Sights and sounds from home

The last month had been one of the most stressful periods at work this year and I needed some time to detox myself of all the negativities that had accumulated. There is only one place where I hoped to attain that – my parents’ home, where I could shear off the multiple roles that I played and just become their daughter. I chose my soon-to-be-three year old son as my sole companion, leaving behind the husband to fend for himself. Not that he seemed to mind much.

As the plane took off for Guwahati from Bangalore, a rush of euphoria passed over both the son and I, for reasons entirely of our own. The brat had the window seat to himself and I had to crane my neck from time to time, wondering if we had entered Assam. Earlier I would just have to look down and glimpses of unending greenery and hills would tell me that we were a few minutes away from landing. This time it was different. I was visiting Assam with the monsoons still on. The sight that greeted me from below jolted me out of my reverie. There was a vast sheet of water stretching all over the landscape. Tiny islets with a few tin-roofed houses stood forlorn, perhaps the remnants of a village washed out by the floods. 

I was wondering about where the airplane would land, since it was dropping height rapidly, but just as we were about to touchdown a patch of land appeared miraculously and we were happily cruising down the runway, safe and intact. The joy replaced the dismay brought about by the floods and it got relegated to a remote corner of the mind. The heat, however, was stifling to say the least. I had almost forgotten how humid Guwahati could get during the monsoons. The weather was sultry and muggy. Perhaps Bangalore weather had spoilt us, though even it has changed drastically.

As we sped towards home from the airport, there was one mandatory halt that we had to observe along the way. My parents always bought fresh vegetables from Dharapur. I have never bothered to ask why. Perhaps they were fresher and cheaper. Anyways, I had no complains, because the loot was worth the wait. This time, Ma and Deta bought bunches of beautiful fiddlehead ferns (dhekia xaak), couple of elephant apples (ou tenga), ridge-gourds, bottle-gourds, raw papayas and banana flowers. All of them were my favourites.

The loot: Fiddlehead ferns, elephant apple, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, banana flower

Lunch was a divine meal that day as Ma served me the vegetables that she had bought from Dharapur. She had cooked rohu fish in a light curry flavoured with tangy-sweet elephant apple. As for the fiddlehead ferns, I could have finished an entire meal only with that and nothing else. There was also raw papaya khar and banana flower sabji cooked with lentils. Somehow, however hard I try, my khar never turns out as good as Ma’s although I always follow her recipe to the T. I wish her magic would flow into me, some day.

Lunch: Rice, Fish with elephant apple, banana flower, fiddlehead ferns and pointed gourd

I was supposed to be home for only a week and yet I had plans for so many things. For instance, birding in Guwahati. I get green-eyed every time I see a beautiful bird photograph uploaded in the Birds of Eastern India community on Facebook. Even though I had left our Nikon DSLR at home and was carrying only my tiny Canon sx500, I gathered up my courage and asked a member of the BEI community to guide me towards birding areas in Guwahati. Following his advice, I drove towards the Deepor Beel area early morning before day break the next day with my parents. The clouds looked dark and ominous in the horizon and no sooner had I reached Deepor Beel that the heavens broke loose. It poured cold water over my birding plans. Pun intended.

And yet, I managed to see and click very hazy, grainy pictures of the rare and endangered greater adjutant storks, a few of them perched on a roof-top. I also saw rain-drenched black drongos, blue-tailed bee-eaters and flocks of barn swallows perched on wires overhead. So, perhaps the morning was not entirely wasted.

Greater Adjutant Storks

Black Drongo

Barn Swallows

Then again, Deepor Beel was a changed area to me. The last time I had visited it was in January 2013. The water levels were very low then. Now, the water threatened to spill over. We drove a bit aimlessly in the rain around the Beel and decided to return home. Just as we were approaching a bridge, we heard the chuk-chuk-chuk of a train and stopped to have a good look at it for the sake of my train-loving son. Soon enough, a heavy goods train crossed the bridge and turned around the whole Beel to appear on the further side. I let my son savour the moment. Decades back, in my own childhood, I was as enamored by the train as my son is, now.  

Deepor Beel

The next few days at home seemed inordinately short. I sat listening to the stupendous clash and boom of lightning and gathering clouds, the sound reverberating through the house, and then the ensuing pitter patter of the rains on the roofs. My son, who had not heard such sounds in Bangalore, was quite befuddled and remained stuck at the windows, watching the rains hammer down outside.  

Although I had so many personal chores planned, I managed to run off to Shillong in between for an overnight trip.  It was a refreshing break and worth a post, which I will put up once I get back my writing mojo. I also heard the familiar screeching of our resident spotted owlets at night. Unfortunately, I never got to see them since they would wake up early only on those days that I decided to wake up a bit late. Deta has made beautiful wooden bird homes and tied them in the thicker parts of the trees. Ma said that the homes cost Deta a lot since he had engaged carpenters to build them. But real estate is always costly, I explained to Ma. The owlets have been surveying the homes a bit and Deta is hoping that they would settle down soon.

And thus, after a very brief whirlwind vacation in Guwahati, I am back to terra firma, back to the grind. I am yet to shake off my holiday stupor. Let me take this slow and I will find my way back again. There are posts to be written on Wayanad, Chikmagalur, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Shillong. But till the time I get back my bearings, do bear my homesick ramblings. Pun intended, again.


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