Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The silences of Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary

We were overjoyed to see Paresh sir back from the elephant operation to Cotigao. It’s an altogether different experience to rove in Cotigao with Paresh sir. We had visited Cotigao number of times before but never got a chance to see it with Paresh sir & this was the moment for which we were all waiting for.
After a session of informal discussion, we all settled ourselves into his jeep which marched towards Bela Lake. It was the onset of sundown and surely, best time for wildlife sighting. The jeep being open, we constantly conversed with the wind which was moving opposite to us as we went forward. Since me, Omkar & Arnold were standing; we had to dodge down to miss the branches that had descended down from the canopy surrounding the trail. The vehicle stopped at the lake, unloading the villagers whom we had given lift till the spot.
We went little further for some birdwatching. We spotted Heartspotted Woodpecker, Racket Tailed Drongo, Tree Pie, Starlings etc. We all came back to the lake. Paresh sir told us to sit quietly and wait for the black birds to show up as he wanted to photograph them. We adjusted ourselves on the plinth while Arnold and Paresh sir adjusted themselves into a nearby hide pointing their DSLR cameras to the lake. The lake looked still and so as we.
A Pond Heron landed in the lake. We were not thrilled to see this otherwise often seen bird, even in urban settlements. None of us uttered a word, not even a sheer whisper was exchanged. I was trying to resonate with the silence of jungle. It started to dominate us as we began to accept its authority over us. They say that jungle has its own laws, and so as it has its own voices.
Time passed rapidly fading the skies to darker and darker shades of black. Suddenly, two Orange Headed Thrushes showed up at the lake, joining the Pond Herons. The Black Birds were yet to show up and by this time, we were completely adjusted to the silence of the jungle. Time passed but the scene at the lake did not change.
I felt some motion to my back towards right on the road. It was Prakash, the forest guard, who was walking rapidly with a face beaming a smile of some great achievement. ‘Sir, Leopard!’ Those two words had hit me hard & my impulses took a leap like that of the mighty beast that was sitting right on the road, in a carefree manner. I had flare visions of the leopard that had crossed our car at Khandepar, a month back. We all got up and saw in the direction in which Prakash was pointing his finger & it all appeared crystal clear. A leopard right in the middle of the road on an open patch just few meters away from us. The yellow colour of the dried grass looked dull in contrast to the shades of yellow that this beast wore on his body. We were excited like hell.
Paresh sir told us to climb the watchtower. He was expecting the leopard to come straight to the lake but it proved him wrong. Instead of turning to left and walking towards us, he went straight and vanished out of the view point. Paresh sir and Arnold went in the hide again, me and Omkar settled ourselves in the open part of the jeep while everybody else waited on the watch tower with binoculars struck to their eyes.
Paresh sir signaled us to listen to the hissing sound of leaves on the other side of the lake. It was dark by now and hearing was the only vision. We waited, waited and just waited but nothing happened. We could only hear some sounds of leaves hissing which disturbed the silences. Suddenly a Lapwing gave a cry from the left side of the lake. Paresh sir suddenly got us & told us to get back in the jeep. He told Prakash to drive to the acacia plantation from where the sound had come. We drove to the spot; thinking that Lapwing had raised alarm because of leopard was roaming around that area, but it was futile enough and we decided to return back.
While returning, Arnold had switched his headgear. We were passing Bela lake when me and Arnold saw four eyes gleaming in response to the LED flash that his headgear threw around. I tapped the window glass where Paresh sir was sitting & told him that there is something waiting for us. He instructed Prakash to take the car towards left, leaving the trail and we entered the dried mouth of the lake. The headlights of the jeep flashed infront and we saw two leopards, one male and another female!
They stared at us for disturbing them. I could feel the time stood still for some seconds, allowing everybody amongst us to freeze this moment in our mind. I felt like giving a roar to celebrate this time of my life. This drama took place for few seconds after which both of them faded into the dark forests of Cotigao, making it silent as it was before.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chaddi Pehnake Phool Khila Hai.......

As you begin a new today of your life, you never know what can take you back to sweet memories of your past and you might end up spending your day thinking about those nostalgic times of your life. I often get such nostalgic attacks in the middle of vacations when I have nothing else to do than wandering along with the reminiscences.

Your attack may be kicked as simple as this- you open a supplement that comes with your local daily newspaper to read an article about Gulzaar. While reading, you come to know that the song that accompanied the childhood of our generation, “Jungle Jungle Pata Chala Hai”, title song of famous animation series Jungle Book, was penned by this living legend and is composed by Vishal Bhardwaj, the genius Indian filmmaker. Same thing happened with me and this reason was enough to take me back to the sweet childhood days of mine and it all appeared as if it had happened just yesterday.

Me sitting infront of TV enjoying the adventures of Mowgli with Sher Khan, Bagheera etc. & sipping the Sunday morning tea with chapattis rolled and dipped inside it, both done simultaneously to get better taste of both the activities. These images are crystal clear in my mind and have not vanished though the childhood has eroded around to make me an adult.

I get up and connect my computer to internet in and download the title song of jungle book. Finding it was not very difficult since only one keyword “Chaddi” was enough to get me the desired results, and wow! 

“Jungle Jungle Pata Chala Hai, baat chali hai

Chaddi Pehnake Phool Khila Hai Phool Khila Hai”

I set this song as ringtone for my cell phone and listen to it the whole day. This song does not only bring the sweet memories of past to life, but also some attributes within our personality that get lost in the due course of time like innocence, the no-worry attitude, serenity, inquisitiveness etc.

On the same evening, I stood at the gallery at my aunt’s place watching the Santa Clause vehicle passing by the road. The adult in me could just smile looking the children on the road running madly behind him to get that one gift packet but the child in me had an etch to run behind the Santa Clause just like I used to do back in my childhood. We as an adult are too rigid and are often scared of breaking rules set by the society unlike the child mentality. I would prefer anytime being a innocent child rather than being responsible adult, would you?