How often do we leisurely watch the nature around us? General answer will be not often. Do we sit out in the evening and watch the sun going down, its glow becoming golden, and shadows lengthening and blinking through the chinks in the trees? Do we watch the groups of birds flying towards their homes after spending their day in a far off place where the food is available to forage? Why, in the first place, they don’t make their resting places near the food. May be the supply is not available at one place throughout the year and their resting places are at optimum distance from the foraging places. Why do they always fly in the groups? Is not their pressure or competition for food? Is the father of Evolution theory listening?
After reeling under the sweltering heat for many days, if there is rain, it is like a fresh breath of life. The parched land is drenched with water pushing out the air filled with earth’s aromas into the atmosphere and filling our nostrils with ecstasy. The accompanying wind rushes into the branches which sway from side to side at the top such as in the mighty silver oak trees. One wonders how the topmost leaves are receiving their requirement of water and nutrients. In optimistic hope of supply from the soil, additionally they must be conserving the water by reducing their stomata counts, As they are in the top, they have the benefit of plenty of sunlight. I also wonder if the leaves at the top are in any sort of communication with those at the lower branches.
Rain patters on the tins of roofs. Water begins to flow over the soil surface seeking places which are at lower level to become pooled there. The dust on the leaves which was choking the plants breath is washed up and translucency returns. Sometimes after the rain, sun comes out and everything shines resplendently. The weather becomes bearable.
The scene from the balcony of my apartment in the third floor of the building is breathtaking. It harks me back to my childhood. The place where all these apartments have come up were fields then. There were rills with gurgling water running through the path which led us from our home into our land.
Now this patch which is remaining reminds me of those times. There are fields in which the cattle graze when the land is fallow. In the rainy season, the cattle roll in the mud and after that go to bath in the pond of water.
This pond looks like a shard of mirror. It is a narrow strip of water. I was surprised why the pond does not get dried. Still there is water. This time I found the answer. There is a river not far from our place. It is called Ghaghar. It is not a big river like the other mighty rivers of Punjab. In the past, as I have mentioned, there were small streams which ran through the area and distributed the water for irrigation to the landowners on the rota basis. I have presumed that all those stream must have become extinct but I was surprised to see one in which pristine water was flowing and leading towards the pond and beyond.
There is a narrow path made from the constant walking of the people. It is narrow strip of bald land. People who are walking on the path look tiny specks from our home. During the high sun, the water simmers and it becomes difficult to look at it directly.
From the height of our home, the pond seems to like a broken piece of mirror-placid. But a closer look indicates lots of activity taking place there inside it. Buffaloes wallow in it. Besides you can see the cormorants and ducks smoothly swimming over the water surface. Water continuously exits the pond from other side.
There is algae over a part of it. The same algae called cyano-bacteria or green algae which is on the surface of the earth since times immemorial when no other form of life existed. This is the same algae which is the precursor of life that is present on the earth.
On the other side is a preserved patch of woods where eucalyptus and poplar trees grow along with undergrowth. There are trodden paths running and getting lost inside these woods. These remind me of the poem “the road less taken” by Robert Frost.
I don’t know how long this patch of remaining land will last. I fear the day is not far when the demon of concrete will overtake it. In the last I present a picture of laborers carrying dried wood stick bundles on their heads for firing their hearths and sitting around the fire for keeping the winter at bay.
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.
The rivers in India are considered very holy. People worship them because they sustain the lives by providing water for irrigation, bringing with them very fertile soil. Water which sustains the life on this planet. All the great civilizations had prospered along the banks of rivers. In the Indian subcontinent, Indus valley civilization prospered on the banks of the great river Indus. Living near the river had many advantages. Agriculture was carried out near the rivers. Nile provides the Egypt with its fertile land along its banks else rest of the Egypt is dry and unsuitable for agriculture. The Punjab which is called the granary of India owes its agriculture to the five rivers. Then greatest of them all is Ganges which flows through the whole length of North Indian plane. Millions of people inhabit the areas adjacent to this river. The river is benevolent and are considered very sacred.
In India, most of the holy places are located on the rivers. People take bath in them to wash away their bad deeds which have been committed by them consciously or deliberately. Huge congregations gather on the rivers holy places to thank the river which nurtures them.
But, there is one river which is accursed in Indian mythology. Its name is Karamnasa which means the destroyer of one’s good deeds. The river originates in Kaimur hills in Bihar. It is a tributary of Ganges which it meets near Chausa. According to the legend, Suryavanshi King Satyavrata ruled Ayodhya. He immersed himself in worship and wanted the Gods to help him rise directly to heavens. He approached Rishi Vashisht but he showed his reluctance after which he approached Rishi’s sons who also did not help. Then another Rishi Vishwamitra came forward with help and helped him to ascend to the heavens. But as he approached the heaven, Gods who were already angered, hurled him down on the earth. As he was descending down at terrific speed to crash, Rishi Vishwamitra interceded and put brakes on his descend but in the process, King got suspended in the mid air with his face downwards. Due to this conditions he is also called Trishanku. He hung over this river and the saliva from his mouth due to drooling fell into he river contaminating it. Thus the water is considered polluted and in the olden times brahmins did not even let a drop of water from it to touch their body. While crossing the river, they gave special instructions to the boatman not to splash any water on them.
The river ultimately mingles with Ganges which is capable to washing and purifying everything which comes into its contact.
We have gone to picnic by the sea beach. It was on the Konkan Coast of India. At the time of our arrival at the beach, there was a low tide and sand on the beach was exposed a great deal. It was just flat with very gentle slope towards the sea. Water nearer was muddy and khaki colored. Far off it looked greenish. There were boats looking like specks and seagulls were hovering over them.
I enjoyed a lot inside the water. I would go deeper and deeper inside till I was not able to stand on my feet and water would throw me off balance. A wave would roll and throw me any which way. I felt very refreshing as well as very tired also. There were ladies who were very tentative in going inside the water. Indian women will dip themselves with their clothes on. Sarees will get wet and then cling to their massive buttocks revealing them.
The the tide began to rise and the ground which was bare was being claimed by the sea. This process of claiming and declaiming goes on endlessly. The scene is not constant but shifting slowly and surely. By the time, it was evening and Sun became coppery red and began to take a dip inside the sea far away from us as if it had tired all day and began to take a bath to cool itself before going to bed.