Mar 4, 2011

The Goodluck Charm...the beginning

On one of my recent postings about the Birds (O! Thou Heavenly Creatures…), a dear friend of mine commented..."You really are in love with these winged creatures. Aren't you?"

That simple, and completely true statement made my mind wander back to about 5 years ago when in Coorg, I first chanced upon (from the hotel room's window) a strange bird - shying away in the shadows of trees. The curiosity to know more about it, slowly unrevealed a world of treasure for me, as that marked the beginning of my hobby of bird & nature photography.

For all  passionate birdwatchers, the number of bird-species sighted (for the first time) has always been important, and it has not been any different for me. My recent trip to Gujarat made me cross a landmark of 300 different kinds of bird-sightings. Yet, in a country boasting of almost 1200 species, this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The real treasure still lies hidden, waiting to be explored.

On the course of my journey to reach this number, I captured, through my lense, not only birds, but also the smallest of creatures, the most varied kind of landscapes, and other celebrations of life on my camera. It also made me realise how, with so much demand on natural resources to fulfill our needs, we are depleting this treasure. Little do we realize that in the process we are also straying away from nature & in turn from God.

Akbar Illahabadi, the well-known Urdu poet had penned a ghazal - Hangama Hai Kyun Barpaa in response to his critics objecting to his friendship with wine-drinking friends of other religions. This was made more popular by Ghulam Ali in his inimitable style. One of the couplets of this ghazal was about the omnipresence of God:
Har Zarra chamakta hai, Anwar-e-Illahi se,
Har Saans yeh kahti hai, Hum hain to Khuda bhi hai..

Similar sentiments were echoed by William Blake, the English poet and painter of the late 18th century, in his all-time classic - Auguries of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

These are not solitary voices, as there are many more echoes, from different parts around the modern world. Our ancient Indian scriptures & philosophy was possibly the earliest known proponent of being close to nature. Rig Veda itself equated Nature's beauty as an art of God and commands us to feel the touch of God's invisible hands in every beautiful thing. Atharva Veda tells us God’s joy manifesting through splendour of his creations in the nature. “Kan-Kan men Bhagwan” has been one of the corner stone on which our mythologies are also based.  And yet, we – the citizens of the modern, more educated India are repeatedly isolating ourselves from nature.

My own regret has been about losing out on a precious 40 years of my life, ignorant about nature’s calming & well-balancing effect on the workaholic’s soul. Yet, I am not the only one. There are scores of others, still unaware of our deep rooted affinity with nature and the joys of simplicity – even if only once in a while. 

It may not be practical anymore to live a life like Henry David Thoreau, who decided to spend more than two years on the Walden Pond, away from civilization. Yet, there exists a fundamental truth in his writings: 
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind….. Our life is frittered away by detail….. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without…Simplify! Simplify!

I believe that getting back to the roots on a regular basis, forsaking all luxuries and just to experience the simplicity, just like a lost child returning to its mother, and to learn what it has to teach, is something worth yearning for.  

This, being the thought uppermost on my mind as I complete 5 years of efforts of getting closer to nature, I chose to convert my blog into a bi-weekly update through a picture, hopefully, inviting and tempting enough to let nature reach out to us- soon, and more often.

To begin this (hopefully life-long) project, nothing better but to bring to you alive the colours of that strange shy bird with whose sighting this journey had begin for me – the Greater Coucal. Incidentally, while on almost all my birding trips I have had a sighting of this bird, it took me more than 4 years to capture a good picture of this good-luck charm of the farmers (& mine!). I just hope it continues to inspire more & more human beings, the way it inspired me…



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