Category Archives: India

Last Days in Assam

Peculiar things happened with me as I made preparations for leaving Sibsagar on my transfer back to Mumbai.

A few days prior to my planned departure, the weather became very hot and humid as it becomes there during summer days. But on the day of my journey to airport at Dibrugarh, it began to rain and rained so much that it became a deluge. Without any respite, the rain was falling in solid sheets. Visibility became very poor. My flight was canceled on the scheduled day despite the fact that our luggage was boarded and boarding passes were issued. Such a thing never happened to me in my three years sojourn in Assam. My flight never got canceled and I made it to airport even on the days of ULFA bandh. It seemed that there were some scores remaining unsettled, as if I owed something to others and others to me, as if someone was waiting for me to see me and fulfill the unfulfilled desires. My colleagues advised me to stay put at some hotel for next day journey but I returned back. Luckily, one of my colleagues brought back the key of the house which I had surrendered that very day. I changed my flight altogether for next day.

Next day flight again arrived one hour late and I began to have doubts again. At last it took off for Guwahati on its way to Kolkata. On my adjacent seats-I was on window seat-were sitting two very pretty young girls who incidentally happened to belong to same place I was coming from and their parents worked in same company as I. They were going to Chennai, but worried about missing their connecting flight from Kolkata to Chennai due to delay in this flight. It turned out that they were having non-refundable tickets of different airlines. If everything went on time from Kolkata not only would they miss the flight but also lose the money. I tried to help them and luckily at Kolkata when they were waiting for luggage, inquiry at help counter of the airlines revealed that the flight as usual was delayed for an hour.

But I made to Kolkata with no hurry as my connecting flight to Mumbai was late in the evening with enough time remaining. Flight to Mumbai also was delayed and reached at midnight. My real nightmare started when I hired a taxi from outside. There is a great racket going on at Mumbai airport. Some taxi driver and accompanying person will board the taxi with you and take a just outside the airport where number of taxis are waiting. He will charge money from you as they pretend it be prepaid taxi and will ask you to shift to some waiting taxi and will give the driver very vague instructions about the destination and give him some share. After traveling about half the distance, the driver will ask for the spot where the passenger will drop but he will give the name of place nearby. As you will protest that I have to go to where I have to, he will say that the fellow who transferred you in my cab told me to drop you elsewhere and for going further he will again demand some more money. Really, Mumbai is going to dogs, it will go bust. It is the city whose cycle of decline has really well started. It has become a old vamp. Name any kind of maladies-physical as well as mental- you will find them in Mumbai.


Best of luck for this dying city. My lungs choked on pollution as I sucked so many pollutants in two hours as I have done in Assam in 3 years.

Advertisements

Three Cuckoo Visitors !!!

Introduction:

Come summers, many birds arrive in India for nesting. Some come from as far as Africa. They come here just before the onset of monsoons and for this reason are connected to the arrival of rains. Three types of cuckoos are generally seen in our area. All these are brood parasites which means like Koel they lay their eggs in the nest of other bird who thinking that these are their own eggs hatch them and raise the brood. These cuckoos choose the nests of Babblers for this work. Now we will talk of three cuckoos.

Jacobin Cuckoo:

Also known as Pied Cuckoo, Pied Crested Cuckoo, it comes from Africa here. Here it is called Harbinger of the rains. In Indian mythology it is called Chatak or the seeker of ambrosia drops. Also called Barsati Papiha. Religious scriptures mention this bird.

Jacobin Cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Grey Bellied Cuckoo

Another small cuckoo. It can be seen here these days. Most of the times it sits on the electric wires which cross over scrubby shrubs. It was earlier also called Indian Plaintive Cuckoo but now not more so. It is smaller than Pied Cuckoo. It is also called Chhota Papiha in India.

Grey bellied cuckoo: Pic Ranjit

Common Hawk Cuckoo

This cuckoo partially resembles sparrowhawks and thus is called Hawk Cuckoo. In english another common name is Brain Fever Bird. In India it is also called Papiha. Many small birds get scared in its presence. It remains sitting at a place for long durations. It seems to be a permanent resident here.

Common hawk cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Ghaggar River: The Lost Glory

Introduction

The rivers in India are of two types. The ones like Ganga and Indus are perennial in nature because they originate in Himalayas and are fed by melting ice. Others are intermittent in nature. Their catchment area is foothills of Himalayas and these flow in full glory only during monsoons in the catchment area in hills.

River Description

One such river is Ghaggar. It originates in the village of Dagshai in the Shivalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of 1,927 metres (6,322 ft) above mean sea level and flows through Punjab and Haryana states into Rajasthan just southwest of Sirsa, Haryana and by the side of Talwara Lake in Rajasthan. Dammed at Ottu barrage near Sirsa, Ghaggar feeds two irrigation canals that extend into Rajasthan.

The wild grasses growing in the bed of river

This river is located just a kilometre from our home and I visit it almost daily for morning walks and nature photography. Present conditions are described below:

Present Scenario

Amidst a quite big bed, water flows in a thin winding strip. Wild shrubs like Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum), acacia trees grow in its bed. Many people use it as a garbage dump and also for open defecation. The river bed is ruthlessly mined for sand and pebbles by the sand mafia. Of course, during the monsoon season the river is in spate. But rest of the times one can walk through it with ease from one bank to another.

Muddy water flowing in the river during rains

The bed is home to many species of birds like Ring Plovers, Pratincole, Steppe Eagles, Wagtails, martins, lapwings and wiretails. Snakes also roam during summer mornings. During winter some migratory birds also come here.

A little ring plover in the river

Past Glory!!!

Standing on its bank, I think about its past glory. Satellite imagery and other archaeological studies indicate that once upon a time it was a mighty river. So much so that Yamuna and Satluj were its tributaries on East and West sides respectively. It flowed in full force into Arabian Sea. Due to plenty of water and fertile land around, it was a perfect place for the humans to settle in the ancient times. It is now becoming clear from the evidence gathered from excavations that there was a big population living along its banks during Indus Valley Civilization. It was a part of Ghaggar Hakra River system.

Rig Veda the Aryan holy Text, mentions about the holy Saraswati river so many times, was a part of Sapt (Seven) Sindhu (River) which eludes to Ghaggar and its six tributaries including Saraswati. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati are the trinity of rivers held in great reverence by Hindus.

Then the Times changed on geological scale. Tectonic activity changed the river associations. Yamuna realigned with Ganges and wayward Satluj with Indus stripping Ghaggar of much of its volume of water leading to the disintegration of the towns on its banks.

Conditions nowadays are becoming even more grim.

Spiritual importance of Coconut

Coconut is a miraculous fruit. The water loaded with minerals and micronutrients is so refreshing. It is a life saver as it hydrates the dehydrated body. It gives nourishment without side effects.

This magical water is enclosed inside the shell, which is so tough to open, if one doesn’t have the proper tools can frustrate you. Here you have the food but still it is so far away. It teaches that one has to toil in order to achieve the success.

As the fruit matures a layer of fat begins depositing on the inner wall of the shell. Quantity of the water reduces but its sweetness increases.

Coconut grows in abundance in the coastal areas of India. It loves salty water. In fact coconut holds a place of prime importance. It’s oil is used in cooking, rubbed in the hair for shine, its outer fibre is called coir which is used in mattress making. Dry empty shells are burnt for fire in hearth.

In addition to being a food, coconut is present in so many religious ceremonies in India.

The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great Lord Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a Purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This Purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The Purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

Mottled Wood Owl

It is a species of large owls found in india. They are very rare in our area in Punjab. I was lucky to spot this beautiful owl in a forest near my village.

As such, it chooses its roost so cleverly that it completely camouflage itself. Only sometimes it is noticed by crows , treepies and babblers who make a hell of noise near it and force it to fly away. Only during one such cacophony I spotted it. After many unsuccessful efforts finally I was able to photograph it.

Place of Rivers in Humanity

A River not only create conditions for settlement of the people on its banks, it sustains the people living near it. It provides them with all the things of human requirements. Water for washing, irrigation, fish. It had been held in great esteem by many civilizations. Rivers are revered because they nourished the life. Many saints and great men loved to live on its banks.

Rivers are held in great esteem in Sikh religion. The region where the religion flourished is aptly called the land of five Rivers.

First Guru Nanak is said to have experienced enlightenment after a dip in holy river. Legend is that when he emerged out of river Kali Bein which merges into the confluence of Beas and Satluj rivers at a place called Harike in Punjab after three days, he was glowing and a completely transformed. He recited the “mool mantra” .

It seems that Guru Gobind ji, the tenth and last Guru had a great affinity for rivers. His Life revolved along the different riverbanks of India.
He was born in Patna and spent his early days on Ganga river.
Then he came to Anandpur sahib which has Satluj river close by. And during wars with hill royalties he stayed in Paonta sahib on the Yamuna river and wrote prolifically.
And then finally he moved to Maharashtra where he stayed on the banks of godavari river.

Alas , due to the unlimited greed of some people, these rivers are being contaminated by discharging the effluents from factories, city sewage and sand mining.

Parakeets

It is the winter season here in North India. The place where I live is adjoining the hills of Himachal Pradesh. During severe winters, many birds from these hill areas come down to adjoining plains which are relatively warmer.

There is a forest near my residence. These days lots of Alexandrine Parakeets and Rose Ringed Parakeets are present in this forest. Their flocks fly from one tree to another searching for the cavities in the tree branches for making nests.

Some places renamed in India during last 5 year

India has been on the name changing spree. During last 5 years names of many places, roads and monuments have been changed on the basis of the present names being reminder of colonial era or names being derogatory and names of some places being after some Moghul king who was not positively inclined towards the original inhabitants. Another argument for changing names was to replace those alien names with our own local heroes. Here is a list of some changed names during last 5 years in chronological order.

November 2014

Bangalore became Bangaluru. In all, the names of 12 places in Karnataka changed to reflect original Kannada pronunciation. Mysore became Mysuru and Mangalore became Mangaluru.

August 2015

Aurangzeb road in Delhi became APJ Abdul Kalam road.

October 2015

Rajahmundry was renamed Rajamahendravaram in the honour of 11th century king

April 2016

Gurgaon became Gurugram after Guru Dronacharya of Kauravas of Mahabharata fame. Mewat renamed to Nuh.

May 2016

Bangalore city railway station renamed KrantiviraSangoliRayanna, 19th century freedom fighter.

September 2016

Race Course road in Delhi renamed Lok Kalyan Marg, giving 7 RCR a new address.

January 2017

Ganda village in Fatehabad district of Haryana renamed AjitNagar after a petition to PM by teenager Harpreet Kaur Malkat. Kinnar village changed to Gaibi Nagar. Both previous names had derogatory shades.

July 2017

Odisha’sWheeler island, home to a missile testing range was renamed APJ Abdul Kalam Island.

September 2017

Kandla port in Gujarat was renamed Deendayal Port to mark the centenary year of JanaSangha co-founder.

February 2018

Chor Basai in Rajasthan lost Chor. Nachania in Bihar became Kashipur.

July 2018

Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station named after British governor was renamed Prabhadevi.

August 2018

Miyon Ka Bara” village in BarmerRajasthan got new name Mahesh Nagar as residents alleged that due to Muslim sounding name it was hard to get marriage proposals.

August 2018

Mughalsarai junction founded in 1860 and one of the busiest junctions in country renamed as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction.

July 2018

West Bengal assembly passed a resolution to change the state’s name to Bangla. Mamata Banerjee didi found that due to alphabetical pecking order, her bureaucrats were called last at central meetings. With changed name “Bangla” pecking order will be on top almost.

The process continues unabated. Next on the anvil are the names of trains based on the great personalities which belonged to the originating stations.