This post is late, but in time for the forthcoming total solar eclipse on 21st August. In India, the eclipse may not be viewed, but here are the pictures of the lunar eclipse viewed from Calcutta on 07th August. I tried to time it with gap of around 15 minutes each.
What prompted me to post these now is the fact I just learned. In a Mooc that I’m mentoring, in a video the professor mentions that the moon is much older compared to the Earth. The earth young dynamic and in motion. The moon, though is older.
The house where we have been staying, is next to the banks of a tributary of Ganges. Trees grow on either banks with the ecosystem which something similar to the Sundarbans a bit further off. Pipal. Mango, banana trees guard our compound wall with their strong presence. Birds like the green headed barbet, tree pie, mynah, magpie and many others visit these trees. Bird watching from my kitchen window or the dining room is a favourite hobby for both me and the cat.
A few day back, while the house was asleep, she sprang from the bed and scampered around the room in a mad haste.
A black and white furry creature, somewhat longer and bigger than her, with patches of black around the glowing eyes, was the object of her chase. The creature ran around the room in circles with its unusually long tail upright, and then proceeded to be chased out of the room and maybe out of the door and veranda of its entry. By now the lights were on and we were wondering where it was, what it was and where it had come from.
It had led some traces of an odd smell in some of the rooms. A quick google search introduced us to the “Civet”.
The Indian civet is a creature which looks somewhere between a mongoose and a cat. It may have been led indoors by the smell of food. Apparently Channel No 5 uses some civet essence in their fragrance mix as well.
That was hardly impressive.
To wake up at 2 am and see an unknown wild animal running around your bedroom is not the ideal memory for urban dwellers.
Two thoughts crossed my mind.
The first was that we talk so much about sustainability, but do we really know how to live with other animals? We fear them. We may even not know about some of them.
Second was a bit more on the abstract. The creature was a creature of the night. It had perhaps spotted our dwelling, just like we had been watching the birds. We were till this incident unaware of its existence. But was it unaware of us? Would it again attempt to enter?
We so often take what we see and experience everyday as the beautiful truth, while there maybe something or someone lurking somewhere that we know the existence not of.
Someone watching us. The same feeling you get of someone watching over your shoulder when you are doing something, no matter how mundane it is. The freedom of making your mistakes in private. The security of the predictable future. The security of sleeping comfortably in a room you can call your own without any intruder.
Actually, isn’t it a lot like the right to privacy?
(Cat did not sleep at night for the last few days. This encounter made her feel threatened of her space. She undertakes guard dog duties for the night, leaving the comfort of her pillow.)
Just over a hundred kilometers from where the periphery of Mumbai city ends, a stretch of road takes us to the eastward side, where basalt rock formations dot the landscape. The landscape is dry and dotted with thorny trees, quite a contrast from the lush lonavala road.
“This falls in the rain shadow area” explains my colleague.
We look at wonder at the miraculous formations springing up as we go further.
If you are familiar with Indian Mythology, you would have heard of Lord Ram and the story of Ramayana. According to the story, an exiled King Ram stayed with his wife, Sita and brother Laxman in a hut in the Dandaka forest. That place is said to be in Nasik from where the Demon King Ravana had kidnapped the Queen Sita. Looking for his wife, the Lord Ram then travelled on foot for a day until he reached the edge of the land where the sea starts. He was thirsty, so his brother Laxman shot an arrow into the ground from where sprang fresh sweet water. This place is today called “Banganga” and lies hidden and forgotten in the plush locality of Malabar hill in Bombay.
Every year starting winters, tens of thousands of flamingos make their way to a little known jetty point in Mumbai. They travel from the Rann of Kutch, which is their breeding ground and make way to two areas in Mumbai, one is a less known jetty point for their morning feeding and the other is their evening spot near New Bombay. when they arrive here in early winter, their wings are a shade of white, but during thier departure they become a pink.
How does this happen? Our guide from BNHS explained that these muddy flats near Mumbai are filled with blue green algae from which the birds’ digestive tract extract the pigment from the carotenoid and an algae rich diet ensures the pink colour to the flamingos. those better the diet, the pinker will be the color to the flamingos.
Rann of Kutch is a good breeding spot for these flamingos but is not rich in blue green algae. The birds travel hundreds of miles till Mumbai to get their adequate dose of nutrition.
However, the story could be short-lived as there are plans to create a trans harbour link over this area and the effects of that on the ecosystem, diversity and habitat is not known.
If I were to tell you that I’ve spotted kingfishers, two pairs of hornbills, a family of coppersmith barbets along with several crows, sparrows and pigeons, parrots during the time it takes to have a morning tea, you may wonder which green belt I am on.
If I were to tell you that I see these birds from a window while having my morning tea, you may further assume that perhaps its a forest or a nature reserve.
If I were to tell you that these birds were viewed today morning in a busy part of the Mumbai city, I wouldn’t expect you to believe me because I couldn’t believe it myself.
“Have you spotted him yet?” asked mama Hornbill, sporting a worried expression on her face.
“Not yet! But let me call out” said Papa Hornbill and sent out a high pitched call to his missing teenage son.
“Perched atop this Neem tree out in the jungle (read City) is not the safest place for us” said mama Hornbill. “Look at that swinging branch. Is that our son?” Said mama, looking towards the overhead wire crisscrossing the road from one tree to another.
“Naaa…” Said Papa, ” He was swinging there with Crows yesterday, but not today! Bad company, I tell you, exposing himself in the middle of the jungle with noisy animals (traffic) all around!”
“You look this side and I’ll try the next tree.” said Mama Hornbill worried about her missing son and wondering if he had breakfast .
She gave one last desperate call before flying off to the next tree.
There is this place where the land ends and the tip bifurcates the Arabian Sea from the backbay. Some early morning joggers end their walk with a Surya namaskar , while others pause, turnabout at half point and go back to finish theirs.
A scrawny pavement dweller goes down the steps and exercises her legs in swift left right stamping movement. A tourist, very much like me, but with scanty white and unruly hair and an ipod playing some other music in his ears, stays still on the parapet taking in the view.
I take out the notebook, for today is the day when the scene should be recorded. This stretch of coastal land from one end to the other at the south of Mumbai, more than four kms of it.
I try to sit at the edge of the steps, but the overwhelming stink makes me reconsider and I move back towards the center of the paved jetty, sitting cross legged on the ground. I take out the sketchbook. The same one that contains memories of Goa and promise myself a few pages of Mumbai today.
As I compose the faint lines of the perspective, something happens. The centre of the buildings right ahead seem to be faint. I try to take another view. Left to right. Right to left. The fishermen colony? Or the edge on the west end?
Suddenly the buildings start disappearing. First one. Then another. Then a few more. The screen of mist gets thicker and thicker enveloping more buildings. Dark clouds line on the sky and on the sea, a bright sparkling line seems to form. The sea appears still as if green and awaiting. We wait to watch this amazing phenomena which grows with every minute. As the mist envelops more buildings across the shore, so does the line of white on the sea seem to approach our end.
Soon the first drop falls on my notebook and I shut it. The pavement dweller covers herself with a makeshift raincoat made out of used garbage bags. We rush to take shelter under the nearest tree. Monsoons are still not over.