At the end of every year, I visualize myself reaching the final rungs of a long ladder, the ladder down which I have been climbing, day by day, ever since that year began. On the night of the 31st of December, however much I try to argue myself out of an improbable situation, I can sense my internal time-keeper gathering up her energy to make the leap up, up, UP -- right to the top of the next year's ladder, all in the course of that mystical no-moment as one year ends and the other begins! It would be so much more RESTFUL to imagine one ladder merging calmly into the next but -- no! I see the ladders laid out in a neat row, each one's top aligned against the tops of those that have gone before(I don't presume to guess how many there are ahead -- so I don't see 'em!).
It's been a peaceful and pleasant two weeks since we returned. I've spent the greater part of my time just gathering together my sense of being HERE, rather than en route to somewhere else.
Yesterday, for the first time since we've been back, we went for a long drive, to the bird sanctuary at Sultanpur. As with our expeditions at the beginning of 2005, our valiant charioteer was J, and the chariot was his supremely comfortable Pajero. This time, accompanying us were his son, Y, visiting from the US and our very dear friend and frequent visitor to this blog, A (I most often refer to him here as Amro). Aside from the horrific traffic all the way till just beyond Gurgaon, it was a pleasant outing. Inside the sanctuary, we saw quantities of dabchicks and egrets, painted storks, ibises and one splendid black-necked stork -- how elegant and courtly he was! The plumage for which he is named was not merely black but subtly irridescent, so that even at a distance (and through binocs) we could see a play of midnight colour along the long graceful extent of his neck. That, combined with the white of his body, the soot-black patches on his wings and his spindly crimson legs made him a very handsome sight.
There were quite a few Neelgai around -- we saw maybe 20? According to the ticket-wallahs at the gate, the resident herd numbers around 100 -- and we were close enough to them that my survival skills, normally in deep coma, stirred and raised a mild alarm. Today, of course, a whole day later and no longer within a hundred yards of a 300 lb antelope I can bemoan my weak nerves. Ah well. Next time I'll run up and cuddle 'em.
The bonus wild-life sighting occurred outside the sanctuary. We were in search of a suitable picnic spot at which to eat the main meal of the expedition -- stuffed parathas provided by Amro's parental establishment -- when eagle-eyed E spotted an unusual cat skulking about in the tall grass beside a mustard field. It was most obliging, I must say, because it didn't immediately vanish out of sight, but remained in view long enough for all of us to see the stripes on its back legs and the end of its tail and also the fine ridge of black at the very tips of its ears. It was about the size of a large domesticated tom, its body sandy-gold in colour. As if that weren't thrilling enough, we saw it (or its buddy) as we were leaving the area too. This second sighting was quite generous, because the creature actually sat by the side of the road and posed for a few moments, staring not quite at us, but past us, in that way felines have, as if humans and all our baggage are really too gross to be worth actually looking at.
It was ALMOST small enough to be mistaken for a domestic cat, but ... there an apartness about it, a reserve, that proclaimed its freedom and its independence from the yoke of human companionship.
When we got home and looked it up in "Indian Wildlife", its identity was confirmed: a Jungle Cat.
Oh -- and yes, of course the parathas were excellent -- mooli, cauliflower and potato. And yes, we even had a minor almost-loss: E left his fleece jacket behind in the mustard field he visited briefly (while attempting to escape the photographic attentions of Amro!) and realized it only after we had left the place. But we returned and the jacket was recovered before anyone else captured it. Then back we went, back through the forest of fly-over support-struts that have sprouted all across the access routes into Delhirium, and into the grey, dusty, chaos of the traffic.
Finally -- in case you missed 'em -- there're a couple of new links in the column on the right. I don't like to keep too many links going, so alas I have removed two blog-links that were there before. But I find I hardly ever visit any blogs aside from the two that that have been there from the start -- lazy, that's moi! -- so any disappointment is regreted.
And here's one last link for the year -- the site of the Swiss artist who dreamt up the triple-jawed beastie that froze our popcorn to our numbed fingers when we saw the first of the ALIEN movies -- a little something to curdle your blood at the end of the year: R. GIGER rrrROWRRR! Audio ON, please ...