The perfect start to a day…

A moment of joy…
The feeling of bliss…
An experience of inner peace…

I walk into my classroom and as I stow away my purse, I look out of the window. A feeling of calm descends over me! It is spring time and there are new leaves popping up on the ‘semul’ tree that almost touches the window pane of my classroom…

Each day I observe the (slow) progress. About 2-3 days back, the leaves were curled up, securing themselves from the unknown world out there. But slowly, as they learnt to lay their trust in the environment, they uncurled and opened up! Their veins laid bare with the sunlight streaming through their existence. The sun-kissed leaves, looked brilliant as they glistened with the new found confidence.

It’s a feast not only for the eyes but the soul too, to watch the leaves grow. These moments fill me with positivity and a sense of calm aka a perfect start to a day!!

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On the island of calm, the most beautiful birds reside

I was amidst knee deep work when I got a frantic call from one of the most dreaded person in the school, the substitution in-charge. Staying true to his image, he gave me invigilation duty for about an hour for the ongoing on-campus exams.

And I on my part, began to crib and tried my best to evade the duty. Needless to say, I was not successful and thus landed in the designated room to invigilate the students.

The students were in stress-induced-silence but my mind was abuzz with the voices of anger, resentment and endless work. I paced the room with restlessness. Somehow I remembered the tenets of Zen Buddhism, a philosophy that has influenced me immensely. I returned to my breath to calm myself.

I observed the in-breath and then the out-breath. Slowly, the feeling of calm descended upon me. Since I was able to ‘silence’ my mind from within, I could now hear the chirping of the birds in my close vicinity.

I peeped out of the window and noticed an array of birds perched on the branches of the trees growing around the outer periphery of the school. There were Bulbuls, Robins, Doves and Indian chat. Each had a different melodious voice and way of chirping. I wish I could describe the chatter and bring them alive for you with my writings, the way Gerald Durrell describes them but for that I have a long way to go.

I was delighted to hear the constant chirping of these birds and notice their antics from a distance. They were hopping from one branch to another, communicating with one another and carrying on the daily chores. Suddenly, I was distracted by the movement on the adjoining tree. To my surprise there were parrots residing in the tree hollow. One of the parrots was perched on the branch next to the tree hole. When the other parrot peeped out of its home, the first one tilted its head in to peep back in and take account of the work done by the other. For a few minutes I lost in watching their nuances.

Now that I was enjoying the moments of ‘silence within’ and connecting with the nature, I decided to explore further and take a look at the peepal tree on the other end of the room. Was I glad that I paced the room to go over to the other end, certainly yes! There were pigeons walking on the tiled floor, stopping at every step to pick on the fallen berries of peepal. Though they were busy eating nonetheless they were alert to the movements of the people in the block. They would bob their heads in the most comical manner after picking on the berry. I remained amused with their ways.

As I observed the birds fly from one tree to the other, the time flew away quickly. Soon I was to be relieved of my invigilation duty and go back to other chores. In the span of 40 minutes, I must have seen about 10-12 species of birds that included the Asian Brown Flycatcher, Jungle Babbler, Oriental Magpie Robin. (I had learnt the names of these birds during the ‘lockdown’ period when I frequently visited the nearby park. Isn’t it strange that even though we undergo minimum 18-20 years of formal education, we remain alien to our own surroundings.) I am an ardent nature lover and for once I felt fortunate to been assigned this duty in this room surrounded with trees.

These birds do not vie for attention nor do they need our assistance to carry on their chores; rather their presence can make a difference to our days. I truly feel that Nature nurtures. While performing my duty, I reached out to the inner depths and reconnected with the nature and thus, I felt relaxed…rejuvenated…chirpy!

Nature is the source of our existence and thus it has the ability to rejuvenate us when we make a conscious effort to connect with its energies.

CharutheBuddha

You too, try and find a quiet corner within yourself while running between errands. Try to silence the noise ‘within’ by observing your breath. Once you have discovered the quiet island within you, connect with the elements that heal and nourish, like the nature, the birds, the sky! Be grateful for the beautiful moment, smile a while and pass it on!!

The girl I met at the trek!

Today, I met a girl at the trek. A trek into the wilderness. A space away from the concrete jungle of Gurgaon. She said she lived in this concrete jungle. I too live in this city with no limits, which is expanding at a fast pace. It is the city that has tonnes of concrete pumped into it everyday. There are houses to live and places to mingle at.

She said one of those houses was her niche. Surprisingly, she quoted an address which sounded familiar. And why not? It was the same sector as mine, and if you were to believe me, we resided in the same colony. But in all the years that we stayed in the same locality, we had never crossed paths. Now that she claims she stays in my colony, I think I have seen her. Of course, yes!! Her house has a long balcony that seems alive with the plants growing all around it. Serenity is the word that comes to my mind, for it not only has potted plants but also a huge ‘kadam ka pedh’ right next to it and an array of other trees. I have seen an old lady water the plants every once in a while, when I pass the house. It couldn’t have been her. Neither would she be the bubbly teenager with long hair who hangs around in the balcony in the evenings.

The only other member I have noticed in this house is a middle-aged lady with a phone glued to her ear. Conversing and pacing the balcony immersed in serious and intentional talk! Could that be her…I wonder!?!

For the girl I met on the trek was a free-spirited individual. Even though I had met her in the wee hours, as early as early as 4.45 a.m., though drowsy with sleep, her eyes sparkled in anticipation of a memorable trek. It was her first trek since the lockdown had stopped all our activities. She looked forward to it. I saw her urging others to move quickly lest they missed the mesmerizing sunrise.

We drove a few kilometers to reach the point from where the trek started. Everyone was busy collecting their gear. She was the first one to step down from the car and set off on the kuccha path leading into the wilderness. Her excitement knew no bounds. She repeatedly said, “I missed the treks so much. I missed this space. This is my space” I could believe every word she spoke for she looked like a lover who missed her beloved dearly. I could now understand why was she urging us to walk faster…she had to be with her beloved.

Soon her excitement started to wane. The plain walk in the open space, was not what she wanted. She aspired to enter the heart of the jungle. A place teeming with vibrance and life. A domain she called her own. She urged the walk leader to step into the deep jungle.

Soon we took a trail leading into the wilderness. Her pace became faster but lighter. It seemed she moved ahead effortlessly. This was her terrain. She became chirpy and playful like a child. We took a break on a high ground before entering the deep valley. For a moment or two she went silent. I realized she paused to soak in the colours, hues, fragrances and sounds of the wilderness. Once rejuvenated, she moved around with a surge of energy. She prodded everyone to click her photographs. None could deny as she pleaded with a child-like innocence. A pose here and a pose there. One with the backdrop of the clouds, other one with the valley in the vicinity. For a moment a thought crossed my mind…is she the middle-aged woman whom I noticed in the balcony of the house with the tree next to it? Could this girl bubbling with energy be the serious woman who paced the balcony with a phoned glued to her ear?

Before I could infer anything, it started pouring heavily. Mobiles in plastic bags, a few instructions by the walk leader to step with caution and as planned, we entered the deep valley. Inspite of the downpour, she wanted something more. What could one ask for in the wilderness during a heavy downpour…? Make a wild guess. I thought she would request to find a place to take shelter or make a plea to walk back home. No, it was none of this. she had something else on her mind. She wanted to climb a tree!!

The walk leader who was well acquainted with her ways, knew this plea could not be ignored. He led us to an area where there were multitude of trees. She looked around intently for the perfect one to climb on. Alas! She found one!! There was flash of sparkle in her eyes. She climbed the tree with childlike delight. And, then another one a few meters away. She was completely at ease. She belonged there…that’s what I feel!

We were soaked to the skin and found it difficult to move as our trekking shoes became heavy with sand glued to the soles. As we went further and tried to ascent the rocky path, it posed many problems. Though it was no longer raining but the rocks had gone slippery and it was difficult to get a grip. Our pace slowed down and we decided to take a break and enjoy every element of the nature in its pristine form.

While the trekkers sat down on the rocks and began talking about the nuances of the ‘lockdown’, this young girl found another tree to climb. It was apparent that she could not keep herself from climbing a tree. She said, “the trees call out to me. They have a language which only I can decipher.” True, they had a way of communicating with each other. The radiance she elicited afterwards was proof of the warm relation she shared with the green buddies.

After a short siesta, the walkers climbed the rocky hillside. Everyone was is in high spirits and wanted to make the most of the first trek after the lockdown. The Nature too complied, as though it was missing the humane touch, the voices and chitter-chatter of people.

“We may engage in activities that harm our environment but mother nature is too magnanimous to hold grudges against us. So, the cool breeze, the mesmerizing sunrise, the light rain showers, the gorgeous rainbow, the fragrance of the soil, the bright and shiny leaves on our path were a way of welcoming us back into its lap.” These words were mumbled out by the girl I met on the trek. Oh! She was in love in with every creature, every element around. She stopped frequently to click pictures of tiny flowers and tinnier creatures that otherwise went unnoticed.

On the way up, she stopped and again asked everyone to click pictures. She posed with childlike exuberance. The enthusiasm, the naughtiness rubbed on to others. We clicked silly, childish photos to our hearts content.

The sun was moving up fast and made it difficult to tread the path. Was the nature trying to say, “Guys, go back home before the world wakes and reprimands you for venturing out?” Hey, even I started understanding mother Nature’s language! I could easily comprehend this message all thanks to the girl on the trek.

Unfortunately, the walk ended soon. As we walked back to the cars, the girl-at-the-trek went quiet. And that’s when I saw in her the familiar (and yet not so familiar) face of the middle-aged woman strolling in the balcony. Oh yes, it was her!! Finally, I could place her. But at the same time I was disappointed.

This woman was just like any other woman in the city. Mature, distant, serious and type-casted into a predefined role she needs to play. Like others she would be devoid of the childlike exuberance because if she dared to exhibit some of it, people were bound to raise eyebrows.

On second thoughts, am I not fortunate to have met her? Certainly yes. I consider myself blessed to have crossed paths with her. To have met her, to have traversed the path with her, to have entered the bosom of Nature in her company.

Yes, I am fortunate to meet ‘myself every once in a while in the open spaces outside the concrete jungle. I am the-girl-at-the-trek. I discovered this facet of my personality when I stepped into the Aravallis a few years back. I am ever grateful to the trek groups. It’s because of them that I can have a date with myself in the most pristine setting.

Oh yes! I meet my true self at the treks…

Amaltas diaries…

Amaltas tree has the most stunningly beautiful flowers. Maybe it is the colour or the structure of the flower that grabs the attention of the onlooker, but the fact remains that you can’t walk past them without being left awestruck.

Even these resplendent flowers must shrivel and mix with the dirt, to teach us a few important life lessons.

The fallen petals and flowers,
Making us realise the ultimate truth...
The one who takes birth...
Returns to the Earth...
All that remains
Is the allure of of the beautiful soul!

Termites, the intriguing creatures

Take a look at these intricate patterns. The delicate filigree provides the magnificence to the structure.

These patterns have been painstakingly made by the termites, in the nearby park. The termites seem loathsome to most of the people but as a naturalist I find them intriguing. They occupy the same space as we do! They are the insects that tirelessly work for their sustenance as we do!

Maybe the humankind loathes termites because they challenge their might. Everything the humans build can eventually turn to dust with the slow and steady work of these minuscule creatures. The the trees, homes, and forts too, cannot stand in the way of termites.

Humans have tried their best to eradicate termites from the face of the Earth but the termites survived every onslaught. They continue to thrive and build castles of their own or effortlessly raze the man made castles to dust.

They gnaw at the surfaces and destroy buildings because we have built them over their habitat. What if we left our prejudices aside and no more felt hostile towards them, then we may possibly appreciate their hard work. They are beneficial to the ecosystem because they decompose dead plant and return the nutrients to the soil just like the earthworms and fungi. Like all other creatures, they have an important role to play, as assigned by the Nature.

We may not want them to thrive in our habitats and provide ‘annoying‘ services but we do need them to thrive in their own spaces and provide ‘gnawing‘ services!!

The newbie wants to break free

“Hey, human can you spot me? Look closely, feel my vibes and you’ll be able to spot me. I am the newbie struggling to break free!”

I am trying to wriggle out from the clutches of the leaf that enveloped me, provided shelter, and saved me from the ruthless world. I was vulnerable then. Her warm bosom nurtured me.”

And now, I feel constricted in this very womb. I want to grow, take shape and form my own identity. I want to embrace this world and face the trials and tribulations.”

“What a worthless life it would be if I remain sheltered and do not get a chance to evolve. So, struggle-struggle, wriggle-wriggle and I shall be free!”

Can we ‘lock down’ the Nature…?

Today, as I woke up in the morning, I could hear the joyful chirping of the birds. I closed my eyes for a few more minutes to enjoy the melodious exuberance. The ‘lock down’ has made me more appreciative about the gifts of Nature and I am sure the same goes for you.

The ‘lockdown’ began last Sunday. Almost all human activity STOPPED, but the mother Nature kept working diligently. The birds were chirping today, the way they were chirping yesterday and the day before yesterday. The lockdown has minimized the noises, the hum-drum of the daily activities of humans, to a minimal. It is in this moment of solitude we notice that there is life throbbing in the background, all around us. Nature is constantly working like a 24X7 channel. The only difference is that it doesn’t create noise as it takes on its daily chores. Neither does it make claims of the favours it does for you and me.

Since the lockdown, I have noticed few posters like this one, stating that the Earth is on the repair mode or it has slowed down, or it has ‘locked down’. It is just another misconception that we have created.

The birds are chirping. They are flying everywhere, to look for twigs and leaves to build their nests. Afterall, they have plans to increase their brood.

Every day new leaves are popping up on the trees and plants. They are breathing in the fresh air. They are strengthening themselves, to nurture the plant with the food they would eventually prepare.

The spring is still in in the air. The flowers of numerous colours and hues are blooming. They are enticing the bees, butterflies and other insects to their bosom. They too are making all the preparations to reproduce.

The ants are stowing away food for later. The bees are preparing nectar to sustain themselves. The insects are multiplying at the same rate as earlier.

And, and…the Earth is constantly revolving. The spring would soon give way to autumn. The rotation of the Earth hasn’t ceased. It is continuously churning out the days and nights.

The Earth is constantly, silently, diligently working!! The Earth can’t fathom the meaning of the word ‘lockdown’ that humans have created to save themselves!!

It is we, the humans who are in the ‘repair’ mode. Our lives had to come to a stand-still. We are the ones who were forced to punch on the ‘Pause’ button fervently, lest the Corona virus catches us unprepared!

Some people in their ignorance have claimed that the Nature is seeking ‘Revenge’! Really? Mother Nature is too magnanimous and mighty to resort to take revenge. While writing this line, the picture of my nani(grandmother) started floating in front of my eyes. Just like the Earth, she has nurtured us from the time we were born. She cooked sumptuous meals for us. She was always available with a big smile and arms out stretched to give a warm embrace. She would tell us stories (unfortunately my nani’s story bank was limited to Swarn hiran or raja Harishchandra) and sing lullabies. As we grew up and we became busy in our world, we forgot all the sacrifices and favours she did for us. In the teenage years, we must have rebelled against her. Slowly, the distance between us grew. She slowed down with the passage of time and we did not bother to press that ‘Pause’ button to walk besides her. But do you think she would ever avenge this indifference on our part? No! Never! Why? Did I hear you mumble the words, “she is too magnanimous and strong to take revenge”? Exactly!!

The same goes for our selfless, generous and forgiving mother Nature (supported by the Earth). It can never avenge our actions. The Earth has been here since billions of years. It supported the Ice Age, nurtured humongous dinosaurs. It also survived the impact of asteroids in the past. Then the Earth further evolved and humans started to walk on it. They spread their wings, claimed the bounties of Nature and later exploited them.

The planet is, was and always will be stronger than us. We can’t destroy it; if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing.

Paulo Coelho

We have learnt our lessons, realised our follies. And now, the humans are the ones who will heal the Nature. Yes, collectively we will lockdown our arrogance, our pride, our indifference and cultivate compassion, positivity to coexist with the other creatures on this Earth! The ‘lock down’ is the right opportunity. It has given us time to think, reflect and assess our actions. Our inaction is already healing the environment. Let’s make a firm resolve to be minimalists and live in harmony with the Nature.

Let’s Zoom

We are all experiencing a ‘lockdown’ for the first time ever in our lives. The WHO has instructed social distancing to curb the menace of COVID 19. Invariably everyone is stuck in their homes. The Sapiens are using social media to stay connected. And the Zoom software seems the best viable solution.

I too resorted to Zoom. Afterall, there is no other way to bring the mini-minuscule world to you. Don’t be deceived though. I use the Zoom feature of a camera.

Look at the picture. Take a closer look at the area marked with the circle. And now I use Zoom!!

What do you see? Do you notice the white protrusions? It is the beautiful nest of a minuscule being. The nest was well concealed within the stalks. The question arises how did I notice the nest in the potted plant.

The answer to it is that firstly, I had ample time at hand all thanks to the ‘lockdown’ and secondly, I was certain that there was a reason why Mr. Spider was on vigil. It did seem that he was resting on the blades. But my inquisitiveness lead me to look up and look down. Soon, I saw the nest and figured out that he must have been left behind by Mrs. Spider while she was running errands.

I call my discovery the Durrell effect. Gerald Durrell, the naturalist has brought me closer to nature and its sentient beings. He introduced me to a world I never knew existed around me.

In this period of seclusion, you too go ahead, explore a new world. Use Zoom, the Zoom feature of your camera.

“Make physical connection with Nature while you practice social distancing with Sapiens.”

Charuthebuddha