There is a piece of uncultivated land adjacent to our building. Land is scarce in Punjab. Every inch is under cultivation. So this piece of land with uneven surface must have been purchased by some builder for construction of high rise buildings. But at present it is as it is. Grass and shrubs are growing uninterrupted in this land. On the opposite end are dense woods where poplar and eucalyptus are growing majestically. Poplars are not complicated trees. They are straight with no branches stand like the sentries at attention. The eucalyptus trees have grown so high as to touching the sky.
During day time sunlight seem to play hide and seek with the dark in the woods. Top branches sway in the wind and there seem to something mystical in these woods. Occasionally, a bunch of peahens accompanied by a peacock stray from woods into the grass fields.There is a pool of water into which these days algae has grown and covered most of its surface. Algae is pushed from one side to other when the wind blows. Sun simmers in the water ripples. On the nearby bushes cranes are seen sitting basking in the sun occasionally diving into the water.
Paths have been trodden in the random patterns by the people going towards woods from other end. The earth on these paths have become bald and devoid of grass. The fields are not at one plain, some are on higher plane.
Many a times, sitting at my room, I can hear the calls of some bird which become quite loud and distinctive in the night. In the day time if you are lucky you can glimpse these birds almost running on the ground. These birds are called “Yellow Wattled Lapwings”. They lay eggs on the ground in the pebbles. If it is very hot, the birds are seen diving into the water and sitting wet on the eggs to cool them. It is believed here that if the bird lays eggs on the higher plane, the coming days will be rainy. It the eggs are laid down in lower fields, it means the coming days shall be dry.
Dehradun is the capital of Uttrakhand. Earlier, it was an important town in Uttar Pradesh state. Being in the hills it has milder weather than rest of Uttar Pradesh. So British moved to hill stations during summers like Dehradun, Mussorie and Shimla: all situated in the hills of North India and were cooler. It must have been a favorite city of the British as is evident from the fact that headquarters of a number of departments like Forest and Survey of India, are located here. It is surrounded on the North by Himalayas and in the South by the Shiwaliks thus forming a valley. The valley itself is divided into two parts by a ridge.
It boasted of famous Litchi plantations. During the summer season, one could see the vendors selling this fruit. The weather was not hot even in the summers when I first came here in 1978. Now the things have changed due to deforestation and building activity on a large scale.
Hardwar Dehradun railway line was opened in 1900 thus completing 112 years. It was the continuation of Oudh & Rohilkhand Railway from Laskar to Hardwar. Total distance is 48 miles. During British time Dehradun had many tea plantations and produced 1.6 million pounds of tea in 1903. Timber was extracted and taken to Yamuna River with the help of wet wooden planks. The timber was then was formed into rafts and floated down to Delhi.
The white Pomeranian which was abandoned by its owner and left to fend for itself in the harsh world has once again found an owner. I saw him bathing and combing the dog. The dog also seems to have taken a fancy for the new owner.
During the inter weening period, it has somehow adjusted with the pariah dogs. This dog is very handsome. In the beginning, street dogs bullied it and there were fierce fights in which it was badly bruised. But slowly the street dogs came to terms with it and it was accepted into their fold. It used to sleep with other dogs under cars and huts shades. It sometimes chose the bitches also and tried mating them but it was fiercely spurned and bitch showed the white fangs .
Since it was a pet from its childhood, it has not faced the hardships faced by the street dogs and has been more fortunate but in the bargain, it did not learn the art of fights and competition for the food: a trait very much desired to survive as the father of evolution Sir Charles Darwin told us many years ago.
As now it is again under protection, it is safe. But it sometimes runs towards its street friends when it sees them but soon returns to its new found haven.
Except for a few sporadic appearance of clouds, the days begin with very bright mornings. The day breaks late. The sun comes out only at about seven o’clock although the darkness begins to melt into grey and then visible by half past six . The sky which looks black before sunlight begins to take on bluish hue.
There are groups of birds flying over against a clear sky. Cranes fly in groups to a river nearby to remain there all day and forage for food in the icy cool waters of the river. They can be seen returning in the opposite direction at the dusk. God knows what is the logic behind their daily sojourns. Can’t they make their abodes nearby? Crows make vacuous noises and sit on the branches of a skeleton tree. Occasionally big kites circle scanning the ground beneath. Crows which suppose themselves to be the rulers of the area relentlessly chase the kite. The sunlight plays with crests of mountains. There are speakers blaring bhajans from temples. The soldiers run with gusto. Morning stirs the activity. Occasionally, group of parrots dart between the trees.
Then there are monkeys descending in hordes over the colony. They lay hands on anything in the garbage bins which are of very old style silos with open trap doors. They hang on in the balconies and make a mess of everything. They pluck the flowers and uproot the plants.
You can see many people walking their morning walks. Some do exercises and running also. After the observations of many days, you can easily see the diehard morning walkers. Those who walk in the groups are given to chatting and discussing the politics.
The sun rises and everything is bathed in the golden sunlight. The sunlight first touches the crests of the lofty trees and then descends and spreads to the ground. The darkness has vanished completely. Soon it is the time for school buses and other vehicles to pick up the school children who are waiting on the road with their parents. The school is about to begin and the front area which was empty a few minutes earlier is thronged by the children and their parents who come to drop their wards to school. All of them seem to in great hurry and there is almost a frenzy on the road. Sometimes it seems that there shall be collisions.
There are milkmen and milkmaids coming to deliver the milk on the bikes. One women comes on bicycle for selling the breads, eggs and other breakfast items. She continuously rings the cycle bell to announce her presence to the customers. The house maids also arrive on the scene and can be seen entering the houses.
To survive in this harsh world, one has to struggle and beat others. While in the world of animals the competition is really physical, the human beings take it to mental level. Humans have the ability to hide their emotions, they store their grudges against others and thus compete on a very different level. Most of their actions are covert in nature.
Animals have very hard life that way. Most of them settle their scores on the spot. They don’t keep it for the future. They even do not seem to repent the loss of their near and dear ones in the struggle as the humans do. They seem to be resigned to their fate and take the events as they come.
Since they have to face a fierce competition for their food, they are masters at conserving their energies, they don’t waste it unnecessarily. Since they don’t get much for over eating, they don’t need to exercise for their fitness.
Since many days, I am observing a strange thing. In the early morning, scores of crows dive into the garbage in the ditch outside the boundary of our colony. They dive and come out with bits of parts of the dead birds mostly chickens. This garbage i
The coast of India adjoining the Arabian Sea looks on the maps like a moth eaten book page. All along the coast are numerous beaches. The region possess extraordinary physical beauty. There are small hills with very beautiful summits of varied shapes. Some look like a plateau while others like the sharp dagger like cliffs. Around Mumbai there are many good beaches. Farther you go away from the metropolis, the better are beaches.
One such beach is Kashid beach which is 110 kilometers away from Panvel, 160 kilometers from Mumbai and 35 kilometers from Alibaug which itself has many beaches around it. On the way are beautiful rivers, woods and idyllic life. There are coconut and betel-nut palms. Bamboo also grows all around. Other bushes and trees, the names of which I am ignorant about grow all around.
We visited the beach. There were so many visitors. On the beach sand is very clean and white. The waves were gentle and sun shimmered on the waters and water looked like mercury. At other places where waves were absent, the water was beautiful green. There were horse rides as well horse drawn carts for joy rides. There were joy boats.
Soups made from bird nest seems to incredulous. Bird nests are usually made from twigs and other materials which are inedible by humans. But believe it that there are nests made by some birds called Swiftlets, which are used to make soups in China and this soup is amongst one of most expensive food items in the bird.
Swiftlets are very small birds belonging to Collocallini tribe. They are mostly the inhabitants of South Asia and Australia. They live in the seashore caves. Most of these caves in the limestone rocks. The birds use echolocation technique to navigate inside deep and dark caves. They made the nests which stick to the walls of the caves. These nests are cup shaped in which the bird just fits when it sits in the nest.
These nests are not made from ordinary material which other birds use. These are fabricated by the intertwining threads of thick saliva which the male birds secrete. There are multiple layers. The purest and most prized nests are white colored. Though these nest are built by birds for laying down the eggs and breeding, they become the curse for the birds. There are professionals who are engaged in removing the nests from walls of caves.
It is back breaking job. They use the bamboo scaffolding to reach to the ceiling. Secondly all the time, he has to hold the torch for dispelling the darkness. The demand for the nests is so high that the birds are made to work overtime. It is a cruelty really to the birds. When they make their first nest, it is scooped out in no time. The bird, helpless, builds the second nest at the same place immediately and it is also plucked before the birds lay their eggs in it. Third nest is generally spared and birds are allowed to lay egg and rear their children because otherwise there is danger of depletion of their population. But the greed is so much that many unscrupulous one’s do not bother about this and destroy their third nest also.
The nest when immersed in water yields a thick gummy substance. Chinese believe that the soup maintains the skin tone, and reinforces the immune system. It increases the virility. It helps in strengthening the lungs and prevent coughs.
100 gram of dry nest includes about 50 grams of water soluble proteins, roughly about 31 grams of carbohydrate, iron and inorganic salts. It is rich in Potassium and other trace elements which are required in trace amounts but are crucial to overall well being.
Authentic bird’s nest soup is quite popular throughout Asia. It is also extremely expensive; many western restaurants serve a less expensive version consisting of soup with noodles shaped to resemble a bird’s nest.