When the hills turn purplish-gray ( in Guwahati)

Dusk is settling all around me as I stand on the terrace of our house in Guwahati.

I went there to collect the clothes which had been put out to dry.  When I stepped onto the terrace, it was as though I’d suddenly stepped into the final act of a play, in which no human was taking part. I stood and watched, an attentive audience.

Nature was calling and end to the day, and the sight was lovely and graceful. She was doing it with colors, and sounds, and movement, and drama.

Our house is in a narrow valley. At four in the afternoon the sun was already disappearing behind the hills, not in a blaze of red, but a disc of gold slowly sinking.

The last rays of the sun alerted me to a splash of scarlet right in front of me. There, on the betel-nut tree in my neighbours house, a woodpecker was foraging for dinner. It spent only a little while on the tree, then flew away disappointed.

Meanwhile, in the bush on the hill-side there was a great deal of activity. A few robins were hopping about on a broom-tree, barely resting on a branch before jumping onto another. Their black and white bodies could be spotted only because of their incessant movement.

Suddenly, there was a loud “tuweet tuweet” – I looked overhead. A pair of parakeets were flying high – heading homeward?

Peaceful though everything was, it was not quiet. Birds, hundreds of them, of many different species, were at concert. The loudest were the crows. They were also the most plentiful. Many were flying high above right across the valley. A few were sitting on my neighbour’s terrace, keenly looking around. One flew over to our house, perhaps to the betel nut tree in the front. I’d often seen crows there pecking at the sap of the tree. I wonder if they ever found any food there.

I looked for the sun-bird that came often to the Mussanda tree in our house. It was not to be seen – perhaps it had already flown to its perch. An active bird, I had seen it often brilliant in its red, purple and green shiny feathers, sipping on the flowers.

The sun finally disappeared. The crows kept flying overhead, looking for the insects that came  out in the evening. The tops of the betel nut and coconut trees turned dark. The show was over. It was going to be another act in the morning.

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Snapshots from back home in Guwahati

Here are some photos I’d taken near Pobitora National Park, a small NP just on the outskirts of Guwahati.

Many people from Ghy are probably not even aware that rhinos are literally in their back-yard.

Rhinos grazing with domestic cattle at Pobitora

The landscape was lovely – mustard fields, hills in the distance.

Near Pobitora, a chang in the middle of mustard fields

Birding at Pobitora: Grey heron, bee-eaters, black-necked storks ( a rare species), Jacanas, drongos, bush-chat, ducks.

Grey Heron leading the watch

Of pumpkin soup and raw herbs chutney

My Mom’s kitchen always seem to produce at least one interesting dish at every meal.

Take today’s lunch, for example. All of a sudden she tells me to go to the herb patch behind her kitchen and get some fresh spinach, lai xak ( for which I don’t know the English word, but it is a slightly bitter leaf that we Assamese love eating), coriander and green chillies. She grinds it all with some garlic pods, and produces a very lively chutney that has a raw taste to it, but very flavorful nevertheless.Supposed to be eaten with very hot rice.

I decide to continue the culinary tradition into dinner. The tradition of making one unusual dish at least.

Decide to make pumpkin soup. I’d made some with butternut squash back in the US during Thanksgiving time, and figured I should try it out with good old pumpkin. Simple recipe – sauteed onions in butter with some garlic pods, boiled a slightly sauteed the pumpkin cubes, pulsed it in the mixie, added some milk and pureed some more, and grated some cheese on top. My Mom, a very picky eater, seemed to like it, and I loved it – warmed us up in the cold, it did.

Lets see what tomorrow brings. My Mom is the kind of woman who at the age of 58 still experiments with food in her kitchen, so I am sure there will be more!

Early Birds and a flashback to childhood

“Early Birds” or “Probhati Poxi” – a nice name for a bird-watching enthusiast group.

Went to meet the person who’d started this to get the low-down on the birdwatching scene in Assam.

He told me there are more than 50 IBA’s, or important birding areas, in Assam. And these guys have been working with the villagers who live around these areas, in  addition to enjoying the birding scene.

The nearest to Guwahati, of course, is Deepor Beel. A controversial IBA, because of the encroachment and livelihood problems. I’d gone there last year with my Mother and N, who was then a year and a half. We’d hired a small boat and gone out into the lake. My Mom, enterprising woman that she is, took her students out for an outing there afterwards. The kids had really enjoyed the place.

Anyway, so I’m looking forward to exploring more of these places while I am here.

Meanwhile, a funny thing happenned today. I’d just got into an auto today, when the auto driver looks and me and says, rather abruptly, “we used to play cricket together”. I was a little taken aback, especially because I could not for the life of me remember who he was.  Turns out he’s our neighbour, and we did used to play cricket together as kids.

Lack of civic sense, the environment and India’s climate change policy

The part of Guwahati where I stay used to be green and beautiful, bordered by the Brahmaputra on the North bank. Winters used to be misty, and cold.  The roadsides were tree-lined and shady in the summers when we used to sometimes walk back from school.

As a child of maybe 10, I still knew something was not quite right when the huge silk-cotton tree that gave lovely shade was chopped down suddenly one day.But I did not know that it was only the beginning.

Slowly, the stream that is behind our house started turning into a nullah. The one in front of our house is so clogged with plastic bags that water flows onto the road now. Neighbours throw rubbish into the nullah without a second thought – this even though the municipal corporation has actually started picking up garbage from people’s homes ( they never bothered till last year).

The primary school ground where the  Bihu function is held in APril every year has become a dump for construction material. There is an open garbage bin right next to the school grounds.

High-rise apartments dot the hill-side.

The main arterial road has become clogged with traffic. Walking on the road is a risky affair – you either die of diesel fumes or the dust kills you.

These are the times when I miss the clean, green air of the USA. Seriously, I do.

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This was written last night. Today morning, when I opened the papers there was an article on India’s commitment to greenhouse gas reduction. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh ( this guy I have started admiring, he’s sticks to what he says at least) has said India is commiting to 25% reduction on carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 2010. What does this really mean in terms of reduction in greenhouse gases? Certainly does not mean we will be emitting less of CO2, because GDP will also increase. Therefore, even though India, China and other countries have already declared intentions of bringing down the CO2 per GDP, that does not seem to be enough. More on this.