Bellied Sea Eagle performance. The Eagle deserves a post of it's own, as do several other creatures. I admit, there is going to be an OVERKILL of Sunderban posts. I admit, I admit.
Oh and you Must click on the pictures, these are way to tiny to enjoy the dramatic colours of the Kingfisher. Black head, bright blue wings, white ringed neck and a burst of orange in the front topped by a red beak. It streaks over the water like a technicolour blur. Above is a Collerd Kingfisher, below, a Black-Hooded Oriole and the last one, perched all poised and elegant, a Ringed Dove. This stark bird is the Great Egret, it is the largest Egret in the world, grows upto 1m in height and can live upto 23 years!. Closer to cities we usually see it's common counter part, the cattle egret. In the Sunderbans you see their curved snowy forms dotted on both sides of the river, suddenly dipping into the water with great orange beaks.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Sunderbans 3: Pseudo Albino

Never smile, at a croc-o-dile, coz you can't get friendly with a croc-o-dile. Don't be taken in, by his welcome grin, he's imagining how well you'll fit inside his skin!
(Click on the pics for a better view)
Nah they aren't really white, the clayey soil they wallow in hardens swiftly into a whitish crust, making them look like grey logs on the banks. I had no idea that these saltwater crocs are bigger than Nile crocs, and can grow upto 22ft. We saw a 13ft monster ourselves, just lying there blinking lazily with that deadly smile and hypnotic eyes.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Sunderbans 2: The Yellow City

You know you have entered Bengal when the scene from the train window changes from rolling vistas of fields or barren land to postcard sketches of ponds, fenced huts and stubby banana plants.

We got off at Howrah station around 5.am. and at once I started humming

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do, Yeah they were all yellow

From the orange- yellow station lights to the city lights, to yellow taxi cabs and buildings yellowing with age; Calcutta is enveloped in a dusty brownish orange glow. This makes street photography a unique experience. In the next few pictures I have left the colours untouched, many were sheer photographic errors but I enjoyed the results nevertheless.

Street Food! Drool...drip...drool!

Idealism,communism,absurdism,egalitarianism,intuitionism,apocalypticism,spiritualism,hedonism, intellectualism,nihilism, pessimism,scientism, sensationalism,universalism and pretty much any other 'ism you can think of. This city flaunts it all

Calcutta is one of the most charming cities I have seen, full of character. Maybe it is the Victorian architecture, it's historical connotations, the vibrant culture, idealistic, excitable population, their laid back attitude or my deep rooted nomadic link to it. I am very bong bred, though not of bong blood.

As we drove through the city I hung my head out of the bus window like a happy puppy, soaking in all the glimpses, my favourite being the Angel of Victory that stands atop Victoria Memorial. With a bugle in her hand she is supposed to be a weather vane but in all the years I have seen her, the damn bugle faces the same direction. Victoria Memorial was one of my favourite haunts as a kid, followed by a walk across the road to the dancing musical fountains.

Being Christmas the city looked enchanting. Clean and sparkling with fairy lights everywhere. I could go on about Calcutta and write the longest blog post ever. So just visualize the old city with these hazy pics.

Howrah Station at 5 am.

Howrah Bridge

Thursday 1 January 2009

Sunderbans 1: Happy New Year, Wild Ishtyle.

Fish that live on land, tigers feasting on crabs, white crocodiles and trees that posses human intelligence; the Sunderbans are one of the weirdest regions in the world.

I grabbed an opportunity to meander along the mysterious mangroves, this New Year in spite of knowing that the trip from the west coast of India to the east would involve an incredibly long, unhygienic and exhausting bit of travelling. I’m not being all pink and prissy, having backpacked via varied modes of transport and topography, but two days of unreserved, 2nd class train ride and waterless loos to Howrah Station, followed directly by a 3 hour bus ride to Basanti Jetty and then directly by a 2 hour boat ride to Jamespur in the Sunderbans, deserves a mention. Then again, this is the Sunderbans and one thing is clear right from the start, nothing comes easy here.

The Sunderbans are the largest block of tidal/littoral/mangrove forests in the world. It covers 10,000 sq.km of which, about 6,000 are in Bangladesh. The city I live in now, Pune, is the second largest in Maharashtra and 10 of it could be fit into the tidal forests comfortably. The hype about the forest is because it is one of the three places in the world you can observe an estuarine biodiversity. As the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal, the sweet and salty mix forms brackish water with insanely high amounts of salinity that eats away at everything that touches it in due time. The strong water currents swirl around thousand islands of various sizes. Tides blur the line between land and water creating a borderless, ever-changing geography, sometimes swallowing whole islands or spitting out some. The marshy area is in reality as good as desert conditions. Fresh water is precious, floods disrupt village life and the impenetrable jungles are home to superlatives in the animal kingdom: the Royal Bengal Tiger, the deadly King Cobra and the largest Saltwater Crocodiles in the world.

Every thing that survives in these conditions does so by freaky adaptations. Plants have the same waxy leaves and spines as cactus in the desert. They grow pneumatophores or aerial roots to breathe through waterlogged soil. Procreation is so precarious that the trees produce seedlings in a sealed pod that floats around till it finds somewhere to anchor. Now imagine walking on this slippery soil criss-crossed by sharp thick roots, let alone hunt.

Which is why we had a ‘no walking’ rule, which suited just fine as by Day 2 the forest around me had taken a more sinister look.

It was a living, scheming thing, filled with even more cunning, intelligent wildlife struggling to survive. I felt it was a huge Human Venus Flytrap that would suck me in and spit me out.

************************************************************************************* YES, most of the pictures have been tweaked and modified. Some bastard stole my last camera. So I got a new camera. It is a semi professional camera. I am not a semi professional. Hence the necessary digital help.. sob sob sob..........