Friday, August 29, 2008

Off the beaten track !

I'm getting a few what-the-hell-have-you-written-about responses for the piece below, so I'll add an introductory note. I am rather keen about wildlife and nature, and was a lot into birding ( bird-watching, the feathered variety ) initially. An oriole is a yellow bird, about the size of a myna, with a red beak. It is seen ( though uncommonly ) in our cities, and is quite an eye-catcher. A shikra is like a falcon ( Regular birders - My bird knowledge has become a bit rusty, so forgive me if I make some bloopers ), and is a 'bird-of-prey'. White-cheeked bulbuls are the more unusual type of bulbuls seen in the cities - the one with a tall crest and hollow cheeks. A tree pie is a large brown bird, not seen in cities. A paradise flycatcher is a stunning white bird with a tail which is 3-4 times the length of its body. Jungle babblers are plump, grey-brown birds who usually create a huge racket ( and are therefore also known as 7 sisters in english and saat-bhai in hindi... take your pick :P )

A pair of black-headed orioles hopped around in the trees. Oh, I'd forgotten how beautiful they looked, their stunning yellow standing out against the bright green foliage. One of they got a tad too close to a well-camouflaged shikra sitting quietly on a branch, and suddenly squawked away in fright. A few seconds later it regained its composure and restarted its hopping. The shikra wasn't interested, it had probably decided to retire for the night. A couple of white-cheeked bulbuls chirped loudly from the tree-tops. A sneaky looking cuckoo warily hopped closer and closer to the center of a coconut tree, no doubt interested in the nest hidden there. A large tree-pie jumped around, its long tail more of an encumberance than help, though it couldn't really complain too much with creatures like the paradise flycatcher around. A group of large, noisy and fat jungle babblers fought and screeched and generally made a nuisance of themselves. A southern birdwing butterfly lazily sipped nectar from the ubiquitious lantana growths on the road-side, its bright yellow competing with the orioles. An unknown peacock butterfly flew past in a hurry, with its dazzling blue uppersides adding yet another colour to the scene. A more mundanely coloured bushbrown hovered in the undergrowth looking for a roosting spot. A large rustle reached my ears; probably a snake realizing that it was a tad too close to an unwanted being. How I'd like to have a glimpse at it, even if for a second!

I looked up into the foliage, my mouth agape in wonder. Under me was a tar road which cut through this patch of forest, and connected different parts of the campus. It was a lazy evening after a crazy night and day, and I'd gone for a walk to explore the off-road bits of campus. It felt so good to be back, I thought. Back where I belong, back where I feel home. The 4th QM assignment was done, and so was the Management Accounting quiz. That left me with a few hours with nothing extremely important to be done. A sudden urge to do something different from the usual rotting around in the NC or surfing the net rose in me. I packed my camera and ran down to the classroom area, through it, and down my favourite flight of stairs in the whole campus, down to the road below, below which beckoned the lush green patches of forest on campus. Within minutes, the smell of the forest gave me heady high and a feeling of complete calmness and peace...

An hour later, I reluctantly packed up and walked back. It was getting dark, and light levels were falling quickly. I started the long walk back to the hostel and academic block, and hitched a ride half-way up. NC was deserted and therefore a delight. A cup of coffee in my hand, a gentle breeze playing with my hair, a stunning sunset as the view, and the whole place to myself. What a great way to end a super evening!

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