The Langurs atop the Palash


 Update for week ended 18 March 2011

The black-faced langurs were chattering away furiously. One female langur was busy grooming her baby as the rest of the troop atop the leafless Palash tree lazed on the branches in the mild spring sun. some were busy surveying the surrounding plains, now quite brown and dry after a dry winter. The chital, spotted deer, were grazing fearlessly on the plains. Many generations ago, the deer had to fight for their space against humans as the tribal villagers chopped down trees, and cleared forests to make way for their huts and little farmsteads. They also had to contend with sharing the grass with the herds of cattle and goats tended by the tribal boys. But the nationalization of the park, and subsequent resettlement of the tribals to areas outside the core forest area, left the land fallow to allow for regrowth of the fauna. This land was now the grasslands of the forest park that had over 70 tigers, at least 4 types of deer, the stoutly built gaurs or Indian bisons, leopards, jungle cats, boars, sloth bears, jackals, hunting dogs and numerous birds apart from the langorous langurs, not including others from the animal kingdom like amphibians, reptiles, insetcts, anthropods, etc, etc. The langurs acted like the watchdogs for all the herbivores, climbing up the tree-tops, and keeping the watchful eye for the predators, especially the big dreaded striped cat! The palash tree was not their favourite spot, as it usually did not have a good leaf cover for most of the year, especially in the sunny spring season. But another delight invited them to these dry and stark branches these days. The fresh new blossoms. The tips of the branches would suddenly sprout out new life each March with a bust of the deepest scarlet that anyone has seen. And the flowers would attract insects including ants – the “omnivoric” combination of the flower petals, and the ants and other bugs would entice the simians to gather on these branches to feast under the hot Indian sun. The fresh flowers would also have enough nectar to quench their thirst for a while, and though langurs are also known to eat other smaller mammals like rodents or rabbits, the feast on these palash flowers would stain their canines into a deep red as though they had just devoured a fowl or hare. That is the power of the flower of the Palash or the Flame Trees or the Flame of the Forest, which also find their way into human life.

The stark D Street was getting hot as spring sprung itself onto the D Boyz. And the unusually hot weather caused by swelling tides in lands of the rising sun, made it rather unbearable for the D Boyz to venture out for most of the week. They were busy tracking progress of nuclear fusion and fission and getting so confused between the two (cannot blame them, as they never studied their physics in school well – preferring to stick to accountancy and math), that if on one day they cheered the SENSEX up, the next they frightened or spooked it down. The flaming trees on D Street had also burst out blooming and their scents floated in the really hot dry air of D Street , pushing the temperatures higher than the 41.7oC that the rest of the city baked to. At the end of the week, the D Boyz felt like Xerxes’ Persian army that was defeated at Thermopylae – defeated by 300 Spartans; as the SENSEX was battered 300 points down. Down from 18178 to 17878.

The tribals who lived in the forest, used to chase these langurs away, as they climbed the Palash trees in early March to collect the fresh blossoms of the Flame Tree flowers. They would dry the flowers in the hot sun and then powder them to prepare the dye for their festival of colours that followed the full moon night. Of course, this was more potent than the colours that people in cities use, as it is fast and stained anything, including the bronze skins of the boisterous festival revellers for weeks on end. Some of the matriarchs also used this dried “flower dye” to colour their garments and ornaments and at times, paint little patterns on the mud walls of their kraal-like homesteads. Today, these tribals, buy chemical colours from the local village market, and can wash off their stains, on the drying beds of the seasonal rivers that flow out of the forest.

Cricket, a Full Moon festival celebrating another fight of Good over Evil, followed by the festival of spring, will keep people busy this weekend. I wish you all a very happy time, and please enjoy the celebrations, eat well, don’t cause trouble, and stay away from trouble too.

Have a safe weekend …. Cheers….

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