Book Published: Miles and Memories

Recently we have published a book – Miles and Memories.

While the base of this was built during my stay at IIT Bombay, it was later well supported by my better-half.

Notion Press: https://notionpress.com/read/miles-and-memories

It is also available in Amazon, Flipkart, Kobo, Google Play, etc. Please read and share your feedback with us.

Thank you 🙏🏽

Desi Thelewale Bhaiyya, Zindabaad !

Today morning, I came across an article detailing certain analysis of Indian food by a well-known Australian culinary historian, Charmaine O’Brien. While reading it, I was prompted within to reflect on my own thoughts related to it.

Last week, we had fresh hot thelewale Samosas (an Indian snack from portable stalls) presented to us by our Help.

I was a bit hesitant since I have just recovered from Viral fever. But ultimately I couldn’t resist the utter temptation – toh “Jay Jagannath” bolke khaa liya (so I had it trusting Almighty) 🙂 … It was indeed so mouth-watering !

Then I remembered my hometown’s 50 paisa /1 rupee variety Chops (stuffed Pakoras) that were incredibly tasty, and just slightly bigger than old one rupee coins. Those from the thelewale used to be a perfect treat with Moodhee (puffed rice) and Masala Chaaye (herbal tea) on rainy evenings ! They are still there but with increasing awareness on hygiene and new options of snacks, now the portable stalls are mostly seen in properly monitored exhibitions and traditional melas (fairs).

samosa_kachori

hmmmmn… Kitna bhi badda restaurant ho le ya aap kaise bhi banalo (howsoever big may be a restaurant or one prepares it with all care), when it comes to Pakoras, Chaats, Jhaal Muri, Ghoogni, Pani Poori, Dahi Vada and these kinda stuff, you can’t beat that of our very own desi thelewale Bhaiyya (India’s street Hawkers) !

For a while, forget the hygiene: zindegi ki woh ‘zing thing’ kahaan se laogey (from whence would you attain that unique pungent flavour of life) 🙂 !!!

And the charchaa (gabfest) around fresh street food and the Hawkers’ portable stalls, under the thundering clouds and in the cool zephyr… usmein baat hii kuch khaas hai, hai na (there’s a special air about it, isn’t it)… ?

muddheemasla

 

A Psychiatric Fallout !!

Under the new Budget in India, the price of aerated drinks (water with sugar content) has been hiked up by 5 percent, making soft drinks and sugary juices costlier.

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Health experts are hopeful that this financial step shall help reduce sugar consumption and thus check obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and dental decay – a theory many countries have begun to acknowledge but brands still profusely dispute !

Interestingly, last year I had a terrible dream : after the last gluttonous sip of a soft drink, I “saw” myself discovering active maggots at the bottom of the glass – and that was the end of all sugary relishes 🙂 !!!

Next morning, as soon as I woke up, I threw the remaining bottles out of the refrigerator. We do not buy any soft drink or ice-creams unless a guest arrives and indicates a desire for it.

Now howsoever thirsty, we prefer plain water. And since then, if we really need to have a soft drink as an accompaniment, only fresh home-made sugarless nimbu paani zindabaad (hail lemonade) ; thus goes our newly chosen flavour with spicy Biryanis and Pizzas as well 🙂 !

For the same “visual pothers” of my dream 🙂 , we have ditched other sugar-containing items and drastically reduced quantities of sweets or amount of sugar in every possible ‘prepared’ item, howsoever attractive – jalebis, chocolates, pastries, ice-creams, tea, corn flakes, milk shakes, cookies, smoothies, cakes, pan cakes, porridges, etc.

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Luckily, my husband volunteered to “share” the psychiatric fallout of my dream 🙂 ! So that has now led us to limit our daily sugar consumption to even less than six teaspoons as recently set by the World Health Organization. Normally, I take only one teaspoon – in my morning cup of tea which I definitely require to stir up my day.

Well… my father (who is also a Doctor), tried for years to make me get rid of soft drinks; so he has been very thankful to God for blessing me with that thoroughly health-effective dream 🙂 !!… Now his other routine insistences are about regular exercises (particularly Yoga), a 20-minute exposure to the morning rays of the Sun and having maximally green diets along with natural anti-oxidants. My husband has sincerely met almost all these expectations, whether of his father-in-law or his Family Physician 🙂 , and of late, I am trying hard to partner him in it.

I suppose all health advices, increasing prices or taxes and making rules in these dietary matters aren’t going to help for long… So I wish that my folks who sincerely intend to get rid of aerated drinks and non-intrinsic forms of sugar, also “see” such a loathsome dream 😉 !!! Perhaps, there is no other way by which someone like me can be more motivated firstly, to quit all those unhealthy molecules feeding potential cancerous cells and secondly, to maintain sustainability at it 🙂 !

 

Memoirs of Indian Dhabas

Period: 1970s-1990s.

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Travelling in a car or jeep on Bhubaneshwar-Mayurbhanj-Kolkata NH during the rainy season, lunch or dinner at an original Dhaba was a wonderful treat then; especially, the home-bound journeys after completion of an enterprise.

Sitting on the blue /green /yellow wooden benches or charpoys under halogen or oil lamp lit thatched roofs, the whole family would chat and relish the mouth-watering, steaming-hot dishes on big steel thaalis or freshly cut, green banana leaves :

typical Dhaba meals, various Kebabs, Tandoori Roti, Daal Tadka, Paneer Tikka, Gobi Manchurian, Rajma Masala, Tandoori Murg, Egg Bhurji, Chingri Malaikari (Prawns-in-Coconut Milk gravy), Mutton Kasa, Murg Makhani, Lassi, etc.

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(Oh God, help me… I am so much drooling !!) 🙂

While watching the promising rains, the shrines of several Faiths beside meandering rivers, the green fields swaying in the drizzles, the farmers working in a row wearing their jute hats, the local vendors selling colourful wares, the movie posters glued onto poles, variegated art themes painted on the walls of the Dhabas, the twinkling mini-bulbs strung in pretty designs…

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And the decorative trucks that sometimes squeak-braked on slippery roads and had boldly labelled all over its robust frame, either wishful or funny or spiritual messages in different Indian languages- awaaz karo, burey nazar waale tera mnuh kaala, bye bye dost, abaar dekha hobe, jaldi baata chadda, ikkada nuvu, nenu miru chudaleru, surakhiata rahina, ram-allah ek hain, sai ram-sai shyam-sai bhagvaan, jai hanuman, hum tum bhai bhai, hum se duur raho, meri himmat teri kismat, badda bhai tej chalega naraz mat hona chhotu, etc. 🙂

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Amidst the cat and kittens mewing, and the puppy wagging its tail hard – all, for a bone ! 🙂

Grand-parents or uncles would sometimes lend their ears to an interesting tale or two of the then Chhotus (the young, resourceful and jolly Helps at the Dhabas) . Down the line, a re-narration of it to the children (us) meant so much of revelation of life’s unknown joys and sorrows…

Gradually, the meals would end with a flavoured Paan, that was always claimed to be the famous Banarasi brand :-). And then the remaining journey would begin against the background of quite a setting Sun, with the music of a Bollywood number as selected by the high-spirited Driver 🙂 of the unfailing white Ambassador or the bouncy red Gypsy (vehicle models).

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On some trips, neither the windscreen wipers stopped nor did the music until we halted at a roadside gumti (small stall), usually under a banyan or mango tree, for a “special Chaa /Chaaha” (Tea) or to buy farm-fresh vegetables.

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And if we happened to meet close friends travelling on the same route, it would transform to a great merry-making. At times, even seats in the vehicles also had to be exchanged since the heart-to-heart conversations never paused and the game of cards never wrapped up… 🙂

Once we reached the gates, the faithful Watchman would briskly unlock the doors and the House-Keeping staff at the bungalow would cordially greet us. Combined with a warm shower, all the tiredness of the journey seemed to fade away into the veil of the night and next morning, we would be freshened as the shiny drops of rain trickling down the velvety leaves.

Those were such utterly charmful days…

Of Cats and Squirrels

July, 2014 :

Done with an errand, we were walking along the by-lane when we witnessed quite a funny morning early this month.

My hubby, who is very sensitive to dust, sneezed in rapid successions and with high intensity; so much so that in this case of ‘man vs.the wild’, two full-grown cats were “shaken up” !!! 🙂  Their green-eyes popped out in seconds and stepping-back, they quickly hid behind the pillar of a shop, tightly huddled up against each other (as if two friends holding hands in apprehension). Then they timidly waited there until my hubby managed to control his numerous sneezes and well crossed the spot !! 🙂

It was indeed such a funny scene. I burst into a laughter; so did the shop-owner, the sales-boy and a group of school-goers.

December, 1989 :

This reminded me of my cat, Jhumi, whom I possessed during the late eighties. She had been presented to us as a gift in an old string-purse. She was so tiny then that I think I could have accommodated three or four Jhumis in my palm. Being an only child, I soon found Jhumi to be a great companion, particularly on weekend afternoons. Initially, she used to stay endlessly in the comfort of my lap or little pockets of my baggy trousers and skirts.  As she grew up, she would sort of peep around and then quickly recognize my chair and crouch beneath it even when I was away. In my presence, she often laid there resting her warm body against my then cushion-like feet. Her feathery tail tickling my toes, for a while, made me forget all the rigours of the day. During winter mornings and afternoons, I would always find her on my blanket, coiled like an inactive snail. When we got out of the bed, she would demonstrate one of the finest stretch exercises and then bask on the fresh hay until Ma called us for breakfast.

Problems for Jhumi started when her kittens were born. Our Cook and Domestic Help could never tolerate the kittens since they used to jump here and there over their work areas and it also meant that they had to clean all the utensils and spots again and again. One afternoon, as our Cook prepared to serve food, the kittens emerged from bowls. 🙂 Funny but dangerous !… I was enjoying it but elders were then worried about preventing such misadventures. At the dinner table, they discussed about donating them away or making a separate, restrictive arrangement at the bungalow; then they lowered their thoughtful glances at my radiating joy and innocence, and could not conclude.

The next day went as usual.

In the evening, when we were away at a friend’s place, the two ladies (Cook and Domestic Help) packed Jhumi and her kittens in a rice sac and dispatched them on the local train. They entrusted the sac to their common friend who was travelling on the same train. Unless confronted, it must have thrust Jhumi’s family to a village at least 30-40 kilometres away.

That was the end of all my fun. When I enquired in dismay, my grand-mother explained about all infections that would have been likely caused by Jhumi’s family loitering in the kitchen and therefore, the necessity to release them into open, distant places. And our Cook added happily, “Don’t worry, baby… we have put enough food in the sac; they won’t starve” !

For almost a month, I did hope for them to trace paths back to home… But even more, I prayed that they all stayed safe in some caring hands.

Jhumi has been the only feline I possessed.

August, 1992 :

A garden around a bungalow is incomplete without springy squirrels. We were blessed with plenty of them. While we chatted on the verandah, we could see them jump over our legs or while we unwinded on lazy afternoons, we could watch them playing along window-frames and swaying branches. Their merry clicks enlivened the entire ambience.

Ma was an ardent lover of hanging varieties of plants. So she had a row of them adorning the tall borders and roofs of the long verandah. As a keen gardener, she used to place the right supports (dry twigs, jute strings, wire mesh, etc.) for her other plants as well to extend, grow and bloom in the best of their displays. But sometimes the supports went missing, and so did the Help’s colourful cleaning-rags ! Everyone was clueless !! The official gardener and watchman of the bungalow were upset because they could not account for it. And after a few days, they all started believing that ‘kahaani poori fillaami hai… koi purani aatma ghus ayee hai bungalow mein‘ (some ghostly theme of a film depicting return of an old spirit to the bungalow) !!! 🙂

One day, as I sat in the verandah preparing for my exams, I noticed about four or five adult squirrels sort of ‘spying’ on some thing. It instantly drew my attention and I closed the then boring pages of the Civics textbook. I gathered to look myself what was the ‘spying’ about. Soon, I observed that three or four of them first spread around in directions from which Ma or the gardener usually approaches for the plants on the verandah. Then they perhaps squeaked in some code of their own at which the last squirrel, seemingly younger and quicker, sprang into action without clicking a bit. That was definitely to deceive us that the group was playing far in the garden (the squeaking squirrels on guard) and there was none even near the verandah ! 🙂 While others kept guard, I saw this younger one quietly locate those plant-supports and loot one after the other ! It performed with such intelligence, dexterity and speed that I never blinked for a second, let alone calling Ma to witness this amazing scene !!

For example, if it was a simple twig, the squirrel would just pluck and hold it in its mouth. If it was a woollen or nylon thread, it would mostly use its forelegs to untie it without forming any knot and then neatly roll the loosened thread into a ball. Then tucking all these loot in its mouth, it would rush towards a particular bush. The queer activities were repetitive until a certain satisfaction was signalled en masse. Then they would all immediately disperse along with the accumulated loot in a joint effort.

That bush, I noticed, was situated right beneath the shade of a big mango tree on which they (may be, just two among them) had a nest. Later, gazing at it with my naked eyes, I found a robust nest based on the beautiful loot and also those ‘missing’ colourful rags hanging from it. 🙂

When I narrated the incident to my parents, they never believed me until they had the chance to themselves witness it. It was wonderful to watch this loot, together. 🙂

Ma was so emotional and generous that instead of getting angry at it, she started keeping rags and threads near the bushes !! 🙂  She believed that would unburden the cute creatures and enable them to uninterruptedly guard their little ones lying undefended in the nest during which ‘squirrel Ma-Baba‘ (the adult squirrels) had to gather hardware supports.

And indeed thereafter, the ‘squirrel Ma-Baba‘ (the adult squirrels) utilized the readily available resources and resorted to Ma’s garden only if they needed any extras.

The attendants of the bungalow had to quit the mysterious gossip around their ‘purani bhatakti hui aatma‘ (old wandering spirit) theory :-)… but nevertheless, were amused at this fact unearthed by Chote-babu (me).

Wish we had an advanced digital camera then……

 

Ripples of a Summer Night (Reflections: Part-II)

How I so much miss sleeping on a jute cot under the calm, starry nights,

Dark yet holding the promises of a thousand dreams !

Wisps of clouds drifting here and there as if to fulfil some wish of the Lord;

On some days, the radiant Moon occasionally peeping to say ‘I am here’.

The myriad and entrancing Madhumalatis adorning the green alleys like glossy locks of a lovely lass,

In the merry mist, moistening the shiny white bed linens and my gamey tender toes.

The melodious Nightingale enthralling a dozen breezy hearts

Amidst yet another captivating flute notes of the ever vigilant night-watchman.

Bit by bit, the celestial shade giving way to the soot of the earthen lamps;

The flames of which mustered to brace against sporadic gusts

Scurrying through the rustle of dry leaves and stacks of hay,

Momently creating an eerie of a hiss to baffle the midnight trespasser at bay !

The only other mystery of the unceasing night – the mewing cat and the squeaking rat fight,

Quite refereed by the croaking frogs beside the perpetual well and the elusive lizards around;

And much to the seeming delight of the lightning bugs in the bushes.

The cattle resting in their sheds, masticating on residual grass and fodder of the day,

Sometimes thudding their hooves to drive the whining mosquitoes away;

The dog with its belly rotund with warm country-bread, now sat wagging its tail;

Keeping an eye out on the green glare of some small, pawed intruder perched on the swaying branches,

Beneath which its master unwinded from the tiredness of a long, hot day !

As my wise grandma charmed me with nearly fifty tales of the mind and the soul,

I followed it with occasional turns on the left and turns on the right, done with my queer might;

Then came along a pat here and a pat there,

And with a treasure of hugs and solace on my forehead;

Led by promises of a new day, as alluring as the umpteen sun-baked, sweet mango pancakes,

I was lulled into honey summer-slumbers ringed by a mother’s eternal love.

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– Dedicated to all my Readers on the 6th “happy birthday” of Aamjunta ! 🙂

Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

One year, Durga Puja was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8-10 years.

We have the usual Puja celebrations and in addition, we have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Poornima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and boys, and even senior citizens of our village including our guests and relatives participate in that function. Small skits, competitions, cultural shows, quiz and many more events are arranged to celebrate the evening.  Like every year, that year also we had that great function.

The evening and the events were going on smoothly. I was asked to be a part of the organizing team but I opted to be an observer. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet; they were drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc. as a part of the “organization arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to speak? No one was in a mood to listen; every body was rather drinking. I maintained silence and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% were below the age of 12) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in fact is not the appropriate word !! He was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called ‘wisdom words’) to pacify this. Nothing happened… no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly.

Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happened to be a retired Head Master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content:

“Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, ‘no repetition please !!!’.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama, and the function continued smoothly afterwards.

But what surprised me then and now is the deteriorating social and cultural ethics. This is not the only story of one village… This is the common story of many villages and cities. No marriage ceremony or reception can be arranged without these bottles and their side-effects.  Not a single election can be thought of without the so-called ‘feast and foreign brand bottles’.

Just wondering… is this called modernization and development ? Is this the baton we are passing to our future generation ?

Aamjunta – think of it…

Hues of Life

A fellow aamjunta‘s brief but introspective account on a social-networking site of a swift and sweet weekend moment…

My hubby has taken Leave today to make it a big weekend.

Reason: to finish our long-pending personal work and gather some rest.

But he made it an usual morning by waking up at 6 A.M. and working on his office laptop for almost 3 hours.

As we were about to windup at breakfast (and I was contemplating to watch a movie, together), he very politely asked me to switch-on the TV: “TV ta tikiye lagei deba“…(note the word ‘tikiye‘ that implies an utterly humble, little demand).

Reason: well, again that little desire: “tikiye jhagdda dekhiba SC au BCCI ra (want to watch the ongoing arguments between SC and BCCI)” !!

Forget the movie ! My thoughts instantly drifted on to a completely different plane…

Its so much like a child pleading with his/her mother ‘maine home-work kar liya hai, thodda TV lagao na, Mumma (I have finished my home-work, now please switch-on the TV, Mumma) !’… Its rightly observed- irrespective of age, even men sometimes are still very much a teen at heart.

As for me, I think the left-over Vanilla ice-cream in my freezer shall be okay to keep me cool and happily brooding for now… 🙂

I re-affirm that observation for all the sexes that could be defined. At the same time, it is vital that others concerned are sensible and responsive to such emotions and desires which a simple, carefree heart radiates. Simplicity, cheerfulness, contentment and care are combinable as an antidote to ageing spirits and emptiness within. This particularly, speaking of young couples and nuclear families dwelling in the hustle and bustle of city life. Otherwise, it shall lead to unnecessary conflicts within the very basic roots of a society.

Let us celebrate life in its vivid hues, in big or small way.

Aamjunta, what do you say?

 

An Indian Summer with the Bulbuls

A story from Purulia (West Bengal, India) made quite a few headlines last week. A tusker, also known to have killed three people last year, smashed a house into bits and started moving away. Just then it heard the cries of a helpless 10-month-old baby from under the debris. To the crowd’s amazement, it immediately turned back and gently removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar from the infant’s body before heading back to the forest.

A similar incident was reported from Jalpaiguri (also in West Bengal, India) about six months ago where a herd of elephants carefully removed a little girl from the way before going on a rampage.

Very recently, it has been reported that elephants and dogs too recognize certain voices and languages. On a lighter note, now we know how justified is ‘HMV’ and its logo – His Master’s Voice !! 🙂

Incidents as these that sound straight from India’s Amar Chitra Katha series or Jataka Tales or western Fairy Tales, have been observed all over the world. In about two or three separate articles starting from this particular write-up, I would love to narrate a few remarkable ones from my childhood. These would also constitute my humble attempt in appreciating all Nature-lovers, observers and researchers. And I hope that readers will enjoy this curious side of life where Nature vividly communicates with man in symbolic languages.

Before I begin, I would like to mention that my parents have always ardently hailed Nature. My mother (here addressed as Ma), was not only keen at gardening but also guarded all life-forms in our garden just as she was protective of her own family. And therefore we believed that’s perhaps how she was more well-recognized, completely trusted and sort of much admired by the other occupants of our green ambience.

In this article, I shall focus on one episode based on birds in a part of India, where I spent most of my young days, almost 25 years.

The jovial Bulbuls seemed to be eternally present in the green, calm surroundings of the bungalow. Once a pretty young Bulbul-ma (that’s how I used to call the mother-bird) over-estimated her plans of a good nest and the entire fledging process after her cute eggs hatched. Consequently, on a scorching summer day in May,1990 she anxiously fluttered up to Ma who was watering the plants in the patio. She chirped madly and then flew to and fro in the direction of her unsecured nest. Ma lost no time in understanding that she had to rush as per Bulbul-ma‘s directional moves. I tiptoed along on the grassy patches here and there, intermittently starred by some bright seasonal flowers. Bulbul-ma perched on a nascent palm tree planted in a clay pot. Its leaves had quite dwindled away in the heat that was everywhere. The tree barely supported the small nest built for three members. Ma peeped at the centre and her heart sank to see three tiny nestlings struggling to survive the heat, thirst and hunger. Hair on their skin was singed and beneath it was visible the tender skin, slightly reddish. Their beaks were wide open with its pink delicate but almost dry inner linings exposed towards the clear blue sky that was absolutely unpromising of a shower for the next couple of days. They were desperately waiting for Bulbul-ma‘s solace. But she was utterly helpless because she could not have transferred them anywhere at this stage! The well too was far from the pot; so she could not have even managed a small spray on her nest with her wings soaked in the water from any container.

With the gardener’s help, Ma quickly but carefully shifted the pot to a spot in the verandah where shade was almost perpetual and we could monitor them maximally. A polythene sheet was later hung at one side as a double guard against all the remaining rays. Ma found a very innovative way to artificially feed the nestlings- she took a new ink-pen dropper and with it, very smoothly let droplets of water and mango-juice into their mouths. They gulped and gulped…and I was always very excited when Ma delegated this task to me after a simple demonstration. Then she taught me to spray their almost singed bodies with cool water and to often check their nests for enemies- ants and insects. When they grew better, Bulbul-ma would feed them small dead ants and insects. At nightfall, it was the watchman’s turn to guard the nest as well. Ma also regularly gave hand-mashed mango pulp and nuts to Bulbul-ma, who sitting on the same palm tree, would sincerely observe us when we nursed her nestlings. Her expression was like ‘achaa! itna kuch karna parrta hai kya? mujhe nahi malum tha!! (oh! we got to do all these, is it? I didn’t know!!)’ :-).

And Bulbul-ma was somehow acquainted with saree (Ma, grand-ma and domestic helps), dhoti (gardener and grand-father) and casual skirt and top (me). Till date, I wonder why she missed out the formal shirt and trousers (my father)! So initially, when my father went near the palm tree to see this interesting episode, she would scream and again start seeking Ma or me. We explained to her in a language of the homo sapiens that ‘a father’ is the man-of-the-house, someone who would ultimately rescue us all in case there is a danger…that he is Ma’s husband and my father, the little girl’s father. And several times, we took him along with us to the nest so that Bulbul-ma would learn that he is after all a safe visitor :-).

I had just stepped into my teenage. Once, during a mid-day chat with Ma who was my closest friend, she very jokingly remarked ‘perhaps, this Bulbul-ma has not come of age…looks like these eggs are borne out of a pre-matured wedlock’… 🙂 Then in the next few moments, her tone transformed to that of immense appreciation and respect for Bulbul-ma– ‘but one thing my girl, note she hasn’t ditched her eggs…rather she has accepted Nature’s rule in rearing them up, even all alone in this scorching heat’ !! And again she rushed towards their nest to check on them.

The monsoons were nearing when one day, the now hearty fledglings flapped their wings for the first time. Bulbul-ma spent two days in fruitlessly trying to teach them fly. We concluded that they had got used to the comforts in badde-sahaab ke bungalow (big man’s bungalow)- all our family and helps accused Ma and me :-). On the third day, as evening approached, two of them managed to fly out; after hobbling for a few metres, they took to the air smoothly. The last one just didn’t move. It was indeed robust. Ma blamed it on me saying that I over-fed my pet and now its wings could not bear its weight. Bulbul-ma pricked its back with her beak so as to stimulate it. The fledgling merely shrugged off the sensation and continued to stubbornly sit in the nest :-). Then my Ma gently brought it out and placed it on the floor in the verandah. Using her fingers, she prompted the fledgling to follow it and walk. There was no response. Then she slightly stroked her nascent wings and blew some mouth-air over it. We were still surprised how this little fellow was unable to decode natural instincts! Just then, my grand-father happened to sit on a mattress on the floor barely a few metres away from it. Suddenly, the fledgling flapped its wings and flew onto his cosy lap in a manner most unlike of even a distant-cousin of birds :-)! I think it had understood by then that it had to perform under the full glare of spectators and the view of the short distance to be covered at a small altitude helped it muster some strength to fly- ‘bhai, udd le…isse asaan aur chance nahi! (hey,lemme show I can fly…there can’t be an easier chance to do it!)’ :).

Then it again sat there seeming to be very satisfied with its flying skills. I wanted to feed it again with the dropper because I believed it might have got exhausted with its efforts. But Ma stopped me as she seriously wanted it to fly as a natural response to thirst and hunger, and she also empathized with Bulbul-ma in her desperate efforts. Evening was nearing…

In the meanwhile, Bulbul-ma had brought in either Bulbul-baba (the father-bird) or some Bulbul-masi (Bulbul-ma‘s female friend) !! We didn’t try to figure out exactly who it was. We had better tricks of Bulbul-ma to watch. The adult birds had caught hold of a big grasshopper and another insect in their respective beaks and started luring the lazy fledgling towards it. As the latter hobbled after a few minutes, the adult birds continued moving back, maintaining a minimum take-off distance on the runway :-). The trick went on until the fledgling successfully flew towards the trees that the birds had flown to with the insects still held in their beaks.

Even years later, Ma used to recollect this particular trick and was very amused each time. She said ‘wasn’t that so much like human adults who try to lure their kids to desired activities or places by holding out a chocolate or a flashy toy in front of them ?’. Perfectly so.

That lazy fledgling was a female and she continued to be robust. So, we could always identify her as long as we all lived there. I roughly built a nest the following summer at the same spot (to lure my cute lazy fledgling) and I believe she only laid eggs. She turned out to be an intelligent Bulbul-ma and we didn’t have to look after any of her nests. Honestly speaking, I would have loved to bother about all subsequent fledging processes :-).

It was during this phase that I learnt about Dr.Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali, the great Indian ornithologist and naturalist. He is known all over the world for having conducted systematic bird surveys and giving a wonderful fillip to the subject. He is also referred to as the “”bird-man of India” and was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 1976 . I wonder what a whale of observations and conclusions Dr. Ali must have had in his extra-ordinary pursuit to understand the ways of varieties of birds! The International Jury had rightly honoured him with these lines-

Since the writing of your book, the Book of Indian Birds which in its way was the seminal natural history volume for everyone in India, your name has been the single one known throughout the length and breadth of your own country, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as the father of conservation and the fount of knowledge on birds. Your message has gone high and low across the land and we are sure that weaver birds weave your initials in their nests, and swifts perform parabolas in the sky in your honor.
For your lifelong dedication to the preservation of bird life in the Indian subcontinent and your identification with the Bombay Natural History Society as a force for education, the World Wildlife Fund takes delight in presenting you with the second J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize. February 19, 1976.

More similar articles to follow, if Aamjunta approves… 🙂

Chance Pe Dance – Beyond Indo-Pak World Cup Cricket

With the win of Quarter Final Match against Ricky Pointing‘s Australian’s team, Men in Blue have cleared their path for a semi-final berth against Pakistan at Mohali on 30th March, 2011.  Interestingly, though Pakistan was mostly written-off and was termed “underdog” by their own commentators, they have proved every one wrong. Even though they lost badly to New Zealand, their overall performance is good and competitive. Moreover, their Captain Shahid Afridi has shown his character as a Captain – a leader, the leading bowler of the ICC World Cup 2011.

So far as Men in Blue are concerned, they have also shown a good fighting character. Demigod Sachin, Yuvraj, Raina, Kohli, Sehwag and Gambhir have proved their inclusion into the team as batsmen; Zahir, Ashwin and Harbhajan have proved their inclusion into the team as bowlers. Others have also done their job, though still not upto mark; wish everyone prove in the Semifinal and Final :). Wish the history repeats this time also, and the mighty India wins in the Semi Final against the united Pakistan.

That is all about future… a superb fighting semifinal on card, for the viewers, for the diplomats, for the cricket commentators, for the news channels, for the aamjunta and for Dr. Manmohan SinghMr. Gilani, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Ambani and many others. Every one is busy to reap some thing out of it. Hotels in Chandigarh are full at 3-times rate, tickets are sold at an exuberant price of Rs 1,00,000/- per ticket, NSGs deployed around the stadium, no-fly zone around Chandigarh, world-media is busy with Breaking News and advertisement rates have soared by at-least 10-times. That is not the end of the story… on an invitation from Dr. Manmohan Singh, Pakistan PM Mr. Gilani will also watch this “clash” from the stadium. He will be accompanied by more than 5000 Pakistani fans to watch the Clash of Titans.

On an un-usual note, home secretaries of both the countries are meeting on the back drop of this event, hoping for a bi-lateral engagement and confidence building measure. On a confidence building measure, Pakistan President Mr. Zardari has remitted the remaining jail term of Mr. Gopal Dass, an Indian prisoner lodged in Lahore jail for the last 27 years. Hope there is some more confidence building measure by both the countries. An Internet joke doing the rounds quotes the Pakistani president as responding to Mr. Singh’s gesture with a question: Will Sarah Palin be there? Not only that, the Pakistani media has termed the initiative “Aman ka chakka” or “sixer for peace.”

And in aamjunta’s word it is “Chance pe Dance, every one wants to score a six on the first ball and dance on the chance they are getting through Sachin-Sohaib or Sachin-Afridi or Yuvi-Afridi clash, a life-time entertainment and an would be chapter in Indo-Pak history. It is just beyond cricket and beyond everyone’s imagination.

Wish all the best to both the teams and to the cricket diplomacy. I am sure, aamjunta will also enjoy the match from the stadium or in cinema halls or in bars or in drawing room. A half-day in most of the places on card. As an Indian… I pray for India’s win in this world cup, Chakk de India….  🙂

Jai Hind!

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