Saturday, October 10, 2015

Droplets of light

Life is like the moon. It has phases-illusions, that seem real to the observer. It's easy to see the brighter side of things on a full moon night, isn't it? It's the darker phases that are a challenge. 

But then there are myriads of sparks around us, waiting for our miraculous gaze to raise them above their commonness, waiting to tell us that divinity exists despite our doubts, waiting to light up our moonless nights. Or may be it's their very ordinariness that makes them beautiful.

If you've traveled by Mumbai local trains, you'd know what a melting pot of human beings- hot, irritated, packed together too close-they are. Add to it filthy surroundings and the abject poverty of the beggars and vendors. Yet, the twinkling eyes and toothy grin of an unwashed urchin is sometimes enough to bring a smile to your face. The women's compartments have the advantage of attracting flower sellers. The jasmine gajras pale in front of the golden champaks. I can smell them from far and their lasting, intoxicating fragrance is something I just can't resist. I end up buying a few which the lady wraps in a leaf. I cross the Thane Creek at Vashi to go to work everyday. Flamingoes-those living fossils-feed so close to the train tracks along the water that it's the closest I've seen them from , though without the advantage of binoculars. Arriving in Mumbai by the end of winter, and staying throughout summer, most of these are lesser flamingoes, with greater flamingoes making an occasional appearance. What a joy it is to watch these pink beauties filter-feed with their teapot-like beaks!


Chavar/Wild arrowroot-Hitchenia caulina
Sonki-Senecio grahamii

And if you're overcome with monsoon blues, all you have to do is step out and look around, as nature is literally bursting out into magical shapes and colours from unimaginable places. Grasses, mosses and fiddleheads of ferns soothe the eye and a great variety of flowers, sizes varying from teeny to huge add colour to nature's canvas.
It is quite unbelievable how so many plants that lie dormant throughout the year sprout up while conditions are favourable, and delight us so in the process. The otherwise rugged Sahyadris get adorned -flowers of wild arrowroot, sonki, various ground orchids, and many many more.
Sonki carpet

To my great surprise, as I was once returning from Pune on a monday morning in August, I saw a flaming Glory Lily among the bushes by the roadside near the signal on the Vashi highway. A lone flower that had bloomed stubbornly by a crowded junction full of honking, smoke spewing vehicles.

Glory Lily- Gloriosa superba
So, here I am, enjoying yet another blessed evening and pondering about life. I'm sipping ginger tea sitting in my terrace, overlooking mangroves and the sea. I've been scouring the skies to see if the Peregrine Falcon is flying around today, but no sight of the helmeted-fighter pilot. It sure is a special bird- the only 'interesting' raptor that you can see around the year in Mumbai, and of course the fastest bird of prey on earth! The post monsoon sky is changing from pink to purple against a flock of black-headed ibises flying past me. The fruit bats will start heading east soon; my cue to go inside the house.

Photo credit: The flamingoes and Glory Lily have been shot by Mayur. Special thanks to Mr. Prashant Awale for the beautiful pictures of Sonki and Chavar.