On a hot Mumbai afternoon, trees on the sidewalk provide a much needed respite from the harsh sunlight.
Nainital is a small hill town in Uttarakhand. The key highlight is the lake in the center of the town. I visited there at the onset of winters. There was a little chill in the air and a soft sunlight played hide-n-seek with us. One moment you feel warm and then cold. The whole town seemed to have come out for a walk near the lake. Some were playing in the open stadium, some went boating in the lake, a few were shopping in the small market hidden in the shadows of the mountains. And there were a few simply chilling in the sunlight staring into nothing.
The buzz around the town, people walking on the roads, the electricity wires interrupting the view of the sky and the incessant chatter of people sitting by the lake gave a very unique character to the place. While the beauty of the early winter sunlight, blue water and mountains in the backdrop would keep you enchanted, every once in a while, the people and town demand attention. You alternate between magic and reality.
My recent visit to Jim Corbett National Park went quite uneventful. We spent two days in the hope of spotting a Tiger and only managed to see pugmarks. But there was something special about those two days. We were haunted by the silence of jungle occasionally punctuated by sounds of animals or light breeze passing through the dense trees. The harsh sunlight in the open fields overcompensated for the cold winds through the deep jungle. The beauty of an early morning in the forest is difficult to capture in words or images. I tried anyway.
We met on the way…
And a friendly elephant on our way back…
We stopped at two points in the safari and had rare moments to admire the beauty of the jungle. Interestingly, we had a flat tyre in the first leg of the safari on first day. We were warned not to step out of the vehicle in case the Tiger decides to show up. After 20 minutes of struggle to change the tyre, our guide allowed us to step out. We were not allowed to wander away. We stood there soaking in the eerie silence, staring into the morning sky and admiring the colors of sunrise partially visible through the trees flanking the road. There was a unique beauty to the uneven path and natural growth of trees around it.
During the second part of the safari, our guide stopped the car near a fork in the road and told us to hear the sounds of the jungle. Instead of driving around looking for Tigers, it’s important to sit quietly for a few minutes in the deep silence of the jungle and observe the sounds. ‘Listen to the jungle’, he said. While we couldn’t manage to find a Tiger, we got a unique opportunity to observe the jungle. The wild felt more real than the artificial symmetry of the city we came from. In the chaotic layout of jungle, everything felt right. There was an uncanny beauty to the irregular landscape with various waterways spread through the jungle, cluster of smooth grey-white rocks and pebbles covering a small patch of land, dense trees and large fields with uneven growth of the grass.
After 3 hour ride deep into the jungle on the second day, we reached a point near a large water body. These lands open up for outsiders only for a few months in a year. We were not allowed to go close to the water where a huge group of animals was congregated for what seemed like a daily picnic. We were so close yet so far. For the first time, we did feel like a part of the jungle. We had come in so deep but most animals felt like tiny dots on the vast open fields with a backdrop of mountains and river stretching far back to the horizon. The grandeur of the scene is hard to explain. While there was an excitement to capture some of it through the camera, soon enough I just sat back and looked at the view in awe.
Kerala is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. It’s always Green with breathtaking landscapes. Nature has bestowed Kerala with special love. And the love is reciprocated by its inhabitants. People of Kerala have lovingly preserved their connection with nature. Kerala has maintained a harmonious relationship with nature while managing to keep pace with the modern world. I don’t think I will ever get tired of visiting Kerala.
Here are a few pictures from my trip last month.