House Sparrow sized, Baya Weavers are master craftsmen. Their nests are the works of great ingenuity. The summer months transiting into monsoon rains witness the intense activity of nest building by these tireless birds.
It is the male Baya Weavers which are more beautiful as compared to their female counterparts, who construct the nest. The sole purpose of the nest building is to find a suitable partner and make preparations for next generations.
When the nest is in the half way stage, the males invite the females. They make noises and flap their wings whenever female Weavers fly near the tree, these male Weavers flap their wings sitting on their half done nests to attract their attention hoping that one of them may be kind enough to inspect the nest and build a bonding.
Baya Weavers are small birds of house sparrow size. The scientific name is Ploceus philippinus. What separates them from other birds is the beautiful nests they weave from the grass stalks, mud blobs.
The name weaver itself justifies the mastery is weaving very elaborate and elegant nests hanging from the branches of very high palm trees, thorny acacia trees. Usually these trees are near the water pools, scrub grasses where they are safe from predators.
It is male domain entirely to make the nest. When it is in the almost halfway stage, they invite the females by flapping their wings and if the female approves the nest, it means that she will reside with the particular male, mate and raise the new chicks. If she doesn’t approve, the structure will be abandoned and weaver will feel dejected and sometimes tore away the nest. It starts making newer one.
These birds come to our area in North India, at the peak of summers and by the onset of monsoon rains, have their nests completed. They visit the fields for foraging the seeds both raw and fallen after ripening.
After monsoons, and winter coming, they migrate to slightly warmer areas like western India where food is available and weather is not harsh.
The birds are gregarious and live in flocks. They can be located from the noises they make.
Indian continent experiences a number of weathers. Even there are vast differences in the weather along the length and breadth of India. Unlike Europe, the weather changes are rapid and during the year one can experience biting cold and searing heat at one place. This is particularly true in the Northern plains.
The weather along the sea coast remains humid and moderate. During summers, the humidity and heat becomes unbearable. In Bombay, everyone prays the rain gods for being benign and lash the city with rains to cool the heat and bring succor to people, animals and trees. The hot summer months climax to monsoons in the end of June. First place which comes to mind is the otherwise serene Marine Drive.
It is the favorite of tourists all round the year particularly in the evening with lights like necklace in the Malabar hill. It is beset by the sound and fury of a monsoon high tide. Tides beat against tetrapods and embankment in beautiful patterns. Then there is picturesque Gateway of India looking hazy in the mist of water and boats standing near the Gateway with rain beating the sea water.
If you are an outsider, then you will be intimidated by the rains and rains can harass. The rains usually are accompanied by strong winds which throw your umbrella heltor skeltor. If you happen to be at a railway station, you will see the sea of umbrellas jostling each other. Clothes are drenched with water.
Worli Seaface faces straight across the Arabian Sea, with no land between it and Oman. Rows of bungalows and expensive apartments overlook the sea. In the late afternoons, this is a place for daydreamers. The sun is coming down and the day looks as if it is just beginning, as people take their evening walks and rendezvous with friends. There are amusement rides for children, streetside eateries for teenagers, and benches for seniors. During the monsoon the most coveted seat is the one right next to the statue of the Common Man the creation of famous cartoonist R K Laxman.
Haji Ali is the popular dargah constructed in memory of the Muslim saint Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The dargah is connected to land by a narrow causeway. Even in the day, the path is submerged in the water during high tide. So in the rains, the journey becomes a project to be attempted with care.
The Mumbai monsoon is an experience, but monsoon weather is often unpredictable. What begins as a mild rain may suddenly turn into a heavy downpour. Then it is no longer safe to be near the sea. The tide is strong enough to pull a person into the sea and away from the shore. During the worst weather, a hot, sweet cutting chai and crunchy, salty, home-made bhajias complete the monsoon experience. They are best enjoyed in one’s own home.
During last few years, however, due to building activities, the drainage system has come under a severe pressure. There is flooding, water logging and train disruptions due to submerging of tracks. Life for poor becomes very difficult. With a large population living in the shanties along the train tracks, there are hardly any civic amenities. In fact, during 2005 monsoons, flooded the city, paralyzing it and warning the greedy builders to stop poaching the natural networks of sea drainage.
We were living in a place called Panvel when the 2005 flood strike the Mumbai and Panvel. Panvel is on the way to Pune and Goa from Mumbai. It is in the Konkan region and every year experiences strong rains. Near by Panvel is a dam which overflowed and its gates were opened causing a flash flood in Panvel and near by areas. We are witness to the harrowing experience people underwent. The experience is described in Floods in Panvel.
I am a regular morning walker and usually out at around 15 minutes to Six in the morning. Usually I am alone for most of the time when out but sometimes some of my colleagues come across and we talk about the olden times. It is the early September. The monsoon rains which usually abate in this month have not receded. The monsoon has played truant in its regular months of July and August but has picked up now in September when it was time to go away. The children shall sing now “rain rain go away”. Usually after mid September there are scattered showers and season begins to cool here in contrast to Mumbai where rains extend till the end of September followed by the torrid months of heat, called second summer, till December.
Generally, the sky is overcast here these days. Although clouds are not threatening of black sort. So the mornings are generally cloudy. But today, it was all clear and blue skies began showing up in the West. In the East, when I was just out, Sun was not up yet but had begun knocking at the door of night. In the dawn, the things have begun to take shape as if precipitating from the pitch black solution of the night which erases all the distinctions between things. While the day separates the entities into different individuals, night merges them all into one black thick solution. Silhouettes looked beautiful like the drawings of a painter. And why not, the greatest of all painters is at work. But with a difference albeit. He never cares for praise or criticism. He does not stand any scrutiny.
The contours of the things have begun to take shape. There is a tinge of crimson in the East. Then the sun has risen. After many days, it is the bright morning resplendent in the glory of sun. The sun light has first dawned on the pinnacle branches of mighty trees and darkness which was spread over there has jumped down to make way and welcomed the Sun. The scene was stunning. I can say that still this place is very beautiful.
It is early morning. I am looking down from my room in the 13th floor in the hospital. The sea has receded far away and there are fishermen scourging for sea food like crabs, small fish and mussels in the poodles left by receding sea. These men looks like tiny specks from the height. Other people are loitering over the sea surface left dry by the receding sea.
The sky is pregnant with looming clouds which are expecting to rain. Sometimes the Sun looks through the clouds and colors the water gold. Now, the day progresses and with it the tides. Soon the naked surface is covered by the rising water.In the beginning the waves die down before reaching the shore. By noon, the waves become very high. They come with a hissing sound towards shore, slaps themselves on the shore and fall away into the sea totally destroyed.
I am relieved from the hospital and come down. Before leaving for home, I went to see the sea. There was BandraWorli sea link in front. The hissing tides came and spent themselves on reaching the shore. Immediately the crows flew into the sand to catch small creatures left by the receding sea.
This is supposed to be the onset of monsoon season. So many people collected on the beach to watch the sea which have come to life. Showers relieve the torrid heat and usher the city into romantic, chaotic and deluging times. Some enjoy it, others who have no choice are left to face the fury of nature in coming months.
The memory of flash flood on the evening of July 25 2005 and destruction in its wake sends chills in the spine of anyone who had witnessed it. Although it was raining very heavily for three days continuously, although a thick solid sheet of rain was battering the land, no body expected that it would turn into a nightmare. Within minutes the area around Panvel was under 10 to 12 feet of water. It looked as if the Arabian sea has expanded and and gulped the pieces of land lying in its vicinity. The loss of property was huge though human lives were spared by the nature to some extent.
Many a times afterwards, I wondered where did so much water come from. I did some analysis thanks to Google Earth imagery. The area around Panvel is full of geographical features with uneven landscape and so many hills all around. Just after the Panvel town flows a river called Kalundre so named after the village on its bank. It seems like a sinuous ribbon of uneven thickness in summers and winter. It is season river. On tracings its source, it is found that it flows from the hills and is made of two rivers joining together. One is Kundsar lake and another is Panvel lake situated under the foot of Gadeshwar. Water is fettered at both places by barrages. Beyond the Gadeshar are Chanderi hills and one can approach Matheran through this area on a road leading to Dhandheri village from Panvel.
There is another very insignificant river which is known by the name Kirki the origin of which I could trace only to Shedung. I am not sure of that. Many people believe that ONGC colony which is like an island between these two rivers was inundated by this river. This may not be very true, because the capacity of this rivers is very less. I surmise that very heavy rains threatened the dams up the hills and their gates were opened. The another factor was that Panvel being very close to the sea, in the event of high tide which was there at this time made it impossible for the area to bear the brunt of so much water coming like a demon on the town.
Next few days were so bad and depressing, that many people left the colony and searched for the safer houses on the upper floors. It is also a bitter truth that we are ourselves responsible for these disasters. By snatching the land which belonged to sea, where it dumped its extra water in the times of high tide through a network of channels of water all around. We have filled these channels and constructed the houses. Nature does not care about the differentials, its justice is done on an integral scale. Builders make profits and enjoy at safe places whereas the poor people bear the brunt of nature’s fury.