Red Wattled Lapwing (Juvenile)

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At Moti Virani

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The Miracle

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“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marvelling at birds and revelling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”
Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir

I read that quote at Cedo centre in Moti Virani in Kutch and it made me stop and think, the world is abundant of things to marvel at and revelling in ain’t it? If you want to that is, if you are able to stop for a moment, pause, breathe, think and let it dawn upon you! How busy have we become in our routines that we have just stopped noticing so many wonderful things around us. Let us endeavour to just give things one moment more, let us soak up things around us, find the joy of small things and I am quite sure they can make us so much more thankful to this world around us! 🙂

The age long argument!

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Man : Listen you woman, we are lost!

Woman : All thanks to you!

M : Whoa… my folly?

W: Who else??

M : You made me lose the way…

W: Well had you actually asked that villager we met at the last bend we would have known the right way…

M : But well that turn we took was right….

W: Yea and you were confused there after at the very next fork…

M: But that turn was right.

W: So you mean coz you were lost at the fork and I suggested this way, its coz of me??

M: I should have gone with my instincts. Your female sense of direction sucks!

W: You and your male instincts, you were unsure, really lost and so you heard my opinion!

M: Whatever, thanks to hearing your wise opinion we are now tired, thirsty and lost

W: I have a bottle of water in my back pack!

M : Oh wow!

W: But its for me.

M: Awww… come on, sweetheart

W: Keep walking.

M: But I am thirsty you know.

W: I couldn’t care less.

M: A man could die of thirst you know.

W: Look there is our camp!

M: Wow!

W: Here you can have the water.

M: Sigh… You were right…

W: Well you were right about the bend too!

~

Mujo Kutchdo Baare Maas!

Shiyade sorath bhalo…

Unade gujrat..

Chaumase vagad bhalo..

Mujo Kuchdo Bare Maass

~

English Translation of the above : 

In winter Sorath(Saurashtra)’s better..

In summer it’s Gujarat

In monsoon it’s Vagad

My Kutch all 12 months..

The above lines are said in praise of my native land, to be fair and honest, I never visited there till two years back, which was my first trip, even after my first trip, which largely involved temples and some over populated tourist places that too in the peak days of Diwali I wasn’t really a fan of the place. I always wondered if poets were just being patriotic to their native place and would have just sung in their own deep love for the place.

I believe in most cases first impression is always the wrong impression, give everything/everyone another chance and so it happened again. In the company of more knowledgable people and getting to know the right places to see and also getting so much information about the land I am pretty much a fan now! I confess this here, today, now!

There is so much to discover in this one district that it amazes me!

Can you imagine how the ocean would look like if all the water from it disappeared??? Well this land was under sea once!

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Wouldn’t the floor look a tad like this??? Those who have done snorkeling or scuba can surely relate!!

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What if you could walk on the ocean floor devoid of all water and discover fossils left right and centre??

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What if you could discover the remains of an extinct volcano and see it for yourself???

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Well, not telling you everything right away, but well if you are intrigued remember Kutch! Any time of the year! 😀

Bird Watching

Honestly, till before I bought my camera, I was never inclined in watching birds or identifying them, I did know a few species that were common but nothing more than that. Its the camera’s advent in my life and simultaneously friends like Shail, IHM and Sangeeta that I slowly but surely started identifying the birds. Once into the identifying thing, I realised how little we took notice of such pretty creatures, even though some of them were so near us we knew so little about them. After beginning to identify thanks to these buddies, internet and FB Group like the Indian birds, I have noted that as many as 19 different species visit my garden!!!! I never knew so many different fella’s actually came about to take a look at me every year!

The Birds of Indian Subcontinent (book), internet amazingly aided in the keen interest that was not developing. In fact since I started noticing these birds and I am thankful once again to my lovely friends Shail, Ihm and Sangeeta for this I have realised that every step I take outdoors is now so much more interesting than before, that so many of these fellas are there to be looked at, identified and noted albeit in the mind!

The day my friend Nitinbhai sent me the details of the Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat’s program of bird watching in Kutch I had decided that I was going to go. It was a total no-brainer, I knew that perhaps the best season is probably still about 50 days away but I wanted to find out the places where to look more than anything. What I did not anticipate was the fact that I was going to be amidst a crowd of hard core bird watchers (read lovers), Ornithologists, Botanists, Conservationalists and Environment activists!

It was fascinating to listen to these folks either when I asked them something or whilst they conversed with each other. To be frank I felt tiny, there was so little I knew about the world around us and I wondered what the hell was I doing all this while? So many questions never arised in my mind about how what happened and why? The finer details of all things around us amazed me and that there are so many people who actually look out for these things and appreciate it and try to understand solve the puzzle is surely something to be appreciated.

I also met one very senior bird watcher, Mr Shantilal Varu, apparently he has been keenly into bird watching and record keeping since over 50 years!!!! I found it quite staggering really, in an age when no such bird books were available as easily, there was no internet how this gentleman went about watching birds and identifying them. Fortunately for me, he was in our jeep at all times during this trip and I absolutely was amazed by the amount of knowledge the man had gathered about birds from so many years of observing them, he could tell us their traits, flight patterns, their call types and so much more. Also he would just not guess any bird unless he got a clear sight of it. Everything thing he saw, he would carefully note it down in small writing pad he had at all times. He then regularly transfer’s all this records into a diary that he maintains which could be useful for bird record keeping! Quite intriguing to me how much a man can love something and how dedicated and disciplined he becomes thanks to it. Simple pleasures of life I guess are just around us, its only about when do we realise them!

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All in all I must confess I am falling in love with this activity, yes, perhaps I will never be as dedicated to this one thing or be very disciplined about record keeping and yet I must say this bird watching is enthralling. 🙂

Since we are onto the bird watching theme, here is one passage migrant, a first timer for me, Red Backed Shrike, that Mr. Shantilal helped me identify. This Red Backed Shrike is a carnivorous passerine bird of the Shrike family, also known as the butcher bird for the way it consumes its prey. You can visit here to see how it holds its prey and eats it. This bird breeds in most of Europe and western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. Whilst it makes its journey to Africa for about a month in September you can spot them in Kutch! Amazing traveller these birds are I tell you! Here are a few shots of it that I managed to capture! 🙂

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Ray of Light in Kutch!

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Every day, every moment of this life, I realise how little I know, so many new things just keep on cropping up I cannot quite fathom how will I ever get to know it all! Perhaps, that is too vague a wish to have, but, then life is so intriguing that I cant help but want to know more and more and more, too bad its too short!

Just finished a three day early migration birding trip in my native land, this time in the company of ornithologists, botanists, environmentalists, naturalists, conservation minded and nature loving folks of BCSG (Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat) the experience I hope will stay with me forever and I will not forget so much I learnt about this world of ours in these last three days.

The fact that it was just my second visit to Kutch, my ancestral native land, the so called desert made me feel how occupied I have been in so many trivial things in life where as I had such a great opportunity so nearby to visit a wonderland of information, natural treasures, history and yet I have constantly ignored it. Hopefully this is just the beginning and more forays into this very interesting world will keep on going.

Most importantly, the company you have is of extreme importance. Mr Jugal Kishore Tiwari of CEDO (Centre for Desert and Ocean) is a virtual walking encyclopedia about the land, its history, its ecology, he was our host and guide this time round!! Every question you would ask him would be answered to utmost satisfaction! He also featured in this documentary on Discovery and I would recommend all of you to watch it. For me I am certainly going to visit him again with loads of questions and also to hear his stories and his experiences!

Fascinated and hooked I hope to share a lot of what I learnt in Kutch in the last three days here and also hope I will be frequenting the place and learning more about it myself! 🙂

Like I said I have just seen a ray of light in Kutch! 🙂

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Udte chale hawa mein…

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Have you ever sat on top of an open van?
Felt the strong gust of air in your face??
Let your hair flying lose as the vehicle roared ahead?!

Having experienced this feeling quite a few times, I must tell you there is a unique fun in doing it. Its simple pure fun! 🙂 Whilst on our way to the beach in Mandvi, we spotted these girls sitting carefree and chit chatting, eventually I told my wife to grab the camera and click them. Whilst most were kind to smile and laugh at us to take the picture there is this one shy girl who has covered her face by her handkerchief! 🙂 There is this older lady there who has an elephant sized nose ring as my wife noticed! and the kids… as you can see them… busy feeling the wind! 😀

Mera gaon…

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Yes, I am from the west, actually! 😀 😀 No wonder that line used to be a synonym of the word cool or hep! 😛 😛

However, I must confess, this is my first trip to my gaon, having taken birth in Mumbai and brought up in Mumbai, Jamnagar, Bharuch I actually had very little connect with my western native. The fact that my father has also not been to Kutch till date means very little connection realistically speaking. In my heart I will always belong to Bharuch and yet this connection beckoned. I wanted to see the place my ancestors hail from. A lot of the Kutchi’s have spread far and wide across the country establishing themselves in business’ largely and jobs to certain extent. I guess the fact that the place is not that fertile the people were perhaps forced to seek greener pasture’s but the fact that actually stumped me all through my visit to this place was how green it was, perhaps, the fact that I went there with an image in mind that it must be brown yellow dusty place it surprised me even more. Take a look at the picture of my village (interesting how it becomes my village so naturally)

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This take from the top of the Jain Derasar in the village show’s no trace of any dry area. Albeit, that Jakhau is quite near to the sea, infact in ancient times this used to be a very famous port. When I studied Parsi history I also came to know that the Parsi’s first touched base in India at Jakhau Bandar(Port) and there are old stories that very fair god’s came by ship to Jakhau! 🙂 Oh I love such stories I tell you! 😀

The village has no pucca road’s and has dusty narrow street’s full of peacock’s by the way! There were quite a few peacock’s always running to safety. It was great to bring my wife and son along with mom to this place, my mother’s family house is still intact, where as my dad’s family land is something that me and my cousin sister have made a pact to one day find out and claim it between us! 😛

Apparently, a long long time back, when my mom’s grand parents used to live here our Kul Devta (family god) appeared in the kitchen when some wall broke and a statue appeared. Now that is how the story has been told to me and that is what I am telling you. They have a small temple cabinet there. Once my Mama(maternal uncle) wanted to get a proper construction around the God done and get proper marble temple made but the god came in the body of a Bhua ( folks who get spirits in their body and answer your questions about your future and confusions ) told him to not show them his money and to leave them as they are!!! So till date they stay unmoved and no other construction is done there.

I have heard a lot of stories about spirits entering bodies of people, apparently it is more popularly believed in these parts. I will say it all adds a touch of mystique to the whole story and I kinda like that. So it stay’s as they tell me. A non-believer I remain, however, its none of my business to change anything here. Here is a picture of the ancestral house

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The highlight of the village is the Jain temple here which unlike most Jain temples which are completely white this one is a coloured version, whilst inside the temple photograph’s are not allowed, they did permit to click pictures of the walls outside.

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The village also has a lovely lake that had birds about, but it was late evening by the time I reached the lake and hence poor light to shoot birds. However, these kids were happy to pose in front of the lake.

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Last but not the least was the dinner at the Bhojanshala (Dining room in the Dharamshala) was super awesome. I have not eaten Baajri(Pearl Millet) ka Rotla that was this sweet ever, not coz it was my village but seriously I have eaten Bajri ka rotla at tonnes of places, however, this one was in a league of its own. We had the yummiest of Baajri Ka Rotla, Choli(green beans) ka subzi, Khichdi and Kadhi ever for dinner at 6pm before we left for our hotel in Bhuj. Yup Jain Dharamshala’s don’t serve food after sunset.

The visit was short and crisp, although I would once again like to go back and stay in Jakhau for more than a day and probably mingle more with the local’s here. I left the place with a full stomach and an image of my village in my head which is clearer now. 🙂