Siblings of Tadoba

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve about 150 kms from Nagpur, Maharashtra is one of the best jungles in India. Spread over 1700 sq kms it is home to exotic wildlife that includes Birds, Sloth bears, Wild dogs, Leopards, Crocodiles, Nilgai, Indian Gaur and more. Oh yes! it has a high density of tigers too. With so much to offer Tadoba is always buzzing with activity but it was in a different mood that morning…

On Feb 21, we entered Tadoba’s buffer zone through Devada gate at 6:30 am. The sky was still dark but the early morning mist added its dreamy charm. Soothing aroma of the plants and cool breeze was refreshing. We had our usual hosts like Spotted deer, Sambhar, Indian Gaur keeping us company but there was no bird chirping…jungle was remarkably silent! For the next 1.5 hours our gypsy covered various corners of the Devada zone but there was not much activity.

At 8 am our safari gypsy parked at a water body where animals often visit to quench their thirst. We were kept busy by a few birds like Kingfisher, Egret and Indian Paradise Flycatcher trying to get their share of fish. Our guides Amir and Amit decided to stay put at this spot. Every single sound was being monitored by them for a hint on tiger movement. Any whisper of returning was rejected by them. “Wait karo!” was the expert opinion and we agreed. Time too travels slowly in these situations!

Suddenly, after about one hour of wait there was a rush of other gypsies towards our spot. They had seen a tiger moving towards the water body. There was no movement but the expectations were back with new mind games. Amit said it could be behind the bushes across the water straight in front of our position. I picked up the binoculars and after some search saw those elusive black stripes hiding there. Amir whispered, “shaant raho! woh paani ke liye aayega, ready raho! (Silence! he will come to drink water, be ready!)”. And truly so, there it was…a majestic walk towards the water body.

Engrossed in watching him, I forgot binoculars can’t click pictures! Amit almost admonished me,“Sir! photo khincho. Agar aap se nahin hota hai toh mujhe camera de doh! (Sir! take pictures. If you can’t do it then give the camera to me!)”. The authority in his voice was effective to release me from the magic spell of the King of Tadoba! At least for that moment…

It was a tiger cub which soon got busy with the water. Amir announced, “ek aur aa raha hai (one more is coming)”. Both the cubs were cautious while drinking water. Eyes carefully keeping a watch on the spectators of their royal arrival. I thought this is good enough sighting but then Amit exclaimed, “arey teesra bhi aa raha hai! (Third one is coming)”. We couldn’t believe our luck as it was indeed a bonanza. These were three male cubs, about 2 years old of Sharmilee – the shy tigress which ruled this territory.  Cubs were indifferent to our presence and moved around in the water to their satisfaction. As long as humans don’t trouble animals they don’t care. We were humble subjects in the court of these siblings. The look in their eyes pointed straight at us had a message…Don’t mess with me! 

Siblings seated in triangular formation was the defining moment for me. Did one of the brothers made his intentions clear by occupying the throne seat? Time will tell! For some time, I stopped taking pictures. I wanted to enjoy with nothing between me and them…no binoculars, no camera, no lens…nothing! After about half an hour of showtime, they went back to their hideout leaving us spellbound. My heart was full of gratitude towards Mother Nature’s blessing for this life time memory.

I salute the forest staff, guides, gypsy drivers, villagers who risk their own safety to ensure that jungle survives. They have witnessed wildlife action a million times before but for every tourist they express great enthusiasm, sincerity and commitment to provide best possible wildlife experience. It was our pleasure to learn from Tadoba where every element is in harmony. Mankind can’t survive without the magnificent flora and fauna of our jungles.

Save the Jungle, Save the Tiger!

Chandrakala

English Version

चंद्रकला (The Phases of Moon)

सूरज और चाँद के साथ हम सभी का विशेष रिश्ता रहा है। सूरज ऊर्जा और शक्ति का प्रतीक है तो चाँद शीतलता और मोहब्बत का। चाँद चंचल भी है…आसमान में इसके उदय और अस्त होने का कोई एक समय और स्थान निर्धारित नहीं है। सूरज की यात्रा पूर्व से पश्चिम दिशा की तरफ निश्चित है पर चाँद हमेशा पूर्व से पश्चिम जाए…ऐसा ज़रूरी नहीं। यह इसलिए है क्योंकि जिस तरह पृथ्वी अपने axis पर घूमते हुए सूरज की परिक्रमा करती है उसी तरह चाँद भी अपने axis पर घूमते हुए पृथ्वी की परिक्रमा करता है। प्रकृति के इस अद्भुत नियम से चंद्र उदय और अस्त के समय और स्थान में प्रतिदिन अंतर होता है…

बाम-ए-मीना से महताब उतरे,
दस्त-ए-साक़ी में आफ़ताब आए (फैज़ अहमद फैज़)

परिक्रमा के कारण चाँद पर सूर्य प्रकाश की मा‌त्रा में भी अंतर होता रहता है और अमावस्या से पूर्णिमा तक हमें चाँद अपने चेहरे का शनैः शनैः दर्शन देता है। इस चंद्रकला का हर एक नज़ारा अपने आप में लाजवाब है। अमावस्या के कुछ दिन बाद जब सूर्य प्रकाश चाँद के उस हिस्से को रौशन करता है जो सूरज की तरफ है तब चाँद का crescent आकार बनता है । पर सूर्य प्रकाश पृथ्वी से टकरा कर चाँद के बाकी हिस्से को भी हल्का-सा रौशन करता है। इस दिलकश नज़ारे को ‘Earth Shine’ कहते हैं और यह मुझे अतिप्रिय है। अनेक कवियों और शायरों को अपने जज़्बात को अल्फाज़ का रंग देने में चाँद ने सदियों से प्रेरित किया है। एक दिलचस्प सत्य यह भी है कि पृथ्वी वासियों को चाँद का केवल 50–60% चेहरा ही दिखाई देता है। यानी कि चाँद का छिपा हुआ चेहरा पृथ्वी से कभी नज़र नहीं आता…

खूब पर्दा है कि चिलमन से लगे बैठे हैं,
साफ छिपते भी नहीं सामने आते भी नहीं (दाग़ दहलवी)

पूर्णिमा का चाँद कुछ यह बयान करता है कि चाँद की सतह सरल नहीं है, उस पर भी दाग़ हैं! कभी वहाँ भी ज्वालामुखी का प्रकोप था। वहाँ meteors और asteroids का भी लगातार आक्रमण होता रहा है। इस कारण चाँद पर विशाल craters बन गए हैं। पर इस से चाँद कि सुंदरता में तो कोई कमी नहीं आती, है ना? अजी जनाब! कौन है ऐसा जिसने अपने जीवन में ठोकरें न खाई हों? मेरे दोस्तों ! कतई मायूस ना हों और अपनी आशिक़ी में कोई कमी ना लाएँ…चाँदनी का लुत्फ़ लेते हुए बेझिझक अपनी माशूका की तारीफ में फरमा दीजिए…

चौदहवीं का चाँद हो या आफ़ताब हो,
जो भी हो तुम खुदा की क़सम लाजवाब हो (शकील बदायुनी)

Image Gallery: On Day 1, moon is invisible as only 1% of its surface is sunlit

Pinhan

सब कहाँ कुछ लाला-ओ-गुल में नुमायां हो गईं
ख़ाक में क्या सूरतें होंगी कि पिन्हां हो गईं – मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

A beautiful flower, sunrise over a mountain peak, colourful canvas in sky…we all are enamoured and inspired by Nature’s blessings. However, there is another world that lives delicately under Nature’s care…a world that is so near to us but remains ‘Pinhan (पिन्हां)’ or hidden from our eyes.

On a closer look, this world opened up! A growing leaf cuddled to find its shape, a flower bud basked in the glory of early colours, a tiny twinkling dew drop dazzled in dreamy patterns….and much more. In such a short life-span, even this unseen world leaves behind so much beauty and serenity.

Santorini

Santorini, a Greek island in the Aegean sea, is like a dream! Architecture of the buildings and churches with white walls and blue domes is straight from a fairy tale! Take a walk through the lanes along the caldera from Fira to Imerovigli and just enjoy the view, market, houses…and more! Oia is another beautiful village. It is more colorful in the sense that many houses have walls painted with other pleasing colours apart from white…that gives a different look to the place and yes, it has more blue dome churches that Santorini is famous for. So…go and chill in Santorini!

Modhera

The Sun Temple of Modhera was built in 11th century AD during the reign of Solanki ruler Bhimadeva-1. This temple is located in Bechraji taluka of Mehsana district of Gujarat, India. The main entrance of the temple faces East and is approached through a water tank which has a series of steps on all four sides. This step well has 108 small temples of various Hindu deities. The inner and outer walls of the temple structure is decorated with intricate stone sculptures of deities, dancing Apsaras, musicians, stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat. Nothing is better than a visit during sunrise when the Sun God blesses the temple with his first golden rays!

Rani Ki Vav was built in 11th century AD by Rani Udaymati, the Queen of Bhimadeva-1. It is located about 40 kms north of Modhera in Patan, Gujarat. This magnificent link to our history was buried for centuries and was excavated only in 1960. This is a treasure of beautiful carvings and step wells spread over a huge structure which is 64 mts long, 20 mts wide and 27 mts deep. In 2014, UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Monument. It is indeed the Queen of step wells in India!

Gandikota

Gandikota is a village in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is situated on the banks of the Penna river that flows through the rocky terrain resulting in the formation of Gorge (‘Gandi’ in Telugu language), which gives a pleasant touch to the place specially during sunrise and sunset. Gandikota also has ruins of a fort with two ancient temples – Madhavaraya Swamy Temple and Raghunatha Swamy Temple and a mosque – Juma Masjid. 

Belum caves and Lepakshi complement Gandikota with their own charm. Belum caves is a labyrinth with limestone and stalagmite structures formed due to water flowing underground over thousands of years. From the main entrance, it is about 50m deep and 3.3 Kms long, making it the second longest underground cave in the Indian subcontinent. Lepakshi is another village famous for Veerabhadra temple, an architectural marvel.

Ring of Fire

December 26, 2019 was marked on my calendar for a long time. Sun, Moon and Earth were scheduled to bring an end to 2019 with the majestic Annular Solar Eclipse. At the peak of the eclipse, the moon covers about 98% of the Sun disk with the outer Sun rim visible from Earth. This phenomenon appears like a ring and is known as the ‘Ring of Fire’.

I was in Kannur, Kerala in Southern India to witness this rare celestial event. A composite picture with key phases of the eclipse is presented here.

Key phases of Annular Solar Eclipse

As the eclipse created its magic, my heart whispered to the Sun…

ए आफताब! हम तो कायल थे तेरे जोश-ए-नूर के लेकिन,
हमने तुझे भी मोहब्बत-ए-महताब के आगोश में देखा है

Translation:
Oh Sun! I was in awe of your power but,
I can see even you in love with the Moon


Image Gallery

Flamingos in my backyard

Every year from January to May, some very special guests visit Mumbai….Flamingos! These are remarkable birds that flock around the bay area of the city. Mumbai is always-on-the-run busy city but it takes time-off to be charmed by their flamboyance. I had the pleasure to be with them at the Seawoods creek in Nerul. Click on any picture and enjoy the photo gallery !