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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Summer and Fall


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I’ve always been a summer girl. I like to step outside onto the grass and feel the warm earth, the warm breeze, the warm smell of summer flowers.. be it in India or in US. I’ve always thought Summer is my season. I have memories of Gujarat from some 20 years ago, when I would while away the hot afternoons swinging beneath the copper pod tree. There would be a breeze, the hot summer loo and that dryness in the earth, littered with the yellow flowers of the tree. I loved that season. In Bangalore, the Gulmohars and Rain trees would bloom, and even though it was hot and dry.. there is a calmness in a summer afternoon or evening that brings fond memories.

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There is happiness in lying down in the grass beside a stream and smelling the peony’s, listening to the sounds of activities around you. There is so much daylight in summer, so much potential to get out there and do anything you want. Maybe I overly associate with the fact that summer’s are when School/College was off, and I actually had time to relax in the afternoons and play in the evenings. Maybe it’s cause Summers are when all friends meet up and go on road trips or kayaking. But there is something about seeing the green lush liveliness of Summer (or early Summer in India) that makes me feel just as alive.

But this time around, Fall has kept me waiting. My favorite season Summer has dragged on well into October.. and the warm breezes in the afternoon, the thundershowers in the evening are still around. Except for today, when as I stepped out into the orange morning sun (why is the sun so orange in Autumn?).. I could smell Fall. I smelled that crisp feeling of a cool morning with leaves crunching beneath my feet. And suddenly, I long for a cold evening, without any breeze, with just the cold frost creeping in.

fall on drillfield

I yearn to sit outside and sip something warm, watching the drawn-out sunset from a lawn littered with red and yellow leaves. I yearn to bundle up in jackets, scarves and gloves. I couldn’t believe that I was actually waiting for winter. Summer is a time for action but Fall is a time to sit back and relax. Fall is a time to let out the breath you’ve been holding, fold up the picnic spread and nestle in your home. Maybe I’m just tired this Friday, and I want a relaxed weekend. Maybe I’ve finally learnt that each season needs its own time and a land with forever summer (aka San Diego) or forever winter (Canada) would never satisfy me.

Orange sunset across drillfield

Orange trees in fall color

red autumn tree

Days of Summer


Simple joys of summer
Simple things that make me smile
Come gently to my mind
Telling me, stay awhile
Stay awhile, beneath a tree
That’s beneath a fluffy cloud
Beneath a huge blue sky
Stay awhile, hum aloud.
Let the thunder boom
Smell the summer rain
Breath in the honeysuckle
That blooms once again.
Hold his hand and walk away
Pass the trail, pass the stream
Pause to look at the sunset
Stop to look at some dream.
And as the fireflies simmer
Once the rainclouds depart
These simple joys of summer
Will warm your autumn heart.

Seasonal Denial


Invisible demon
cloaked in leaves,
why do you take them away?
These golden yellow mementos of summer,
are all that we have
to reminisce a summer day.

By who’s bidding
are you so relentless
tossing and turning the leaves around?
with what spite,
with what reasoned glee
do you throw them to the ground?

wearing padded feet
bearing frosty breath
you slyly come to my door.
I hear the knocks
but what if I wont open it
to you anymore?

Chuckling devil
your plans wont work
you think winter will now start.
but all my friends say
haven’t you heard?
It’s always summer in my heart.

Pachydermal Issues


From WikipediaJust in case I had forgotten how life was back home, Kerala welcomed me with these two pieces of news both involving the state’s favourite animal, the elephant.

Now each temple in Kerala typically has at least one elephant to its name. Guruvayoor tops the list with 60 I think.  The said animals are kept nearby, washed and maintained by a mahout  ‘pappan’ and revered and loved by everyone in the town. In fact, we love them so much that in the monsoon season each lucky pachyderm gets an ayurvedic treatment to rest and relax its frayed nerves. After all, being pampered all year round is no joke. (I wonder if domesticated elephants in timber yards have heard about these job perks in temples, and whether they conside a switching careers).

1) So, anyway, back to the news. A temple near the town I’m from was preparing its three elephants for a ceremonial circumnambulation around the town. There was some delay in the start and one of the pachyderms got a lil restless, and gave his friend a poke. Said friend was not in a good mood, fell down and created a big ruckus. Needless to say the restless miscreant was chained up, and the priests tried to calm the upset one. In the meantime, the third pachyderm got fed up with his colleagues behaviour and decides he can do a pradakshina on his own. So this full grown male elephant all decked up in revelry marches out of the temple and into the middle of a bustling town. Did the people run for their lives? Was the police called? Nope. Apparently the pachyderm was so well-mannered in following all traffic rules through the busy streets.. nobody realized he was on his own. The unattended elephant walked 20 mins to his destination and it’s only then that the temple realized, oh look, he’s back!

2) The next piece of news was more entertaining. An elephant snuck out in the middle of the night from one of the temples and went missing. Now this is big news, an elephant is a matter of pride and lot of donations. How did it escape? Why did it run away? And more importantly, where does a 5000 kg, 10 ft tall mammal hide?! The locality around was searched by all but to no avail. Finally, two days later, some kids (in a cliched went-to-retrieve-a-ball story) found the pachyderm sitting in a shady grove of sugarcane fields, contently munching. AThe rumour is that the temple food disagreed with him but that’s the grapevine talking.

And there we have it. I’ve always been amazed at these elephants, especially during the times of the temple festivals (or Ultsavams or Poorams). Why a huge, 4 ton beast with 8 feet tusks allows to be dressed up with pretty nettipattams, bells, necklaces is beyond me. How it doesn’t go mad with the sound of the loud drums (thanks to the marars), with a thousand people all craning to get closer and feed it more bananas is a different matter altogether. Talk about patience! No wonder we love our state animal so much, who else would stand for such stuff.

Sights and Sounds of Summer


The chirping of small birds. The cooing of a cuckoo. The splashing of ducks. The ripple of water hitting the bank. The sounds of the breeze through green leaves. The buzzing of flies. Children running. The faint whish of a Frisbee. The turning wheels of a bicycle. The ripple of water across a pond. The reflection of the green grass on it. The humidity of the air. The delayed setting of the sun. The lushness of a lawn. The wavering of a brand new twig. The filtering sunlight through leaves. The slanting evening sun on the grass. The roosting of crows. The satisfied sigh at the end of a long day :).

A Blacksburg Life


My previous post prompted these thoughts in my head: What is it about Blacksburg that’s so endearing? We don’t even have a regular sized movie theatre, the town’s population of 50,000 becomes less than half during the breaks, winters are cold and last till April.. and yet, I defend Blacksburg. Why?

I meet new students who have been here a few months and most of them say the same thing: What do you do in Blacksburg? Study, for one. Your courses, projects and lab shouldn’t tempt asking such questions, unless you’re an MBA student :D. But really, would you guys rather study in a huge city where the rent would be twice as high, getting to college would take you at least 30 mins and where you would be lost within the multitude of humanity on the streets? Here BTransit gets you to campus in 10 mins. Here, you can see a montain on the horizon in every direction. Each season is vivid and distinct, and the months pass by in a wink. For a college town, Blacksburg’s pretty decent you know. Ah, I do wish we had a bigger metropolis nearby though.. the fact that the closest city (D.C or Richmond) is 4 hrs away doesn’t help.

Blacksburg in the Summer or '08

More than a decade ago I had written an essay about Bangalore that went along the same lines. We moved to that city when it was still called ‘Retiree’s Paradise’, but I found nothing to like compared to others I had lived in. My essay was a long tirade complaining about it’s various aspects. A cousin of mine who grew up had defended Bangalore then. And right now the tables have turned, I myself could write a long essay exalting my dear singara Bangalore.  Places grow on you I guess. Places you live long enough, where you associate some part of your identity to, or call home. A place small enough for you to not get lost in the crowd, unlike a larger city that may overwhelm you. I don’t say stay here forever, but wherever you go from here, Blacksburg will be a place you belonged.

So that’s why we like this town. It’s a first home to so many of us students who have left the cities where we grew up and wound up here. I like this place, ’cause our only theatre Lyric isn’t even regular sized, the town’s population is only 50,000 which becomes less than half during the breaks, every season is distinct, vivid and winter only lasts till April.. :).

Up and down the Mountain


An advantage of living in the blue ridge mountains: the opportunity to mountain bike. I’ve always been a fan of cycling, the feeling of being free and the freedom of motion both exhilarate me to quite an extent, an escape of sorts even. I consider myself a pro at ‘aimless’ biking, which is a term I use to define biking with the sole purpose of getting lost. All other kinds of biking fall under ‘commute’, which isn’t half as fun, unless you manage to get lost on your way to work of course.

 The wheels naturally turn towards lesser crowded roads, out of the city and to more calmer surroundings. The suburbs and regions outside in Bangalore were almost ideal for cycling around. Enough and more lakes, some rail tracks, small roads with trees lined on both sides and the occasional expanse of an army land.. vast and totally cut-off from the city were all appreciated and well trodden (riden?) when I lived there. Blacksburg however, is a different tune altogether. Biking on the roads is no fun because of the traffic (which is at a much faster pace than in India) and there isn’t as much freedom. Here I resort to my Indian-ness; there are much stricter rules and not as many casual roads per se, unless you’re on a biking trail.  No complaints though, there are enough and more biking trails that branch off inconspicuously from these busy roads and lead you to open farms, barns, fallow meadows and over a fair amount of creeks. The onset of summer is awaited for this one reason, so that I can get on that bike and take off to some pleasant meadow where Thoreau may have watched the sunset from.

The mountains that surround these meadows and our town of Blacksburg, however had been off reach until very recently when an enthusiastic friend of mine invited me to go mountain biking with him. What was a ‘recovery ride’ of 6 miles for him nearly killed me. But it was an experience unlike any! I am forced to add another kind of biking to my list now.. ‘survival’ biking. There is only one way to go down a steep slope that turns at the end and has large rocks strewn around. You just go. There isn’t enough time to turn handles and stop and chose a path, you have to let your speed just take you down and pretty much pray you don’t crash into one of the tall trees. If I had known how risky the road was, I never would’ve gone. But having done it once now, I can’t wait to get back there again. Dense trees, denser shrubs, an occasional stream to ride over, some startled deer and the smattering of forest sounds as you whizz past on your two wheels. Another mention I have to make is of fellow mountain bikers. I have not known more friendly people. It’s as though the mere presence of you on a bike in a forest brands you as one of them, that they smile and let you ride past or politely inquire of your fortitude or even urge you on to clear that uphill slope. Maybe they smile knowing what they do, the mountains have claimed one more :D.

If you ever need to jolt your senses and face some of the more basic facets of life (a.k.a staying alive) try mountain biking. If you want to lose yourself among shrubs, tree canopies and dry streams, try mountain biking. You are warned reasonably however, it ain’t easy. The scratches on the knee notwithstanding, I did end up sleeping for 14 hours straight the minute I got home. I am still alive to recount the experience though. 

So, whatever your reasons, riding on a mountain once must definitely be on your list.