Tales from the Tropical- Day 3-The Amazon Finale

We woke up to the sound of the forest for the third consecutive day. It was the last day of adventure in Amazon. Tomorrow we will have to wake up and pack our bags and leave back to Quito. With that in mind we started our early morning hike at 5 AM. There is a very unique way to look at everything once your mind contemplates the significance of it. “This is the last time you‘ll go for an early morning walk in the Amazon woods, Anitha!” My mind’s high pitched voice reminded me. I told myself “Stop being so dramatic” and looked around the tall trees towering all around us.  It felt like all the animals and the birds in the forest were so excited to start their morning. I couldn’t help but wonder if I am that excited to start off my regular day as these other fellow companions in the forest.  With the exceptions of vacation days and some special weekends, I act like a mechanized robot going about my day. And many people I know think of it the same way. “Do only humans behave this way? Are all other species super excited to start their day? Is this a side effect of having the sixth sense?” My mind chose the voice of Morgan Freeman and it echoed in my head like a ‘voice over’ in a documentary. “Stop thinking, Anitha!” I told myself again. After a brisk and refreshing early morning hike we went back to the camp and had a  “D”elicious breakfast. Thanks to our wonderful cook! I cannot thank him enough. Amazon was the last place in the world where I had expected to find a delicious vegetarian well-balanced diet.

Without much ado in describing the sights and sounds of the rainforest which I now regard as the most holiest and sacred place on Earth, let me describe our day hike. Our canoe set sail on Rio Shiripuno. We were a party of five – me, Ash, Plato, our guide Fernando and Sebastian. As soon as we got off the canoe and stepped on to the ground, Fernando exclaimed “Hold on! I see fresh prints “. Puma tracks! If this had been the world of Harry Potter, and if Fernando was Hagrid, he would have yelled “Merlin’s beard”. And I, Ash and Plato would be Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively. (You may ask why I am playing Harry?! Well I am telling the damn story). Back to the muggle world, so here we are with eyes popped out on seeing a Puma’s fresh imprints on the ground. That elusive puma had been there earlier this morning. “Will we get to see the puma, when we begin our journey? Will we get to say a hello or run away in fear?” I heard Morgan Freeman’s voice in my head again and I hushed it and we began our hike.

We started our morning hike and this one hold your breath was on Clay! Yes that good old rainforest clay. If you are the type of person who skims through lifestyle magazines in waiting lounges, you would know that people pay a lot of money to get a rainforest clay spa treatment. A walk in that clay -Take that! Fernando gave us a heads up about this clay. Textbooks can only prepare you a little. Not everyone who has read the famous book by Dale Carnegie – “How to win friends and influence people” is a pro in making friends and influencing people. If so, I would have been the next Oprah or Ellen and everyone would love me. So here we are at the beginning of this clay trail , I took one step and my leg sank knee-deep in clay and the longer I stood that way , the longer and harder it was for me to get my feet off the clay. There I was standing like a statue one feet on the ground and the other sunk deep in clay, like some abstract modern art(?!) style street performer . Sebastian and Fernando urged us to take quick steps to have a “smooth” (air quotes intended) walk in clay. It was complicated at first but then later it was fun, it was in texting style lingo, S followed by so many O s’ much fun! Six of us walking and splashing clay everywhere. It was like a Clay Holi. (For those of you who do not know what Holi is – well, google it!).  My cleanliness freak /OCD friend Plato was having issues with piles of clay dirt in his legs and now on his face and hands. I reminded him of the expensive rainforest clay treatment which we were now receiving for free. We took those physically draining long hard steps and made our way to this wonderful clearing. It was beautiful.

I wish I was F.Scott Fitzgerald and I can elaborate you the sights and sounds the way he had done in Great Gatsby so that your mind can capture the image and present it to you like as though you were in a VR. I am no Fitzgerald (Yes my friends, it’s true!). So you will have to settle for the still-trying-to-find-my-voice version of me. The goal now was to lure a jaguar. You read it right, a Jaguar! We were sitting atop a small mound overlooking a pit. Fernando began making animal noises-the kind which attracts Jaguars. We were all quiet except for Fernando. All my senses were on alert. I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck. My eyes were sharp and tuned to the vegetation. My ears could up pick sounds from afar. My body was pumped up with adrenaline. There was no Morgan Freeman’s voice-over in my head. Within moments I was transformed from a millennial with an attention span of five seconds to a Caveman true to my senses and relying on my instincts.

I felt some movement behind my back and then that insane thought crept in. What if the jaguar comes from behind us when we were watching the pit? As though he overheard my thoughts, Sebastian chose that moment to walk over to the other side of the pit to keep a watch. The suspense and the nail-biting moments all came down to an anti-climax as the Jaguar did not show up. Much like the series ‘Lost’. It was all fireworks in the start but the ending wasn’t right. (Yes, I heard you. It’s such a cliché to cite ‘Lost’ for things which got screwed up in the end).Well that’s most of life. Sometimes we put in a lot after much thought, be that project at office, relationship, stock market. The project will get scrapped, relationships’ll end and the stock market will go down the day after you invest. It’s just life. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the journey because the destination will be screwed up. Journey was all that was. You will have to learn to be thankful and move on to greener pastures.

We hopped on to the canoe and went back to the camp. After a sumptuous meal we lied down in the hammocks and rested for a bit in the afternoon. A well-deserved rest before we commenced our evening hike. It’s one of those times when your body and mind are in sync and calms down and goes into what I call as the ‘Zen Mode’. After an hour we hopped back on the canoe and began our last hike of this trip. It was a steady uphill hike. The general protocol when you hike in the forest is to try to be as quiet as you possibly can when you walk in the woods. There should be no swift movement or any loud talk with your companions.  All five of us started our hike uphill quietly. Every one of us lost in our own thoughts. When the hike started, my head was a cacophony of thoughts so loud, I could barely hear the sounds of the forest. After a while it calmed down and all of a sudden I was completely in the present, mindful of me and my surroundings. We walked this way for an hour and then the sun started to go down. We reached a clearing and watched the sun set. We were deep in the rainforest. It was miles and miles of tall trees and thick vegetation as far away as my eyes could see. The Sun was almost down and the sky had a mix of colors. The lighting was mellow and perfect which made us feel more at ease and at peace with ourselves and the surroundings. It was the kind of scene you would want to come home to after a long hard day. Effortless unwinding. Its nature’s way of saying you had a nice day, now go relax! It’s the kind of sunset where you don’t long to be with someone you love to watch it with you, but you feel content with yourself and that you are a part of all the nature around you. I stood there and took it in as much as my senses could. I didn’t want to get distracted from it even for a second to record it in my camera.

After that splendid sunset show we started our hike down. On our way back Fernando stopped in his tracks and pointed out the ‘Army of ants’ marching in a straight line on the ground.  Army of ants are very interesting inhabitants of the rainforest. They have social structure like queen, brood, workers, and soldiers. A group of birds rely solely on the army of ants and follow them to find their food. Ants go in search of food and these birds just follow the ants. This has been this way for the past 6 million years. Hence if anything goes wrong with this rainforest and the ants because of the deforestation caused by the oil drilling, Global warming, it will have drastic impact on the ecosystem. We continued our hike down and heard something move in the distance. Fernando asked us to pause and we looked around. With my headlamps on, I strained my eyes in the dark to spot anything significant and there it was. A pair of eyes glowed in the dark and stared at me. After few seconds the animal ran away.  A rendezvous which lasted few seconds turned out to be a defining moment for the day. “I wondered if the animal would have felt surprised or threatened by us. Those glowing eyes were sure something. I am going to carry that image to my grave. Will the animal also remember this encounter as “something” for the rest of its life?” Morgan Freeman started to yap again in my head. That thought trailed away in distance as we moved away from that spot. But the image, yes sure, I am going to paint that in my old age and live off the money from auctioning that picture (Yeah crazy wild ambitions! You got it right, I am a true delusional Capricorn).

Next day we woke up and had a grand breakfast, bid goodbyes to Carlos, our cook and Sebastian and got on to the canoe. As the canoe started drifting away from the camp, I turned back and gave one long look at the place which had left a great impression. The place which gave me lasting memories to tell my friends, acquaintances, strangers and my unborn children and their children.  Things were a bit different after that trip. It taught me to appreciate and celebrate life within me and around me even in dire times. But it wasn’t just that. Something in me changed. I left a piece of my old self and a bit of my baggage in the forest and came back light with a bit of a clear head and fresh insight on life.

After a three-hour canoe ride and a one and half hour road trip we reached Coca airport. We thanked Fernando for the trip and his guidance, waved him goodbye and boarded our flight to Quito. Amazon was far away from us in distance but the memories of it were so fresh and we know it will always be that way intact at the top of our heads. No matter where my life journey will take me, Amazon will always be the place where the true travel bug bit me and where it all started. I peeped out the window and saw the flight pass Mt. Cotopaxi. The flight attendant announced that we will be landing in Quito shortly. Our next adventure – Andes.

We had called ahead and requested our hotel to send a English-speaking driver to pick us up from the airport for our 4 hour trip to Chucchilán which is a small town located in the Andes.  We had no contact info or the description of the person who is going to pick us up. Will he be there? Will he speak English? Will we able to reach Chucchilan in 4 hours? The answers to all the above and the trip’s highlight (which turned out to be a bad-ass adventure) explained in the next series. Stay Tuned!

Credits: Thanks to Fernando Vaca and his team for this memorable experience. https://www.shiripunolodge.com/

Foolishly Romantic

I wake up every morning and I tell myself ‘Today is the day’
Before I go to sleep every night I tell myself ‘Tomorrow will be the day’
And in between those two moments, life just goes by.
One day I look in the mirror and then see
The reflection of the passing years in my face.

A Little Miracle

It was a Good Friday and it was yet another day
Until my phone rang and my heart sang
Raising my glass to a new Melody born today.
I drove to St. Joseph’s the next morning
Each moment adorning the next as I raced the flight of steps
Yet my heart stood still savoring every moment.
And as the distance grew nearer, anticipation building stronger
I opened the door and there you were swaddled in a corner.
A bundle of joy, a new breath of life, a little miracle.
You had your mother’s eyes and your father’s face
You looked at me and you let out a wail of cry
And an unwritten symphony came crashing into my ears.

My dear Nikita!
You came home the next day and the first of many firsts began.
But when the sun came down all hell broke loose
You cried and cried as the night became profuse.
And then something happened and something changed.
The first of many such moments.
As you cried and cried, your tired mother and father tried and tried
Swaddled, rocked and repeat and repeat
And when all the pieces fit together you finally went to sleep.

I came home late that night with something in me changed.
The first of many such changes.
I called my mother and father and opened my heart.
They had gone through a lot and they had given up a lot.
I thanked them over and over for bearing my childhood tantrums
My teenage rebellions and my adulthood angers.
For my precious childhood – the solid foundation they laid
And the freedom they gave for me to build my life
To cross the oceans and to explore other worlds.
They laughed and said “You Silly! The Pleasure is ours.”
I went dazzled and humbled by their humility.
I have read and heard it before, parents are genetically wired to love.
Theory makes sense to me but the grasping of the practice eludes me.
I thanked my stars and fell into a blissful slumber.
You had made me aware what the gift of “Life” is – It’s Love!
In all forms and kinds -Love is love is love!

Days turned to months and you went from newborn to a toddler.
I remember the first time I held you as a newborn
You looked at me with your half-opened eyes.
I remember the first time I saw you roll over
We broke into a round of applause.
I remember the first time you kicked with excitement
When I played the musical “Merrily We Roll Along”.
I remember the victory skit your mom made you perform
After I climbed the long way to Half Dome.
The first time you giggled with sheer joy
When I played the ‘Ha’ game at your doorstep.
The first time I played you the Beatles lullaby ‘Here comes the Sun’.
The first time you heard Hamilton’s “My Shot”.
The first time you unexpectedly broke into a fit of laughter
When your mom read the birthday poem to your dad.
Many first of many as we “merrily roll along” this life.
From the first time you looked at me with a puzzled look
To the first time you recognized me from a distance
And gave me your big wide toothless grin.
My heart always melts in an instant and my worries disappear.
“The journey, this journey is sure the destination”.

Little Nikki, You gave us new roles.
Parents, Grand Parents, Aunts and Uncles.
You made us realize to be aware and to beware
Of life and the frailty of this planet
To make it a little better for you to revere.
You remind us of what we were when we were like you.
Of what we forgot when the society taught us to fraught.
When you get hurt you cry and then you forget
But we cry, hold on and never let go and never forget.
Adding to our baggage dragging through life with our feet
The weight bears us down and we regret and then forget
To look up at the sky above in awe like you.
When the finger puppet comes up from above
You lift your brows in awe and your face is lit by your smile
And when it reaches your eyes, you leap out in Joy!
Reminding us all of the one thing we most forgot –Curiosity!
To desire to know the unknown, to ravel the threads of life
To be in the present with joy turning the fear of future
Into a promise of a better tomorrow.
To sink our teeth into life and to give it all we have!
Let’s start to write the story we want you to tell of us!

 

PS – This post is dedicated to my Parents, Portia and a lot of lines here are a tribute to my favorite writer ‘Lin-Manuel Miranda’.

SAME LOVE

I am no different from you
Flesh and blood
And a beating heart.
My love is no different from yours
It’s profound and deep
Solid and Pure.

I am no different from you.
I came into this world like you.
My mother held me tight in her arms
And put me to sleep whispering songs of love.
My father taught me and loved me for who I am.

I am no different from you.
I walked the same roads.
I laughed at the same jokes.
I breathe the same air.
I shed the same tears.
I am no different from you.

Can love be limited and defined?
Can love be labeled and restricted?
Can it be confined to preconceived notion?
Can there be only one kind of love?

I am no different from you.
Why do you hate the love I have?
When I love and accept yours completely.
Our emotions are the same.
Why is it hard to understand my love?
Are we not humans?
Are we not one?

I am no different from you.
I love to the depth of my heart.
The songs of my life are my loved one’s laughter.
We dream of our future together.
Where we will be loved by all.
The same way we love them.

Look at me.
Before your eyes fill with hatred.
Take a step back
Drop the gun.
And pause and think.

I am no different from you.
Our loves are the same.
It’s divine and eternal.
Pure and unconditional.
Blessed are we
For we have the ability to love.

For love has no boundaries.
It has no definitions.
It fills our lives with Joy
Adds meaning to years as we grow old.
Hand in hand, a shoulder to cry.

Please think for a moment
Before you point the gun
Think of the world filled with love
And of our Children’s laughter.
I am no different from you.
It’s the SAME LOVE!

 

PS – In honour of the victims of the Orlando Shooting.

Happiness in Chaos

Chaos is what one describes a scenario when a room full of people talk at the same time telling you how things should be done. Every solution different from one another for a given scenario such as”Where should this lamp go?” Let me tell you this again. Everyone talks at the same time. It was summer in Chennai, my humid, humid city. The decibel level of the room increased directly proportional to the temperature of my city. And the occasion was my little brother’s wedding.

Things about wedding puzzles you. When civilization came into place, somewhere down in history, man and women decided to be together with the approvals of near and dear. Every culture has its own way of performing the ceremony. The reasoning on why we do what we do in a wedding ceremony was lost in time and now it looks more like following a manual.

But the thing about love puzzles you the most. In spite of all the chaos and the confusion and the heat and the humidity, I saw the love between two people standing tall amidst all. I saw the unconditional love of parents, going above and beyond, against socially acceptable norms, for their children to be happy on the most important day of their lives.  Parental love is fascinating as though circumstantially at certain points it does look conditional, we all know in the end that it’s purely unconditional. Then I saw the love of grandparents with blessings derived from years of wisdom. The love of aunts, working hard in the kitchen and doing all the chores related to a big-scale wedding without expecting anything return. Everyone part of the various moments to celebrate and respect the love between two people.

Guess love in various forms makes a wedding – a chaotic occasion – A celebration!         Time does run fast and you feel like you are in a hurricane. Months and months of planning, years and years of parents’ dreams about this one day runs like a fast forward movie. I never thought I will go hunting for an orange tie for my brother. And I never thought my brother who used to pick clothes in like five minutes, will take days to buy one suit. The list of things to do in a wedding is exhaustive. Then there was the fight with my lehanga, gold jewelry, silk sarees, silver, gold, plantain trees, color lights, gold, reception,groom’s procession blocking the traffic for a bit in the busy GST road, varisai thattus, standing for photographs, drones, a short sleep, then the traditional attire, sizzling bride and the handsome groom and I me myself holding the holy lamp ,eyes fixated, with utmost care as my mother still couldn’t trust me with it!! And then after hees and hoos and slogans , then came the moment – the moment we were all gathered here for. All months of planning, people flying in from various continents, the glamour and the fanciness , food and the lights and the music – all- for this one  moment- he tied the knot to her and then a new family began!

It sure is chaos, there is no denying it. You go through moments and you wonder why ,as no amount of reasoning in your head will make you understand certain rituals. But then you can’t help but enjoying it all ,as you live through those moments, as no matter what, a wedding is a celebration of love in various forms and you have one hell and heaven of a story to tell your children when you re-watch it on tape years later and relive those moments with them and unknowingly preparing yourself to do it all again for your children!

Happiness in Chaos!

The Ubercool Civilization

It’s all about the status
Famous, infamous and the almost famous
The good, bad and the ugly
Timeline records moments
Before brains process them
Feeling blue, feeling loved, feeling accomplished
Every one of our thoughts
Immortalized in the virtual world
Some thought provoking
Many too stupid
Private moments
As fodder for public
To be chewed over and over.
Our lives in timelines
Measured by likes
We are shot to limelight
In our own little worlds
Each one of us in center stage.
One hundred and forty words
Sums up our feelings
Be careful what you say
No room for regret and revision
For many have fallen
With one wrong tweet
One hundred and forty words
Ends people’s lives
Seeking a pound of flesh
No plea for mercy
No Portia to defend.
In the world of images
Filters mask realities
Happy friends, wonderful life
Food, cakes and booze
Grass looks greener
Sky has a bluer tint
The world looks like shire
And our lives look cool
When Instagram-ed.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry
Voicing opinions
Is the dress
White and gold or blue and black?
Cultural appropriations
Oppan Gangnam style
Internet phenomena
Ruling our every day
Internet armies
Breaking into battles
Aimless and pointless
Neither to win nor to lose!
The footprints we leave
Over internet battles
are long forgotten
Like disappearing snapchats
Little do we remember-
‘What Space is to Size
Time is to Value’
And yet in times of need
This foe turns a friend
In floods and famines
Brings us together
Helps us saves lives.
For who does really care
If the dress is
White and gold or blue and black?

Insatiable

My needs for you are unfulfilled

Your never leave me content

I get drunk in your ecstasy

Oh you never complete me

You leave me longing for more.

 

While I fight for fancy words to talk about you

You flatter me with your simplicity

With your fragrance

And the taste of you on my lips

You are a sight to see

For my worn out eyes

Oh you leave me enchanted

Oh you make me feel euphoric

 

When I hold you in my hands

I long to be a little better than before

As I take in every bit of you

My mind and heart race against each other

I am tossed outside the planet

Into another dimension

Where promises are fulfilled

And thoughts become actions.

And every melody turns into a rock song.

 

You make my day everyday

You make me come back to you

The world may call it as addiction

I call it as an insatiable love

To My coffee with Love!