Lakshadweep sojourn

How wonderful it is to be able to write! To convey your thoughts… to sit and pick up a pen… to put your thoughts into words. Of course, once I do put them into words, I find I can only express a fraction of what I want to say. But that’s all right. I’m happy to just be able to feel the need to write. And so I am writing. It’s 2.30 in the afternoon, I’ve had my lunch and I’ve just finished bathing after returning from a dive.

The place is silent, and it’s bright and sunny. I am sitting on the jetty, the water is transparent as thin air, but I can’t see a single fish through the water. I usually see a lot of fish under the jetty, but not today, with the low tide set in, they all seem to have gone somewhere else. Everyone here knows a lot about the scientific names of fish and fishy things, and they tell me “That’s Pterois volitans ” or “That’s Acanthurus lineateus“. They probably learn whether they want to or not because there’s nothing to do here once you are on the land. Speaking to them, I realize how ignorant I am of the fishy things, which is kind of nice. Just as each person has certain idiosyncrasies in the way he or she walks, people around me have idiosyncrasies in the way they think and feel and see things.

There are five of us living in this house. It is a small enough house for a field base, filled with all necessary things. At times the place is so quite that I sometimes feel that this is the normal, real world, which of course it’s not! We can have it this way because we are among the privileged few, who are here with a purpose. I swim and dive almost every day. Sometimes we divide ourselves into teams and collect data and at times we all dive together. I enjoy being in the water and I like watching the fish. They look very expressive—sad, happy, curious and worried. When I am absorbed in watching them, I go through all these emotions and lose track of the data I am supposed to collect.

 

We eat fish almost every day, mostly tuna. There is a cooking facility in the house but we prefer to eat out in the neighbouring small restaurant. They serve paratha, fish curry and rice besides vegetables and fruits, and I feel less and less like eating anything else because the tuna is so fresh and delicious. Sometimes we walk to the main jetty where people stand and fish for hours. We often meet expert fishermen (come to think, this place is crawling with expert fishermen) and all of them have their great fishing stories to keep us engaged in conversation. The island has only one main road and there are houses on either side of the road. The house structures are simple; four walls, tiled or thatched roof and the white wash on the wall—mainly built with coralline rock. There are few animals, mostly goats, few chickens and cats. And that is all! Besides these, there are no animals, which is kind of strange.

I am in the islands to help and learn from my colleagues who are studying sea-grass, turtles, groupers and coral reef. So far, I have visited three islands and there are two more islands that I might visit. The only real problem with this place is that I don’t feel like leaving—or rather I am afraid to leave. I feel fresh and very, very calm. I am not tense about anything. Every day, I am working on some aspect of my thesis. The work is progressing well and I am thoroughly enjoying every bit of time. There are a few more days before I return to the mainland. Clean air, a quiet world cut-off from the outside, a daily schedule, packed with activities. These good feelings are probably what I need at this point in life.

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Image-ning

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I imagine all sorts of things when I see this image – in original.

And what confounds me is that I always think that this picture is the reality— bits and pieces of something frozen  in time.  I see things in it. And every time what I see is different from the previous one.

In one corner, group of tiny fish are having a meeting on escaping strategies from predators.  They are communicating softly, so that, the predators outside shouldn’t  hear. Outside big fish are having another meeting and the leader of the predator sharks, is giving a lecture on ten successful hunting strategies for tiny prey.  Darkness is fighting with brightness. It is absorbing the glares of brightness and brightness is exposing the nakedness of darkness. A man is holding a diamond ring, asking his beloved partner to spend rest of the life with him. Just in time brightness exposes the dark side of the man.

It’s not that these things or their reflection exists in the image; they just run over in my mind—and I feel their presence in the image. Perhaps I don’t sound convincing. You may think I am cooking thing up—misleading you to see non-existent things in the existing image. But isn’t it true that every picture holds a story—some give obvious details, while others let loose your mind a little and force you to imagine things.

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Footnote: I clicked this image in South Button island in Richies Archipelago

On Getting lost

A tourist wanting to visit Harihareshwar in Konkan asked me, “Excuse me, can you please tell us where Harihareshwar is?” I said, “Well, take the1st right, then the 2nd  left and then head straight.” The tourist said, “Thank you.” I nodded, the tourist vehicle drove off in one direction and I in the other. After a while, I stopped and asked a passerby in exactly the same manner in which the  tourist had asked, “Excuse me, can you please tell me where Alibagh is?”

It seemed that I was constantly lost during the entire trip—which was not surprising because I was a tourist, and for the tourists it is not just an occupational hazard but a moral obligation to be lost. Because how else can you claim to have truly experienced a place unless you literally lose yourself in it?

I had started from Harnai coast and Mumbai was a final destination. I left at eleven after visiting a nearby temple. The initial few kilometers were easy; there were few vehicles on the road and a few potholes. After riding for a while, I entered a coastal village, Anjarala. It was afternoon and the village was quiet. A typical coastal village with old mud houses, coconut and arecanut trees. I clicked a few pictures, watched the village surroundings and continued without asking people for directions.

Then the ride got slightly less interesting. The afternoon sun was right above my head—though flaming hot it did not bother me due to the gentle breeze and the view of the sea. I was maintaining a constant speed and occasionally scanning the undulating landscape. The next I passed two coastal villages, Kelashi and Aada, with its towering temples, a magical symphony set in stone and its maze of narrow lanes with ancient houses leaning toward each other as if whispering gossip.

After a while of riding in hot and humid conditions (it was midday, remember), I took a break. I rested for half an hour ate something and set-off on  the next part of my journey. Within 15 minutes of the ride I climbed a steeper slope—a famous ghat which one has to pass on the way to Mumbai. Easy enough rides, a few potholes, some small rocks and turns less difficult than I imagined. I haven’t done a lot of riding in ghats, so I was being super-careful with my riding technique. The ghat was tough at one point, but I managed quite well. Then I passed a few cozy villages—Rajpuri, Ranvali and Velas, until I  reached a too-perfect-to-be-real kind of landscape from where I took my bullet across a river on a 30 minute ferry ride. I kept asking people for directions just to check if I was on the right track. At one point, I stopped, took some pictures and when I tried re-starting, the bike refused to start. Damn! What will happen if the bike does not start? But before I could delve further into the situation, the bullet started thumping. The journey after this was not so exciting. The road was bad, the heat was unbearable, the feeling of hunger had vanished and butt was sore—after a while the only thought on my mind was getting back home. Later in the day, I took very few stops and by the night I reached my destination.

The most interesting thing of the trip was that wherever I went, I found myself lost, asking people for directions. And of course the people I asked couldn’t tell me anything that I wanted to know. Not because they were unfriendly or unhelpful people — but I was asking people who themselves knew nothing about the place or directions!

It happens all the time: people inevitably and invariably end-up losing themselves when they visit a new place. The reason for this of course is that by being tourists you don’t know the roads, landmarks and any directions to your final destinations—yes this does not happen when you are visiting a place with a guided tour, but otherwise you end-up losing your way no matter how much you plan.

When you think of it, in a way all of us are lost and not just when we are away on holiday and engaged in tourist-like activities — but all the time, wherever we are. Because it’s likely that you, and almost everyone you know, though physically present at a place, are lost in some continuum of space and time.

For example, while writing this post from NCF’s guest house my mind is racing with all sorts of thoughts—of my work, my thesis, the deadlines I have to meet and of the Lakshadweep islands—a next destination on my wish list. Blame my mind which keeps skipping and turning at odd bends, and I don’t seem to be able to do much about it.

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For that matter everyone is lost from the present moment. And this is true not just for myself and yourself, but of us as a whole. For isn’t everything an illusion, on which we are all riding like on a giant roller-costar, chasing the mirage of things that do not exist, and of things that do .

The old man and an old house

From the outside it looked a nice enough house: sun-bleached brown clay walls with clay tiles for the roofing and wooden windows painted blue. It was an old house, the sort you would imagine as a heritage structure, with a history of people and an essence of the place. There was an air of being lived-in and a feeling of coming of age. You know the type! I had not yet taken a look at the entire house but it seemed fairly large with a huge well in the middle of the courtyard. The yard, enclosed by a waist-high laterite-block wall, topped with a thick growth of moss, had a few flowering plants and no other greenery, except for the tall coconut and areca-nut trees.

I was in Harnai to help a fishery biologist friend of mine, who was studying the impact of fisheries on juvenile fishes, and finding a place to stay was amongst our preliminary agenda.

The house belonged to an old man. He was about seventy years old, I would say. Though his features were not exceptional there was something peculiar that caught my attention. Gray hair, thick eyebrows, a squarish jaw and spectacles that attested a stubborn, never-go-back-on-your-word temperament. He was wearing a faded white shirt and a pair of pajamas. Through sleep-dulled eyes, he gave me the most unbothered look, pretending he was the busiest man in the world.

Then the old man opened the lock of one of the rooms. The old lock, the old key, and the old door made distinct sounds, each different from the other. My friend and I stepped into our room. Inside, it was pitch dark and stuffy, full of hot and stuffy air. Only the thinnest silvery light entered into the room from the cracks between tightly closed windows. I could not make out a thing, just flickering specks of airborne dust. The old man opened windows. Instantly the room was swept with brilliant sunlight and a cool southern breeze.

The room was typically old, built-in the Konkan style of architecture. Study desk by the window, small wooden-framed bed—not the old type though. Bed sheets and pillowcases were of the same colour, cupboard inside the wall, a mirror in one corner and ten big wooden pegs embedded in the stone walls. Overall, I would say the room was refreshingly uncluttered and just enough to serve as a field base.   In no time we settled, cleaned the place, and got ready to explore the village. I got out of the room, closed the open windows and sat in front of the courtyard.

The old man was sitting on the wall, making brooms from coconut leaves. I said hello and waited for my friend to get ready. He had been watching and following my line of vision all along but seemed to be thinking of something entirely different. His eyes were turned in my direction, at the same time he was doing his work meticulously. Yet he wasn’t seeing or saying anything. Then the old man asked me questions, the typical ones. What do I do? How long do I plan to stay? … and so on. Then he spoke of things of his day-to-day-life—of his kids and his grandchildren, of the generation gap between youngsters and elders, of his house and its history, of village life and its politics. He had a peculiar way of saying things, softly of things he agreed with and loudly of things he did not. Everything had a philosophy attached, and the meaning far more profound than I had imagined. Then all of a sudden he stopped talking completely. I looked expectantly at his expressive face, thinking he would continue. But he said nothing. He continued his work, while I stared at him.

He seemed oblivious of my presence that I wondered if I was imagining the conversation. I started to say something to dispel the sudden quiet, and stopped. The picture was too perfect to be spoilt by sound. The old man in his old house…..

Bug got bugged

My destination was coastal village Harnai.

Gentle, grassland covered on one side and on the other a vastness of emerald blue. The village was silent. Everything was dead quiet. Kind of like a siesta time. I parked my bike, stretched out on a nearby pole and casually watched the village. Positioning myself away from the village, I could hear all kind of things. I could even hear the churning of waves on the nearby shore.

In one yard, were two small boys in their school uniform fighting with each other. Their fighting made shrill sounds that echoed over the entire village. From an open window came the sound of somebody playing “a petty and tabala” a traditional music of the place. Crazy male cock was going crazy in the middle of afternoon. Right in front of my eyes, a bug was inching along a blade of grass. Occasional vehicles passed at roaring speeds and clouds of red dust disappeared slowly. In a while that same tiny bug came very close to where I was standing, paused, thought things over a while, and then decided to go back the same way it came.

I wondered if the presence of outsiders bugged bugs? 

Forgotten fact

I got-up early in the morning, packed my bag, oiled my 350 standard bullet and left for the Konkan coast with my father.

The morning sun was shining in the corner with the kind of reflecting, silvery light you sometimes see on exceptional days. As I headed out of the city, the wind grew brisk, the surroundings greener. Gentle, stately hills, were rolling down to rows of different trees on either flank. I watched them intently.

Almost after an hour, other vehicles noise got lesser and the bullet thump got louder. It was a weekday so few vehicles passed on the busy Bombay-Goa highway.

A steady speed and the surrounding wind was refreshing. The simmering heat of the lawns and the smell of dry dirt came on stronger; the clouds were outlined sharp against the sky. A fantastic weather. Perfect for taking a little summer day trip with a girl somewhere. I thought of cool sea and hot sand, coconut water and the crisp fry fish. With hot breeze heating my face I was lost in a day-dream.

I started to wander further into the depths of my day-dream, when I suddenly pressed the breaks. I realized that I had been so deeply engrossed in my solitary musings, that I had forgotten the fact that my father was a pillion rider.

Finding patterns

Being an ecology student I have known and learnt that all ecological processes follow distinct patterns. And recently I discovered patterns exist, not only in ecology, but also in us. The finding of the inner pattern of ‘I’ has been recent.  Few months back I was in a difficult situation, which left me profoundly disturbed.  I was unable to concentrate on anything.  I felt emotionally in tatters and wallowed in my misery. I buried myself in thoughts and analysed and re-analysed every event of the past. I was hurting people unintentionally. Everything was dull then, the weather, the temperature, the smell, the taste. I felt people were only memories. The past history was not allowing me to take proper decisions and  questions kept boggling my mind… “Why does this keep happening to me? What is next? Why does it always happens to me? and will it happen again?”

As I sat thinking, trapped in a vicious victim mode, my mind travelled to the past. I had faced a similar situation, where I had been unable to concentrate on anything. Back then it was vulnerable time.  But thinking back now, I realized that as time passed and I ventured into different things, I had gotten out of the situation without being conscious of it.

My thought process in the current scenario almost echoed what I felt back then. My heart sank and jaw dropped as I sat with this eye-opening revelation of how I could react so similarly in different situations. How is this possible? I realised in that time-stopping moment that the only real common denominator in both the situations was…me. For the first time, I was shocked into a harsh, yet necessary, reality about myself.

If I had listened to the current me, stuck in a victim mode, and not thought back to the past, I would have never discovered that this was a pattern. “I have patterns?!” wow!  By being unaware of the concept of even having patterns, I wasn’t learning from my past experiences, dooming myself to recreating the same reality for myself over and over. It’s no wonder then, that I was so profoundly unhappy on such a core level.

After this discovery, a whole new world has opened-up. I am not looking back in time, but living each day and each moment, in my usual carefree style. In fact this discovery of patterns has given me a new positive energy. With this on some level, however, I intuitively know that this has been a good thing, irrespective of the consequences.

My past experience have given me an opportunity to learn more about myself and my unhealthy “patterns” (and yes, we all have more than one) in order to be able to change them and create new healthier ones to replace them.

I love my bicycle

 

Fomas Roadking (Photo credit:Vardhan Patankar)
Enter a caption deluxe

 

The bike is entry level bicycle in the market by the Chinese manufacturer. It has Shimano entry level shifter, a steel frame and drops bar handles. The saddle is pretty basic and not comfortable to ride for more than 10 km a day. I bought this bike for my regular commute. So far I have done approximately 300 km and I find the bike to be steady and smooth but not great with control.

 

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Fomas Roadking Delux model

 

The most important thing I like about it is the colour—red and white. These colours are often used to speedy sports cars, as they define speed. I don’t know if I will ever win the actual race riding this bicycle, but the colour of the bike has already won the race of my heart. I love it!

Wecome!

Hello world!

I live and work in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. This is my first post on the WordPress blog. The idea of having a blog is rather simple. It is to share my general views and thoughts when tides of confusion wash through. I will be posting photographs and writing about many things —ranging from biking, photography, writing, gadgets, wildlife, movies to about anything and everything. The focus however is not so much on what my view or posts are, but on the conversations that might begin through comments, suggestions, criticism or questions from you.

So welcome to the Psychedelic nostalgia of my wondering mind!