A boatful of blooms…

Tet, the Vietnamese new year is round the corner. Colours of tet as well as an air of gaiety fill the streets and even the river!

The sight of this boat filled with vibrant flowers, gliding through Saigon River filled me with joy in the morning! Marigolds and chrysanthemums are as significant as yellow apricot and pink peach flowers during Tet festivities.

The city is all set for Tet. Hoping that the year of the Pig brings Peace and Happiness to all!

Let’s take a gander at these gannets!

A forty minute long pleasant drive from Albany, through scenic farmlands and small vineyards on both sides, takes you to Muriwai beach with its black sand dunes, wind sculpted tall trees, flat rocks and cliffs lined with flax plants. Muriwai beach is one of the few places in the world where gannets nest on the mainland.

A smooth trail up the flattened rocks would take less than fifteen minutes walk and as you reach the raucous gannet colony, the viewing platforms help you get close view of the birds. Gannets are native to New Zealand. I find the Maori names for the native birds quite interesting as I feel that the names sound like the bird calls! There are Kereru (pigeon), korora( penguins), kaka, kea(mountain parrots), pukeko (swamp hen) and so on. Gannets are called ‘Takapu’ in Maori.

There are flat rocks and a flattened cliff below, where hundreds of gannets nest. Like most of the native birds, gannets too are fearless in human presence. The gannets look elegant while flying yet there is something comical about their gait. Is that a smile or a frown? Those clearly outlined beaks leave you baffled! Nevertheless the gannet in flight is magnificent, spreading their two metre wingspan, they glide and swoop wth grace.

A magnificent gannet in flight

It is pretty fascinating to know that gannet pairs bond for life. The female lays one egg, both male and female take turns in hatching the egg; they warm the eggs using their webbed feet. Gannets co-parent the young ones. When they are about four months, the young birds take off to Australia crossing the Tasman sea and after four years return to New Zealand to breed and never to go back!

Smile please

The birds have binocular vision and have air sacs in their face and chest, under their skin, which help them while diving deep into the sea to catch fish. Their excessive eating habits led to the slang ‘gannet’ for a gluttonous person!

In the golden light of the setting sun the sight of hundreds of nesting gannets of Muriwai Beach was a splendid experience!

Happy Birtday Emily Dickinson!

 

 

The Poets light but Lamps –

Themselves — go out —

The Wicks they stimulate

If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —

Each age a Lens

Disseminating their

Circumference

                                                               (Emily Dickinson)

 

Today is Emily Dickinson’s 188th birthday. Her poem says it all. Years and centuries have passed, the lamps that Emily has lighted are shining bright providing warmth and joy to many of us. Happy birthday Emily Dickinson! You are immortal!

 

October’s Party

Chanced upon this beautiful and delightful poem by George Cooper. While visiting New Zealand I was overjoyed to see these brightly coloured trees against deep blue skies; a rare sight back home! I could not take my eyes off the trees, plants, flowers, grass and weeds. This is an October full of splendour!

”October gave a party;
The leaves in hundreds came
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread the carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

Then, in the rustic hollow,
At hide-and-seek they played,
The party at sundown,
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly “hands around”.

Thank you October, as you’re waving hands bidding adieu, for all the bright and joyful memories you gave me. Good bye until we meet next year! Let me get ready to welcome a November to remember.

September evenings

September evenings staged some perfect shadow plays in my living room. Golden light fills the room every September, soon after the September equinox…The setting sun starts his journey back, southwards. For a few months from now I will be able to view the vibrant sunsets every evening and I love basking in that celestial light!

This one reminds me of an old rhyme

“Where are you going to my pretty maid?”

“Am going a-milking sir”, she said…

“The road uphill and the road downhill are one and the same”

The dancers…

Goodbye September, till we meet next year!

Coromandel Fishers

Sarojini Naidu’s poetry has a magical and musical charm that kindles your imagination and satiates your sense of beauty and joy. Her poetry, enhanced by mellifluous rhythm and captivating imagery appeals to our senses. Bangle sellers, street vendors, palanquin bearers, weavers, royalty and mythological characters are all painted in vibrant strokes in her poems.

Sarojini Naidu, hailed as The Nightingale of India, was a freedom fighter and a great inspiration to women in India during India’s independence struggle. She delivered impassioned speeches, supported women’s rights and stood shoulder to shoulder with Mahatma Gandhi in his Swadeshi movement. She was the first Indian woman to become the president of Indian National Congress and was also the first woman governor of an Indian state. Her contribution to Indo-Anglian literature is of great prominence. Her poems are remembered for its vivid images of India, richness and variety of themes and are flavoured with patriotism, romanticism and lyricism. I am an ardent admirer of her poetry that pulsates with beauty, imagery, symbolism, passion and simplicity.

A recent trip to Long Hai, a small coastal town in South Vietnam and the early morning sights of the fishermen out for their first catch of the day reminded me of Sarojini Naidu’s ‘Coromandel Fishers‘. A beautiful poem addressing the fisherfolk of the Coromandel Coast of India to gear up for the day’s action. On a serious note it is a bugle call to the battlefield; a poem of Hope and Faith. Here is the poem and a few early morning pictures of ‘the kings of the sea’; set in another land, these are men from the same walk of life!.

Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning

light,

The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.

Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,

To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea

No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the sea gull’s call,

The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all.

What though we toss at the fall of the sun where the hand of the sea-god drives?

He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.

Sweet is the shade of the cocoanut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,

And sweet are the sands at the full o’ the moon with the sound of the voices we love;

But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;

Row, brothers, row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates with the sea.

Coromandel Fishers is a rhetoric and a clarion call to the humble fisherfolk and to the nation as well. The poet invokes the fishermen to take their oars and catamarans, to listen and follow the seagulls’ call and capture the wealth of the tide. Their everyday pattern is full of hardship and is entirely different from their brothers on the land. But they are the kings of the sea; the natural elements are their family, their strength and support.

The strength,unconditional love and devotion of these sons of the sea towards their brethren were at its peak when a deluge mercilessly hit our state Kerala after ninety-five years. With their boats and oars and dauntless spirit these savoiurs reached every nook and cranny of the flood drowned districts and saved hundreds of lives. Every Keralite is eternally indebted and grateful to the sons of the sea!

Those Halcyon Days will be back soon!

A fellow in the skies
Of independent hues,
A little weather-worn,
Inspiriting habiliments
Of indigo and brown.

…….
With gay delays he goes
To some superior tree
Without a single leaf,
And shouts for joy to nobody
But his seraphic self!”

Emily Dickinson

 

Emily’s lines are about the Blue Bird, yet perfectly match with this Common Kingfisher. I found him sitting on this branch in front of our home Kousthubham, during my visit last month. Sitting in deep contemplation, probably satiated as the monsoon provided him a good harvest of small fish and little frogs. After a while he shrieked a shrill of joy, as if thanking Nature and then flew away. A shout of joy and gratitude, that we forget to do most of the time.

In Greek mythology god of Wind’s daughter Alcyone (Halcyone) and her husband Ceyx were changed into common kingfishers following some tragic events. They were called the Halcyon birds. Halcyon days were the days when Alcyone (after being transformed into the kingfisher) laid eggs near the seashore. Aeolus protected his daughter and her eggs by calming the winds and waves during this period. That is how ‘halcyon days’  which means peaceful days came into existence. Original meaning was ‘a bright interval during adversity’.

Green and Blue together provide a calming effect. I love capturing green leaves of the trees against blue skies. Usually Kerala sparkles fresh and green during Monsoon, a wonderful experience of its own. The season rejuvenates the land and the minds of its people. Eventhough dark and sombre skies of June-July act like wet blankets, the agrarian society appreciates the bountiful rains and looks forward to the sunshine days of August-September and also to the harvest festival Onam.

Sadly and unfortunately, this year the monsoon is wreaking havoc in Kerala. Heavens are pouring its fury over helpless Man and hundreds are suffering from Nature’s rage. Dam shutters are opened, many districts are flooded, land slides are crushing people’s lives and dreams; an overall disheartening and disturbing situation back home. I was in Kerala during the peaceful phase and this photo of the common kingfisher was clicked then. Situation has drastically changed since then. Waiting for those halcyon days to be back at the earliest. Hoping and praying that everyone back home stays safe and strong! The bleak days will be over soon. Salute those brave hearts who are helping the needy, risking their own lives, salute the rescue operations and relief efforts!