Monthly Archives: August 2014

Kanha and the cowherds – The Yamuna curse


Update for fortnight ended 14 August 2014

 

Kanha was a playful child. He was always playing outside his house and had to be reprimanded by his mother, Yashomati, a couple of times a day, at least for his naughtiness. His mother’s heart would melt after the scolding, given his chubbiness and endearing smile and excuses galore. It was a relatively dry August when the cowherds hailed out to little Kanha to join them in a game of throwball on the banks of the Yamuna. The river was in spate given the heavy rains that pounded the Himachal ranges, near the source of the river and some of the check-dams and barrages had overflowed. But this was not the main reason why people stayed away from the river this season. It was believed that poisonous serpents had occupied the river and threatened anyone who dared to go close to the river. This is why the cowherds chose the floodplains on this dry August to play their favourite game. Kanha followed them like a cow would follow its cowherd and positioned himself under a large parijat tree. The earth below the tree was carpeted by the pretty, dainty white flowers with their distinctive orange stems. The young adults and children played – throwing up in the air as high as they could and would want the other to catch it without dropping it. And when a ball came flying at down at Kanha, he for a moment lost concentration and the ball bounced off his forehead and rolled out. Kanha quickly turned towards the runaway ball and hailed by the cowherds, ran after it. It rolled away till it was perched precariously between the delicate blades of the “kusha” grass on the banks of the river. Kanha reached out to the ball as he ran towards it and in his haste, tripped on a stone and fell headlong into the grassy foliage, but only after dislodging the ball which rolled out and into the river in spate. Now Kanha’s sole aim was to retrieve the ball, lest the cowherds scold him and never let him play again with them, so he jumped into the water to the horror of his playmates. Initially they could not utter a word as they were horrified to see little Kanha being swallowed into the gushing waters of the Yamuna. But their fear only deepened, as they were petrified to follow suit and try and save the little boy, lest they be poisoned and killed by the serpents of the river. They yelled for Kanha to swim back ashore, but the water was no match for him, as the current sucked him into the middle of the river and before he knew it, he was within the tight grasp of a large serpent. Kanha wrestled the coiling snake and every time he let himself loose, he was being dragged deeper into the river. Strangely, he noticed that the river was calmer as he got deeper into it and saw that the snake was a large with a hood that looked like a large fan. And the hood had many heads with a central head larger than the rest. No wonder everyone believed that there were serpents in the river, though it was just a many headed serpent of serpents, the Kaliya. He had to escape, he was worried that his friends would be in distress if his mother was to know of this. So with all his might he swam upwards and before the serpent realized, the young boy’s folded fist had smacked the serpent between its eyes in the middle of central head. The snake was disoriented and that is when he thrust himself further towards the surface and with one kick on the same spot between the serpent’s eyes, he emerged onto the water surface. The snake was knocked out and as it slithered to the bottom of the river, Kanha grabbed it by the tail and flung it over his head a couple of times, before tossing it into the water. The now defeated snake floated as Kanha gingerly took position over the snake’s head, still not letting go of the tail and did what looked like a victory dance. The floating snake and the dancing child atop it hailed quite a few catcalls and yells of victory from the banks, as a few courageous cowherds dived in and pulled out the dead serpent and the grinning Kanha. Before Kanha could even react, he was perched atop the shoulders of Maakhan, the tallest cowherd and everyone forgot the ball and instead headed back to the safety of their village. They had a story to tell all the dwellers of this riverside hamlet. But Kanha was worried – how would he confront Yashomati.

 

The D Street Boyz were preparing for the festival season to begin. The first off the block was to be the Blue God’s birth. They prepared D Street for the birth celebrations and in their playfulness (in keeping with the Blue God’s playful character), tossed the SENSEX upwards and high off , but in the bargain, also dropped it to fall away. And it fell to as low as 25257 on 8 August. But the Boyz put on a fight with their demons on the street and fighting it hard, they retrieved the fallen SENSEX to finally bring it back up to its lofty height of 26103 on 14 August.

 

What happened to Kanha when he got home was a different story. Yashomati was cross and almost slapped the little boy and his friends for playing so dangerously close to the river. But when she heard of the slaying of the Kaliya serpent – she was relieved that boy not only saved himself, but also the village, as the dry spell deprived the village denizens from regular water sully and with the river out of bounds, the rest of the grain growing season would have been difficult. But now, she too rejoiced with the villagers and decided to not only forgive Kanha and his friends, but also make their favourite Kheer (a milk pudding thickened with rice).

 

Happy Gokulashtami and Happy New Year to all my Parsi readers…… and have a great festival month ahead……

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“Nature Strikes Back” – The Raintrees of Bombay


Update for month ended 31 July 2014

Hot summer afternoons are when these trees are fondly sought after, but not so in Mumbai 2014. A record two hundred plus of these century old giants were slayed in one swoop – not by an axe or a chainsaw or the indiscriminate road widening, but by a natural disaster that dug its heels into the bark of the tree and sucked out every drop of its sap. This was the attack of the mealybug, a white, cottony looking insect. The attack was swift and with no predators in sight, these killing machines had a gala time spreading from tree to tree, suburb to suburb. The heavy rains in 2013 ensured that the moist condition, which the mealybugs love, remained for long – to let these killing machines suck out all the moisture, sap and every other drop of life from the trees. And with no-one paying any attention to the falling leaves, and drying boughs, the attack was slow, steady and sure. Before the next summer was here, the trees were bare branches, mere black skeletons of their otherwise green and burly selves. And then some of the branches started falling off and insensitive municipal staff just went off hacking the rest of the trees. But some of the trees survived the summer. The heat and strong sunshine of Summer 2014 perhaps helped the trees from their killers. The ants returned to the tree trunks for shelter from the sweltering heat and found their meals in the mealybugs. And these killers were killed. And when the rains were delayed, it looked like these trees would also perish for want of water. But no – the reverse seems to be happening. The raintrees started sprouting fresh leaves and slowly regenerating itself. The healthier trees grew more leaves to provide some shade to the other drier ones and what looked like an episode from “Nature Strikes Back”, the avenues started looking like their name – leafy and green. The dead trees, though, are gone, but before drying out and dying, these trees dropped a few seeds to the ground beneath their wide canopies of branches. The heavy rains in 2014 are helping nurture some of these seeds that will hopefully take root near its father tree and some day in the future, young lovers will sing ditties around their thick trunks or just shelter themselves from the harsh summer suns. Meanwhile, the ants are still there to help keep the mealybugs at bay.

After the sharp fall around July 11 – to below 25000, the SENSEX seemed to suddenly regenerate. Not unlike the raintrees on D Street. The D Boyz had eaten their crunchy snacks under the shade of these trees and perhaps attracted the army of ants to feed on the fallen scraps. This mess creation was, in a quirky sense, a boon to the trees, as the ants ate their way up the mealybug-infested trunks and helped revive them in the bargain. The greening branches helped turn the street green and the SENSEX did not want to be left behind as it climbed up to a lofty perch of 26245, before readjusting from the flimsy top branch to settle at 25894. (We hear that the D Boyz shook the trees a bit to unsettle the SENSEX which finally settled at 25480 on 1 August).

The mealybugs strangely found its way to my 11th floor windowsill garden. And it trained its eyes on the colourful hibiscus shrubs that blossomed every other day. I carefully tried to clean these sticky cottony insects that chose to inhabit on the lower side of the leaves. But they would return with a vengeance attacking the buds. I tried spraying them with my organic pesticide (tobacco infused water) – which used to do wonders to rid plants of aphids. But these stubborn killers had their way when they devoured the red hibiscus. I was not one to let them kill my little garden, so I took a harsh step. I trimmed my yellow hibiscus shrub – such that it had no leaves, or buds, just plain twiggy stems and waited through the hot summer. And when the delayed rains started pouring from the skies, the green leaves sprouted (smaller than before, but there nevertheless). And yesterday, the missus was surprised to see a blossoming yellow flower when she watered the plants in the morning.

It is wonderful at times to see the positive side of Nature Strikes Back.

What are your stories of “Nature Strikes Back).

Have a great weekend and week ahead … cheers