Flash Post 192!
The Koel is going frantic calling out to the rain gods with its coo…uuh, coo…uuh…Is he calling out as frantically in Shimla where you are right now?
Button, I have not heard even one Koel in these parts so far so I asked Dost what the reason might be.
What did he say?
He said that the Koel won’t be heard here because there is no shortage of water. You may have noticed that back home in Mumbai, the persistent coo…uuh, coo…uuh…gradually gets long-drawn and persistent as the days go by and, prior to the time the rains actually arrive, the crescendo has reached a cooooooo…uuuuuuuuuuuh, cooooooo…uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. Do you know why?
I do. You’ve told me the story a long time back but please tell the story again for our readers who’ve come in late.
The Koel begins with a coo…uuh, coo…uuh…around the middle of April requesting the rain gods to send rain as summer sets in and temperatures start to soar. That call gets more long-drawn and filled with longing as we move forward into the months of May and even June-if the rains haven’t struck-when it seems that the bird is almost falling on bended knees pleading with the gods to send rain and, with the first pitter patter, the call gets less frantic and gradually fades.
Didi and I walked a short trail along the so-called silk-route that used to be used by the British to trade in spices, silk, etc, that lasted an hour and a half. Deepesh, our tour guide, pointed out very interesting facts about the cedar tree that has the biggest plantation in this part of the country and which oozes a kind of sap that keeps insects at bay. Therefore, even if you walk the trail in the rains, you will not get bitten by any kind of insect. And there are no mosquitoes here! We also learnt to distinguish pine leaves from the cedar and the birch. Incidentally, the dry wood of the cedar emanates a beautiful woody fragrance that never fades. Deepesh said this wood is an even better insect repellent than the naphthalene balls we throw inside wardrobes to keep unwanted insects out. I’m carrying some pieces of wood to use in my wardrobe to replace the chemical balls and other fragrances I use now.
That’s interesting. What else did you discover?
A plant called the Dock plant has antiseptic qualities. Both didi and I can recognise this plant whose sap acts as an antiseptic on cuts and wounds. Natives here use this in place of Dettol and Savlon.
Wow! What else?
We were also lucky to spot wild strawberries which are 1/20th the size of strawberries we eat in Mumbai. I’ve got some back to show you if they don’t rot by the time we get back. There was also a huge tree that had got uprooted bringing down with it chunks of rock its roots had penetrated into. And the last incident had didi scurrying fast after we spotted four huge monkeys a few feet behind us. The Jakhu Temple in Shimla which stands at 108 feet and is the tallest hanuman temple in the world has hundreds of monkeys snatching spectacles, handbags and packets from visitors. In fact, visitors are advised not to carry any of the above as simians are in the habit of taking visitors spectacles mainly and holding them hostage till they are given something-mainly food packets-in return. The larger the packet, the quicker is the return period!
Really? Meaning that monkeys are using the barter system?
Did you visit this temple?
No. The parivar was too scared and didn’t want to take a chance.
Anything else you’d like to share with us poor souls awaiting your return back in Mumbai?
The silence here is so overpowering that it strikes one as eerie but after its takes over-seeping into every pore of your body-you feel cleansed and healed completely. It’s more like a lullaby lulling a child to sleep. And the air you breathe is pure and wholesome so, by the time you return home-wherever that may be-you feel like a different person ready to take on the whole world.