Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sighting a Tiger in the Wild!


The sun was a red orb in the western sky. Seated at the back of a jeep, my husband and I were turning left and right, sometimes staring into the depths of the forest, at other times scrutinizing the stretches of dense, tall grasses or craning our necks to decipher the grey shapes moving along the edges of the occasional water body.

"Tiger!" the driver whispered and braked the vehicle. Following his gaze, we spotted an animal striding among the tawny bushes. With wide eyes I took in the unmistakable feline snout, the  protruding chin and the flaming stripes. Through all these years, what had captivated me from picture books; mesmerized me from paintings; riveted me to the tales of jungles, especially those penned by Jim Corbett; awed me from TV documentaries and dragged me to the zoos, even if for an unsatisfactory glimpse through the bars amidst the annoying din, was out there - unbounded and unconfined - a few meters away from me. As I sunk myself in the moment in the way one does when struck by something unbelievably good it disappeared among the grasses, leaving me with a sense of glorious bewilderment.

Zoom to see the tiger in the photo below.

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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Awrah Cave, Meghalaya

We trotted to the mouth of the cave along a paved path high up in the hills. The trees growing from the rocks below, the valley and the hills across it were completely lost in mist.

Out of the many passages that meandered through the cave, the one made easily accessible to the tourists by the placement of florescent lamps was split by a stream that trickled between the crags, ululating in a low, steady pitch. The rock ceiling above us, spiked with stalactites, diverged out like the roof of a tent. The cavern wall on either side was ridden with crevices of such sizes that we could just about tuck in our purses, and drilled with tunnels that continued for miles. We often took detours from our proscribed route to explore a bit of these cold, dark corridors, even though our movements were restricted by the roof that hung too low, the ledges and the undulating rock studded cave floor patched with our own shadows.

A helpful local pointed out the fossils for us, which we had completely overlooked: imprints of leaves and the spiral outline of a mollusk clearly discernible on the surface of rock. Dripping down the stalactites, the water stroked the rocks below, leaving glistening trails before joining the stream. The rivulet branched out and flowed through another passage before collecting in a pool, a couple of root like rock hangings probing into its depths.

In the photo below, I am inside the cave observing the fossil of a leaf.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Mawlynnong Live Root Bridge

A few months back, my husband and myself had the great fortune to visit the beautiful states of Meghalaya and Assam. It was our first trip to the northeast and we were much excited by the prospect of sighting breathtaking waterfalls, jaunting in lush green forests, exploring dark, mysterious  caves, soaking in the rich culture and savoring the delicious spreads.

I would like to share some of my experiences in these wonderful places. Let me start with the amazing live root bridge of Mawlynnong, Sikkim.

We climbed down a flight of stairs, cut out of huge boulders, to arrive at a path that girdled around a forested slope and overlooked a murmuring stream. Taking glimpses at the stream through the wall of trees, we reached the end of the path and sighted the most unique bridge I had ever come across. The matted roots of two rubber trees, planted on the two facing banks of the stream, intertwined to hang like a hammock over the flowing water: a layer of bamboo interspersed with boulders was laid down on it to complete the bridge. We trailed the stream for a while, treading on the slippery rocks with caution. The bed of the shallow stream was pocked with almost circular holes. Branching into several strands, the water encircled various standalone rocks, nudged at the facets of some and hissed sprays on many others, filling up the dents and drifting away the fallen leaves on its way to the depths of the forest.