Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#48. Oh world! oh life! oh times! On whose steps I climb

Bachcha the cousin  closeset to me died yesterday. He passed away in his
sleep in the night. Probably the best type of death you can have. Not like some
who shit and pee in bed for months together before they decide to leave this world.
This closes a  chapter in my life. Barring another cousin I am now the seniormost
male member in my family. During the last one month itself my uncle and my  cousin passed away. Was it only a coincidence that both of them a few days before they died spoke to me on phone, and not for any special puropose, but just like that? Did they know that they were leaving this world soon? Was it some kind of premonition or sixth sense or was it just coincidental? A few months back I met an old class mate of mine Laxmi Narain Pastore in Jhansi after more than 40 years. I remembered that he was living in Jhansi after retirement. With some effort I could find his place, stayed with him for an hour or so. Only a couple of weeks later his daughter rang me and informed that he passed away after being in diabetic coma for a few days. I don’t know whether that should also be called coincidental! I cannot but remember Kabir:

माली आवत  देख कर कलियाँ करें पुकार 
फूल फूल को चुन लिया काल हमारी बारि
‘Seeing the gardener the buds cry that today he will take away the ones that have bloomed, and tomorrow it will be their turn.’

Or Firaq when he said:
सब मरहले हयात के तय कर के मैं फ़िराक 
बैठा हुआ हूँ मौत में ताखीर देख कर मैं
‘I have covered all milestones in the world, and now I am sitting with my feet dangling in the grave as the death is delayed.’

Not that I am afraid, but yes , I certainly want that I should have as peaceful a death  as Bachcha.

Several memories haunt me. The one I remember most vividly is the long walk we used to have in the morning when he used to visit Ghazipr, my native place. It was from our place to Bheeta (our old farmhouse developed lovingly by my great-grandfather, and which was later sold by one of my uncles) and then on to Badrinath ka Pokhra. This last lap we  used to cover running.  I think this walk was about 4 km, half of it on dirt road. That reminds me of those who used to return from Dadri ka Mela, in the nearby district of Ballia. If you saw a person totally covered in dust from head to foot with clothes having the same  hue and state you immediately recognized that he was Dadri returned. Mela is interesting relic of olden days which has continued to   this day at several places. The most famous  in North India is Sonepur ka Mela . To accommodate the rush of passengers coming by train for the Mela, the British made the longest railway platform in the country at Sonepur railway station. It was meter guage at that time and I hope it is broad guage now. It was a congregation of men and animals, with several shops which traveling salesmen used to take from place to place. Sonepur is easily the biggest cattle fair in the country where you can buy anything from elephants and horses to bullocks, cows and water buffaloes. Almost all the Melas were at the harvest time, and they were basically cattle fair. The famous Gwalior mela started as a cattle fair only. It is held in December-January every year.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

#47. Suburban Living and the Birds

After my retirement from a government job, I moved into this house in the outer extremity of the municipal corporation of Gwalior in 2007 summer, and in spite of curses from the better half everyday for choosing this place and area as my
final abode, I have never regretted a day living here. Only this afternoon there was the rustle of leaves  disturbed by the winter wind,and the constant chirping of the birds roosting in the bamboo thicket. There was pin-drop silence and the sun was in full glory giving much-needed warmth all around, and I thought I would mention it here. I have a borewell, and though the water is barely sufficient for my multifarious needs, I surrounded myself in greenery in no time. Greenery means insects and insects attract birds. Young trees and a full grown Tecoma tree which for some unexplained reason
died, and turned into a snag, the bamboo thicket and the acacia nilotica tree in the  next plot just across my boundary wall have turned into a readymade roost for the sparrows and bulbuls. Here is the checklist of all the birds  I have seen here
during these years:

  1. House crows (very rarely)
  2. Grey hornbill
  3. Blue green pigeon
  4. Green pigeon
  5. Common dove
  6. ring dove
  7. Spotted dove
  8. Common  mynah
  9. Brahminy mynah
  10. Pied mynah
  11. Red-vented bulbul
  12. White-cheeked bulbul (only once recently)
  13. Coucal
  14. Babbler
  15. Tree pie
  16. Drongo
  17. Grey hornbill
  18. Blue Rock Pigeon
  19. Green Pigeon
  20. Blue-tailed  bee eater
  21. Blue-cheeked bee-eater
  22. White breasted Kingfisher
  23. Red wattled Lapwing
  24. Black-winged stilt
  25. Small egret
  26. Lesser whistling teal (one pair during the rains
  27. when there is a pond near my plot)
  28. .Shikra
  29. Indian robin
  30. Magpie robin
  31. Babbler
  32. Koel