Thursday, August 20, 2009

Incy Wincy's BIG catch!!!

Vincent the spider was very popular in the spider clan of Dolvi Forest. He could spin the largest and strongest of webs and capture the largest of the butterflies. His friends envied him, the lady spiders adored him and his Momma was proud of him. The butterflies and honeybees would often hold secret meetings and in these meetings they'd discuss for long hours Vincent's whereabouts and the various routes to avoid being caught in his web. Vincent was a terror in their world and his web spelt doom.

As a little spider his proud mother would often exclaim, "My Wincy's going to make it really big some day and go where no spider has been before!!!'. The older Wincy was, the smarter he got and nobody knows who started it, but soon our little Wincy was known to all as Invincible Wincy. No other spider that they'd seen or heard of could create such an intricate web. Wincy could capture a variety of bees, flies, moths and butterflies; all in a single day's work. And on such a day he'd wrap the goodies in the most beautiful silken web and present them to the pretty spider ladies in the clan. Incy Wincy was the most eligible bachelor in Dolvi Forest.

One sunny day a strange old spider walked into their forest. He was bedraggled, weary and lame and hobbled along on the six legs he had. Two of his limbs were missing and everybody was keen to know his story. After supper consisting moth legs and bee stings the spider family crowded around the old spider "Tell us your story..pretty please. We'd love to know of all the places you've seen." The old spider found himself a comfortable nook and soon told them story after story about all his adventures. "I'll save the best for last", he said. Before they realised it hours had passed and suddenly the old spider sprung up; his weary eyes lit up and he said, "It's's time I told you about the other side of the forest." None of the spiders; not even Wincy, had ventured that far. This was a tale they didn't want to miss.
" At the other end of the woods, past the banyan trees, the little stream and the paddy fields is a very strange land. I've seen the strangest and largest looking creatures roam there. They seem stupid despite their size and are usually terrified when they see one of our kind. One afternoon, as I caught a nap in a tree, a strong wind blew me off my seat. Off the tree I fell and landed on one of these creatures. He was a thousand times bigger and stronger than I was and I feared my life initially. Although a little scared, I decided to put up a brave front. As I marched down his hand he saw me, and to my surprise let out the loudest scream, brushed me off his hand and ran away. I fell to the ground and the impact of his hand brushing me off broke a couple of my legs. I never saw him again. I spent a few weeks nursing my wounds and during my stay there I chanced upon many others of his kind. Sometimes they walked through my web but every encounter that I had with them confirmed the fact that they were scared of spiders."
He sighed and took a deep breath. "I'm sure if we plan and work together we can catch one of the big creatures in our web. They definitely seem to be better prey than moths. Just one of them would last the entire clan for a whole year!!!" He stood up and walked around. "That's what brings me here. Let's plan over the next few weeks and then go for the BIG catch!!!".
It was way past their bedtime and the old spider let out a long yawn. "We'll talk about it in the morning. Now, I must get some sleep."
After all the spiders had gone to bed, Incy Wincy, who in all the excitement wasn't able to sleep at all, got dressed for work. His exploits had made him bold. A few weeks seemed like a long time to wait for an adventure like this one. It was no news that his webs were the best and the strongest by far. He didn't need a plan. He didn't need anybody's help. Off he set to bring back the BIG catch!!
He travelled to the edge of the forest and waited to spot the big creatures. He didn't have to wait long. There were so many of them. And they were BIG!! He found the right spot and worked on the web for days. Never before had he built such a web. The thread was strong and no creature he'd ever known could break free. After days of hard work the trap was ready and Incy Wincy waited with baited breath for a big creature to wander past.

On the other side of the forest was the Dolvi Village which was home to many village folk and also housed a huge irom and steel plant. It was lunch time at the Steel Plant and the cafeteria was crowded as usual. Madhukar preferred to carry his own food rather than wait in long queues at the cafeteria to be served lunch. Besides he had also put on a lot of weight and needed some exercise. He would quickly eat his lunch and then step out for a small walk everyday. The fresh air would clear his mind and energise him. Today was no different. Madhu, as he was fondly called by all folks who knew him well, decided to step out of the Factory premises and walk towards the paddy fields that grew just outside the factory wall. It was a beautiful day and myriad flowers in yellow, blue and pink had bloomed along the road side and along the border of the field. Birds could be heard singing in the trees and pretty butterflies flitted from one bloom to another. Soon, Madhu forgot about work and started walking along the path near the field.
Madhu had always loved nature. He walked gently along the path and admired the butterflies. He didn't want to get too close and disturb them and yet get close enough to observe the pretty paterns on their wings. As his walked along he accidentally walked into a spider's web. Now, Madhu would never want to disturb nature and he felt quite regretful about walking into and destroying the spider's web. He wasn't sure what had happened of the spider that was probably in the web and so Madhu stood still. He didn't want to accidentally step on the little insect.

Incy Wincy had waited patiently for the right moment and here it was. This creature was even bigger than the others he's seen of his kind. Here was a chance he wasn't going to miss. He was going to make everybody proud. The creature stopped and looked at flowers and butterflies. For a creature of such might, catching butterflies should have been a very simple task but this creature seemed to walk after them awkwardly not knowing what to do. As the creature approached the web Incy Wincy sprung into action. He dropped the web on the creature and then pounced on it himself continuously spinning and wrapping the creature in his yarn. The creature seemed to stop moving. The web was working!! Incy Wincy was ecstatic!!! His plan had worked. He had caught the BIGGEST catch ever in history!!!!!! How he was going to kill it and how he was going to take it home to his family he didn't know. This was a moment he hoped they all had seen. Maybe, just this time, it made sense to let the prey go. He would wait for the rest of the clan to arrive and make another web in the mean time. The next time with his troops with him they could definitely carry their BIG catch back home. With a sigh, Incy Wincy swung off the creature.

Madhu felt the spider crawl down his face. He didn't want to flick it off and hurt it so he decided to wait and watch. A little creature like this one could do him no harm!! The spider lingered on his hand for a bit and then swung itself off on its web. The lunch break was almost over. It was time to go back to work. Madhu turned around and walked back over the path into the Factory compound.

Soon news spread. Incy Wincy had done it again!!!! He'd managed to ensnarl one of the Big creatures in his web!! His proud Momma said, "See, didn't I always tell you. My boy has made it big and has done what no spider has ever done before."

Monday, August 17, 2009

To El Morro and back

Last week Swine Flu besieged the city and many parts of the country. A few deaths across the country had most people hit the SOS button. The panic stricken people in a desperate attempt to curb the epidemic lined up at hospitals for tests, closed schools and colleges and kept their children away from the crowds, stayed away from Malls(well....mostly....except when there were huge sales at throw away prices), theaters stayed closed for 3 days, people cancelled travel plans...

We'd had enough of the madness!!! The media has added to the panic and at the same time has maintained that more people have died this year, as every year, from common flu, diarrhea, TB, etc.
Swine flu is definitely a cause for concern but there is no reason for panic.

We wanted to get away from it all! Six friends, a hired car and some music...we hit the road!!
This weekend we were tired and didn't really want to trek but we definitely wanted to get out of the city. Korlai Fort or El Morro like the Portuguese called it seemed like the perfect getaway. Its strategic position overlooking the Revdanda creek, its historical background, the promise of seafood because of its proximity to the coast, the opportunity for good photography, all made it the perfect choice for our Sunday Outing.
The drive to the fort was beautiful. It was a cloudy morning and after a hearty breakfast of pohe, vadapav,kharwas,sabudana khichadi and masala chai at Datta(Panvel)we hit NH17.
The drive was scenic...clouds enveloped the Karnala Pinnacle, the hopeful monkeys lined the highway waiting for snacks and treats from the passing cars, a little ahead the villages ran alongside the road, the lush green fields of paddy, the various gourds that grew on vines that snaked up poles and nets kept to tame them, the villagers setting up their daily stalls selling fresh farm produce....
As we neared Alibaug the roads turned into gallis, old houses with tiled roofs surrounded by palms stood in stark contrast to the posh villas. We could smell the sea in the distance and we grew impatient to reach the fort.
As we crossed the Revdanda creek the fort came into sight.

Located on a little hill and surrounded by water on three sides, the fort is at an approximate height of 300 feet above sea level. The whitewashed walls of the church on top are visible from a distance.(The ruins of the ancient church are being restored)
Korlai Fort or Castle Curlew or El Morro although built and used primarily by the Portuguese was at various points also under the Nizam, Maratha and finally the British rule. Though the main entrance to the fort faces the East you can drive right to the base from the West through the Korlai village. A Naval lighthouse stands at the base and is operated by 4 men who live in its premises. We climbed to the top of the lighthouse and spent sometime with the coast guard who told us about its operations- the beacon, the focus points, the distance to which the light travels at night, etc

Approximately 150 steps lead to the top of the fort. The fort commands a view of the Revdanda creek and the Revdanda Fort on one side, the Arabian Sea to the West and the Korlai Village and the Korlai Beach to the other side. The ancient church, a number of cannons on the bastion, a breathtaking view of the creek with the fishing village, a temple, colourful boats bobbing on the water, cattle grazing in the distance...I'd almost forgotten that it was no longer the cloudy day it started out to be. The sun was blazing and my skin was two shades darker(I'd forgotten to wear my sunscreen), we'd finished our supply of water, it was nearing 3pm and our stomach's were screaming from hunger. We'd spent almost four hours atop the fort.

Someday I'd love to watch the sunset from the fort or even lie in my sleeping bag and listen to the sea while i watch the innumerable stars on a winter night.
As we drove back we realised that in this part of the sleepy world it was too late to get lunch. Fortunately at Alibaug a little eatery(Khanaval) was open and we lunched on Mutton Thali with Fried Pomfret. I've been wanting to eat at the Patil Khanaval at Murud for ages. This little place, although its namesake, and our saviour didn't offer the mouthwatering lunch that I expected. Nonetheless the food was decent and we were starving.
On the drive back to the city we bought all sorts of gourd from the villagers-bitter, snake, etc. not so much for our love of food but more from the excitement at buying straight from the hands that sow the crop and reap it.
This will probably be our last trek for the season. The rain has vanished and the heat is slowly becoming unbearable. A lot of ambitious plans have been chalked out for Winter treks in the Sahyadris. So....until the next trek....I have some wonderful memories from the many treks this Monsoon.