The Grassland


Update for week ended 11 February 2010 

As one drives down the Great Rift escarpment and onto the roads that literally go straight into the horizon, you encounter the most amazing grasslands of the world – the Savannah. And within this flat land, there are numerous dormant volcano craters that rise in circular mounds. They are a continuum to the grassy landscape, but elevated – and given their dormant status of millennia – they too have a flat top with the same flora and fauna as seen around till the horizon. The crater savanna is unique because it has such a diversity of fauna that the lack of flora around is not missed much. The herbivores are around in herds (but of course) and at times are hidden in the metre long grass. Their predators are also aplenty, stalking their prey or simply lolling in the shade of a tree to escape the oppressive equatorial sun. And trees in the flat crater plains are also few and far apart. The most abundant among them is the acacia – the hardy trees with lanky, knobbly trunks that branch out upwards to the flat green leafy canopy. The leaves are small and hardy and very conveniently camouflage the thorns that abound these boughs. The sight of the acacia and its sparse shade is welcoming to the pride of lions to rest after their hunt. They at times provide good cover for a leopard that wants to hide its prey away from other scavengers. Sometimes, the baboons settle on these trees to escape being killed making sure that there are no leopards in sight (but obvious). The bark is hardy, but at times provides fodder to marauding elephants. The leaves are high and out of reach from most herbivores except the long necked giraffes. And the colony of biting ants that leads a cogent life in the tree protecting it, and in turn gets to eat the protein rich fresh leaves (this is of course another interesting story – to read more click on http://makingsense.rediffblogs.com/2009_11_10_makingsense_archive.html#1255607093  ) in this tranquil landscape. The scenery often tempts painters to transfer them onto canvas – and how easy it would be for the artist – to paint greenish yellow grass – one thick flat line in the bottom dotted with little crooked “S”es rising vertically intermittently – and then capped with rough flat dark green lines above them (the canopy) while the rest of the picture can consist of a blue wash for the sky.

This week at D Street was a tumultuous ride – almost like going down an escarpment slope, but thanks to some geological features like the Rift Valley, it at least ends on a flat green plain. So if the last 3 days were troublesome for the D Boyz, today was one of tranquility, as they reached their grassy plains and climbed onto the dormant volcano on D Street. The morning today started on a happy note of 200 points up, and it remained flat all through. No amount of distractions could stop the BOyz who had fixed their gaze into their horizon for the day – as they ended 230 points up at 16152. Of course, as one looks back at their journey and where they started this week, one can see some choppy behaviour, but this is the first week after long when the SENSEX actually gained – 220 points are not much – but sentimentally a green hill with grass is better than being on a treacherous slope. Although the best way around the savanna grassland is in jeeps or similar 4 wheel drives – the D Boyz did not favour them this week – instead they preferred motorbikes – unusual vehicle choice; but there must be some gameplan given that they recently visited the Hills down south (and witnessed some movie song picturisation), revisited some frozen lake on the mountain, browsed through crowded markets near railway stations. Diverse terrains in 3 days, must have taught them something.

For those in India who want to know more about the acacia can also try and spot the Indian Babool. It is a tree similar in looks to the acacia – grows in drier parts of the country and has thorns to ward off predators – and the lack of giraffes in India helps – but the marauding herd of bleating goats can be quite hard on this tree. I have seen village goatherds, pull down branches, matchet it for their herds. The belief is that the babool is a poisonous tree, but the goat can digest its leaves and provide medicinal milk. So we don’t make goat cheese in India, but quite a lot of its milk is drunk in rural areas.

Have a long and happy Weekend – and for those wishing to celebrate the festival tomorrow – take care and don’t indulge too much in the ambrosia.

Cheers …….

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