Showing posts from November, 2020

Allegiance & Acceptance

Allegiance is a loaded word.  It carries with it the connotation of loyalty, and should that loyalty be frail, then the responsibility to affirm it back to its place.  Could there be an allegiance to a place?  Two landscapes of Chhotanagpur have stirred my heart. First is of Hazaribagh and its surroundings, which is both home and workplace, and the second is of the western paats (places like Netarhat, Rajadera, Mahuadanr), which inspires awe and is magnetic.  You would notice, as I do while writing this, that my adjectives for Hazaribagh seem to have paled against those for the latter. It is not so.  Please understand how language plays with us.  What has happened is that I have been accepted into Hazaribagh's skin ― there is plenty of newness here, but its appreciation no longer requires labour that needs to be articulated. For a poet, this labour is called poetry. For a lover who has matured, this poetry retreats inwards into a place of peace. It doesn't require petrarchan so

Risk Assessment

Jan 30, 2018 We are party to the inequalities in the world. Every day one report or the other slams this truth upon us. Sometimes we widen these inequalities, sometimes we bear it, and sometimes, in moments of desperation, saturation, we are wont to look away. To blame privilege that we inherit through birth, and through birth as homo sapiens, and by no choosing of ours, is an easier, all-luring escape. To edit the privilege after being endowed by it, like any other editing of what is personal and ingrained is terrifying. Kant’s enlightenment is aware of the forces that make a man a person, but to our dismay, it returns firmly to the actions of the self. Emergence from the self-imposed ignorance . The cloud of privilege encompasses us, looks us in the eyes, and puts to us a simple question: what are you doing about it?   The system of a landscape contains not just the physicality of the earth, but also lives that this physicality creates and sustains. The flora, the fauna, and both in

The Friendship of Addiction

06 Dec, 2017 perhaps the most beautiful kind. Now I don’t necessarily mean addiction to drugs or alcohol (though I know from experience that it too yields memorable friendships). I think the strongest resonance of what I mean by addiction in this context can inadequately be found in what the management gurus call “passion”. But “passion” is still tame for a word for the addiction I am talking about. This kind is immaterial, it is mental, it is all-consuming, it is idealistic, and when it is shared, it is phenomenal, it is incestuous. Stretch it further and it is the most blissful violation of the self. The inability of its articulation lends it strength. I am fortunate to have come across people who, for the lack of a better word, understand my addiction. They get me. They recognise the dreaminess and contribute to it. They enhance it by the very fact of their existence. They pull me back into the normalcy of addiction, reaffirming with every contact that if this is crazy, then

An almost-capital, salubrity, & the thing with reputation

03 Nov, 2017 Sometime in 1863-64, Captain G Hunter Thompson, Revenue Surveyor with the British Raj, proposed Hazaribagh to be the new capital of India. Thompson enjoyed the “salubrity of the station of Hazaribagh” and reasoned that the plateau’s proximity to coal mines and the sea, along with its connectivity with Kolkata and Mumbai (should a short branch railway be constructed through Hazaribagh town - which eventually was, more than a century later, in 2016) made it an ideal place for the new seat of “the Supreme Government of India”. For Thompson, access to the sea was of utmost importance, which, when considered in terms of trade and economy, makes sense. I think it must have surprised him when a year after the publication of his survey of Hazaribagh plateau, Shimla became the summer capital, and in 1911, the landlocked Delhi with no pleasant elevation or salubrity was made the capital of India. Looking at the infrastructural challenges which Shimla faces today and the environment


05 Sep, 2017 I have only recently learned that clouds too have names. Or rather, types. I am excited at this because if I am able to identify the clouds correctly, then I will have at least ten more and precise words for clouds. These are: Cumulus Altocumulus Cumulonimbus Cirrus Cirrostratus Cirrocumulus Altostratus Nimbostratus Stratus Stratocumulus It happened at Chharwa Dam, a small reservoir about 8 km from Hazaribagh town. This dam was built by the DVC to supply water to the town, and though the demand for water has increased exponentially due to the growing urban population, the reservoir in itself has been a preferred destination for birders, photographers, and workers returning on cycles who pee with much satisfaction into the surrounding bushes. I was with my cousin and it was about sunset. Since tourism hasn’t yet reached Hazaribagh, there is no infrastructure to enjoy the view. No gazebos, no benches. You sit where you want to. We decided to remain on foot. In front of us l

Hazaribagh: Prehistory to Independence

23 Aug, 2017 BCE 9500-7500: The prehistoric man draws on a long rock face at Isko village 1500-900: The megalith-raising man erects an astronomical observatory at Pankri Barwadih village to observe equinox sunrise. 600-400: Gautam Buddha walks along river Mohana and Nilanjan to reach Bodhgaya. Edwin Arnold writes of this journey in his book The Light of Asia: Thou, who wouldst see where dawned the light at last, North-westwards from the “Thousand Gardens” go By Gunga’s valley till thy steps be set On the green hills where those twin streamlets spring, Nilàjan and Mohàna; follow them, Winding beneath broad-leaved mahúa-trees, ’Mid thickets of the sansár and the bir, Till on the plain the shining sisters meet In Phalgú’s bed, flowing by rocky banks To Gàya and the red Barabar hills. ACE 400-600: Four rock-cut caves are carved by Buddhist monks at Mahudi Hill Range. 1360-70: Baldeo Singh and Singdeo Singh break away from the Raja of Chotanagpur and establish their own estate. 1640:

Watching Waters - Summer

04 Jul, 2017 In the absence of a glacial source, the waters of Hazaribagh are prone to mood-swings. In the summer, the rivers lose much of their flow, the lake shrinks, and smaller streams disappear. This puts you in a fix. On the plus side, the landscapes created by two prominent rivers of Hazaribagh - Siwane and Muhane - become accessible. The former flows in the direction of north-east-south while the latter in south-west-north. The forests they travel through and the rocks they reveal are also different. The Daru Forest of Siwane is more trees and less bushes, while the Harhad Forest of Muhane is more bushes and less trees. The rocks of Siwane are sharp & grey, while those of Muhane are smooth & black. The water of Siwane in summer is an appealing blue, while that of Muhane is a dull yellow. The atmosphere of Siwane is of dry heat while that of Muhane is of humid heat. The visuals of Siwane calm, while those of Muhane agitate. The flow of Siwane continues, while that of Muh

What I Mean When I Say I Study Landscape

01 Jun, 2017 Landscape, first, as a function of aesthetics. You perceive what is in front of you and you find it pleasing. Conventionally, landscape as an egalitarian site of purity where human beings and their activities, existing always as a subtext to the principal text of the land, enhance the innocence of what we call nature. Landscape as natural, shaped by the forces of the earth, and perceived by the cultural, shaped by the ideas of humans which sees the natural as its other. Therefore, the binary: natural/man-made.  Separate from cityscape, landscape as rural. In India, its motifs: huts instead of skyscrapers. Cycles instead of cars. Dirt tracks instead of roads. Ponds instead of tanks. The urban looks at landscape like Delhi looks at Ladakh. The urban looks at landscape through the gaze of convenience, like Delhi looks at Ladakh only in the summer. Landscape as an ideal and landscape as a break which townsmen take from time to time. The necessity of idealisation for tourism, b

Why Walk in a Hill Forest?

02 May, 2017 (At Canary Hill) A strong wind turns up in the town and clouds take over the sky. You think it will rain any minute, but today the weather wants to experiment only with the light. Behind branches that disturb the cameraman’s frame, the hidden sun is a tease, and you cannot help but smile at the personification. Two thousand five hundred trees on the west will go. Someone from the forest department has scrubbed out their barks into neat, fleshy rectangles before adding numerical values in red to what can only appear to us as wounds. To accomplish this, it has taken that person at least seven to ten working days. You can think of these numbers as names - 1751, 1648, 1237 - and if you do, you will know that you are standing among graves that are still breathing. For birds. You deliberately try to get lost. There was a well-trodden path through the trees which you ignored because Robert Frost had asked you to. But since you are wearing a half-sleeved t-shirt, the romance of wo

Turning a Plateau into Scenery

31 Mar, 2017 Unlike in the mountains, nothing can be more counterproductive than ascending up the plateau in search of a scenery. On its highest point, which, instead of a point, is really an expansive table-top, there is hardly anything, except for minor undulations, that rescues the surface from the flatness of its terrain. It is on top of such flatland that our plateau towns grew. Hazaribagh, in the North Chhotanagpur Plateau, and Ranchi, a bit higher up in the South. These towns grew because due to their higher altitudes, they enjoyed temperatures lower than their otherwise picturesque neighbours existing at the escarpment. So, while Hazaribagh was a hill station for the British at a humble 2019 ft/615 m above sea level, the town has only four hills - none towering exceptionally over the town; all visible from the footover bridge at the new railway station - and while the low-lying Katkamsandi was never a hill station for the British, it is nonetheless surrounded generously by hil

Off the old bridge, two friends follow a river

09 Mar, 2017 (With & for Aditya; at Siwane river near Daru) Approaching the bridge from the town in the evening, the direction east, the sun behind you, you tell your friend you are taking him to a heritage site. For the bridge dates back to nineteenth century, and the last time you were there, and the time before it, you remember the plaque announced the year. 1874. A marble slab as old as the construction itself. As you arrive through the stretch of forest, always shortening, always smaller than before, you slow the Alto down, and peer through the window to locate the slab. But something is off. Five slow seconds, eyes desperate for a hint, and you know it: they have painted over the bricks. The pale white marble? Gone. In its place, a marble painted yellow. What the time had eroded before from the surface was eroded again by the paint. Yet, the letters remain, so does the date.  You park the Alto, disappointed, and hope for the river to retain its water. A year ago, you had ima