In search of Sher Khan: Day 1

(I wrote this post last week, actually the following two posts as well. I couldn’t post this before because there was no internet connection and I wanted to add some photos too.)

Have you guys seen The Jungle Book yet? If you haven’t, please do. Its a very well made film and its quite an experience watching it on the big screen.
The Jungle Book has been a part of my childhood, as it has been for a few generations before me and as it will be for many generations to come. We have grown up with Mowgli and the film took me back to my childhood. My only regret would be not watching it in Hindi (yet) and so there was no ‘jungle jungle baat chali hai’.
But this post is not about the film. I am in Pench, Madhya Pradesh right now. It is a tiger reserve in Seoni, the home of Mowgli. The Seoni jungle is where The Jungle Book is based. We are here in search of the elusive Mr. (or Mrs.) Sher Khan.
We are going on our first safari here today.
Its an evening safari and we get in the gypsy at our hotel. Our guide tells us that there has been a tiger sighting in the morning safari, so we are pretty excited.
The jungle around us hardly looks like a jungle. The trees are spaced out and most of them do not have a single leaf on them. Dry, thin tree limbs reach out over the fading evening sky.

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The heat is subsiding and the weather is pleasant. The gypsy leaves behind dust clouds as it moves on the road. Everywhere we turn, we see greys and dull yellows. Suddenly, a flash of brilliant blue makes us stop our jeep. A peacock struts into view. We are all amazed at the its colour. The blue that we term ‘peacock blue’ in paints and fabrics is nowhere close to the natural colour.

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The first peacock garners some attention. But we soon realise that peacocks are very common in the jungle. Now, we don’t point out the next one we see but I am still marvelling at the colour.
We see many other birds too-owls, kingfishers, eagles, a tiger bird (so called because of its black and gold stripes), and many others I don’t know the names of.

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We see a pack of wild dogs, jackals and their cubs, sambar, hards of spotted deer, nilgai, bisons and monkeys.

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The jungle is alive around us and we keenly listen to its various sounds.
We go towards the river where animals gather for water. The area around the river is open and almost flat. We see storks and other birds near the water, along with a herd of deer.
But we don’t see the black and gold stripes.
We move on to another track and see another peacock. But this one has its tail feathers unfurled and it looks beautiful and graceful. We think it signals rain and as if on cue we hear distant thunder. Soon, the sky becomes cloudy, lightning flashes and huge, cold raindrops spatter on our faces. The wind picks up and blows dust all around us. The dry leaves on the ground are rushing away in the wind. The jungle is filled with the sounds of the rustling of leaves, the thundering and the rain.

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Our safari is almost at an end. We enjoy the weather as we move towards the exit gate.
Sher Khan has managed to remain hidden.
Our search continues…

Photo Credits: My sister, my dad and well, me 🙂

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Trek Diaries #2 Naneghat

Hey people! This is the second post in Trek Diaries (finally, after nearly two months).
The second trek I went to was the best one! It was a night trek to Naneghat, which is in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.
It was again organised by my professor and most of us from my batch had agreed to go. The most exciting part about it was that it was a night trek, something I had never done before.
We were to catch a train from Dadar at around 12-12:15 pm for Kalyan from where our trek would begin.
Me and some of my friends decided to meet up in the evening itself and then travel together later. It just gave us more time with each other and we had a lot of fun before the trek even began. We went out for dinner and then spent a few hours at my grandparents’ house just relaxing.
We left for the station around 12. It was a great experience. There were hardly any people on the road and one of the busiest stations in Mumbai seemed a little quiet. But we soon realized that that was not the case. Although not as crowded as it is at peak hours, people were still travelling and we realized that Mumbai truly never sleeps.
We met some other people from our group at the station, some more joined us at different stations during the train journey.
We reached Kalyan and started our trek. It was dark, but if I remember correctly, it was a full moon night and there were absolutely no clouds to be seen. The moon lighted up our way and we started climbing.
The only sounds around were from insects or probably other small animals.
It was a beautiful night and we did not expect it to be cold either. Half way up, we stopped for a break. There was a plateau of sorts before another stretch of climbing. We could see the actual Naneghat from here. Naneghat comprises two words-‘nane’, meaning coin, and ‘ghat’, meaning a road through the mountains. The actual pass is a narrow stretch of rocks between two mountains. It was used by travellers to cross from one region to the other and it was at this pass that a road tariff was collected from the travellers. Hence, the name Naneghat.
That pass was still some way up when we stopped. We sat down on the ground and relaxed-ate some food, drank water.
Then some of us lay down on the ground using our bags as pillows and looked straight up at the starry sky, something that was so rare in our city life. It was so beautiful and quiet. One could feel truly at peace in such an environment.
The break didn’t last too long though and we started our climb again.
We were nearly at the top now and since we had made good time, we decided to spend the remaining hours of the night in a cave at the top. The cave was quite large and could easily accomodate most of us. We settled down, exhaused after the trek. What we did not expect, however, was the cold. It was freezing! None of us had prepared for it because, come on, when has it ever been freezing in this part of the world?
But it was-really, really cold! We allhuddled together and none if us could sleep. We spent the rest of the night trying to sleep and get warm, but almost completely failing at both. When the sun came up, we went back out, relieved to see some light and for once eager for the sun.
We crossed the actual Naneghat, there was a huge metal pot at the other end of the ghat that was used for collecting the tariff.
The sun was properly up now and it was a glorious morning. It was if the cold night had never happened. We spent some time in the sun, clicking photos and watching the sun rise higher in the sky. Eventually it was time to go. Our bus, which had dropped us at the foot of the mountain, had come the longer way by road to pick us up.
Our trek was over and we returned home exhausted but happy. This was the best trek I’ve been on because it was an experience I am never likely to forget.

Two more treks to go (only). I’ll definitely try to write sooner, I really should, I know. I will. The next two were pretty good too, so I do want to write about them 🙂

Until next time.

Trek Diaries #1: Mahuli

Hello people! I’ve been thinking about (and procrastinating) about what to write on for quite some time. A friend of mine, Dhruv (blogs at The Nerdvana Parallel) suggested I write about one of my favourite trips. Right now I can’t really choose a favourite one. But this gave me another idea.
I’m going to write about 4 treks I’ve been on because each one was so different than the others and so much fun. I have so many good memories associated with all of them.
Let’s start with the first one. It was in the second year of my bachelor’s degree that our HOD announced that he was organizing a trek to Mahuli. I was pretty excited but also apprehensive because it would be my first trek but I wasn’t used to the rigours of trekking at all.
Some 25-30 of us from all three years if my bachelor’s course and some from the master’s course decided to go. We went by train to Asangaon. After getting down at the station, we were told that the foot of Mahuli was still some distance away . It was very early in the morning and we couldn’t find a mode of transport large enough to carry all of us nor several smaller taxis or autos. Convincing ourselves that our trek would have to begin right from here, we started trudging on foot.
We walked for some 10-15 mins when we saw a truck coming up the road. It was one of those trucks which have a large open carrier behind to carry vegetables or soil or cement etc.  All of us waved at it and the driver agreed to transport us to the base. We clambered inside, climbing from all three sides, stepping on the truck’s huge tyres and helping each other up. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had because, really, when would you have the chance to travel in the back of a truck like that?
We finally reached the base of the mountain and began our climb to the top. For a first-time trekker like me, it was an extremely difficult trek. Definitely not one I’d recommend to other first-time trekkers. It had a steep, rocky terrain. By the time we were half way up, I was exhausted and it had started raining. The road had become slippery. But I was determined ro reach the top. I wasn’t about to complain and spoil everyone’s fun. I was probably the last one to reach the top; my friends were very supportive though and not once did they leave my side.
We couldn’t wait at the top for too long because it was raining very heavily by then and getting darker too. We started the climb down after only some time of rest.
The climb down was even more dangerous because of the wet rocks and the slippery soil. We had crossed a river on our way up; however, then it was not flowing as fast and we could easily cross it by stepping on the huge boulders in it. Now, with the rain pounding on us, the river had swelled and was rushing ahead at a great speed. We couldn’t see the boulders that helped us cross before.
There was another trekking group at the river bank facing the same dilemma. Some guys from both the groups got together and carefully formed a chain fron one bank of the river to the other. The rest of us crossed the river with the help of this human chain, literally being passed from one person to the next as we all held on to dear life.
Finally, all of us having crossed to the other side, we went our separate ways. When we finally reached the base, we were completely soaked and exhausted.
We rested in a nearby temple for some time till the rain stopped and then started our journey back home.
It was not what I had expected my first trek to be like. Honestly, I don’t know what I had expected. But it was an unforgettable experience. We returned home feeling like our legs were falling to pieces, but also with a feeling of triumph at having completed the trek 🙂
I plan to write about the other three treks I went on as well because each one has a special memory attached to it. Let me know what you think about this post in the comments! Have you been on a trek? Do you have any such unforgettable experiences of trekking?

10 Interesting Facts about Libraries and Librarians

Interesting Literature

Great facts about famous libraries and librarians around the world

We thought it was about time we saluted that noble institution, the library, with some of our favourite interesting bits of trivia about libraries and librarians.

Jacob Grimm, Philip Larkin, Casanova, David Hume, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lewis Carroll all worked as librarians.

Another word for a librarian is ‘bibliothecar’.

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Dépaysement

My first ever fictional story!

A Blast Of Random

“What do you miss most about your city?”

She almost didn’t hear the question as she gazed into nothingness. She was suddenly jolted back to the present and to reality. It was too crowded, too noisy, too dark, too … everything. She couldn’t think for a minute and seeing her confused expression her friend repeated the question a little louder this time, “I asked what you missed most, about home, I mean.”

Finally, it seemed like she understood the question. Smiling wistfully, she said, “That’s a difficult question, you know. There’s no single thing I miss the most, there are so many. I miss the smells of the city, which change as the city changes. One moment you smell the delicious aroma of roadside bhajjis and wadas, and the next you smell some expensive perfume from the highly sophisticated women walking past, and the very next, you smell garbage…

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Flashback 2015

Another year gone by; its been an important one. I’ve gained and lost a lot. I would like to believe I’ve become more responsible, but then maybe not 😛
Its been a good year. I went to Montreal for an internship (about which, I now realize, I’ve written nothing) and I survived in temperatures of -24 degrees (me! who feels cold in Mumbai too) and I loved it. I learnt so many things, about people but especially about myself. It was a great opportunity for me and an experience I’ll cherish all my life. I made new friends, experienced a new culture. My work there gave me an idea about what I could do in my future.
I came back to the sweltering summer in Mumbai and felt right at home again; I completed my dissertation and earned my postgraduate degree. Then I spent almost three months on a blissfull break where I didn’t do much except read, watch movies and occasionally worry about what I wanted to do next.
Then, I got a job! I couldn’t really believe it myself, but now I do. I learned English all over again 😛
I also lost someone very dear to me and that’s changed me too I think.
I made new friends, reconnected with some old ones.
All in all, its been a good year (except for one thing).
I also read some great books The Martian, A song of Ice and Fire, The Godfather), watched some great movies (The Martian), and watched Game of Thrones.
Its been an eventful year and important in many ways.
The next year’s going to be good too, I hope. Personally, I don’t know. But there are a few things I’m looking forward to: 2016 is the year of superhero movies, GOT season 6, hopefully Winds of Winter (the book), ICC World T20 in India, I hope to finish my Goodreads challenge (I haven’t been able to this year), and finally I hope to write more posts (lets see how that goes) 🙂 That reminds me, Ravenclawsam is supposed to start something pretty cool. Just saying, Sam 😛
Happy New Year, everyone and I hope you have a great year ahead!
See you next year 🙂

Live Another Sol

Hello, people! Long time no see (my fault, I know). I had something really important to say so I started writing straightaway.
Have I ever mentioned before that Mark Watney is Supermegafoxyawesomehot? Well, he is.
I don’t know how many of you know him but he’s the guy who was stranded on Mars for a year and a half and made it back alive. And now you know that he’s fictional (arent’t all the best guys?) because no one’s actually been stranded on Mars like that. Anyway, I’m rambling. Let’s get to the point.
When The Martian came out as a movie I was really excited to see it because it had such a great story ( plus Matt Damon). I loved the movie; so when I found out that it was based on a book, I obviously wanted to read the book too. Well, I did. Just finished it, infact, and started writing this post immediately.

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Have you watched the movie or read the book? If not, please do both immediately. Especially the book. It’s one of those books that I’m glad I bought because now I can go back to it anytime I want. I don’t say this about a lot of books, so this is major for me.
The best thing about the book is Mark Watney. He is one of my favourite protagonists now. He is witty, brave, optimistic and really really smart, brilliant actually.
I think I liked the book so much because of the way its been written and Mark’s perspective on life. He just doesn’t give up! He screams and curses when something goes wrong ( and a LOT of things do), but then he calms down and THINKS and finds a solution. Watney can teach us so much.
One of his important nuggets of wisdom is this-

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The book is about him being stranded on Mars and struggling to survive. But that’s not what you think about when you’re reading it. You’re thinking about what Watney will do next; after the first few pages you are absolutely convinced that if anyone can survive on Mars its Mark Watney. You’re rooting for him the whole way. He’s like a superhero, he can do anything. But, at the same time, he’s completely human. His instinct for survival is very strong, but he doesn’t lose himself in the ordeal. He is such a great character.
Andy Weir (the author) has also written great supporting characters: the people at NASA, Watney’s crew on Ares 3. Although its only Watney in the beginning, once he establishes contact with Earth the entire planet’s rooting for him. He gets a lot of help from the people at NASA and his crewmates actually agree to spend an extra year in space so they can come back and get him.
There is a paragraph at the very end which I absolutely loved:

  The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother?
  Well, okay. I know the answer to that. Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.
  If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.

That’s the gist of it. We as individuals have an instinct for survival, which can inspire us to fight against all odds; we also have an “instinct to help each other,” which is at the core of our humanity.
Really, do read the book. It’s brilliant!
P.S. The title is a name that Watney thinks would be an “awesome name for a James Bond movie.”