Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking into the Eyes of a King

On my recent trip to Kenya I had one unforgettable moment in life. Coming face to face with a fully grown African male lion. Simba as they call in Swahili.

Well it was our first day at the world famous masai mara reserve in Kenya. Supposed to be numero uno when it comes to wildlife reserve. On par with the slightly more famous Serengeti plains in Tanzania bordering Kenya. A place where I hope to go in the future to catch the annual wildebeest migration.

We three woke up really early even before the sun was up, closed our tent and greeted our guide/driver (Douglas) with the one Swahili word that all the tourists seemed to know and what we had learned first. The African greeting…“Jambo” (hi in Swahili).

We set out in our open roof van, early morning at 6.30 am just as the sun was rising in the horizon, turning the sky in to an orange glow.

The rising sun

We saw impalas and zebras grazing lazily. They seemed least bothered as our vehicle rumbled on, breaking the serene silence of the savanna.

Various Herbivores grazing

Now this is what you call a "Zebra Crossing"

Then we came across a herd of African elephants. They were huge compared to their Asian counterparts. They crossed right in front of our van and walked by as if we didn’t even exist.

The last Elephant crossing right in front of us

The two things that I really wanted to see were a pride of lions and a cheetah and if really lucky a leopard. Leopards are heard more often than seen. They are nocturnal and often hunt in the night and laze on top of trees during day time. I had seen one in Indian jungle. So I was prepared to miss the leopard, one of the “Big Five”, the others being Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and of course lions, the king of the jungle.

And so there we were, driving on through the tall grass. I had chosen to go to Kenya right after the rains. It’s between the low season and the high season. The low season being the months of the long rains. Mar to May end and the high season being July to Oct, that’s when the wildebeests arrive at the mara in the millions from the Serengeti plains, on the way crossing the crocodile infested mara river. A scene nearly everyone would have seen in animal planet/national geographic channel.

The world renowned Mara River where the wildebeest's cross

After a while, Douglas spotted something in the distance. All I could see was a lone vulture sitting on top of a small tree. But he seemed to be looking at a small patch of thick bush right next to it. I realized there was some dead animal in the bush. But what was keeping the vulture from swooping down!?

The Lone Vulture...

As we reached close to the bush, Douglas slowed his vehicle and we all peered into the thick bush. I saw something move inside the bush. I peered ever more closely and there it was...lions

My first view of the majestic African Lions. They really looked beautiful, perfectly blending into the tall brown grass. It looked like there were some lions feasting on a kill. The bush was much too thick to see through clearly, so we decided to go around to the other side and we slowly backed off and moved real slow through the thick grass to the other side and as we approached the other side, our guide was looking at his right side, into the bushes without looking ahead.

Even I was looking at my right side but suddenly I saw something move in front of our vehicle. And there it was, a lioness was standing right in front of our van, in full view. Douglas didn’t see it and he was driving slowly straight at it.

The Lioness in front of our Van

I shouted at him to stop. He stopped and I was exclaiming “wow lions..lions with a kill” all excited and he hushed me to be quiet. Hearing the commotion, the female lion slowly walked into the bush and we could now clearly see there were 3 other lions feasting on a cape buffalo.

Lions enjoying a cape buffalo

Then we saw a male lion lying down much more closer to us, hiding in cover, guarding the pride and keeping a watchful eye on us. The lion was less than 10 feet from us. But he was lying down. So we continued snapping happily. But the damn camera was focusing on the bush rather than the lion

My Camera in Auto mode focusing wrongly on the Grass iso Simba

so I put it on manual mode and started taking some more snaps.

The Male lion laying on the ground just before it got up

lo and behold… all of a sudden the lion got up and the other two in our van got scared and took a couple of steps backwards in the vehicle. But I stood my ground, facing the lion. My hands and head were outside the van taking snaps. I was determined to get the best shot of this truly majestic animal and so I stood still and went on with the clicking.

Approaching our van from the side

And then suddenly it took a couple of steps straight at our vehicle and looked straight into my eyes. It was now just a couple of feet away from our van. touching distance, so to speak. I could clearly see blood dripping from his mouth. The buffaloes blood. There I was, looking eye to eye with the king of the jungle. A truly terrifying but memorable experience. One to cherish for the rest of my life... but was there going to be any :-)

Looking into the eyes of a King

The top of our van was open and one jump and the lion will be inside our van. My heart was pounding real fast. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw both of the others had backed off to the back end of the vehicle. I slowly pulled my hands and head inside making sure not to make any sudden movements so as not to get the lion excited in the wrong way, and slowly took a step backward. The lion immediately took another step straight at me and was staring right into my eyes, assessing me perhaps. It was now just touching distance from our van. I held my breath and stared back. I was captivated by the lions stare. I didn’t know whether to look somewhere else or to return the stare. We looked into each other’s eyes for about half a minute. And then the lion opened his mouth wide and I thought to myself ‘oh noooo… it’s going to jump in”.

The white you see is our van. the lion was that close!!!!

But all it did was yawn lazily and then looked at me for one final time and then slowly turned back and trudged back nonchalantly into the bush.

The Lion joining the pride after retreating

Well… to summarize the trip, we were lucky enough to see 4 out of the big 5 (African Elephants, Rhinos, Cape Buffaloes), plus Antelopes, Impalas, vervet monkeys, Baboons, Jackals, Spotted hyenas, Burchell’s Zebra, Warthog, Hippos, Giraffes, Bushbucks, Kudus, Elands, Waterbucks, Heartebeest, Topi, Wildebeest, Gazelles and a cheetah losing out its kill to a hyena, but that’s another story.

The Poor Cheetah with a Kill, just before losing it out to Hyenas

Our lone miss being the leopard. No one had seen the leopard on those 3 days we were at the reserve. One entire day we spent, looking at the tree lines hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive one, but to no avail.

I left the reserve with the Swahili saying ringing in my mind...“Hakuna matata” (no problem)..
hope to see it at the Serengeti plains in future.

Friday, March 28, 2008

True love is like Serendipity...its like magic...

When ever I get a break (Read as Week ends), I some times drive to Noida; 30 mins drive from mi place assuming that the traffic conditions are not so crude. I often Visit Raju bhayya(whom i fondly call rajuvettan) and his betterhalf Sibi Deedi (Whom I again fondly call Sibiyechi). Both of them are mast and believe in my philosophy of Unlimited fun..frivolous and frolic...Both were my super seniors in Mar Ivanios College, Trivandrum from where I graduated and hence the acquaintence has grown so intense that I am a part of their small family.

I remember during my last visit he talked so much about "Love" that it instigated the sanest thoughts in me to leave abruptly. What he spoke was not really appealing to me and was obviously so boring.. I decided to turn deaf ears. Mi atention was caught else where and I was just mechanically nodding to wot ever he said. At one point, he woke me up so desperately from mi world that he asked me some question..."So wot do you understand from that..?" Quite obvious that I had no clue as I was purposefully not listening for sure..In order to elude a direct question from him..and no dis respect ofcourse... Mi mind..the culprit decided to ask him a dummy question, the question I never even in my dreams thought of asking him.

I asked him, "How did you know that Sibi deedi was the one destined for you?" The answer from Raju bhayya was instant as if he had practiced it many times before..He said.." I first met her in a private bus and it was raining heavily. I was in queue behind her to get down when suddenly her dhupatta got stuck in some metalic part of the foot board." He helped her out and escorted the young lady outside. He continues, "I didnt have an umbrella and I had to walk all the way to the college; around a kilometre." She asked him "Collegeillekkanno..?" (To the college?). Raju Bhayya remembers, they desperately searched for an auto with few success. After wasting some time on this both of them decided to walk to the college under a single umbrella.It is this walk and the moments they shared for about 15 minutes was all necessary for a relationship.. a relationship that was binded by a emotion designed specifically to overwelhm logic....more abstract or potent and dominant than fevicol or any oter influential glue on this earth.

Raju bhayya gratefully remembers " The moment I touched her for the first time, I knew that this was the girl for was like..pre destined...a relation ship that eventually became clearer to us as we progressed along the fourth quadrant of the graph.." Sibi deedi remembers " the moment I was walking with him towards the college, I knew I am walking with the man of mi life..." Wot do one calls this..serendipity..Magic...

I was a voracious listener bi now..listening attendively to each and every line of wot both of them were saying. I could experience true love; I could feel it lingering through mi senses. I often wonder in today's world people date, spend hours on chat..what not..wot not...and finally face rejection or spurious travesty..plain lying, cheating..leading to all kinds of mental frustration, more than seldom prude survives. For true love to happen, it just a matter of minutes as I realize now...or some times even less...who knows..

and mi mind goes ....these lines as I drive mi hub...

Theres a song in my mind now,
In your absence how can it be complete ?
Theres this picture drawn in my mind now,
In your absence who would colour it ?


Monday, March 24, 2008

Chocolate Journey to Chandigarh

I recollect the artifacts of a so called unscheduled, unplanned and unexpected train journey to Chandigarh. The purpose of the journey being esoteric and generic. This incident storms back to about some 6 months back. Well, it so happened that I got continuous leaves for some 3 - 4 days from the Embassy. I dont know from where this idea occurred. When my mind clings on to something ..Thats dead.. all set ..Go! I desperately long for train journeys and desire deeply always as I write most of my poems, German translations of classics, experiences etc..during awesome train journeys. Plus you get to meet so many actors in the system that evokes thoughts and negate mind impoverishness.

I reached the New Delhi station at around early morning 6 a.m. Ok. I have got miself here; how do i proceed, i thought. I saw train Himalayan Queen lined up. It would leave in another 10 minutes or so. I felt the adrenalin rush all of a sudden. I hurried to the reservation counter and asked for a 1st class reservation ticket. The elderly women sitting in the counter gave me the most wierdest look possible. "Abbey, jaake koi general le le..koi reservation viservation nahi milega abhi.chal.."( Hindi - impolitely she says to get lost..lols..tats te too lazy to literally translate it..) She said it with enormous thrust and ofcourse rudely. Here I go, managed to get a general ticket and got into a stinking local compartment. The train took off (lol..) on time..I was sitting opposite to a Tamil Brahmin family facing them. The family consisted of grandmother ,daughter, hubby who was an erudite and their teenage daughter who looked pretty nerdy, a carbon copy of her father. She had a huge round specs, perhaps the mass of which gave her nose a tough time. "That nose has developed msucles holding that specs for years", I whispered. They noticed me right from the beginning and wanted to start a conversation i suppose. Mean while I received a call from mi amma. After hearing mi malayalam finally the learned father asked me as if he is convinced " Going to Chandigarh ya..?" I said "yes." He continued, " Are you going to meet your friends?" I replied "Not really, Just roaming around."

"But why in a general compartment? There is a shatabdi express after half an hour later. You could go in that with peace. I counter questioned him even before he could finish " I think I should be askin you this. You are travelling with your family, not me." He gave a pale smile and I smiled back for courtesy purpose. At this point of incidence, mi mind created a hypothesis about this man -
Lets assume that this man is a damn miser unleashed... During the course of my journey, I saw him purposefully denying the requests of his wife, daughter and grandma concurrently on buying eatables. He refused to buy a cardbury chocolate that his daughter yearned, a cutlet to his wife that she has been demanding since the train embraced Sonepat station and some masala stuff for the old Grandma. In his dire exasperation he even yelled at them. Now I confirmed my hypotheis - that this man is a damn super mega miser unleashed...I am a great fan of Cardburys diary milk. I couldnt control the drooling effect. I bought one and marched towards the compartment entrance. I thought,may be I'll have a better view of the scenic beauty and inhale some cold air. More importantly I sould eat it with all the liberty I can enjoy.

As I moved, a second later the old Grandma followed. She started talking to me in Tamilayalam ( Lion share of Tamil and minority malayalam words Aviyal; a malayalam mix stuff made with all kinds of vegetable available on earth).Her eyes were stagnent on my Cardburys. "My Grand daughter also likes Chocolate" she said..To be honest, I hate to share my chocolate with anyone unless untill that person matters so much to me. Hmm..I asked.." Patti..Koncham chocolate venamma..?"( Its Tamil..Need some chocolate, Grandma?) Even before I completed this sentence She snatched half from me. I didnt like this childish instinct; ergo, I had to respect her age (after all during one of our conversations she said.." you are a kid, not even te age of mi son..)

I would wind this up after narrating a touching scene in this whole episode. Remember the better half part of the chocolate the Grandma snatched. Ya...Now see wot she does with it.. She takes it and delivers the same to her grand daughter. Grand daughter accepts it with out any element of even wot we call textual hesitation. I have shared my Cardburys diary milk chocolate with quite a handful of people; nevertheless they were close to mi heart one way or other. Lets reach on a consensus - I think this is the best chocolate sharing I have ever witnessed and experienced discounting an inexplicable ecstacy floating some where in mi mind...even at this moment when I write this... Some profound attachment resulting some contigent affirmation...OOPs..i better Halt...


Sunday, March 23, 2008

The French Women and T-Shirt concerns

Let me embark on with a confession; not a nefarious one, instead a very benign one. I am the proud owner of a very bad habit. I wake up at 6 a.m every day irrespective of Sunday or Monday. I get up and take a stroll in the deserted park in front of my flat just envying all those souls who sleep peacefully and I think.."Just look at boring..etc..etc.." That's the succinct...

Coming back...Today also the same happened..inevitable...I woke up at 6:05 a.m. I went to church and provided some food for my subconscious. By the time I got out of church it was around 9:30 a.m. I drove mi car as fast as possible, guess for what ? I wanted to have a coffee and I usually prefer it from Cafe coffee Day. The quantity of coffee they offer is simply a largesse for me. I parked mi car with great difficulty and hoped into the CCD. Oh My God! Couples...and Couples everywhere. Quite obviously it reminded me that I am single. Perfect time for a great revelation. I noticed so many eyes staring at me ( Of course you know the reason :-) ). Ergo, I managed to find an empty table as rest all were occupied. I ordered and sat back listening to some of mi favorite Ghazals when I was disturbed by a very dire voice, placing a handbag in front. A French Women. Can I? she asked . Come on, how cud I say NO. I sat back again listening Music bidding audieu to my defensive mode body language.

She took out a french novel. Nevertheless never showed any interest reading it. Was just scrolling pages i suppose. So I though that I should initiate a conversation. I disconnected and asked, "Bonjour. Comment etes-vous ? "( How are you?.its french) She suddenly noticed my I-Pod and asked "Whats the storage capacity?" I said " 2 GB" She nodded and said " pretty gud space" I said " Well. not exactly. My Ghazal collection itself wud come at around 6 GB in my Laptop. She interrupted and said "I am Marciel and I can speak good English." I understood the implication. It meant that I didnt have to struggle speaking some French. I am disgustingly pathetic with mi french language skills. The testimonial for the same was confirmed with the artificial wrinkles that appeared on her forehead when I asked her "Bonjour. Comment etes-vous ? "

As our conversation progressed we talked about many things, our profession, interests, hobbies etc..etc... Her conversations were pretty pellucid and that meant tat i didn't have to make any wrinkles on mi forehead as well. All through our conversation, I noticed the writings on her T-Shirt. It read " Married...Divorced...Single and Happy now.." I inquired about this as I no longer could contain my innate curiosity. She said.."Oh I have never married..Its just a writing and It does not mean much to me." We both laughed at this. All of a sudden 4 punjabi Lads entered the scene creating lots of noise..blabbering in punjabi..highly capricious and uncivilized. Intriguingly all four of them were wearing a black T-Shirt written F.B.I over it. Marciel said " wow..nice T-shirt" to which I confirmed acknowledgment. As they moved past us, the back side of the T-Shirt explained the abbreviation of F.B.I. No points for Guessing. Ok. You got it wrong either ways. It read FEMALE BODY INSPECTORS ..F.B.I. Ha ha.. I started laughing at this..and Marciel joined me after a second. The french are slow to follow up jokes in English.

My point is that those kids were barely 12-13 years old...not more than that. And they were driving a Skoda and loads of cash..other tan the illustrious T-Shirt message. Marciel said..."they are sure havin fun." Yes..I am sure they are..I am not commenting on anything about the entire episode. There are so many things in this world that I do not understand. Some things lies beyond my choice. Today's kids, youth; they lack direction and I doubt how efficient their parents are in showing them the right path. I just cannot comprehend the youth today. Dexterous for sure they are. But are they an insolent to our culture..? vis-a-vis my generation.

Its been over an hour in the CCD and I had to move to the Italian Embassy to get some files ( I work there). I felt the sense of urgency to reach the embassy before 12 noon as I had lunch scheduled with an old friend at 1 sharp. I bid good bye to Marciel and plugged music back into my ears..Moved out..Marciel came running towards mi car.." Oh.. I almost forgot.. Sanal..Can i have your Business card?" I gave her one and moved drove out of the parking lane slowly as she stood watching. She became clear view in mi rear view glass...soon the image faded..faded and I concentrated back to driving...through busy roads of Delhi.

Another weekend...

This weekend was a long one - 3 days at home due to good friday and easter. Friday morning i wake up super late at 9.30 , sit idling with a cup of tea which amma thrust into my hands in between her busy breakfast making schedule.Normally i sit in that posture in the kitchen for about 30-45 min , still feeling drowsy bcoz of over sleeping and yet conversing with amma on what has been happening since last sunday (which is just about 5 days back).Breakfast can be as late as 11-11.30 , and after that i turn on the computer and try to see if anybody has scrapped me in orkut or in facebook or in somethingelse...Meanwhile a hi and a hello in gtalk or yahoo messenger from classmates and friends who are in different parts of the world...In between i get up and stroll around the house with ear phones plugged to my ears,amma says something,achan asks me about something , i nod absent mindedly , oblivious to whatever they say...Come lunch,tea or dinner i continue to remain in my own private world . And then when i take my pet dog out i am reminded of the fact that ammoomma should be waiting to see me ( she lives next door ,near to my uncle's place). Although i know how much she looks forward to seeing me, (she almost waits for fridays to come hoping i will go to her first thing i get home) i keep prolonging my visit.I dont know what it is , as much as i yearn for human company i tend to keep away from it as much as well...Friday and saturday gone thus , its saturday evening and i am chatting with a friend on gtalk...he tells me about a website his friend plans to build and in the midst of many such talks casually asks how had i spent my day and i tell him 'in front of the computer'.And then he asks me a weird question ...'Dont you feel guilty about it?' I am rather confused , i tell him 'Guilty ?why should i? this is the only option i have . Ever since my brother went off to Chennai i don't have anyone of my wavelength to converse with , so inevitably i turn to the computer' My friend retorts ' Well , we have had an argument at home today on this , my grand dad had this opinion that the present generation didn't care for human relationships...once back from office they are immediately glued to the televison . And talking about wavelength , he said that it was a silly little invention of ours , while they in their days knew how to get on well with anyone . Since then i have had this realization , dont you think its scary that cyber relations should bloom while blood relationships die a pre-mature death? ' Going thus he said he felt gulity , i for one told him that i dont even feel guilty...I felt envious of him that he is capable of feeling that emotion which nowadays seem alien to me...I broke off from the chat mocking at him saying i am signing out to take care of my blood relations , but deep within i knew he was right , after all i have known it all along...

The other day one of my colleagues had pointed out that when you smile at someone it should come from your heart and not an artificial made-up one and i wondered when had i really transformed into a living robot...Was it the IT field and its lifestyle or was it generic to the modern lifestyle? Sometimes when stress really gets to my head , i stop to wonder if this was what i had dreamt to become way back in my childhood dreams...Everything comes at a price , yes...but when you cease to be yourself , then whats the point in gaining anything else...There are so many things i had wanted to do than code and test applications 12-14 hours a inner being refuses to give up on them and keeps reminding me that i ought to search for better options...