Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oh! It's so hot!!!

It will be an understatement if the weather is described as seething, scorching, baking, burning, fiery…because at 45degreeC it is nothing less than Catastrophic! There is absolutely no sign of monsoon clouds. Now and then an occasional stray cloud shows up with no promise of any respite from the searing summer heat. Life looks tough outdoors yet these intrepid birds fly around undeterred, settling down only to have a cool sip. I remember reading somewhere that the best way to beat the heat is to drink lots and lots of water and to stop cribbing about the weather. They say its all in the attitude; well, these birds do teach a lesson in attitude building.Not everyone protests the oppressive climate though; the sunflowers look gay and sprightly. The blooming sunflower is one thing that gives me a reason to dare for a stroll outdoors; it is fascinating to see the movement of the flower head with the movement of the Sun. Heliconias are always a beautiful sight to behold though their fiery red color is not exactly very summery, and when seen outdoors in this weather, they look more like a yellow flower, which has been roasted red. The lilies bloomed just in time in my makeshift pond to lend a cool touch to the garden – a desperate need in this weather. There is a measure of optimism though. The monsoons have finally started moving, and if the weather forecast is to be believed, there may be some respite coming in a week or two. Till then I am trying to keep my cool by dreaming about all the good things I am going to do once the rain gods start showering their blessings!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paradise Regained!

The Himalayas are home to some of the most breathtaking locations on this planet. This time, thankfully, my jaunt did not end with nainital, rather we went deeper into the Kumaon hills to the idyllic locations of Kausani and Ranikhet. A 4 hour drive form nainital had me transported into a different world altogether; quaint, pristine, absolutely untouched by the maladies of urbanization.Kausani, at an altitude of around 1900mts is situated near to the snow capped higher ranges of Himalayan Mountains, and that makes the place ideally suited for a panoramic view of Himalayan beauty. Unfortunately, it was cloudy all throughout my stay, and so I could only catch a faint glimpse of the snow covered ranges. It is at these sorts of places that the feeling of ultimate calm and unison with nature descends. No honking horns, no cacophony of the modern day traffic, no humans jostling through the morning crowds to reach their workplace, just plain lazy contemplation on the why’s of life, over a cup of tea with the mountains in the backdrop. The landscape of Kausani was dotted with beautiful sights of terrace farming. The farming here, thankfully, is as yet untouched by the menace of fertilizers and pesticides. This fact was all too evident in the taste of food, as it was a pure gourmet delight. At a small distance downhill from Kausani is a small cluster of fairly ancient temples – believed to date around 12th-13th centuries - known as baijnath dham (abode). The Gomti river nearby had huge gluttonous fishes which are regularly fed by the pilgrims who consider it auspicious to do that. Leaving kausani was like leaving the soul behind. The aura of Kausani meant that probably no other place would seem worth a visit now, as it would invariably be compared to it. But to my huge relief, on visiting Ranikhet after Kausani, I learned that every place carries its own unique charm and that renders any comparisons meaningless. Ranikhet is another beautiful jewel in the Great Himalayan crown. A quaint cantonment town with fruit orchards and wild life sanctuary all around it is an ideal getaway. And if one gets to stay in a resort in the middle of the high altitude jungle, the memories are going to last a lifetime.The resort, where I stayed was an old heritage building built during the colonial era and converted into a hotel two decades back. The rooms had a vintage cozy feel, and the view splendid.I could even catch a shot of this colorful parrot from the window, trying to steal a peek at the new visitors in the room.The cleanliness and the calm of a cantonment, the heady cocktail of the voices of barking deer, monkeys, mynahs with an occasional roar of the leopard, amidst the cozy comforts of a forest cottage makes you thank God again and again for giving this life and this planet.A huge golf course, at an altitude of 2000mts, from where a misdirected shot can land in the valley below! Inspired a feeling of awe at the kind of life being led by the defense personnel, who deserve all the wonderful things for the service they give to their Motherland.Traveling and visiting new places has a wonderful effect on mind and the body. Besides being relaxing, the very act of moving out of the confines of your daily rituals stimulates positive vibes in the body and opens new vistas for the brain. I hope the feeling will last till its time to pack my bag again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Break from the Humdrum to the Hills!

The heat is increasing and it is said, “when the going gets tough the tough get going”, well I Went…i.e., went off, for a week to spend some time in the lovely hill stations nestled in the upper ranges of mighty Himalayas. Nothing beats the heat like a jaunt to the cooler and purer environs of the hills. Nainital was my first stopover where the site of lovely blue green waters of Naini Lake encircled by the beautiful Himalayas stole my heart. The cool higher altitude air, like that of Nainital at an altitude of approx. 1900m, is very refreshing and humidity free. Although the place has become a bit crowded overtime, yet it retains the charm as a getaway from the urban chaos. The night scene was even more pleasing as the reflecting lights in the lake water made a wonderful dancing pattern. If the innocent charm of the little ones in your life loves something, it makes that thing even more memorable. My daughter seemed to be in total love with the changed ambience – a far cry from what she is used to in a city, and was completely at home sporting this mountain outfit which is a ubiquitous presence at North Indian Hill stations. The added bonus of being a plant lover is that besides the things which conventionally please at a hill station, the flora of different places is something to look forward to. Plants, such as Hydrangeas, which I struggle to grow here, were thriving naturally, and many of them like Iris were growing in the wild! It wasn’t only the flora; the fauna was no less amazing. A visit to the high altitude zoo there left me in awe. It had beasts not visible in the zoos at plains. It was the majestic and ferocious Siberian Tiger whose swagger I caught on the camera, blessing the sturdy cage that separated the Cat from me. Personally, I prefer that these animals - like the snow leopard in the picture - belong to Jungle and a reserved forest is a better option where humans can satisfy their curiosity in a jungle safari. Being caged in Zoos, howsoever well maintained, curb their natural instincts and is unethical. Well, these issues are always complex and there can always be a counter argument to this line of thought, and so I would rather keep my mind open on this issue. I don’t know if it is the effect of the altitude or the air, but there is a noticeable uplifting in mood and spirits on hills. Personally I find a spiritual side of me, which lies dormant on the plains, taking over and it made me thank God for creating these natural wonders like Seas and Mountains.


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