Sunday, August 26, 2012

How Green is my Mandovi?

The dun scrub of May yields to emerald fields in July. Flowers become passé, foliage rules. Shade green elbows out other colours. Green balls of tropical myrobalan lie scattered at the feet of its parent. Swords of Gulmohar pods, split asunder by lashing winds, ridged inside, litter the ground their seeds dispersing far and near. Teak tree-tops send forth blossoms and tiny pista-coloured lanterns dangle in chandeliers.

Vines of thunbergia grandiflora with its mauve tubular flowers and other climbers with heart-shaped leaves cover every tree in sight hugging it assuming the contours of its canopy. Natural pergolas and trellises form arches at the junction of some trees like an open invitation. Damp walls on the periphery wear a patina of mossy down. Ferns creep out of crevices of crumbling walls, walls wet as chalk. Wood sorrel swamps the topsoil completely. Amidst amorphous clover varieties and other wild plants, silk cotton and rain tree saplings sprout stark from viable roots. The wild arum (Colocasia esculenta), at places, sits up pert and breaks the monotony of fuzzy carpet close to terra firma.  Ground crawlers invade asphalt, their leaves like giant “cabbage” butterflies squatting by roadsides. The ravages and romance of rains – of the legendary Goan monsoons, leave countless trails everywhere you care to see.

A month into the season of rains and the tapestry has gained in height. Grass, shrubs and wild plants are even more densely clenched together. Petite wild flowers rear their head through the sylvan mass. If you walk with an eye to the ground, a numbing variety of life greets you. There are the fluff-balls of dandelions and heads of butterwort (the Ravan-head of our childhood days, if you recall). There is the wild, untamed invasion of mimosa with its pink wispy (powder-puff) flowers (the touch-me-not, again of our childhood days) and the glorious gloriosa lilies (Gloriosa superba) – few and far between.  Can the butterflies then be far behind?

Scarlet Ixora
Lilies - Gloriosa superba 
Water willow

Mimosa strigillosa
Sesamum indicum

The koel falls silent and the peacocks that were easily spotted in the dry season are now heard more than seen. The plaintive cuckoo calls out poignantly, plaintively – like the name suggests – from its hideout in tree tops. Swallows swamp the telegraph poles and so do the munias and bee-eaters. Birdlife thrives and rides the monsoon air; breeding is rampant. With so much of wildlife buzzing around, it is an indication that the habitat health of 'Mandovi' is in fine fettle.

In fact, just the other day, an environmentalist-acquaintance, Dr. Nitin Sawant (erstwhile Director of Goa chapter of WWF-India, no less) told me that this particular neighbourhood, the Mandovi Hill, which is my home, currently, is unique and one of the richest bio-diverse hotspots in the world! He revealed that this habitat falls in the category of plateau (lateritic) biodiversity zone; that many species of wildflowers are endemic to this region. From the information I gather, the Western Ghats are nearly 45 million years old; the plateau ecosystem of Goa is even more ancient. While what Dr. Sawant said set my heart aflutter, I had already experienced the heady thrill of seeing the wildflower wealth firsthand on my daily walks.

Mandovi neighbourhood is naturally green, its ecological sere sound. The existence of snakes is a sign of a richer biodiversity. And yet, often we see misguided people slashing "overgrown" grass and clearing "messy weeds" to make way for artificial plantation. This is attributed as "greening" which gives man an elevated role in nurturing nature. Playing God by intervening, every time, is a superfluous way of greening. Grasses, shrubs and wild flowers that grow naturally should simply be allowed to flourish. That is what is needed for conserving or preserving niche habitats. In nurturing this ecosystem, therefore, we must be wary of not upsetting the delicate natural balance by artificial means or by planting alien species, certainly not the much-exploited bougainvillea.

Before the rains
After the rains

Spotted Owlet on a banyan tree

Friday, August 10, 2012


a long walk
on anonymous path
treading golden glow
carpet of copperpod
only the trees
recognize me.
desolate sweee of magpie
 echo of African thrush
a koel coos its curtsies
salve to the singed soul
brings me back
from baobab to banyan country.
On the periphery, waves
curl up to coconut palms
a Gondola gushes
Goan music…
in the ebbing daylight, reflections
of faraway lands – recede.
Somewhere, lost
herein, I reside.