Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stevie Wonder song - The secret life of plants

Beautiful song by Stevie Wonder from his late seventies album Journey through the Secret Life of plants which was also the soundtrack to the documentary 'The Secret Life of plants' directed by Walon Green and based on the book by the same name ...

Here are the lyrics...

"The Secret Life Of Plants"

I can't conceive the nucleus of all
Begins inside a tiny seed
And what we think as insignificant
Provides the purest air we breathe

But who am I to doubt or question the inevitable being
For these are but a few discoveries
We find inside the Secret Life of Plants

A species smaller than the eye can see
Or larger than most living things
And yet we take from it without consent
Our shelter, food, habiliment

But who am I to doubt or question the inevitable being
For these are but a few discoveries
We find inside the Secret Life of Plants

But far too many give them in return
A stomp, cut, drown, or burn
As is they're nothing
But if you ask yourself where would you be
Without them you will find you would not

And some believe antennas are their leaves
That spans beyond our galaxy
They've been, they are and probably will be
Who are the mediocrity

But who am I to doubt or question the inevitable being
For these are but a few discoveries
We find inside the Secret Life of Plants
For these are but a few discoveries
We find inside the Secret Life of Plants

Saturday, January 20, 2007

' The secret life of plants'

Image credits :Gale Franey

There was a time, when I was a child, when the whole world seemed alive and knowing. Trees were friends and as George Eliot put it ‘flowers would see us and knew what we were thinking about.’ Then came a time when plants just grew, silently and without emotion.”

- L.George.Lawrence

I distinctly remember those childhood days of mine when all our imagined mystery places had lots and lots of trees with strange intertwining branches and most amazing colorful birds sitting on them. Trees had their own ‘personality’ and apart from different kinds of trunks, branches, leaves and flowers, their own peculiar ‘habits’ and ‘moods’ as many of our human friends would have! You didn’t talk to them like you did to others of your kind but theirs was an unmistakable friendly presence. Much before you read about experiments by Jagdish Chander Bose proving that plants could feel the pain, you knew somehow that they did!

There was this huge peepal tree where pooja was performed and leaves of which would be fun watching especially during rains when raindrops dripped from their perfect tapers, a shisham tree with a strange hole in its trunk with an occasional woodpecker sitting at a gravity defying angle pecking at it, the medicinal neem, the sweet mango, the guava tree with guavas that were red inside, different kinds of ber, jamun and lemon. Then there were shrubs and blossoms all around in such lustrous and vivid color that they could illuminate a whole garden! You knew the seasons when trees would bear fruit or plants blossom and it was all so easy and natural.

You also knew on your way home from school, which familiar way, which friendly trail to turn to find that iridescent blue-green tail feather with beautiful blue ‘eye’ shed by some peacock from its plumage. You had hundreds of such tail feathers in your kitty and were still in lookout for more. Often a hot chase of a multi colored butterfly had led you to that unexpectedly. Moving through trees and shrubs you were all ears and in a state of heightened attention lest you disturb a brooding peahen. You even boasted to your friends that you knew which secret place and near which tree the peahen was laying its eggs. The trees were witness to all this.

And night would bring an altogether different change of scene when darksome bats in company of snakes sneaking through dense shrubs would make their entry around trees. The fabled ghosts also seemed to gather there and as such your night time stories, heard in low whispers from the elderly watchman revolved around the trees.

There was always a battle going on between the forces of day and that of night probably for the benefit of us children as this generated a daily fare of interesting stories.

But all this was going to change.

Moving from one academic session after another as we were ascending higher classes and grappling with problems in Mathematics, Botany, Chemistry and Zoology in their drab, uninteresting and boring terminology as these were taught to us, the things were all sadly falling in to a set place!

The mysteries were fast vanishing and the informality of our outdoors, its ever changing sky, its clouds, its trees and its birds with all their sounds and smells were being replaced with some never changing dull interiors of that concrete matchbox architecture, we call schools with its set notions of exams, competition and success. Explanations in terms of other set of explanations were hurled at us and everything could be just explained away. The subjects as these were taught to us would take life out of a thing and as they couldn’t touch the ‘fire’ they talked of and taught about the ‘ashes’!

Our teachers knew all and they wanted to take away our fairies, our ghosts and much of the stuff that our stories were made of .The world of trees seemed to be drifting away and we were loosening our touch with them. The life was fast turning out to be a problem to be solved rather than a mystery to be lived. We were getting ‘matured’!

All these feelings of loss of innocence caused by an uninteresting way of teaching of subjects in a repressive atmosphere came to fore very strongly when I read the old classic ‘The secret life of plants’ by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird wherein they bring out beautifully the highly sensitive nature of plants and their responsiveness to life around them. Be it about Bose’s sensitive experiments about sentience in plants whence it was shown that plants can feel pain and understand affection or Backster’s findings concerning their response to man’s thoughts and their extreme reactions at the death of human cells, Soviet discoveries about auras of plants , Mrs. Retallack’s live shows on T.V capturing the fondness of plants for different kinds of music or their known curative powers, in describing this all in detail the book ‘gets you inside a plant’ and makes you marvel at their extremely ‘humane’ approach to life!

Invariably then, I thought of my yesteryear Botany which never made me feel this. In fact, caught in a dull taxonomy and just an endless Latin dirge of scholastic nomenclatures, it was about killing the ‘spirit’ of plants! The other subjects also fared similarly.

I must say that this is no romantic lament for some ‘deserted village’. It is not running down of science also, but it should be seen as a sad commentary on the ways of present day formal education for in no way it seems to encourage the ‘inner flowering’ of a child or helps him in any way finding his true vocation. Rather it is instrumental in styming his curiosity.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A step in Time....

Let every year, every month, every day, every hour and every moment be new...

Photo Credits : makunia

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Beauty of the Mountain...

Oil on canvas:- Paul Linke(1844-1917)

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges — Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
—Rudyard Kipling from "
The Explorer"

Until I stayed in the interiors of Himachal at Joginder Nagar for some years I didn’t have a real hand on feel of the mountains though my fascination with them was there since childhood and I even joined the Trekking and Mountaineering Club of my college, but we never ventured out.

One November evening, passing through Kangra valley on my way to Joginder Nagar, I glimpsed the snow clad mountains of Dhauladhars at a distance emerging as if suddenly from nowhere in the shape of a long arc taking the frontal horizon in their embrace… and I clearly felt the distance melting away. It was as if I could just stretch my hand and touch these!

The white sheet of snow in its ethereal hues with evening Sun peeping on it through clouds, a golden shine here, a dark patch of shadow there, an unfathomable silence, a sense of enormity and loads and loads of mystery of what lies beyond….It was a perfect setting for a love at first sight!

Something happened deep inside and one felt a kind of rejuvenation…It was like awakening from years long sleep. The body was coming to its own rhythm and one could understand its language. The colors looked so vibrant, the sounds so clear. The mountains were the Life and it was beautiful and one felt blessed to be alive. Words looked totally unnecessary then!

Since then, one has never been able to leave the mountains so to say or rather these won’t leave one as these keep on imploring one to return here every year…

Even after staying there many years and seeing the elements in all their extremes, the cold, the rains, the dangers of wrong stepping, landslides and relative aloofness one still wants to cross just one more range to be there in the next unknown valley by treading a difficult and often dangerous trekking trail….It is as if you want to go there for the ‘hell’ of it as put by
Edmund Hillary.

Why the mountains have a trance like effect on one? Why so much allure and mystery behind them?

Is it because one is away from the routine ‘civilized’ cacophony and humdrum that one finds entangled in hopelessly and grabs the chance to be in relative aloofness and it then becomes a kind of escape?

If this is merely an escape, I am afraid it won’t have much meaning beyond the ordinary!

Or perhaps, as the mountain presents itself in its extraordinary majesty, for some moments as happens in deep inquiry or wonder, one with one’s burdens, tensions and conditioning is not there! Only watchfulness …no watcher!

And that cleanses one to one’s deepest recesses.

Sure that happens for some moments and coming soon to their ‘own’, the burdens and the past experiences with their inevitable likes and dislikes, comparisons and calculations take over and soon convert the moments into just lifeless words to be savored and pursued again sometimes in future!

Anyway, as a mountaineer observed, writing about mountains may become boring, I would rather go there…!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Ganga is dying at both ends....

Photo credits for Gaumukh Photo(see enlarged;people standing out there) :ins
Source of Earthobservatory Satelite image: NASA
Watch CNN-IBN video

“Yudhishthira asked:

Which countries, which provinces, which retreats, which mountains, and which rivers, O grandsire, are the foremost in point of sanctity?

The Rishi crowned with success said: Those countries, those provinces, those retreats, and those mountains, should be regarded as the foremost in point of sanctity through which or by the side of which that foremost of all rivers, viz., Bhagirathi (Ganga or Ganges) flows.”

From The Mahabharata
Anusasna parva, Section XXVI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

The famous Gangotri Glacier in Uttaranchal Himalayas at its terminus, the snout, called ‘Gaumukh’ because of its peculiar cow’s mouth like opening and where the river Bhagirathi, the main tributary of the river ‘Ganga’ (Ganges) oozes out after its many kilometers long journey beneath the mighty Gangotri Glacier presents an unmistakable dramatic and mystic visage for any one with some sense of wonder, adventure or discovery …!

We trekked about 20 KM up to Gaumukh in the summer of year 2004.

In the backdrop of mythical Mount Shivling which towers over it magnificently the vulnerability of the moment, the aura of the place and the energy of the pilgrims commingle to create a scene , a feeling, a sense of enormity that bewitches you with that sacred something which is very life itself….!

Here is a place which seems imbued with ‘absoluteness’ of its own, and a time which seems still.

Not any longer!

The Global Warming is fast becoming a Global Warning in Himalayas! Over the years, much water has flown through the Ganga, and more will flow through for a while….before the water starts receding and then eventually dying...(?)

The Gaumukh of today, the glacial snout is in retreat with Gangotri, at 29 KM long and 2 to 6 Km wide, the largest glacier in the Central Himalayas having melted about 2 KM in the last century or so! This retreat has become alarming for some years now with a rate of about 30 meters per year.

The linear extrapolating models for future may not mean much in the scenario, for a glacier exists in a yearly snowfall received and melt equilibrium and some unidirectional constant changes may trip the balance and then everything gets unstable as cascading effects set in.
In the case of Gangotri glacier, rapid growth of lakes has been observed and as the water can store more heat compared to ice it will kick off a feedback that would create further melting.

Its natural sidewalls seem to be loosening due to heavy erosion and thus the support to the glacier from sides may be weakening leading to its possible disintegration!

Satellite pictures apart, there are telltale signs of the retreat of the glacier with markings and engravings showing the position of the snout of the glacier as it existed in 1870, 1935, 1971 and so on. The pilgrims to Gaumukh and Tapovan pass through these markings on their onward journey often unknowing!

But know they should! For the effects are not confined to this place only and these are flowing with the receding waters down the river to all of the Indo- Gangetic plain and beyond arguably the most dense human conglomeration in the world...!

“In the Ganga, the loss of glacier melt water would reduce July- September flow by two-thirds causing water shortage for 500 million people and 37 percent of India’s irrigated land." (Jain 2001)

Its not that only Gangotri glacier is shrinking….
The glaciers are receding in many parts of the world but a report by the
Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology (WGHG) of the International Commission for snow and Ice (ICST) states, “Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high…”

WWF Report, an overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat and subsequent impacts in Nepal, India and China (2005) concluded that “…67 percent of Himalayan glaciers are retreating rapidly.”

And the consequences are enormous to say the least!

Apart from its resulting in disturbed global earth balance with its myriad loops, chains and feedbacks affecting Earth’s
hydrosphere and biosphere life as such would be shaken very adversely. The regional food security, biodiversity and local livelihood will all be affected with untold further affects.

The glaciers are not just huge concentrations of ice and snow in remote mountainous regions that present a pretty scene for the adventurers; they are a veritable life-line within a network of a vast and complex bio-geological eco system. These are a perfect and sometimes the only sources of fresh water supply in the plains providing the highest run-off during warm days and also buffer other eco systems against climate variability….

This deglaciation coupled with alarming levels of pollutants that the Ganga is fed in its downstream journey is causing the Ganga of today to die at both ends simultaneously……
Pilgrimages were supposed to be undertaken after fulfilling one's responsibilities....and these were as much a journey inside as it were outside to unbare one's deepest recesses , fears and hopes .

I wonder whether we undertake any such pilgrimage today!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ladakh at cross-roads....

Not very long ago it took weary caravans about three weeks to move from Srinagar to Leh, which was at the cross-roads of many feeder routes of the ancient ' Silk Route'.
Caravans and traders from Tibet, Kullu, Amritsar and Yarkand would meet here and trade in carpets, textiles, tea and poppy among other things…

In Nubra valley, near Hunder one comes across Bactrian double humped camels who along with ponies were supposed to be the mainstay of caravans in these rugged terrains...a 'skeleton trail' route that would take one over many high altitude passes on the way from Amritsar in Punjab to Yarkand in Central Asia, also crossing the mighty Karakorams in between…

Today one reaches Leh in two days by road from Srinagar with just over night stay in Kargil. The road now designated a national highway was constructed in the Sixties…

The other road to Leh via Manali constructed even later, in Eighties also crosses three mighty ranges of Pir-Panjal, Great Himalayas and Zanskar on the way to Leh and is open barely for four months in summer…It also takes two days from Manali with over night stay in between…

These two main roads to Leh from the south of Himalayas were constructed on roughly the same ancient routes that criss-crossed from here…..
These have “strategic military importance”, they say. No wonder when one goes to Ladakh via road one is bound to run into large convoys of Army moving both ways carrying fuel, rations and logistics…

Thanks to this ‘easy’ road connectivity coupled with less- than- one- hour- flights, the Ladakh of today is teeming with tourists in season and non residents easily seem to outnumber the residents any summer day.

“Once a tightly held secret among the bearded pioneers of the Himalayas Hippie trail…” as Alexander Zaitchik wrote, it may have now become just a fashionable tag!

No doubt Ladakh works its mystic Shangri La charm over many, and they come in droves to this ‘spiritual-landscape trail’ but along with tourists have come a number of challenges for the simple Ladakhis.

With tourists and trade, they have been familiar for centuries but it seems its new avatar may be like no other of the earlier….!

Ms Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director of the Ladakh Project is a witness to the rapid changes in the culture and society of the native Ladakhis as they prepare to meet this new ‘development’…

“Ladakh had been isolated for centuries and then was suddenly thrown open to development including tourism. This development has brought many changes to the previously peaceful, prosperous and largely self-reliant culture of Ladakh. Junk food, plastic consumer goods, pollution, and toxics including DDT and asbestos have come to the region as part of this process. Just as dramatic as these environmental impacts have been the psychological effects of Western-style education, television and advertising, all of which glamorize an urban consumer life-style, giving the impression that life in the West is one of limitless wealth and leisure. The influx of tourists has added to the impression that life in the West is infinitely better than in Ladakh. Tourists will often spend the same amount in a day that a whole family in a Ladakhi village might spend in a year. As a consequence, Ladakhi, particularly the young people, feel that their lifestyle seems poor and backward. Tourists, in turn, often unwittingly reinforce these feelings and insecurities. Having no way of knowing the degree to which Ladakhis have traditionally been self-reliant, they are often horrified to hear of daily wages as low as five dollars, or of an absence of electricity. Generally, neither tourists nor Ladakhis reflect on the fact that money plays a completely different role in the West, where it’s needed for basic survival.”

Another related article:- The March of the Monoculture

Photo Credit For Double- humped camel:- mr_o

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Alexander the Great and Ladakh...

A Drokpa girl...?
Photo credit :

Down the Indus before Shyok-Indus confluence,in Ladakh live a people, called Dropkas or Brokpas (…high landers) who have many interesting tales about their origin...

Some consider them to be descendents of Dards of Dardistan who migrated here from Gilgit
centuries ago.(There language is said to be akin to that spoken in Gilgit)
A couple of thousands in number, they are thought to be survivors of pure Aryan race, whatever that may mean...Ethnically they have no relation with Mongoloid-tibetan strains.
The local folklore also hints of their being descendents of soldiers who came along with Alexander the Great on their famous march...
Also tossed about are stories of they being a 'lost' Israeli tribe...!
Both men and women always wear flowers on their head.
They don't marry outside of there clan...Probably thats why a concept of their relative racial purity....
They live in five villages , two of these, Dah and Biama...we passed through this August...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


...Looked like a dog in sleep Ladakh

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Creating Waves....

...a Yak
in Nubra valley, Ladakh

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


...Never a war in its name, again!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wherever eye could see....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Style living...
...Near Drass

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


...near sand dunes
Nubra valley..Ladakh

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006

...By loops and bends
..Enroute Leh..

Saturday, October 14, 2006

In the Shade...

...A village in Nubra

Friday, October 13, 2006



Wednesday, October 11, 2006



Monday, October 09, 2006

Made like this...

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Saturday, October 07, 2006

From that high...
...near Dah village in Ladakh

Friday, October 06, 2006

Never a dull moment...
...Passing by Dal Lake,Srinagar

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A village

...Enroute Zozila Pass in Ladakh

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

...A river
a road...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

...near Srinagar

Near Sand Dunes

...Nubra valley

Monday, October 02, 2006

..Beginnings of a river

...Near Khardungla

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Wind,as seen...!


...Near Khardungla

Saturday, September 30, 2006



...almost a sea at level 14000"

Thats our home...!
...near Drass

Friday, September 29, 2006

Miles to go...

All for greener pastures...


High spirits...

in thin air...of nubra valley

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Buddha still smiling ...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


... in Leh

By an evening...
... Sonamarg

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"...And there was light!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Another dimension...
...near Khardungla

This Way ...

to Ladakh
"Dreams" Akira Kurosawa

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hello Dear.......
Welcome to
Himalayan Trails