2018 will be a great year for me - that is the promise I've made to myself. I'll do everything in my power - time, willpower, attitude, and friendships ... To make it happen. So, some of you may find me at your doorstep some day ... To rest for awhile. And to strengthen our bond. And revive our friendship. Hope you will be happy to meet me. 😄
Speaking of friendships, I went to meet my first friends in Rajkot, Rajubhai & Rekhaben, a few days back, in the morning. We are friends since the past 25 years and whenever we meet, even with long gaps in-between, we feel the same love and warmth we felt, on that beautiful day of Spring, way back in 1993! But then, come to think of it, i still meet my school friends and society friends, as though we never parted!
Rajubhai & Rekhaben (RR) are farmers, who have borrowed land from the PWD, Rajkot. I think that is a very smart thing to do since they educated their sons to take up proper jobs, rather than the back-breaking, thankless toil of a farmer. And they live frugally, as most farmers in India do. Although their sons have good jobs in factories now, RR still continue to toil, for their own love of the soil. I have tremendous respect and love for them. They are hardworking and always have that one commodity that nobody seems to have these days - time.
So when I'm with them, my time also stalls. I feel at peace, happy and carefree. They stop all work to spend time with me. I feel so humble in their company. Besides, they are unassuming folks, always ready to share jokes, stories and their tiffin!
RR have a proper small house, very close to their farm but also have 2 tiny rooms at the farm. Sometimes, when the crops are ripening, they have to stay the nights, to shoo away the rampaging herds of Nilgai!
1. Because I like their company
2. Because I feel rejuvenated and stress-free
3. Because, their farm lies at the edge of a beautiful lake, filled with resident waders and migratory birds, when the season is on.
It was time to visit. So, I took off, with my camera battery recharged and my own batteries, to recharge. To reach their home, I've to be there before the sun breaks over the horizon ... Simply to catch some birds that are early birds!
So, at 6am, I drove down to their house in the village. I carried some blankets and carpets, that I now had no use of, to give it to them. With winter upon us, they appreciated the gesture and accepted. Took Rekhaben with me in the car to the farm while Rajubhai followed on his bike.
Just a few meters away, I braked to find a Francolin, perched atop a farm wall. The light was fabulous as the sun was about to break, and what a brilliant start to the day! I clicked a few pics, before the Francolin became aware and took off.
Just reaching the farm is a miracle ... As the dirt road is extremely narrow and treacherous for a car. But since I've a small & sturdy car, the Maruti 800, I maneuvered without a hitch ... Practice of 9 years! Once I reach, I forget the world around. The fresh oxygen-rich air, the honking of the flamingos, pelicans and herons, and the loud cackle of waders drowns everything ... Even the tiniest bit of gloom I may have. Pure happiness!
RR went on to do whatever they had to, while I took my own time to reach the house, clicking and savouring everything I encountered, in flight or on land. On my way, I stopped by to say hello to the cows and the buffalos and a quick nod to the ole grandpa, who sits on his charpoy, smoking his beedis. He's like a permanent fixture on that little mound of clay and grass, perched there in all seasons under the sun!
And the lake .... It always gives the best! As I reached the water's edge, I spied a Checkered Keelback swimming away swiftly, all under the sharp eyes of a White-Throated Kingfisher .. a gutsy thing to do, hah!
And that was when I heard the sound of excited flapping and feverish frenzy ... A group of Great Cormorants were on a fishing bonanza and the 4 Great White Pelicans were hampering it! What a chaotic ruckus! Irrespective of what was happening out there, my camera was busy! After some great shots, I kept it aside just to observe the mad dervishes they were performing.
I noticed that, the moment a Cormorant had a catch, it flew ahead a little distance to enjoy his booty, while a few chased to get a share. And the Pelican followed too! Too late! It was already floating down the gullet! Sheer drama for an observer.
By now, the sun was high up and the Bee Eaters, the Starlings and a Shrike were busy too, grabbing a nutritious tidbit from air.
Finally, I made my way to the house. Rekhaben had milked the cow and prepared some tea. Sipping, the tea and the peace, Rajubhai opened up the tiffin. Impromptu, Rekhaben insisted that I share. So, we all had Brunch!
Brunch was clay-oven cooked and needless to say, I was licking my fingers! After the meal, I rested on the charpoy, staring up at the canopy of guava and pomegranate trees and enjoying the sun on my face. There's something about a winter sun .. it is cooler.
I knew that RR had work to do and reluctantly, I decided to leave. They agreed but with the promise that I came back for the weekend. So, this weekend, I'll once again be at the farm.
Night stay is as exciting as a day visit to the farm. We get to sleep, under a trillion, million stars, huddled in layers of Rajai and wake up to the bird calls at 5 am! I've taken the opportunity of tagging friends who have spent some time on the farm and am sure, they'll have nothing but the best memories of their lives.